The cost of keeping chickens

Have I mentioned we have 6 chickens? I searched through my blog archives and realize that perhaps it slipped my mind to mention it. Chickens are great pets for many reasons: they’re low-maintenance, hearty, fun to watch, and they don’t require much space to peck around*. It’s like having a petting zoo in our own backyard!

But best of all, they lay delicious, healthy eggs every day. You literally won’t go back to commercial eggs once you have an egg from a backyard chicken. I stopped ordering meals that contain egg in restaurants because they always disappoint me with their relatively lackluster flavor and texture. I’m not a foodie by any stretch, but if this makes me elitist or snooty, I don’t care.

Every morning, I drink a tonic containing a raw egg. It’s full of protein and immune-system boosters, and beats the pants off any commercial recovery drink for a post-workout lift. I feel safe doing this because I harvest the eggs personally and can see that the chickens are healthy with my own eyes.

Today I figured out just how much we pay for all the benefits I mentioned above (but mostly the amazing eggs). Thanks to Mint (and carefully tracking our spending) I know we spent $355 on the chickens over the past year. Let’s round it up to $400, since there’s probably some expenses that are unaccounted for.

A chicken lays about 270 eggs a year** and we have 6 of them, so we get about 1600 eggs a year. It blows my mind just typing that. I’d love to say that means we pay about $3 a dozen, give the finger to the guy selling $6-8 cartons of eggs at the farmers market, and end my blog post here. But we also have to factor in the time spent caring for the chickens.

On a typical day, we probably spend about 3 minutes of “work” on the chickens: two minutes in the morning letting them out, feeding them, and collecting eggs, and a minute in the evening closing their gate.*** Then there’s cleaning the coop, maintaining their enclosure, and the yard around them. Let’s say it’s 3 hours a month, between the daily stuff and the periodic maintenance. This isn’t to say that chickens are all work. I enjoy spending time sitting and watching them peck around, bathe in the dirt, and chase bugs. And they’re a constant source of entertainment for Lillia.

It’s somewhat tricky to put a price on your time, but for the purposes of this article let’s say I’d pay an experienced petsitter $20 an hour to care for the chickens. So we need to add $720 to the yearly cost. That means we spent $1120 on our 133 dozen eggs per year, or $8 a dozen.

So now we’re back up to the price we’d spend on a carton of eggs at the farmer’s market. But our chickens are also pets. They’re members of the family, which itself is priceless.

Bottom line: if you want a pet that’s as easy to care for as a cat, as entertaining as a dog, and magically delivers a daily immune-booster into your diet, get chickens!

* We kept 3 chickens when we lived in our tiny, zero-lot-line cottage. They took up about 20 square feet of yard.

** I figured each bird lays an egg a day for the warmer 6 months of the year, and an egg every other day for the colder 6 months.

*** Although in the dead of winter, that minute spent outside in the evening can feel like an hour

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4 thoughts on “The cost of keeping chickens”

  1. Love this, and I am super jealous of your fine feathered family members! We eat so many eggs that chickens would make total sense for us. All I need now is to buy a house (one of the setbacks of renting: no chickens, waah) and convince the husband.

    Do you have to warm the coop in the warmer months? And what kind/frequency of vet visits are typical for chickens?

    1. We rent too! We looked for rental homes that said “pets allowed.” Our landlord was cool with it, since they’re outside they don’t really impact the condition of the house.

      We don’t warm the coop since winters are pretty mild in Seattle. Though we do have a light in the darker months, so they spend more time awake. They only need vet visits if they get sick and so far none of them have been sick enough to require one (knock on wood).

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