Chicken Run: End of the Line

I’m getting close to putting down the chickens. They’ve had a good “run” but they are three years old now and not producing eggs any longer. We promised ourselves that we would be responsible urban chicken owners - we’re going to dress them down and then make stock out of them. By we I mean "I". It’s winter now so maybe we’ll get a new round of chicks in the spring.

I have looked back on the last three years and tried to calculate the costs and benefits of having chickens. At first glance the eggs come at a heavy premium when compared to market eggs - even organic ones. 

Let’s put aside the initial costs (building the coop, feeder, watering can, other equipment, buying the chicks). On a monthly basis, owning 5 chickens costs about 30 dollars per month for feed and bedding. We could probably have lowered those costs by shopping in a rural area, but instead we supported the Portage Bay Grange right here in town - their prices are city prices. (read: at a premium). I’m going to go with $30 per month.

For the 30 dollars our chickens produced a low of 5 eggs a week (in the winter or when they were molting) and a high of 25 a week (height of summer). Let’s just go with 12 a week or 48 a month or one carton per week. In other words, each egg cost about .62 cents, or 7.74 a dozen. 

I just looked on Amazon Fresh and organic eggs cost about 5.80 a dozen. So our backyard eggs were probably and approximately 25% more expensive than store-bought organic eggs. Again, these numbers are all approximate. My initial point here is that unless you are “at scale” you are not going to be saving money by owning city chickens. However.. that’s not quite true.

I have not purchased any soil or fertilizer for our 500sf of garden beds for over two years now. That’s about 50 dollars a year. I also have thrown *all* of our green material into the coop area and no longer needed our yard waste bin. As a result, I called up Waste Management and ordered the smallest yard waste bin possible (13 gallon), replacing our giant one (96 gallon). This shaved 4.75 dollars a month off our bill, or 57 dollars a years. You can look up Seattle costs here.

This ends up balancing out the egg-dollar equation pretty nicely. At a rate of one 12-egg carton per week:

  • Amazon Fresh: $300
  • Our Backyard: ($30x12)-(57+50)=$253

So it turns out that we came in at about 25% less than buying organic in a store. Again, this is all vague math but we’re in the ballpark.

Some of the intangible benefits:

  • All of our soil and fertilizer is now essentially a closed-loop system.
  • The chickens stomped down, scratched up or otherwise ate all of our compostable green materials which resulted in much lower labor on my part.
  • We always, always always had fresh, protein-rich, delicious eggs around the house. They didn't even need to go in the fridge..

The chicks had a good life, lots of sunshine, no disease, and two cats to play with.

Good ride, chickens. Good ride…