A while back I blogged about the cost of getting my flock established. See post titled "The Cost of Raising Chickens (getting established)" - http://the-spice-girls.blogspot.com/2010/12/cost-of-raising-chickens-getting.html.
I know some of those costs were excessive considering other options. But given my lack of handy-man skills and arthritis in my right hand, I choose the path of having other people set up my hen house and run.
Now that my flock is established, I'm want to see what the cost is to maintain them.
The girls chow through a $16 - 50 lb bag of feed every two months. I spend an additional $10 each month on scratch (cracked multi-grains you toss on the ground for them to scratch at), BOSS (black oiled sunflower seeds) and other grains and crickets for treats.
I also go through a large bag of pine shaving for their house every six months at $10 a bag.
Other costs are nominal. I use some water to scrub out their feeder and waterer every so often and of course I give them fresh water to drink every few days. They get some of the left overs we don't finish as well as apple cores, melon rinds, carrot tops and other greens from my veggie garden.
That's $240 annually which I'm going to round up to $300. There are other misc. costs such as meal worms (which I'm going to start growing myself), a new basket feeder so their greens stay off the ground, etc.
I'm not seeing any savings yet, but very soon now.
They haven't started laying eggs yet, but we're getting close. This is a tough one to calculate. We go through 2-dozen eggs a month. But I buy cage free eggs for about $3 a dozen. That would be a savings of $72 annually. But organic, free-range eggs go for $6 a dozen. Which is a $144 annual savings. But it's not a savings if I wasn't spending it to begin with. So we'll say $72 annual savings on eggs.
I've started composting their waste, but haven't really started full scale production of using it as fertilizer and seeing if I can get away with not having to purchase any chemical fertilizer.
I had planned on the girls being my primary source of bug control, but after reading one too many stories about hawk attacks, I've decided not to let my girls free range. Which means I may have to use something if the snails get too out of control. Or do I let them out once a month or so and stay out there with them that entire time to protect them? I'm not sure what the answer is there. But I figure I spend roughly $400-500 on fertilizer, pest and weed control each year.
So let's say I save on half of my fertilizer/pest control spend, that's what I then spend on their feed. Of course, there is some labor involved cleaning out their house and run and composting their waste. But I no longer have to lug bags and boxes of stuff home from the garden center.
All in all, I'd say that I break even raising chickens. Clearly, the savings is in the pest control and fertilizer they provide and not just from their fresh eggs. Although, if you haven't had a fresh egg, from a happy, free range hen, those truly are priceless.