Chicken Keeping on a Budget
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It’s no secret that raising your chickens, whether for eggs, meat or both, can be an expensive undertaking. Some of us may have started our chicken-keeping adventure with the thought of saving money on grocery store eggs and/or meat but quickly figured out it is hard to compete with the mass production prices. You may be like me and hesitate to calculate how much you have spent on your flock, for fear of sticker shock! As with most things in life, the easiest or cheapest is rarely the most satisfying, so we work our chicken keeping into our budget. With that being said, there are many ways you can keep costs low. Below I have provided some budget-friendly hacks that I have utilized with my own flock.
Build your own coop or repurpose: Pre-fabricated coops sure look pretty online or in the catalog, but many do not withstand the elements for more than a year or 2. There are always exceptions, such as being built by a trusted craftsman, but that might be out of the budget. When preparing a home for your birds, building your own or repurposing an already-existing structure will be the most budget-friendly. Have an old playhouse? Or maybe a shed? Scrap lumber or pallets can be a great starting point for a coop! If you have the handy skills down but not quite the creativity, coop building plans are a great option. The possibilities for a coop are truly endless, limited only by your creativity and DIY-ability. Just remember when deciding on coop size, more space is always better! Do it right the first time so you don’t lose money to feeding rodents or losing birds to predators. Be sure to always account for chicken math!
Feed kitchen scraps and eggshells: You know those fridge clean out days where you find forgotten leftovers or overbought a great deal on something but are now past the expiration date? Well, your chickens can’t read expiration dates and as long as the food is not moldy or rotten, they will enjoy mostly anything! Be sure to avoid very salty, processed, or greasy foods as well as food with strong tastes, like garlic or onion. The strong tastes won’t harm the chickens, but the taste could possibly end up in their eggs. Did you know that eggshells can be fed back to your chickens? The eggshells can replace any extra calcium supplement, such as oyster shell. The shells need to be rinsed and crushed up to smaller pieces, but not into a powder. The shells should be offered as free-choice to your chickens and you can be sure that you are providing your flock with the very best calcium!
Keep production breeds to sell surplus eggs. Beauty definitely has its place in the coop, but there is nothing more frustrating than an egg drought with a coop full of hungry hens. Production breeds, such as the Golden Buff or White Leghorn are beautiful in their own right, and they are egg laying machines. I have both breeds in my flock and they rarely take a day off, cold, hot, and everything in between! Having high production breeds in your flock will not only keep your own fridge full of eggs, but it may also leave you with a surplus so you can sell off some of your bounties to aide your flock budget.
Free range to cut down feed costs: Chickens are natural foragers and love to scratch around for bugs and earthy treats. Free-ranging isn’t always an option but even if you can let your chickens out for a few hours at a time, you will notice a decrease in feed consumption.
Collect your rainwater. Rainwater collection laws vary from state to county to city, so check local laws. I do not have running water near my barn so I added a gutter system to empty into very large, covered troughs. Rainwater collection into any size container will help reduce the use of other water sources and might even be more convenient than hauling water to your coop.
Chicken keepers are creative people, and I’m sure there are many other cost-cutting measures that could be added to this list. Please share in the comments your own money-saving hacks!
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Can you give some advice on the advantages of hemp bedding versus pine bedding, I have read different reviews but would like an opinion from the folks who are supplying me with my chicks.
If your chickens are free-range, don’t fill the feeders until late afternoon (so that you can ensure they ‘go to bed’ on a full stomach). Otherwise, some will take the ‘easy way’ of eating packaged feed rather than forage on their own, and others are a bit timid and need encouragement to brave the world outside the coop.