When we first looked at getting chickens, it’s easy to see all of the benefits. Who could overlook getting fresh brown eggs every day? They are definitely entertaining to watch. And they are like a garbage disposal eating all of the kitchen scraps we produce. Yes, chickens sure do have benefits.
At first it may seem like if you have chickens, then you get free eggs. Dream on! Nothing in life is free. Chickens are like every other living animal on this planet. They need to eat. But how much do they eat? And how much does it cost to keep having fresh eggs?
What better way to answer this question than to do an analysis? Yes, we are really going to analyze the cost of chickens and fresh eggs. Hey, I’m an engineer and I like numbers. Why not? When Lara saw an Excel spreadsheet and graph on my computer on chickens, she started laughing at me. “You’re analyzing our chickens in Excel?” My response? “Of course! People want to know how much they pay for eggs at the grocery store, so why wouldn’t they want to know how much eggs cost from their backyard?”
Since we first got our chickens, I have kept track of every time that we bought feed. When we run out of feed, I go and pick up another 50lb bag from Tractor Supply. After tax, it costs $16.54 per 50lb bag of feed. With that information, I can tell exactly how much feed our chickens are using over time. Therefore, since I know how many eggs we get per day, I can see how much each dozen of our fresh eggs cost to produce. Amazing! (to my engineer self at least :))
Chicken feed rates: It changes as they grow
When you raise chickens, they don’t start laying eggs right away. They eat food and grow before they lay their first egg. I’m going to call this the startup cost of owning a chicken. Our 6 chickens were all laying by week 24. How much was our start-up costs? Our chickens ate about $50 in feed before we saw the first egg. When you throw the rooster into the mix, the start-up cost per chicken was $7.
From the chart, you can see that as the chickens got older and grew larger, they ate more and more feed per day. There are a couple of important points in a chickens first part of life that is evident on the chart.
- Weeks 0-12: Chickens are growing at a rapid rate during this time. Accordingly, their feeding rates are growing very fast. For all 7 chickens, we went from a total of a dime a day to $0.40/day.
- Weeks 12-20: Chickens have pretty much reached full size during this time, but aren’t yet laying eggs. Their feeding rate is pretty flat around $0.40/day (or $0.06/day per chicken)
- Weeks 20-24: Chickens are starting to lay eggs. To produce the eggs, they need to eat more food. They jump to about $0.50/day (or $0.07/day per chicken)
- After week 24: Now it all depends on weather, season, etc. For us, we continue to see the feed rates go up as the temperature falls. The bugs are going away for winter, so chicken feed become a larger piece of the chicken diet
Chicken feed rates: It depends on the season.
Once chickens are fully grown, you would think they would level off and consistently eat a similar amount. When you feed cats and dogs, you give them the same amount of food every single day. But chickens are different. They live outside and are dependent on other events. Wintertime? They need to eat more food to keep up their body heat. Not only that, but they can’t eat any bugs in the winter, so they only eat feed. Spring and Summer? Ahh, a buffet of bugs and plants (such as hydrangeas, flowers, etc. You know, all of the nice plants in our yard!). In these times, they don’t need to eat as much feed.
How much does a dozen fresh eggs cost?
After our chickens all started laying, we were finally able to see how much they cost. The verdict? At the moment, we are paying $1.42/dozen eggs. This will be interesting to see how it changes over the next year. I expect it to get higher this Winter and then fall back down in the Spring. We’ll see. I’ll do another nifty graph for you once spring rolls around. Stay tuned!