From Chicks to Eggs - The First Milestone

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So, not really our first egg, but it's a great photo of our third.

So, not really our first egg, but it's a great photo of our third.

Is it really our first milestone? I suppose that could be debated. The first zucchini, or blackberry pie, or handful of strawberries could be considered milestones, but I'm not counting them. The small bit of gardening I did, as exciting as it was, did not require the planning, sweat/tears, and cost that this milestone did. I'm, of course, talking about our first egg. If you follow on Facebook or Instagram you saw it triumphantly shared in real time. Now that we've hit it I'm feeling like less of a farming phony, and more like this is real. We have fresh eggs! It seems so simple, but really it took a lot to get here.

Our first egg. Orion discovered it in a nesting box after his morning chicken chores.

Our first egg. Orion discovered it in a nesting box after his morning chicken chores.

What did it take? Oh so much. I'm not going to rehash too many things, since I already wrote about them and I don't want to bore you. A quick recap with links to their corresponding post includes: researching what it takes to care for them, agonizing over breeds and ordering them, finding out I had more to learn and how much work baby chicks are, how we set up their broodernaming them, and finally housing them. Making this list made me realize I never gave a comprehensive tour of their coop. I'll work on that post soon. The other thing we haven't really discussed, which is why we're here today, is the cost from chick to egg. 

How much does it "cost" to raise your own eggs? I've seen Pinterest pins with the cute little graphics of how many straw bales and feed bags per a chicken you'll buy compared to the cost of eggs from the grocer, but that's not what we're discussing. I'm going to share the total cost of raising our flock from chick to egg laying. 

Here's a breakdown of what we spent:

We purchased our chicks from Mount Healthy Hatcheries for $4 per a chick. We ordered 10, but they sent us a bonus chick, so we have 11. We're really fortunate because all 11 of them survived, and all are hens because we paid extra to have them sexed as pullets. After shipping, and the small order fee, we paid $53 for the chicks.

Chicks Subtotal: $53

The picture that made me realize we had 11 instead of 10. Those buggers are hard to count when they are all fluffy and squirmy!

The picture that made me realize we had 11 instead of 10. Those buggers are hard to count when they are all fluffy and squirmy!

They need a place to live while young and fragile. We used a cardboard box until they started flying out of it at about a week old. We used this great tractor we purchased from Amazon once they stopped fitting through the bars at 1 week and 4 days. I originally planned to give them outside time in it as adults, but it's a bit too small for that, so we are using it as the chicken hospital instead. If we end up with a sick or injured bird it will be set up in one of our empty barn stalls so she can rest and recuperate. Alternative use is breaking broodiness. While they are chicks, the brooder also needs a heat sourcefeeding dish and waterer. As I learned from experience, don't mess with a dish waterer. Buy the chicken nipples and make one out of a plastic bottle, or drill them into the bottom of a bucket. Their brooder also needs a bit of pine shavings. Don't buy pine shaving on Amazon. they are crazy cheap at your feed store We paid $5 a cube and went though 5 of them before we switched to straw. Optional items we purchased for the brooder were the infamous chicken swing and bridge. I know, I talk about them a lot, but entertaining your chicks is important so they don't peck at each other out of boredom. 

Brooder Subtotal: $155

The first time they used their brooder.

The first time they used their brooder.

Your growing chicks need to eat. We went through 3 bags of organic starter/grower feed at $26/bag, and purchased 4 bags of organic layer crumbles at $26/bag. I still have a bag and a half left of layer crumbles as of this morning, so I didn't go through all of it yet, but you'll never want to run out so off I go to buy more anyhow. I purchased these from the feed store. They were way too expensive online. We also bought lots of fun treats, mealworms, and chicks need grit to eat until they live in the coop and have access to dirt outside full time. Get your grit from the feed store also. Hens also need oyster shell starting at 18 weeks. I somehow forgot they needed it before they start laying, so that just arrived yesterday. Live and learn! 

Feed Subtotal: $210 (you can subtract $39 from that if you want to be super technical, but you'll need extra feed on hand, so I'm counting it)

Other fun things we bought include fake eggs so the ladies would see where they are supposed to lay. Truth be told those just arrived yesterday, and one chicken already figured it out, so I thought about returning them. I got nervous and ordered them because they were making nests under the nesting boxes, and I didn't want eggs to be smushed. Our third egg was in a box with a wooden egg, so I'd say they at least did no harm. I also bought nesting herbs because our coop reeks and needs a freshen up. Orion and I turned the straw in there the other day so the composting can start with the deep litter method. I think it's super stinky, but everyone else thinks it smells like a normal coop, so I'm not starting over on the deep litter yet. I will though if I feel like it's gotten too far. Dirty coop equals sick birds. They are also chickens so they should have some farm smell to their home, right? I'm always second guessing myself.

Other Fun Things: $25

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The chicks hatched on June 14, 2017 and our first egg was discovered on November 5th. Our total time investment was 4 months and 22 days, or 20 weeks and 4 days. That kind of time investment is priceless. 

The total amount I spent before our chickens ever laid one egg was almost $450. WOW! And we didn't even buy a coop! That is quite an investment. If you take out everything I consider to be for fun or optional I would have spent almost $350. I include the brooder and supplies, along with the feed and treats as must haves, the toys and other fun extras are optional. The chicks grew so fast I can't imagine trying to keep them in a box, even a large one, for more than a couple weeks. They needed a cage like structure with a roof, and it serves double duty since it will be our emergency coop. You should have an emergency coop to separate injured or sick birds. Which brings up something else, we don't have, a fully stocked chicken first aid kit yet. I have a bottle of vetricyn because we have dogs and having a wound cleaner on hand at minimum is smart. In a bind we would use that and the human first aid kit to get by, but building our chicken first aid kit is on my list of "to-do's" this fall.

Don't have $350 to spend either? Don't be discouraged. Raising less chicks would cost significantly less, and be a bit less overwhelming. You can also save a few dollars by going on your local buy/sell/trade groups right now to get your starter gear and brooder used. Everyone is done raising chicks for the year by now, and if they don't want to store their gear or plan to raise more chicks next year they are offloading it to avoid dragging it to the basement or attic to collect dust. You can also save $1/chick by ordering them as hatched, and then if you have any roos you have dinner! I kid about that last part. After hand raising a chick I couldn't eat him, but maybe you could? You can also buy conventional feed and treats rather than organic. I feed our chickens mostly organic, but not all of our treats are organic. Our ladies also get lots of vegetable and fruit scraps, and eat all the leftover protein from our kitchen table. I find they eat less feed the day after getting the chicken broth carcass, which saves a few bucks on feed and reduces our waste. There are also lots of great DIY books for building chicken fun if you're handy. 

Artemis the Silver Laced Wyandotte. Fully grown and ready to lay! 

Artemis the Silver Laced Wyandotte. Fully grown and ready to lay! 

Why do I share this? Because I've seen a lot of Pins about raising chicks for free or about how much money you save keeping hens in your backyard and I don't feel as if those posts are being fully honest or painting the whole picture by giving the most ideal scenarios. They are super cute to pin though. My world is not always "most ideal", and homesteading costs money. To have any sort of savings on your grocery bill you need to have your coop established, and your flock healthy. Does this mean I think you shouldn't raise chickens if you don't have hundreds to spend? Heck no! In order to start our homestead fund I started selling crocheted items and yarn, and I also sold a bunch of clothes I didn't need on Poshmark. I was surprised at how much money I was able to stash away using those methods. I'm both a wild dreamer, and a realist. Surprised? you shouldn't be, I am an accountant and thinking about the cost of things is part of my nature. I think because I saved and dreamed for so long my costs are on the high side, but I'm being honest about them, which is what you can always expect from me. I almost gave you a spreadsheet with taxes and every penny accounted for, but I thought that would be a little boring. Prices also change for these things all the time, so it would have only been exact 4 or 5 months ago. I think I made my point without being too specific.

Testing out the nesting box. Piggy was expressing what she thought about me capturing this private moment.

Testing out the nesting box. Piggy was expressing what she thought about me capturing this private moment.

Do you feel like sharing your flock start up costs? I would love to hear your story either here in the comments or on Facebook! Even if it's to tell me how you did it for free, I'm a good sport and love money saving tips! 

Cheers!

Bev

This post contains ads & affiliate links (this links to our full disclosure about browser cookies, and way more than you probably wanted to know about ads and affiliate marketing). We make a small commission when you purchase from some of the links shared in this post. Making a purchase from a link will not cause you to pay more or affect your purchase in any way. It will however, support our wildest farmin' dreams, which is mighty awesome of you.