I’m as excited as a new grandmother. Chicken Little, our Black Australorp, laid the first egg a bit after noon today. She went into the coop around 11:30 and began “building.” I have no idea what she was doing, but it sounded like construction with a lot of bumping, thumping, and scratching.
When she came back out of the coop around noon, I peeked in. No egg. But the nest boxes were scratched down to bare wood, straw scattered everywhere. I thought she might want more straw, so I added some. She went back into the coop and continued bumping and thumping, then settled down. Silence.
Soon there was some soft clucking. I thought hens really cackled when they laid an egg, so I didn’t expect one. She came back out of the coop to join Henrietta and Henny Penny, so I peeped in again. And there it was! Our first egg! And it only cost us $1,000.
How’s that, you ask. Well, the coop cost us $800 (built by a friend out of mainly recycled materials). A permit from the city of Huntington Beach (permanent, not annual), cost us $189. The feed trough, watering trough, and a can to store the feed cost another $54. I installed a solar light on the coop to help deter nocturnal predators. There went another $80. That’s $1,123 of non-recurring costs. (The solar LED light from Gardener’s Supply Company will probably be a recurring cost, because I’m not sure how long those things last.)
The first bag of laying pellets (feed) cost $15. I’m not sure how long it will last. Next time, I will buy organic feed, now that I know that our local feed store carries it. That will cost $25 a bag.
And then there was the cost of the hens. I naively thought that they might be as much as $8, based on the price of a cleaned, packaged broiler in the grocery store. Ha. My laying hens cost me $25 apiece.
Chicks are a lot cheaper (about $16 for 5 one-day-old chicks mail ordered from www.randallburkey.com, plus shipping fees). But to raise chicks, you need a brooder (heat source) for the first few weeks. I didn’t want to invest in a brooder for my little backyard coop, and I didn’t want to wait the five months it takes to raise the chicks until they’re old enough to lay. So I went for broke, as they say, and bought laying hens.
I calculated earlier that my recurring costs of straw and feed might be $100 a year. I also naively thought that I might get as many as 18 eggs a week. Not bloody likely. A good laying hen produces about 200-240 eggs a year. I’ll probably average a dozen eggs a week, at least for the first year. They don’t lay as many eggs after they’re two years old, and two of my three hens are already a year old.
Ignoring my one-time costs (which I can do since I’m a biologist, not an economist), that comes out to around $2 per dozen of organic, free-range eggs from happy California chickens.
But to have your own fresh eggs that came from well-cared for, free-range hens in your own backyard? Priceless.
(To read more of Lou Murray’s environmental writing, see her weekly column, Natural Perspectives, in the Huntington Beach Independent at www.hbindependent.com /blogs_and_columns
I remember how excited we were when our chickens laid their first eggs. We’d raised them from chicks, which was actually a lot of fun, and you can actually build a homemade brooder very easily.
Someone once asked me if I’d figured out if I was saving money raising our own chickens for eggs, if I’d priced my cost per egg. My response was ‘I didn’t have to…they haven’t finished paying off the coop yet!’ Unless you’re a large commercial operation, cost, or cost-savings, shouldn’t determine whether or not you keep chickens. We do it for the fun of it, and for the fabulous taste of our fresh eggs. Congratulations on your first egg!!!
Thanks, Curbstone Valley Farm. I love being able to “grow” my own eggs. So much fun.
Oh how exciting! I really wish I get the chance to own chickens one of these days. That’s one expensive egg. hahaha. I’m sure it was really tasty.
Thomas, how can you even THINK of eating an egg that expensive. Haha. I hope you get chickens some day too. Jonathan would love them. And you certainly have room for them compared to my tiny yard.
How exciting to see the first $1000 egg.
Dumb question – do hens lay eggs everyday?
Hi Mac. I thought that they did, but they don’t. A good laying hen will lay 240 eggs a year, with more frequent laying during the long days of summer than the short days of winter. Commercial egg factories have the lights on for long hours (all the time?) to fool the chickens into laying more.
Chicken Little looks like a Black Star, Sex-Link cross. The Black star have a green sheen on thier fethers too.
Thanks, Jessica. I can’t say. The farmer told me it was a Barred Plymouth Rock crossed with a Rhode Island Red, but maybe he also raised his own from eggs and this one was crossed with a Black Star.
I know this post is old and a lot is changing in our community (I’m from HB too) are you finding any issues with predators? Coyotes?
Hi Michelle. I have no problems with coyotes even though I live quite near HB Central Park. I do have issues with rats and possums, but they are night critters, and my hens are locked up at night in a secure coop. During the day, they have a small fenced area to scratch in.