Probably just as well the new coops will be out of his sight.

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.

About Joel

You shouldn't ask these questions of a paranoid recluse, you know.
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6 Responses to Probably just as well the new coops will be out of his sight.

  1. Claire says:

    I suspect you’ll find them cost-effective, even with winter conditions (when they may lay less but shouldn’t quit altogether if you give them even a little extra light). And it doesn’t take nine months to bring them from chickhood to laying. More like five if I remember right.

    But even if they’re not perfectly cost effective, really, truly FRESH eggs are … well, you already know how much better they are than storebought. Must have been nice having this test, though. Not too many people get to babysit chickens. Chickensit?

  2. Panhandle Tex says:

    Keep kitchen scaps and heat them up in a sauce pan and feed it to the layers in the cold weather. Really helps with the laying. Raise some earthworms in some horse manure and feed them t the chickens.

  3. Roger says:

    We have 30 layers. We feed them cracked corn with a little layer mash mixed in. We also grind up eggshells and mix it in. Chickens will eat about anything, including the entrails from their previous roommates. Just throw it in and see what they like. There are benefits beyond egg/meat production. Bug control, scratching and fertilizer are also big benefits.

    Roger

  4. Phssthpok says:

    Seconding what Claire said ([waves] Hi Claire!), the generally accepted rule of thumb for keeping full production is 16 hours of light. In the summer the sun does this just fine, but in the winter you will need to supplement.

    The amount of light required is minimal…a single 1156 (single element) automotive ‘marker’ bulb with an aluminum pie tin ‘reflector’ would be sufficient and cheep, though not terribly power efficient (typically 15w IIRC). You can find replacement marker lights in the ‘ricer’ section of most auto parts stores that are LED clusters which would save a significant amount of power over the old style, but will cost significantly more on the front end for purchase.

    At that point it’s simply a matter of wiring it into your 12v DC bank, and deciding if you want to spring for a timer, or set up a manual switch (perhaps wiring it into your ‘house’ lights, such that in the evening when you turn things on, the coop lights up, and when you go ‘lights out’ for sleep you are turning off the coop too).

    I am still in my first year of keeping chickens (central Floriduh latitudes) and noticed a rather sudden drop in production a few weeks back as the hours of daylight waned. My six (3 white rocks, 3 brown leghorns) took almost exactly 7mo to start laying, but were giving about 4.5/day ….they are now down to a shade under three a day and I am vassilating back and forth between doing a stand alone 12v lighting system ($$$) or a ‘plug in’ 120v solution. 120v is cheaper and simpler (mechanically) but owing to location of the coop presents some wire-run issues. I have most of what I need for a 12v stand alone, except for a battery, charge controller (which could be eliminated were I to use one of those ‘battery minder’ 5w solar panel trickle chargers), and 12v timer ($$$), though for such a small load as a single light I’d daresay even a mostly-dead old car battery from Craigslist would serve.

    The coop already has a set of Harbor Freight solar panels, though, installed on the roof for power, as well as shade, though right now only one of them is direct wired to power three 12 ‘muffin fans’ (~4,5w each) for ventilation during daylight hours. It keeps the heat and moisture (and hence, the smell) inside to a minimum…something you may want to consider for summertime.

    As for chickens eating ANYTHING, I have personally witnessed them mobbing a nest of baby snakes, and the results of a mole making a ‘wrong turn at Albakoiky’ and managing to attract their attention inside their run…they [i]dug him up[/i], killed and ate him. I daresay the cats will be competing for mouse snackin’s with a flock of chickens around. Dinosaurs, I’m tellin’ ya man…vicious little dinosaurs.

    I just wish they’d eat fire ants!

  5. John Venlet says:

    Joel, when you eat those layers, because they’ll be a bit older, and tougher, than the young chickens one usually eats, so you’re more than likely gonna want to cook them Coq au Vin style.

    Here’s Julia Child’s recipe, if you’re interested.

  6. j.r. guerra in s. tx. says:

    My next door neighbor works at Petsmart and alerts us when the store is about to throw out foods which nearly expired dates. One of these foods was fed our cats and they didn’t care for it. I gave some to the chickens – and it was gone! So if you find yourself in a pinch, you may likely be able to feed some of that DRY cat food to your chickens.

    Chickens eat our veggies that are getting soft, I pull out buffle grass that grows near the chain link fence – yup , they like veggies too!

To the stake with the heretic!