EGGS. Eggs seemed like a good topic of conversation for this month’s column, because everyone is talking about the rising price of eggs.
Before I moved here, I bought eggs at the supermarket, never thinking about where they came from. That is probably how most people buy them – unthinkingly, just grabbing a dozen off the supermarket shelf.
When I achieved my dream of moving to the country, I thought at some point, I would love to have chickens. I have always loved and had birds- indoor birds- conures, cockatiels, finches, lovebirds, parakeets. Almost all rescues-there were 18 in my “bird room” at one point.
When we moved here, I had a lot less birds, and when they died of old age, I vowed not to replace them. No more indoor birds!
Then, the idea of chickens crossed my mind. One day, a few years into living here, Mr. Green Jeans came home with some pullets he got from a swap at Tractor Supply. Which came first- the chicken or the pen! He then built a tractor cage, and all was well, until they soon got sick. The vendor swapped them out. Same story. Long story short, never buy from a swap. Lesson learned. Not to say all vendors at swaps have chickens with issues, but it is not something I would do again.
Several years went by, and I tried again, with healthy chickens from friends. Mr. Green Jeans had to build another coop, because the tractor cage had “grown” legs, and now housed my angora rabbits.
One coop with a large enclosed run, led to another coop, which led to another, after I bought an incubator. My grandson loved watching chicks being born, and now has his own little egg business. That rabbit hutch now houses Callen’s own little chicken family, until Mr. Green Jeans/Pops builds him his own coop and run at Callen’s own house.
This is a cautionary tale though, and just my experience, and opinion. For the people and online posts from folks thinking they will save money by throwing a few chickens out back and getting eggs that way- think again! My chickens, as I mentioned, have very large runs, but are not allowed to free range. They are my pets, all have names and distinct personalities, and are very spoiled. Plus, there is a pair of red tail hawks (and their offspring) who claim our area as their own. From the edge of the National Forest, along the river to the far side of our property, they can be heard and seen every morning, sitting in the tree tops and soaring in the sky. On occasion, I have caught one, sitting on my barn roof, glaring down, trying to figure out a way to get in the coops. There is no way, sorry, hawk! Not to mention, there is the other wildlife, who would love to have a nightly chicken dinner!
I learned about the commercial chicken farmers around here, and the ones that produce eggs. That is the farmer’s livelihood. And, I’m sure, more work than I can even imagine.
If you are thinking of getting backyard chickens, to avoid buying the store-bought eggs, to save money – DON’T. You won’t be saving any money, believe me! Unless, maybe, you just throw the chickens out back, and let them free range. There is a lot to consider.
Feed is expensive, especially if you want the good stuff. Good feed equals quality eggs. Cages have to be cleaned, chickens get sick. Their laying years are limited-they live longer than they lay- do you plan to eat them then? I don’t. I have a pen of “slackers” as I like to call them. They were never the most prolific layers, and now they are getting older, only pop out the occasional egg, and that’s just fine.
If you want year ‘round layers, you have to invest in lights to keep the production going, which is not really fair to the hens. That’s just my soft hearted opinion! Chickens have seasons – when they molt, they stop laying. When the days get shorter, the egg supply slows down. When a chicken gets sick, and is quarantined and taking medication, those eggs are not edible.
My 7 year old grandson sells his eggs, at the same price as when we started, when he was 4 or 5. There is no point in raising the price of his eggs – there is definitely NO profit in this little business, nor has there ever been. It’s here because we love the birds, and for him to learn about working to make money, and saving money. He doesn’t yet realize, how much is spent each month on good feed, fresh treats, buying the cute little boxes his eggs come in, and the work and time spent growing new little chickies! As he gets older, he’ll learn. He’s proud of his little bank account, but is smart(?) enough to say, let’s spend your money, Grammae, mine is in the bank! LOL
We are not farmers, by any stretch of the imagination! We keep animals, they are pets more than livestock. If you are thinking of getting a couple of backyard chickens, check your town regulations, do your research – it may not be the savings you think it will be. It will be fun, chickens are smart and entertaining – except on those super cold, snowy, or yucky rainy days, when you still have to get up and go outside and take care of the birds. And, if free ranging, don’t be surprised, when they scratch and dig up your nice lawn, or garden, looking for grubs and bugs.
They are little velociraptors, but they depend on you, and are a commitment.
Plus, by thinking you can get a few chickens and have eggs at home, you are taking away from the farmers that do this for a living and supply the stores where you shop. Without real farmers, where would most of us be?
Something to think about……..
All is well here at Mountain Meadows. To all our readers, remember, along with Valentine’s Day, February is National Heart Health Month. Take care of yourselves!