Calculating the ROI of Our Chickens

Guest Post by Michelle Mather

As you might know from reading previous posts on this blog, Cam and I acquired 4 laying hens in May. We had always toyed with the idea of having our own chickens, but we didn’t know anything about looking after them and so we kept “chickening out.” We both eat a vegetarian diet, partly for ethical reasons, and so unless we were able to find eggs from happy, free-range chickens, we just chose to do without. When we lived in the city I was able to get organic eggs from humanely raised chickens at the local farmer’s market, but the market was only open during the spring, summer and fall and so we often had a hard time finding eggs during the winter months.

Then we moved to our home in the country and discovered a local organic farmer with a flock of chickens. We could see for ourselves that his chickens were not confined to small cages but were free to roam around a large barn and in good weather they ventured out into a pen where they could scratch and peck to their hearts’ content. He fed them organic feed and so we made a point of purchasing our eggs from him.

Then in the fall of 2010 he announced that his current flock of chickens was getting on in years and he wasn’t planning on replacing them, at least not right away. There is another farm in our area that offers eggs from free-range chickens but their eggs aren’t always easy to get. So once again we were back to only eating eggs whenever we could find them and doing without when our only choice was commercially produced eggs.

So last May we made the big decision to get our own chickens. At first we got two but then realized that our coop (which Cam made out of scrap lumber and two pallets as shown here) was big enough for at least 2 more. We also read that in case you lose one chicken (to illness or a predator), it’s good to have “extras” so that you won’t find yourself with one lone chicken in your coop.

The “girls” are an endless source of amusement (and eggs!) Henrietta, Penelope, Flora and Belle quickly settled in to life at Sunflower Farm and soon began laying almost one egg a day each! In three days we have a dozen eggs and so we get roughly two dozen eggs a week from our 4 chickens. They have slowed down ever so slightly now that the cold and snow has arrived, but they are still producing and most days we get 3 eggs from them.

We have given away quite a few eggs to our friends and family members and everyone agrees – once you’ve had a farm-fresh egg from a happy chicken, you can’t go back to the commercially produced ones. They just aren’t in the same league!

Not only do they taste much better, they are nutritionally superior too! Mother Earth News says that eggs from chickens that are allowed to roam on pasture (instead of being confined to cages as is the case for most commercially produced hens) have;

  • 1⁄3 less cholesterol
  • 1⁄4 less saturated fat
  • 2⁄3 more vitamin A
  • 2 times more omega-3 fatty acids
  • 3 times more vitamin E
  • 7 times more beta carotene

(See the article here;

One of my friends asked me if we are saving money by having our own chickens. We didn’t acquire chickens in order to save money, but since we were spending more than $5.00/dozen for organic, free-range eggs when we were able to find them, I decided to do the math to answer my friend’s question.

The chickens eat a 25 lb. bag of organic feed in about 9 weeks. So they roughly go through almost 3 lbs. a week. Multiply that by 52 weeks and I estimate that our chickens eat about 156 lbs. of feed in a year.  That’s 6.24 bags a year, so I’ll round it up to 7 bags. Each bag of organic feed costs $23.00 for a total feed cost of $161.00.

Let’s say each hen lays 300 eggs over the course of the year. With 4 hens, that’s 1200 eggs or 100 dozen. I was paying about $5/dozen for eggs and so one hundred dozen eggs would be worth $500.00 to me.

So, $500.00 less feed costs of $161.00 means a profit of $339.00.

I found a neat Return on Investment calculator here;

Once I had plugged in my values (be sure to choose “dollars” from the pull down menu since this is a British site) this is what it came up with;

“Your Poultry cost per year is $ 13.33

Housing cost per year is $ 0.00

Feed quantity required per year is 161 Kg for 4 Large Fowl

Cost of all feed products per year is $ 308.58

Consumables / other cost per year is $ 0.00

Total Cost per year is $ 321.92

No eggs sold. The egg value per year is $ 600.00 for 4 Hens.

Total Return value per year is $ 600.00

Your Total Profit is $ 278.08 per year.

Well done. Of course this profit calculation does not include your labour costs.”

It came up with a different profit, but a profit nonetheless. Notice that this calculator makes a point of stating that it “does not include your labour costs.” Something tells me that if I came up with an hourly wage for all of the hours that I spend just watching my feathered friends, the ROI would be a much different figure!

A note about these photos – These are not current photos. We haven’t taken any recent photos of the chickens. It’s been cold and snowy here lately and so it’s been hard to convince them to leave the coop!


My daughter Katie read my blog and offered some photos that she took while she was at home over the holidays. Thanks Katie! Now this is what it looks like around here this time of year….

(Photos of chickens in the snow courtesy of Katie Mather)

7 Responses to “Calculating the ROI of Our Chickens”

  • Cathy:

    I have enjoyed my backyard flock of 8-10 Buff Orphington meat/laying hens for over 10 years. I bless my extended family and neigbhors with the extra eggs. Every year half of my hens go to the local humane butcher in the fall and become delicious chicken noodle soups and cassaroles filled with my winter root vegetables this time of year. In the spring I get 4-6 chicks at the feed store and introduce them to my nurturing breed. Sometimes we find a chick becomes a rooster and by the next winter we have free chicks the next year. We have even raised turkeys which are just as entertaining as the hens. Looking at the front of my house you wouldn’t know that I have converted my city lot into an Edibly landscaped micro-organic farm that sustains my husband and I with fruit, vegetable year round, chickens, rabbits, and 2 beehives. I love my little piece of eden. If I had snow like you do I’d have my walls lined with booke too! Already 2012 has brought seed catalogs and dreams of my next years harvest. Sweet Dreams…

  • Glee:

    About four years ago, my son gave me a dozen baby chicks for Mother’s day. I had such fun with them that now I have over 40 hens. I get around 2-1/2 dozen eggs per day. I sell every egg they lay to freinds and neighbors. They earn their keep and then some. It’s well worth doing.

  • Shreesh:

    Happy for you! Please do a reality check on assumption of 300 eggs per year. It depends on which breed you have but anything upward of 200 is VERY GOOD.

    My personal experience – we started with a couple of hens and then were keen on experimenting with chicks. So got a cock, then got a brooding hen and finally chicks, then a few predatory losses. I now have 2 cocks, 1 old hen who doesn’t lay any more, 2 young hens who lay about 10 eggs per month each. Just indicating where a mismanaged flock can take you (my wife prohibits culling them so we have ended up with several unproductive ones). It may be OK for you with all your open spaces, but in my small urban residence I cannot afford unproductive guys taking up valuable foraging space.

  • Allison:

    I love the winter chicken pictures. I was discussing chickens with a friend on boxing day (I really want chickens but I live in Oakville!) and we were wondering about the cost of feeding them so your post is very handy. I can hardly wait until Oakville changes the by-laws or I move to the country – which ever comes first!

  • You have to factor in the entertainment value which brings your cost to 0.

  • That quiche you had on Boxing Day was FULL of our farm fresh eggs! 🙂

  • Good one. Next visit we expect 2!!!!!!!!!!!1

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About Cam
Cam Mather and his wife Michelle live independently off the electricity grid using the sun and wind to power their home and their CSA. Cam is working towards the goal of making his home “zero-carbon” and with his extensive garden he aims to grow as much of his own food as possible. He is available to speak at conferences and other events and has motivated many people to integrate renewable energy into their lives, reduce their footprint on the planet and get started on the path to personal food, fuel and financial independence.
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