I wasn’t one of those who bought a 20kg bag of flour and started making bread and pasta through our first Lockdown but I have belatedly taken to it. As I post this we’ve gone to Level 3. Drats, even more time to make my own. I love the maths and science of things so I started working out if it really is cheaper. In trying to calculate the cost of our own chook eggs this led me down a huge distracting rabbit hole. How much are they costing us? As I started calculating hubby declared (a) too much and also (b) we over feed them. Let’s see if he’s right.
The answer isn’t a simple one as, with most things, there’s several variables I needed to work out:
- How much are we feeding them per day?
- How much does the feed cost?
- How many eggs are they laying?
- What other costs are involved?
Right – let’s look at each.
HOW MUCH SHOULD YOU FEED A LAYING HEN PER DAY?
Recently I went through this exercise because, as a responsible animal owner, I wanted to make sure they were getting enough to pump out as many eggs as possible. Recommendations from feed bags and forums has commercial feed per laying adult at 120-140gms per day so I’ve been working on the average at 130gms. I weighed this out for our 5 birds which is 3 scoops. Do the same – you might be surprised at the volume this is. Is it too much for ours – they have a massive area to roam in and also get some (although not much) food scrap? Probably. I’ll leave that question for now.
The upshot – Commercial feed per day = 130gms per chook
COST OF THE FEED
In my ideal world I would feed them organic layer pellets – we eat what they eat after all. These are fairly expensive so most of the time they get any old pellets. My neighbour Olivia is a guru when it comes to poultry so I knew she’d know the cheapest option – it’s the Value bag from Pak N Save. I went online and looked up the various bags we normally buy and averaged them out. This gave me three different costs – the value bag, the average of mid-ranged bags (all similar in price) and an organic bag (Meal time from Quality bird supplies in Silverdale).
If you’re close to the source of feed (eg Biograins in the South Island for organic options) then you might get these cheaper – the cost of freight is the killer.
|Layer pellets||price per gm||price per day per hen (130gms)||price per week||price per week for us (5 hens)|
|Value (Pak N Save)||0.0011||0.143||$1.001||$5.01|
This shows me there’s $1.45 a week difference between the cheapest and most expensive (organic) feeds per hen. For us with five hens it would be $7.28 extra per week to go with an organic option which is significant. The important thing is – how does that equate to price per egg?
The upshot – we’re currently spending about 0.975c per day on commercial feed which is $6.83 weekly for our five chooks. This doesn’t include ‘other’ costs.
HOW MANY EGGS DO THEY LAY?
We have five hens. Two are older and I know one isn’t laying at all and the other has just started laying a few a week after several months of not. The other three are young hylines and they lay well – probably 4, 5, sometimes 6 eggs each per week although not that many at this time of the year. How many yours lay will vary depending on their breed, age and time of year. When they moult they don’t lay. At the moment we usually get two eggs a day which is 14 per week total or 2.8 eggs per hen per week. If I took the non-layer out of the equation it would mean 3.5 eggs per hen per week which is better and definitely another question that needs answering.
The upshot – we get on average of 2.8 eggs per hen per week.
COST OF AN EGG
To work out how much each egg costs I’ve used the cost of the feed per week per hen from above.
Then it depends how many eggs are being laid per week – the more the hen lays the cheaper the egg becomes. I’ve included results for 5 – 2 eggs per week (per hen).
|LAYER PELLETS||price of feed per hen per week (130gms per day @ 7 days)||price of an egg|
|eggs laid per hen per week|
|Value (Pak N Save)||1.001||0.20||0.25||0.33||0.50|
What does this show? Feeding the mid-range priced pellet at 130gms per day means that if your hen is laying 4 eggs a week it costs 0.341c per egg.
To make this a true cost per egg I still need to know two other things –
- How many do they lay on average over the year? This would include when they’re not laying at all during moulting.
- And what about other costs?
HOW MANY EGGS DO THEY LAY PER YEAR
For now I’ll have to ignore this question as I really don’t know. The hylines are good layers and I don’t expect them to stop laying for weeks on end like some of the heritage breeds we’ve had. I’ll stick with my 2.8 eggs per week per hen average as it’s probably on the conservative side anyway.
There are other costs which really should be considered. In our case it’s the upfront cost of the hen. I think I paid $25 each for the hylines. If they give me 4 years of laying that’s a cost of $6.25 per year. We’ve also had problems with worms with the white Sussex which sometimes has meant buying product and worming them all (not ideal as you then can’t eat the eggs). I’ve also factored that in at $4.80 per hen per year.
|Cost of hen||$25|
|Cost per year of hen (over 4 years)||$6.250|
|Worming product per hen||$4.80|
|Total other costs (hen & worming) per year||$11.50|
|Total other costs per week per hen||$0.213|
Which means I have $0.213 per week to add to my egg cost. Still with me? Here’s my table again with the yearly costs factored in.
|LAYER PELLETS||price of feed per hen per week (130gms per day @ 7 days) + one off cost of bird, worming||price of an egg|
|eggs laid per hen per week|
|Value (Pak N Save)||1.214||$0.24||$0.30||$0.40||$0.61|
Now the price is probably looking more realistic. How does it compare?
A quick look online gave me the following prices to buy supermarket eggs in Auckland. Just to note – I recorded these just before Level 3 (12th August 2020) – they’ve probably sky rocketed now. Also, eggs bought from farmers markets or your mates could be quite different.
|Type of egg||cheapest price per egg|
|Bog standard caged/barn eggs||0.39c|
|Free range eggs||0.69c|
|Organic free-range eggs||1.10c|
What does it mean?
- Feeding organic pellets: even if they’re only laying 3 eggs a week it’s comparable with the price of organic eggs. If compared to free range eggs it’s only cheaper at the 5+ per week mark and more expensive than bog standard barn/caged eggs.
- Feeding the average priced pellets: it’s comparable to buying free range eggs if they’re laying at least 3 eggs a week and comparable to bog standard eggs at the 4/5 + mark.
- Feeding the cheapest feed: If they lay 5 eggs a week the cost of an egg is 0.24c each which is a great price. It’s roughly cheaper than buying the bog-standard eggs if they’re laying more than 3 eggs per week. But as I’m never going to buy cheap eggs from caged hens that’s not a game changer for me. (Please don’t either).
- Which ever feed you use, the more they lay per week the more cost effective it is. In our situation I’m only winning if they’re laying 5, 4 or 3 eggs per week. That sounds realistic but most of us backyard chicken owners will be feeding non-layers which means our number of eggs per hen is reduced when averaged over the flock. That’s going to push the price per egg up. As I mentioned above, we have 5 hens – one’s a definite non-layer which means she’s getting a free lunch and making my average per week 2.8 rather than 3.5 per hen. Yes that’s you Janis.
THE VERDICT – HENS FOR THEIR EGGS – IS IT A THING?
There are a few variables when working out the price of a home laid egg. If they’re laying more or less than I think the price will obviously go up or down but at the moment it’s looking ok. My 2.8 eggs per hen per week is costing 0.56c per egg which includes the one-off cost of her plus worming. The short answer is yes – home laid eggs are worth it.
Some things I need to consider –
Firstly – organic vs non organic feed
If I go back to using organic feed it would cost me 0.95c per egg which is less than the organic free-range ones I was happy to pay $1.10 for. I’m tempted. When researching the pellet options I couldn’t find out the detail I wanted – for instance, are the ingredients non GMO? Most say the ingredients are local and imported. When it comes to imported products I worry about the source and the quality, especially when it comes to the meat component. What even is it? No doubt the grain ingredients will contain traces of pesticides and herbicides. We’re eating that. The downside to the organic option (Meal time) is that the protein is plant based – there’s no animal protein which I think they should get.
My verdict – I prefer to buy organic where possible so might go back to using it. I could supplement their diet with meat and of course they’re eating bugs as well.
Secondly – are we feeding them too much?
130gms per day is a lot of food. If yours don’t have access to foraging or food scraps then that’s probably fine but ours do. They get some food scraps and they have a massive area to forage in. I like to let them out but they make a chook line for the veggie garden. After doing the maths I’ll probably let them out more and make sure to include more appropriate scraps, protein and home-grown vegetables for them so I can reduce the reliance on commercial feed. That’ll bring my price per egg down.
My verdict – reduce the amount we’re feeding them.
Thirdly – the elephant in the room
Janis. I’m not sure what we’re going to do there but when one fifth of the flock is just eating and not laying it’s skewing the stats quite a bit.
My verdict – harden up and cull.
And lastly –
There are unquantifiable benefits of having chooks. I know ours are well looked after and are truly free-range which is important to me. They get rid of some of the food scrap, provide manure for the garden and are also theoretically keeping on top of bugs in our orchard. I’m pleased to find the cost of feed vs buying eggs isn’t as bad as I thought. Even at break even point I would still recommend having hens. They’re full of personality and their addition to the natural environment can’t be calculated. And in this crazy world it’s nice to have a hen to cuddle.
What was my verdict about making your own pasta and bread? That’s up next – back to the spreadsheet.