Considering Backyard Chickens Because of Egg Prices?

What Does it Cost To Raise A Few Hens for Eggs?
What You’ll Need and the Cost of Starting a Backyard Flock
Let’s Do The Math!

Can You Have Chickens Where You Live?

Before you buy anything, make sure you’re allowed to have a backyard flock where you live. Check your local city ordinances, and remember, homeowner’s associations and residential subdivisions may have laws that aren’t included in government city ordinances.

The Cost of Getting Started

I certainly understand the cost of eggs has soared to an unreasonable price, and having your own fresh eggs every day sounds pretty nice. But like anything else, there’s a cost for that luxury. It has been said the cost of your first egg is $750, however, in today’s world, a $1,000 minimum may be closer to reality. Your baby chicks are going to need a brooder until they are 7-8 weeks old, then a suitable coop for the climate where you live. Don’t forget, there are numerous supplies needed to care for your chicks/chickens which we’ll address later in this article. 

In short, you can buy an awful lot of eggs for the cost of having fresh eggs in your backyard, let’s face it, you’re going to pay for eggs one way or another. Don’t forget there’s also a monthly cost of keeping chickens, there’s feed, shavings for the coop, and other necessities and/or miscellaneous supplies.

Still Interested? Then Let’s Get Started…

The Brooder for Baby Chicks

A place to raise your baby chicks can be rather simple, a box will do, but chicks also need a drinker, feeder, and a heat source. Today, we use radiant heat, heat lamps are seldom used as they are difficult to regulate a consistent temperature, not to mention they are fire hazards. This means raising your baby chicks should be in the Spring, or when temperatures are moderate. Radiant heat is most efficient in temperatures above 55. Learn more about Radiant Heat Brooders

The Chicken Coop

First-time buyers always buy a too-small coop, this will prove to be a mistake in the long run. Chickens need space in order to live in harmony, and happy chickens are what fill the egg basket. A coop should be easy for you to clean, and easy to gather eggs. It should be a suitable shelter for inclement weather and be predator-proof. And remember, you get what you pay for, buy quality, you’re not saving money if you have to buy a coop twice. 
View Coop Types
How Much Space Do Chickens Need?

Where to Get Your Chicks and Choosing the Right Breed

Choosing a breed depends on what your chickens’ purpose is, egg production is the focus here, so learning about which hens are prolific egg layers is most important. Some breeds, especially exhibition or ornamental breeds have broody tendencies and are not a good choice for egg production. (A broody hen has a strong urge to hatch eggs, and a strong desire to sit on and incubate eggs. A broody hen will remain on the nest for extended periods of time, even when there are no eggs present. During this time she will not lay eggs.)

The Most Common Broody Breeds to Avoid

Buff Rocks, Cochins, Buff Orpington, Brahmas, Silkies, Sussex, Dominique, & Dorking.
Note: The Silkie is probably the most broody of all.

The Most Common Prolific Egg Layers 

  • White Leghorn: An excellent egg layer, leghorns produce 280+ eggs annually. They lay large quantities of big white eggs. 
  • Rhode Island Red: An excellent choice for laying 260 large brown eggs annually.
  • Ameraucana: (Easter Egger) Producing around 250 eggs per year. The eggs are medium in size and can be blue, green, white, or tinted pink in color. 
  • Polish Chicken (Top Hat) Looking for a hen with a little more character? The Polish hens lay about 200 eggs annually. This breed is not usually found in feed stores, but are available through online hatcheries.

Where to Buy Chicks

You can usually find baby chicks in your local feed stores, but you won’t have the opportunity to choose a specific breed. There are many hatcheries online that sell just about any breed you want, and your baby chicks will be shipped to your local post office. You will be notified when they’re shipped, and when they arrive. This is primarily how I buy all my birds.
Here’s a list of Hatcheries to choose from. Wondering how many chicks to buy?

Mail order chicks arrive in a box like this & are shipped to your local post office.

Learn More About Which Breed is Best For You

Basic Start-up Supplies For Chicks

  • Brooder for chicks (Brooder Box Ideas)
  • Heat Source (Radiant Heat)
  • Bedding (Pine Shavings)
  • Chick Feeder & Drinker
  • Chick Starter Feed
  • Grit
  • Paper Towels (Best footing for the first week in the brooder. Also for pasting-up issues.)

Basic Start-up Supplies for Chickens

  • Coop
  • Fencing (with cover) for outdoor run.
  • Roosting Bar
  • Drinker & Feeder
  • Nesting Boxes (1 for every 2 birds)
  • Pine Shavings
  • Chicken Feed
  • Supplements
  • Metal trash can for 40lb bag of feed
  • Rake
  • Wheel barrel (for cleaning & managing pine shaving transporting feed bags.)

Let’s Do the Math

Today in Phoenix, Arizona, the price of one dozen eggs is $7.82. If you bought one dozen per week that totals $406.00 per year. Overhead on four hens for feed & shavings alone would average approximately $347.76 annually. That doesn’t include supplements, miscellaneous supplies, and YOUR TIME AND LABOR. Now add your start-up cost….is it worth it? 

The real question you should be asking yourself isn’t about saving money on the cost of eggs… it’s whether or not you want to raise chickens and enjoy fresh eggs.

Back to Chicken Keeping Resources HOME PAGE

Information on Current Bird Flu Influenza in Wild Birds and Poultry

  • A Better Understanding of the Current Situation
  • Preventive Measures
  • Information & Guidelines by the CDC
  • CDC Contact Numbers

Nov. 2022: As bird flu outbreaks in wild birds and poultry continue across the U.S., the country approaches a record number of birds affected compared to previous bird flu outbreaks. Since early 2022, more than 49 million birds in 46 states have either died as a result of bird flu virus infection or have been culled (killed) due to exposure to infected birds. This number is nearing the 50.5 million birds in 21 states that were affected by the largest bird flu outbreak that occurred in 2015. Even so, the number of states affected in 2022 is already more than double the number of states that were affected in 2015.

Although the overall risk to the general public from the current bird flu outbreaks remains low, it is important that people take preventive measures around infected or potentially infected birds/poultry to prevent the spread of bird flu viruses to themselves or to other birds/poultry and other animals, including pets. This applies not just to workplace or wildlife settings but potentially to household settings where people have backyard flocks or pet birds with potential exposures to wild or domestic infected birds.

To prevent infection, people should avoid unprotected contact with wild or domestic birds and poultry that look sick or have died. Bird flu infections in people happen most often after close, prolonged, and unprotected (no gloves or other protective wear) contact with infected birds or surfaces contaminated with bird flu viruses. If contact cannot be avoided, people should minimize contact with wild birds or sick or dead poultry by taking the following precautions:

  • Wear personal protective equipment (PPE), like disposable gloves, boots, an N95 respirator if available, or if not available, a well-fitting facemask (e.g., a surgical mask), and eye protection. Specific CDC and U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) PPE recommendations are available at Backyard Flock Owners: Take Steps to Protect Yourself from Avian Influenza (Bird Flu).
  • Avoid touching your mouth, nose, or eyes during and after contact with birds or surfaces that may be contaminated with saliva, mucous or feces from wild or domestic birds/poultry.
  • Wash your hands with soap and water after touching birds/poultry.
  • Change your clothes before contact with healthy domestic poultry and after handling wild birds, captive wild birds, farmed birds, and other pet birds. Then, throw away the gloves and facemask, and wash your hands with soap and water.

CDC has more  information for specific groups who may come in contact with potentially infected birds/poultry.

For backyard poultry or bird owners, take measures to keep your bird(s) from becoming infected with bird flu virus, which can be deadly. Infected birds shed avian influenza A viruses in their saliva, mucous and feces. Susceptible birds become infected when they have contact with the virus as it is shed by infected birds. This can happen through direct contact with infected waterfowl or other infected poultry, or through contact with surfaces that have been contaminated with virus. Avian influenza A viruses are very contagious among birds, and some of these viruses can sicken and even kill certain domesticated bird species, including chickens, ducks and turkeys.

CDC has been monitoring for illness among people exposed to bird flu virus-infected birds since these outbreaks were first detected in U.S. wild birds and poultry in late 2021. To date, bird flu viruses have been found in U.S. commercial and backyard poultry in 44 states and in wild birds in 46 states since early 2022. CDC has tracked the health of more than 5,190 people with exposures to bird flu virus-infected birds with one case reported. Information on the person in the U.S. who tested positive for bird flu earlier this year can be found in the associated spotlight and press release.

CDC continues to monitor the current situation and risk to the general public. Sporadic human infections with bird flu viruses in the U.S. resulting from close contact with infected birds/poultry would not be surprising given past human infections that have occurred in other countries after exposure to infected birds. This would not significantly change CDC’s risk assessment. However, if person-to-person spread with this virus were to occur, that would raise the public health threat. Note that sustained person-to-person spread is needed for a pandemic to occur. It is important for people to continue taking precautions around infected and potentially infected birds/poultry to help reduce the risk of bird flu virus infections in people.

Backyard Chicken Keepers

If birds in your flock have avian (bird) influenza (flu) A virus infection, or you suspect they might, take the following actions to protect yourself:

  • Don’t touch sick or dead birds, their feces or litter, or any surface or water source (for example, ponds, waterers, buckets, pans, troughs) that might be contaminated with their saliva, feces, or any other bodily fluids without wearing personal protective equipment (PPE).
  • Wear PPE when around sick or dead birds.
  • As best as possible, during depopulation and while cleaning and disinfecting contaminated premises, avoid stirring up dust, bird waste, and feathers to prevent virus from dispersing into the air.

Once bird flu infection is confirmed within a flock and premises, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Animal Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) recommends that backyard owners continue to wear PPE when in contaminated areas until there are no longer infected birds, eggs, feces, or contaminated litter on the property. The recommendation to wear PPE when in contaminated areas (primary poultry housing: coops, runs, barns, etc.) depends on whether a 150-day fallow is used for virus elimination after flock depopulation.

USDA has information on cleaning and disinfecting or fallowing of premises that were contaminated with highly pathogenic avian influenza virus and information on good biosecurity practices:

Birds infected with highly pathogenic avian influenza viruses may show one or more of the following signs:

  • Sudden death without clinical signs,
  • lack of energy and appetite,
  • decreased egg production or soft-shelled or misshapen eggs,
  • swelling of head, comb, eyelid, wattles, and hocks,
  • purple discoloration of wattles, comb, and legs,
  • nasal discharge, coughing, and sneezing,
  • incoordination, or
  • diarrhea.

If you see any sign of illness in your birds, immediately report it to your state veterinarian or the U.S. Department of Agriculture (1-866-536-7593).

Source: Centers for Disease Control and PreventionNational Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases (NCIRD)

Back to Chicken Keeping Resources HOME PAGE

Salmonella Safety Practices for Backyard Chicken Keepers

Fact: People can get sick with Salmonella infections from touching backyard poultry, their feed, and the places where they live and roam.

Here’s What You Need to Know

Keeping chickens can be a healthy & rewarding hobby, but what we really need to talk about is the proper management that will keep your family safe from the dangers of salmonella.
This isn’t talked about near enough and I feel too many chicken keepers are dismissing the fact that salmonella is found in bird droppings. If eggs are not handled properly, salmonella can be passed along to people. That’s the basic truth. But the facts are much broader than just safe egg handling, every chicken keeper should be well educated on proper housekeeping and coop management to safeguard against Salmonella.

Simple Rules for Good Chicken Housekeeping

  • Backyard poultry can carry Salmonella germs even if they look clean and well kept after. After handling baby chicks, (especially children and people with weakened immune systems) should immediately wash their hands thoroughly.
  • There should be a clean space between your home and where your chickens roam. That means they must have their own space where people won’t be constantly exposed to their droppings.
  • Wear special shoes or boots when tending to your birds, and store them away from the designated clean space.
  • Never eat or drink where your chickens live or roam.
  • Keep your coop and where the chickens roam clean. Regular coop cleaning and fresh bedding should be at the top of your chore list.
  • Collect eggs daily and keep the nest box clean. Eggs should never lay in droppings.
  • Refrigerate your eggs, this slows the growth of germs.
  • Coop equipment such as water or feed containers should be cleaned outdoors only.
  • Chickens are not indoor pets and shouldn’t under any circumstances be allowed in your home. They aren’t to be cuddled and certainly not kissed.

Outbreaks of Salmonella Infections Linked to Backyard Poultry in 2020…

  • As of December 17, 2020, a total of 1,722 people infected with one of the outbreak strains of Salmonella were reported from all 50 states.
  • 333 people (33% of those with information available) were hospitalized.
  • One death in Oklahoma was reported.
  • 24% of ill people were children younger than 5 years of age.
  • Epidemiologic and laboratory evidence showed that contact with backyard poultry was the likely source of these outbreaks.
  • 576 (66%) of the 876 ill people interviewed reported contact with chicks and ducklings.
  • People reported obtaining chicks and ducklings from several sources, including agricultural stores, websites, and hatcheries. Testing of backyard poultry and their environments (such as backyard coops) in Kentucky and Oregon found three of the outbreak strains.
Back to Chicken Keeping Resources HOME PAGE
%d bloggers like this: