Chickenomics


The following are common questions about raising chickens:

  • “So how much money will having my own chickens save me?”
  • “Will having my own hens benefit me financially?”
  • “Is having chickens a cost-effective strategy?”

The answer varies widely, and Joshua Levin, who has chickens in New York City, does a good job examining the economics in his article “Backyard Chicken Economics: Are They Actually Cost Effective?”

Here is a brief summary:

Set-Up Costs: $121 (chicken wire, waterer, feeder, grit, hens)

Per-Month Variable Costs: $31.50 (organic feed) or $13.50 (non-organic feed)

Value Produced per Month: $27.66 (40 eggs = $20, fertilizer = $7.66)

In Levin’s estimation, the cost of feed determines whether or not your operation is profitable. If you use non-organic feed, you will break even in 6 months; organic feed, 14 months.

Levin’s Cost-Saving Strategies

  • Build the coop yourself
  • Procure free items – structure for coop, wire, other building materials
  • Buy non-organic feed
  • Supplement the hens’ diet with table scraps (do this with caution, as lots of roughage can lead to crop impaction and sour crop) and allow them to free range.
  • Use newspaper as bedding rather than wood chips (but know that newspaper packs more easily, gets wet more easily, and has to be changed more often to prevent mold, which can cause aspergillosis – but it can be composted more readily)
  • Add another hen, which does not considerably change the costs.
  • Harvest your chicken manure.

Follow-Up Comment

A follow-up comment on Levin’s article, posted by Patricia Foreman, gave the following as positive reasons to raise hens that are not figured into Levin’s purely capitalistic perspective:

  1. Contribute to the backyard agriculture movement by perpetuating knowledge of animal husbandry and local food production
  2. Recycle waste to keep it from landfills by using chickens to recycle biomass
  3. Reduce fossil fuel use and carbon footprint by reducing the amount of oil we use to feed ourselves in packaging, transportation, and production
  4. Prepare for emergencies by having a food source on hand

It’s a great article; if you found my summary helpful, check out the article at GoodEater Collaborative.

Levin has chickens in New York City
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