Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Backyard Chicken Economics

You have to spend money to make money. -Old Saying

As with any endeavor in modern times, there is a "start-up cost." This may be, in our case, the cost of buying day-old chicks, incubating and feeding them until they're productive, and building a movable chicken coop.

Indeed, they do take them.
Then, they become "productive." This means laying eggs or able to be processed for meat. They still, ya know, eat during this time, so the cost of ongoing feed gets factored in as well.

So after our very first home-grown, backyard egg (valued at around the low, low price of $800) came through, needless to say we were a bit excited. Because at that point, the cost-per-egg figure goes down exponentially.

I don't have an exact egg-per-day count, but based on some milestones I've documented (first egg, first half dozen, first dozen, first 15 egg, 100% day), we have received roughly 620 eggs in 81 days. That's 7.5 eggs a day. Counting the cost of ongoing feed, we're still in it for over $1 per egg. An we don't even do the certified organic thing.

But, the coop (which cost about $350 on its own) was a one-time expense. The chickens themselves were a one-time expense. With an estimated 530 eggs per chicken in a lifetime, times 15 hens, we'll get this number down to 8.8 cents per egg (7900 eggs at $700 start-up).

Now, the one thing I have NOT factored in is ongoing feed. At $30 a month for bagged Co-op feed, we can expect to have paid another $1k in feed for the next 3 years. That makes for a solid $0.21 per egg, IF you include all of the start-up costs (which I did, factored into that $700 figure). That makes us pay $2.58 a dozen for all of our eggs for the next three years from our flock of 16.


However (and there's always a however), adding additional chickens to the flock will lower this, overall, since the coop, being a major expense, gets defrayed across 30 egg layers rather than 15. So with these new chicks, in 4 years, we'll have paid $1.56 per dozen. (15,800 eggs produced, factoring in a $700 start-up cost and $360 a year feed bill for 4 years). Expand the years, and this cost continues to plummet until it stabilizes with the cost of feed.

And therein are the three major factors of chicken economics - how much does it take to get started, how much does it take to operate, and how much return do you get.

Wife and I have pretty much written off the start-up costs (chicken coop building was so last year), so our primary focus is on the monthly expenses. At our current state of $30 a month for bagged feed, we can expect to get a dozen eggs for about $1.17. We are seriously considering moving to fermented feed, which would cost more per pound, yet stretch farther, lowering our per-dozen cost to $1.04.

There are other ways to even further reduce the chicken food bill (free-ranging, feeding home-grown milk, etc.), but we're not there at the moment.

In any case, it's an interesting study to figure out costs, both immediate, but especially long-term. Pumping in $700 to get to one egg seems insane (and it felt like it, lemme tell ya....). But after and including the start-up costs,the long-term picture for cage-free, farm-fresh, uber-local, pastured, super-healthy eggs at $1.17 a dozen is a screaming good deal.

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