We have our first egg! But is it worth the cost?

It’s been over 6 weeks since the young ladies moved to the wood and finally we have an egg! Even though I have had chickens most of my life I was super excited to discover our new flock had produced after a long wait.

But does keeping hens really save money? After 6 weeks of waiting, over 1 bag of food devoured and with just the one hen laying it has made me contemplate whether keeping hens is cost effective.
I did a few calculations to work it out. These are the fixed figures

Initial cost of hens £10 each
1 bag of food lasts about a month £10 which works out at £1.67 per month per hen
Average of 300 eggs laid per hen per year
One free range egg from Tesco is 17p (based on one egg from a box of 6)

From these figures I have worked out that each hen needs to lay 62 eggs to balance out the initial cost to purchase them. They then need to lay 10 eggs per month to cover the cost of their food. So, in the first year, each hen needs to lay 182 eggs to cover their purchase and keep.

The remaining 118 ‘free’ eggs that each hen will lay over the next 12 months would have cost £20.26 if I were to have purchased them from Tesco. That’s a total of £120.36 saving for all the ‘free’ eggs from the 6 hens.

The next factor to be taken in to consideration is the potential money that could be made from selling surplus eggs. If we were to eat only 20 eggs between us each month we would potentially have 130 eggs to sell! If we were to sell half a dozen for £1, like Tesco, we could make £21 per month.

So it is worth, for me, when the costs are broken down like this. Obviously, there are variables that I haven’t taken into consideration such as:

Actual numbers of eggs the hens will lay
Actual number of eggs I would be successfully sell
Vet fees and medicine costs
Water costs (we are on a meter)
Loss/replacement of a chickens from the flock

There are other costs that people could incur, that I fortunately don’t, such as bedding costs (wood shavings are a by-product for the firewood processing) and land rental. The number of hens kept would also change the figures –obviously the more hens, the more eggs to sell for example.

Having worked out the figures I now feel confident about the viability of keeping hens. But there are also the environmental and emotional benefits too- they make me happy and it’s another step closer towards a more sustainable life. I know my hens are happy and will have good lives but I don’t truly know how Tesco free range hens live. I could go on…

PS. Do you keep hens? If so, how does your costs and income balance out?
PPS. I hope my calculations are correct. Maths isn’t my strong point!

By Jenni Tulip

I'm a bright-haired, hill walking, magpie whispering, skull collecting, tree hugging, money saving, bird watching, happy campervanning, ferret fanatic, woodland dweller sharing my stories and passion for the outdoors to inspire you to immerse yourself in nature.

  • I would love to keep hens at the allotment but I don't think I have enough space for them. Plus it's not hugely secure. It might have to be something I shelve until I've moved.

  • We use a farmers shop sack of chicken food about every six weeks, for 5 hens. Only 4 lay. I get 4 eggs a day most days, sometimes less so I'll assume an average of 3 a day. Assume half the eggs in the 4 colder months… So that's like ten months of 3 a day. Approx maths time, around £120 a year food, about £40 bedding products resulting in about 600 eggs a year. Sounds good to me.

  • What is an allotment? Is it public land?

  • I have about 50 chickens. They are free range, and about 1/3 are roosters. My wife likes them so I don't worry about the cost of keeping them. My dogs eat the eggs, for the most part, though sometimes I scramble eggs for the cats as well. They don't like raw eggs like the dogs do.

    I go through a 40 pound sack of feed once a week in the winter, it lasts a big longer in summer and spring when the chickens can forage.

  • Anonymous

    What will you do with your lovely ladies once their egg laying days are over? i.e. do you keep them in retirement or kill them? (I hope not the latter…. but to make it cost effective, that's what would make sense, i.e. too expensive to feed a mouth that doesn't produce – that's how commercial farming views it…).

  • Hi Harry. Allotments are 250 square metres and are owned by councils but let out to anyone who wants one for a very small annual rate. They are very popular and there are usually long waiting lists to get one 🙂

  • Hi Char. Hens are so so easy to keep. You could keep just 2 hens. A minimum of 1 metre run per hen is advised with a closed area for roosting and laying. I know quite a few people who keep them at allotments. All-in-one chicken coops are readily available and are ideal for small spaces x

  • Sounds good to me too 🙂

  • Hi Harry. Do you eat any of the eggs or sell? That's a lot of chickens and eggs for a very lucky dog! This time around I won't be having cocks as they aren't required and cost to keep.

  • Sadly I plan to cull them. In the past I have kept hens more as pets but this time I want to stay focused on being sustainable and not get too attached. At least I know they will have had a good life.

  • I might think about it then as one of next year's goals.

  • I never kill chickens. That's why I have so many roosters. Actually, I never kill anything that I don't have to. I lost my taste for that a long time ago.

  • Our tend to pay for themselves, but then I get wheat from my dads farm and split that 50-50 with pellets so it makes them very low cost to feed. I tend to get a dozen ex battery hens each year direct from the farm for a bout £1.50 each so they don;t take much to recoup their costs. Not vets fees in mine I'm afraid though, all have to earn their keep (although I've a friend who's a vet so I get free advice) so if they get sick they've got two choices. It's the only way to keep them viable.
    We sell extra eggs in an honesty box so I'd say with the dozen hens we've got we end up on profit each year, but not by much!

  • It's a personal quirk of mine. I know it's necessary sometimes. I am considered to be quite eccentric here in the county, and my attitude towards animals is one reason for it. I don't mind, I don't come into contact with people much other than just at the store and then only to pay my bill.

  • I eat the eggs, sometimes, but I'm not supposed to eat eggs because of cholesterol. The dogs root out the eggs from the nests and eat them raw. Last time we went to the vet for their shots, he said they were both obese and needed to cut back. Not so easy to do! The chickens are free range and aren't pinned up. My oldest dog has a regular routine, each morning she goes around to her favorite nests, picks up the eggs, and carries them back to her dog house. There she stashes them til she feels hungry. I would get rid of some of the roosters, probably by giving them away, except my wife likes them because they are so colorful and individualistic that she can name them.