I think my time with the chickens is coming to an end. It’s been educational, and I will definitely miss the eggs.
The bottom line, from a hassle/benefit standpoint, is that chickens appear to be very low-maintenance livestock. I let them out of their coop in the morning, replenish their food and water in the afternoon before chasing them back into the coop, and collect the eggs. That’s it.
I still didn’t know, though, how much money keeping them really costs. I know approximately how much they eat now – they eat a lot – but I didn’t know the price. So yesterday I took advantage of a chance to go to the feed store in town and find out.
Landlady left me a bag of chicken feed that was less than half-full. The bag doesn’t say how much the contents weigh, but it isn’t a very big bag – can’t be over 25 pounds. And of course it doesn’t tell me the price. But that’s okay – it’s “organic” chicken feed, and that’s not what my chickens will be eating. Landlady’s chickens have nearly emptied the bag, so say that in three weeks three chickens have consumed about ten pounds of feed.
At the feed store, 50 pounds of feed for layers costs approximately 15 dollars. In three weeks the chickens have laid, conservatively, 50 eggs. Call it four dozen. If four dozen eggs would cost me $10, and 10 pounds of feed cost $3, that’s a pretty good return.
Of course I also have to feed them through the winter, when I’m told they can’t be relied on to lay eggs at all. And I’ve got to jolly the young ones along for nine months or so before they’re useful. So it’s not THAT great a return. On the other hand I plan to keep more than three chickens, and already have buyers for any surplus.
And on the, er, final hand I plan to eventually eat the chickens. Which is something I always enjoy.
All in all, I think this is a good plan.
Today the ladies gave me a surprise. I’ve fed them stale bread a few times, and they seem to think that’s quite a treat. Usually the only thing they want from me is to leave them the hell alone, which fits in with my plans fine. Today, for the very first time, they actually mobbed me a couple of times. And the only thing that would shut them up was to toss them bread. Little Bear thinks this is a VERY bad idea. I actually have to do it out of his sight, or he raises hell with the chickens as soon as my back is turned. Normally he doesn’t give them a bit of attention, but he really gets hostile if he sees them getting “his” food. Which is funny – and also irritating.