What’s up with the high cost of eggs?
Egg prices are around 60% higher right now than 1 year ago. Reasons include the current HPAI outbreak that has led to the deaths of over 50 million chickens due to this virus, increased feed costs due volatile soy and corn prices, and even increased egg cartoon prices. This increase in egg prices has led many DIYers to think, “I can raise laying hens in my yard and save some money”. This article is meant to give you some basic egg-onomics about backyard poultry and egg production.
If you are starting from scratch, before you even buy any female chicks you’ll need a coop. Depending on how much you DIY it and what type of coop you want, this can cost between $300 and several thousand dollars.
Because laying hens don’t lay eggs until they are about 20 weeks old you also need to feed your chicks for those 20 weeks before you even get a few small eggs. In the backyard world, this can cost between $20-30 per bird in feed costs alone. Feeding costs typically comprise around 70% of the operating costs of a typical commercial laying hen.
Finally, a good commercial laying hen will produce around 300 eggs per year while many of the typical backyard breeds only produce about half of that annually. Now you can do the math to figure out if raising laying hens makes sense for your situation based on how many egg you buy per year, how much you spend per year on eggs, and how many backyard chickens you have/would need.
Here is an example for starting from scratch:
Total starting cost per year = $500 coop + $50 for 10x day-old female chicks + $660 for 22x 50lb bags of feed = $1,210
Total eggs produced in first year (assuming no mortalities and 150 eggs per bird annually): about 923 eggs, 77 dozens.
In following years: about 1500 eggs, 125 dozens for a cost of $660 (assuming no mortalities and no changes in production efficiency)
Total cost of consuming 2 dozen eggs per week from the grocery store per year (at $6/dozen): $624 for 104 dozens
Long story short, the return on investment from a dollars and cents perspective is more than likely to be negative or close to zero compared to buying eggs at the store in part because poultry feed costs for backyarders are under the same economic pressures as commercial poultry feed. The above examples also don’t include the cost of water, vaccinations, and veterinary care. However, if backyard chickens bring joy to you and your family, and if you are a responsible pet owner, the return on investment from a happiness perspective will likely be a net positive.
Written by Dr. Maurice Pitesky and Joseph Gendreau at the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine.