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Posts Tagged ‘raising chickens’

We are coming up to our 9th month of raising eleven chickens from chicks (one had to be fast-tracked to chicken heaven because of disease and a broken leg), and enjoying the nutritional and entertainment benefits of having them! For those of you wondering about the cost/benefit of raising chickens (assuming no zoning restrictions in your ‘hood) here’s the Chickenomics:

Chickenomics is about the cost/benefit of keeping chickens

Click on image for larger size. As you'll see, the chickens earn their living!

  • We use an Excel spreadsheet to track daily egg harvest, feed consumption, and any other types of “income” (egg sales to neighbors, if we have surplus) to gauge how much it costs to keep chooks vs. how much we save not having to buy free-range, organic eggs from the supermarket
  • It costs about $35/month to keep 11 hens (not to mention the farm mice) well-fed and happy. Evidently, the days of something costing “chicken feed” are gone! The girls go through about two 50-lb bags of layer feed/month.
  • Our happy (spoiled, even) free-range hens supply about $70-80/month of eggs (price of free range, organic eggs at our local grocer is $4.50-5.00/dozen!). Each hen lays about 5-6 eggs per week in the summer; and about 40% less in the winter.
  • No fear of ‘tainted eggs’ – we’re confident our chooks are healthy and clean. That’s quite a savings!
  • Being around chickens is a boost to your mental health. If you’re ever sad or upset, go to the chicken run, throw them an apple core, and watch the mayhem. *Priceless*
    Indignant Shirley and our third egg. Don't know if she laid it, but she sure looks PO'd. Actually it's just hot (high 90's and she's panting)

    Indignant Shirley and our third egg this past summer.

    Now for the “fixed costs” that were not mentioned above:

  • Fencing, building and materials for the chicken coop was >not< cheap. But we wanted to put something up that was not an eyesore (the coop is in the foreground of our backyard view of the distant mountains – why create a Coopenstein?
  • How much exactly? I can’t remember, I was swooning. Ok, ok, somewhere betw. $1-2K for the 16 sqft brooder coop and the 6x8ft (48 sqft) chicken coop with 3 nesting boxes. Yes we could’ve made it cheaper but didn’t, so don’t take our numbers as the benchmark. However, some finished coops are ridiculously expensive, well into the $2K range for the size we built. We do believe that ours is functionally well-designed, but that’s a separate topic we’ll address in another blog.
  • It took about 4 1/2 months until our chickens started producing eggs, so figure spending about $150 on feed prior to their laying. This cost is quickly recouped, as you’ll see in the spreadsheet above.

The final word – we do not put a lamp in the coop to extend the hens’ laying season, tricking them into laying the same number of eggs as they do during the longer days of summer. First of all, we don’t consume 9-10 eggs/day nor need to sell them for income. We’re always pleased to be able to get a few dollars for them, and our friends are thrilled knowing their inexpensive, fresh eggs come from super-happy hens!

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Chicken whisperer coaxing chooks to come to him

Roy the Chicken Whisperer coaxing chooks to come to him

It’s been a couple of months since we last wrote about our chickens. They’re now about 3 1/2 months old and have adapted well to their new home. Recently however, they’ve been flying up on the 3-ft fence and exploring areas outside of their spacious run. So we thought it’s probably time to clip their wings.

The chooks seem to like Roy the most – which is great – because he’ll be the grim reaper when their time comes – but hopefully not for a few years. To prepare the chook for wing-clipping, Roy likes to turn them upside down like this (and yes, they’ll put up a fight for about 20 secs. or so, but then settle down in submission). I don’t think it’s necessary to flip them over, but it seems easier to articulate the feathers.

Roy grabs chicken at legs to turn upside down for wing-clipping

Grab chicken at legs to turn upside down before you clip wings.

Next, spread out either the left or right wing. It’s usually sufficient to clip just one wing, but we suspect that our gals are gung ho fliers and may have to do the other wing later on.

Spread out chicken wing to articulate feathers.

Spread out wing to articulate feathers. This girl is a Rhode Island Red.

You (or preferably, your helper) will want to clip only the long outer wings or flight feathers, taking care not to get the shorter inner wings. Make sure you use sharp scissors. We clip only the first 10 or so flight feathers, but some people clip up to 20.

Only clip the flight feathers, and as closely as possible.

Only clip the flight feathers, and as closely as possible.

Lastly, you’ll want to give them a good pet on the back and praise for being so cooperative. (Um … it’s a bit of a stretch they’ll enjoy the hugs. But it is a good idea to get them used to being handled!)

Give praise after clipping chook's wings

Handle your chooks frequently or you'll be like Rocky Balboa chasing chickens!

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