Yes, we are those people. In 2016, we got chickens. Spontaneously.
And you know what? It’s more fun than we thought it’d be.
Things We’ve Learned
- Sometimes hens turn out to be roosters. Two of our five chicks ended up being roosters. That was a bummer.
- It’s way easier than you think. As much as I’m really thankful for the Backyard Chicken community because we had a million questions, raising chickens is pretty simple. You feed them, you clean up after them, you let them out, you put them away. You can make it more complicated… but it’s not.
- Most of the cost is in year one. Below I show how much this project has cost us. But after the initial build of the coop/run they cost us about $20/month. So less than our other pets and we get to eat their eggs.
- You might as a well compost. Speaking of waste. The combo of straw and poop is great in the compost bin, particularly when you add in scraps from the kitchen. As we get our garden going in 2017… this is going to be clutch.
- Not all eggs are the same. Now that they are producing eggs it’s really interesting to see how different the eggs are each day. Even chickens born on the same day, eating the same things, living in the same environment, will produce different eggs.
- Eggs are warm. Totally makes sense considering they just came out of a chicken. But until you know… you don’t know. Fun discovery.
- Chickens have a lot of personality. We have colored bands on their legs to tell them apart but the truth is that you can tell them apart just by their personality.
- Pecking order is a thing. Sour is the top of our pecking order, followed by Fluffy, then Sweet. They have preferences for everything, who gets what, and when is all in that hierarchy. So if Fluffy is in the favorite nesting box laying her egg when Fluffy wants to get in there? She won’t just go in the other box, she’ll stand outside and make a ton of noise “yelling” at Sweet to move. This also plays out when I bring out something from the kitchen as a treat. Sour is always first to taste it. Then the other two will follow her. If I need to put them in their run? Just grab Sour and put her inside, the other two will follow.
- The perfect job for kids. Everywhere I go in the developing world kids take care of the families chickens. Now I see why. It’s the perfect job for kids. I clean out the coop/run once a week. But everything else is totally a kid job. Letting them out, keeping track, feeding and watering, collecting eggs.
Things to Come
- We’ll be adding a few new chicks to the flock this year. We originally planned for five laying hens, but Darth and Kylo ended up being roosters. (cockerels, technically) So later this spring we’ll get some chicks and hope for pullets.
- Continue fiddling with the coop/run design. So far, it’s held up well to the heat of the summer as well as the rains this winter. But I’d still like to automate watering a bit better… sneaking a small line from our irrigation system to keep their waterer full. And I’d love to figure out how to automate their inner pop door so we wouldn’t have to go out there to let them out or put them away.
- Predators. The dogs help keep the backyard free of predators. But we know the longer we have the chickens the more likely we’ll attract something. Our front yard makeover has attracted opossum and skunks… pretty sure our run is safe from them. But egg stealing snakes or the occasional coyote? I suspect we’ll see them in 2017. (There was a giant king snake when we lived across the street!)
2016 Chicken Finances
- Eggs – 215
- Feed consumed – 300 lbs
- Expenses – $923
- Cost per egg – $4.29
- Cost per dozen – $51.52
- Last 3 months
- -200 eggs
- $78 expenses
- $.39 per egg
- $4.68 per dozen