In a few more weeks, we’ll get our pay off. We’ll get our reward for the labor, shite shoveling, and money. We’ll get the golden egg. Yes, our first egg will be worth about $700 by my rough calculations.
Earlier this month, we bought chickens and became “urban chicken farmers” in Berkeley (another step upon the path to radical homemaking and femivorism, destinations that I will surely never reach).
The chicks themselves, just-feathered pullets, were only $15. But you need more than just chickens to get the golden egg. (So far, the chicks had been hand-raised by my friend Karyn with her young daughters; my friend assured me that she didn’t break even on the venture either.)
Factor in that we live in an urban neighborhood without benefit of a barn or animal paddock. We bought a cool coop called the Zen Hen Pen for $450. Yeah, we coulda built one out of found lumber and mesh, but who has the time?! Plus I wanted to make sure they were secure from the neighborhood beasts (cats, rats, raccoons, prostitutes). Other comparable coops are about $600 so I felt like we were getting a deal.
What goes in the coop? Organic chick feed in the heavy metal chicken feeder served with a tall helping of fresh water in a galvanized water dispenser (called a poultry fountain!). And something absorbent to serve as “litter.” Let’s call that first batch of food and equipment a round $100. As the chickens get to their laying age, we will need to supplement their diet further. Or so I hear. We haven’t done that yet.
[side note: this is where I first feel that I was duped. The pet store guy told me NOT to get wood shavings because my chicks would eat it and it would kill them. Instead he suggested corn-cob-filler. But now won’t they try to eat their litter even more because its actual food?! Since then, I found a local place where I can get free wood shavings. Thank goodness.]
Our coop requires weekly tidying. At least with the stupid corn cob litter it does. When I went to clean the coop out last week, I headed to our shed and found that some rodent ate through both the bag of chicken feed and the bag of corn litter. Ugh. Next stop for me was OSH (the hardware store for urban farmers such as myself) for small metal garbage bins with tight sealing lids for the feed and litter. Plus I got gardening gloves (really cool ones) and a shovel so I’d never have to touch any chicken poop or be scared by a rat again!! Fear makes me crazy. So I threw $76 at the problem. Ahhh, much better.
Since the beginning of this month, we’ve learned a lot about our new backyard birds. We discovered our chicks like grass seed (FREE!), snails (FREE), and clover flowers in moderation (FREE) so we’re earning their trust by doling out treats when we visit them. We also discovered they don’t like to run out of water. I nearly thirsted them to death when I couldn’t figure out their fancy water contraption.
Fancy eggs at the grocery store cost about $4 a dozen. Super fancy eggs at the farmer’s market are about $8 a dozen. At least now I won’t bawk bawk bawk cluck at those prices. Our first egg will be worth $671 (plus more for oyster shell and grit so they don’t make soft eggs – ick!) (plus some more for a nesting box with straw).
In another few weeks (months?) when we start to get eggs, we should get around 3 per day. If they all start laying at the same exact day, we’ll already knock the price per egg down to about $230. At this rate, how long will it take me to get down to fancy farmer’s market prices ($.33)? I tried to calculate it and I got 13 days and I got 700 days. Help me out here.
Besides a little help with my math challenge, I’m also open to tricks and tips from other crazy chicken people.