A chook dilemma

‘Free range eggs! Let’s get some chickens.’

What a delightful, down home thought,  But is it economical? Does it have intrinsic value? I’m starting to question our eco-choice.

Our little garden could only cope with two, we decided. So we built a pen and mobile (if you’re a strong man) chicken house complete with nesting boxes and perches. Cost about $500 with netting and wood and stain.

We bought the two chickens. They were the cheap bits – $80 altogether if you count the cost of petrol to collect them.

Then we bought automatic feeder and watering system because we realised there would be times when we wanted to take a break for a few days .An automatic feeder was the answer. Except that we didn’t bargain with the neighbourhood sparrows who now see our house as party-central. We can’t rely on the feeder feeding our chickens for more than two days – that’s about 10-12 cups of laying pellets every 2-3 days. The sparrows look wonderful and should breed well this spring.

Now we are spending about $40 a month feeding our neighbourhood feathered friends, but our chickens have laid all winter – one every day and the other (because of her breed) about 5 a week. That’s about 4 dozen eggs. The two of us can’t eat that many eggs in a month so we end up giving some away. Each egg costs us $0.83, even if you take in only the cost of food. But at least they are free range if by ‘free range’ you mean limited by the fences of our garden.

Before we bought our chickens, each week we used to buy free range eggs from a local man with a large flock of layers. They cost us $2.50 for half a dozen. Hmmm … something doesn’t stack up here!

On the plus side, however, our two chickens are real characters, responding to our voices, clucking indignantly if we haven’t let them out or tossed in their feed on time. We have decided we now have two pets who give us eggs as a bonus, but they will definitely be our last chickens. Then we’ll have a redundant pen and chook house. Sometimes you just have to experiment to find out what works.