Is it cheaper to keep chickens or buy eggs?

I just received this article in my inbox from ChickenKeepingSecrets.  They send a regular newsletter which always answers two questions.  As it pops into my inbox during the working day it always brightens my day as I remember the joy of keeping chickens whilst I’m at my computer.  Having said that, it can be a bit pushy salesy which I definitely don’t like – so I just ignore that bit and read the articles.  Anyway, thought I’d share this one.  It’s interesting but does bring home the point that having chickens is not about cost-savings, it’s about the experience and fun!

Mind you – I’m also shocked that shops can keep eggs for 45 days.  I always feel that our eggs are getting old after a week!

Enjoy!

“Is it more economical to raise chickens and eat their eggs than to purchase them at the market?” ~ Mira VosbergMira, I’m glad you wrote but I’m not sure you’ll like my answer.

If you have to feed your flock only on commercial feed, you may find that it costs more to keep your chickens than it would if you were to buy fresh eggs locally.

You will certainly pay more to house and care for your chickens than you would spend to purchase regular eggs at the grocery store that come from a battery operation.

Not even taking into consideration the conditions in which the eggs are laid in a battery operation, you may remember that eggs
are allowed to be on the shelves of the store up to 45 days after they are processed. So no matter how cheap they are, store bought, regular eggs are my LAST choice.

If you want a lot of eggs and do not have a preference in color, Leghorns are the most economical breed because they do not eat as much as larger breeds. Their eggs are white and they are the breed of choice for commercial egg production for the reasons I just mentioned.

If you have to feed commercial feed only, look into discounts available if you purchase in bulk. Keep in mind that feed does not last indefinitely and should be used within a few months.

Any amount of diet that you can provide through forage and home rations will help to make your chicken keeping more economical. Just remember that what you put into your chickens will determine the quality of what comes out of them.

Refer to Vol 2: Issue: 1 – Wednesday 21st January 2009 of this newsletter for an in depth discussion on home rationed diets. For now though, the basics are Grit, Grains, Greens, Protein and Calcium.

To really determine if it’s economical to keep chickens, as always, I’ll encourage you to do the research in your area. If
you have a neighbor who will sell you their surplus eggs, you’ll probably be able to get them cheaper than if you raise the chickens yourself.

If you must buy your eggs from the store under the label of “Free Range”, they might not be fresh and you’ll pay a lot for them.

Check into the cost of building or purchasing a coop.

Find out what feed will cost in your area.

Even if your flock can forage for most of the year, chickens need more food to maintain their health in the winter and in most places, forage is limited during the winter so you’ll probably have to supplement with commercial feed during that time.

Finally, I’d like to suggest that keeping chickens doesn’t have to be about money only, or even about the superior nutritional quality of the eggs; keeping chickens is also about “keeping chickens”. It’s an experience and a process. It’s a way to connect to our food and to give it meaning. It’s an opportunity to work with animals in a world that spends much of its time working with computers.

It gets us outside into the sunshine and fresh air.

So whether it is or isn’t more economical to keep chickens than to buy our eggs, for our family, it’s worth it.

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Spoilt Chickens, Cold Water and Delicious Food

Happy New Year – I hope 2013 is all it could be.  I’ve no idea what I’ll be doing at the end of this year but I’m looking forward to it progressing and providing new challenges and great fun.

We actually went away for New Year – yes, we left the chickens for 4 nights!  My mother in law was gently installed at our house and she did a great job of looking after pets and home.  Having had chickens when she was a child, she was quite comfortable with them, although being heavilly into showing love with food she has probably overfed both cats and my ladies.  I imagine she spent much of her days sitting in the kitchen just watching them scratch away, although given Luna’s current habit of escaping she probably also had to go in and out regularly to pick Luna back up and put her back inside the run.  I’m not sure if it’s because  Luna is the bravest but the other two just don’t join her exploits.  Cho does scramble up to the top of the coop on occassion but I think she’s too large a bird to be confident of flying.  Anyway, she’s become a real pain with her regular fly-bys, keeping us busy putting her back in and exploring different ways to stop it.

So where were we whilst this was going on?  As my husband reached an important  birthday milestone, me and my daughter did some scheming with his sons and held a surprise birthday holiday in Cornwall.  We’d been working on this for the past year – getting a large group to gather is a complex business, especially when I couldn’t make a decision on coast vs isolation vs north vs south.  So on New Year’s Eve we braved the atrociious weather and kidnapped my husband.  He thought we were going down to Totnes to stay with his sons and Abi (No 1 Son’s fiancé).  Thankfully his Christmas present kept him entertained whilst I drove and we just kept on going and ended up in Mevagissey.  He knew something was going on but was still surprised to open the door and see all four of them sitting on the stairs.

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The house was delightful with a lovely large kitchen and an open fire in the lounge.  Even better, we could walk down into Mevagissey and visit the pub before coming back for dinner. The weather held and New Year’s Day was so gorgeous that we went for a non-wetsuit swim (or more like a very deep paddle as my feet didn’t actually leave the ground).  The sea was cold (10-11°C) but my daughter and I managed to go in several times and hang out having conversations about careers with Abi whilst loosing feeling in our lower bodies!  As is often the case once you get out of the sea your body cons you into thinking you’re warm and so we gradually got changed back into dry clothes only getting really cold a little while later.  Thankfully the house we were staying at was close so we all rushed back for hot drinks.

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The boys and Abi did a fantastic job of cooking for us – they’re all great cooks now and we were really spoilt with great brunches, light teas and delicious dinners.  My daughter and I made a few puddings, her signature Mexican Chilli Bean Soup and of course, a birthday cake.

All in all a great time was had by all and we laid our stomachs on the seats beside us as we drove home yesterday.  My mother in law was full on beans on our return – whether it was because she could return to her peaceful flat or because she enjoyed the ‘holiday’ at our house I’m not sure but I’m very grateful and the chickens are now super expectant every time they see our shapes in the windows.

Annoying Chicken Week

A friend of mine asked me today, if I was still enjoying having chickens.  For the first time in 8 months I had to stop and think.  What!  How can that be?  Don’t get me wrong – I love my girls and I wouldn’t do anything rash with them. It’s just that they’ve given me a hard week. Let me explain…

The back right hand corner that I wrote about recently has become a battlefield – I really have to come up with a way to house the chickens that doesn’t depress me every time I look out the back door.  I moved the coop to the back left hand corner yesterday.  Quite a nice neat arrangement – a little L shape around the shed and it’s paving slab base.  However, as  I raked up the soil on the previous patch I was so disappointed about the state of the grass.  It looks rather like the face of a young man trying to grow a beard – the odd grass blade sticks out from an alarmingly smooth face.  Two thirds of it was just a muddy mess with leaves, soil and sticks all piled up in irregular patches.  I raked those back onto the borders and pretended to myself that there was a difference between border and grass.  As for the pot holes!  Well!  Around 7 neat little holes were scattered across the area.  They didn’t seem chicken sized and I’d expect them to have gently sloping sides but no, they looked like the chickens had been out to build a paddling pool.   If they can create such neat sides, can’t I train them to create a hard side on the edge of the grass?  Oh, that would be so good – but so unrealistic.  Their main aim is to find bugs and delights whatever the cost to the earth – in fact I think they like destruction.

Stubble!

So that was chicken annoyance one!  The second challenge of the week was that we wanted to go and visit our family in Devon.  Now I’ve got some very kind and generous neighbours but I’m not sure they’re kind and generous enough to want to pop round my house at 6:30, to walk across a minefield and deal with cheeky chickens.  Actually, I’m sure they would if I asked them but I’m not comfortable doing that at that hour.  Especially as they’re not keen on birds – they love the eggs though, so that’s a positive!  We therefore enlisted my mother-in-law to come and stay.  Being a Rowden she likes to get up early and she’s had chickens as a child so loves being with them.  The downside is, she’s no spring chicken herself and I really feel bad giving her all that responsibility.  So the reality hit home that holidays and weekends away as a family are a troublesome affair now and one that I need to find a solution for to save my sanity.

Lastly, this hour change combined with a week off work has stressed me.  The chickens were being let out at 7:30 – oh, so civilised but we had to slip back an hour and make it 6:30am – this on a week when I wasn’t getting up early to get to work and get my daughter to school.  As a result I lay in – I didn’t want much, just to go to say 7:00.  Was that acceptable to Ginny?  No, not at all.  Wed through Sat I got a rude awakening as I drifted from sleep to the loud squawking of a Ginny demanding to be let out.  Somehow I managed to make myself vaguely respectable and run outside to let them down before our whole neighbourhood wakes up and then writes letters to the council!  This morning I had woken at 6:30 but stupidly drifted back into a nice warm dream.  Suddenly I was dreaming I was late for work but had to go back to my house to get something, then in my dream I heard the chickens and realised I hadn’t let them out.  What to do – go let the chickens out and be late (r) for work or try to get someone else to do it?  I was just working through this quandary when I realised it was the real chickens outside making the noise – so in a very dozy state up I got to do my duty and hush the noisy creature.  As soon as I let them down they’re quiet and peace resumes once again.  The trouble is I’m then cold and awake and my lazy morning is ruined.
So as much as I love the girls, I’ve had a big reality hit this week and realised that my life now revolves around them.  Best make myself some wonderful rich yellow pancakes and remind myself of the upside!

Cooking with Eggs

I wish there was a way to gauge the impact our increased egg intake has had on our bodies and health.  I now eat far more than I ever did but don’t feel significantly different.  Does anyone else notice any changes?

As we approach our first Winter with the chickens I’m beginning to re-evaluate assumptions and processes to see what we can do differently next year.  One think I aim to do more of is bake and cook egg-based dishes and then show off the good looking ones to you.  If you don’t have ‘home-grown’ eggs you really can’t imagine the richness of the yolks and how simple things such as scrambled eggs look so intense.  My daughter is now cooking at school and she’s dying to do an egg based bake so that she can take in our eggs.  This week it’s a main meat or fish dish so she has to wait a little longer. In the meantime she’ll just have to help me bake more cakes at home – as long as she doesn’t want to eat too much of it.  We do tend to fight over cakes in our house – in a very gentle and fun way but somehow the latest bake never lasts very long.

Having chatted to my lovely sister-in-law Rachael I’m now determined to make twice the quantity each weekend and put half in the freezer to take out later.  My only concern is that we’ll actually just end up eating double each week!  Time will tell and maybe I should post my stomach measurement each month so you can keep me on the straight and narrow (or slim and upright!)

So for now, here are some pics of recent bakes.

Courgette Soufflés – one is not enough!

Sunday Morning Specials – Jamie Oliver’s US Stylie Pancakes.

It might look like chocolate but it’s a fruit cake!

Dorset Apple Cake (but I wimped out on the amount of Apple – bad decision!)

Versatile Blogger Award Nominations

A week after being nominated for an award, I’ve finally got around to looking up what a Versatile Blogger Award is.

It’s always exciting to get awards and know that people are reading your blog – in fact getting followers and comments is a little bit addictive.  Strangely it’s not the people who know me that comment but those that don’t!  I guess I need to do a bit more blog training 😉

It’s really interesting to see who’s reading your blog – many of my readers are from the US and it’s great to see what they’re up to and how annoyingly warm their weather is right now.

So back to the awards.  This seems to me a lovely thing set up to encourage all us bloggers to check out a few more sites and promote our favourites.  So, to follow the rules:

Thank you to Willow Cottage Garden for the nomination.  This is a great UK blog which covers lots of my favourite things: photography, cooking, gardening and chickens.

I’m not sure I have 15 favourite blogs at the moment – being quite new to this I’m still scouring the blogosphere for content and information.  However, here’s a start:

  1. Hens Gardens and Me – a lovely insight into growing veg and keeping chickens here in the UK.  We should just commiserate about this awful weather!
  2. Aquaponic Family – lovely pics and tales of their new chicks and really interesting ways of growing their veggies.
  3. Soulsby Farm – a US touch this time with this professional blog that has guest bloggers covering areas such as GMOs.
  4. Middle Class Values – a good blog to make you think about saving money, not about being cheap but about getting value for money.
  5. Ferndale Chickens – a blog with one aim “A hen in every yard”  What more do I need to say?
  6. Clares Eggs Blog – a short, but hopefully developing blog from someone who’s raising ex-battery hens.
  7. Jimmy Cracked Corn – more blogging on vegetable growing and how to be sustainable.

That’s really all I can come up with at the moment but I will add to it as I get more and more into blogging and widening my net.

Meantime, here’s 7 things about me that I haven’t told you yet:

  1. I love swimming, especially open water (when it’s not too cold)
  2. My favourite vegetable is Purple Sprouting Brocolli
  3. My favourite brunch is Eggs Florentine (but I’m really just after the egg and the Hollandaise!)
  4. I love making pancakes on a Sunday morning
  5. I hate Jerusalem Artichokes – and it’s not just the affect on your body
  6. I can do a forward somersault on a trampoline
  7. I love composting, especially with worms (but maybe I’ve told you that one!)

So, thanks for reading – back to the more normal ramblings next time.