WESLACO, Texas (ValleyCentral) — With the national average price for a dozen eggs at nearly $4, people are becoming more inclined to buy chickens to raise at home.
But is raising chickens all its cracked up to be and do the savings add up?
Before you shell out for hens, we sought as much insight as we could from Leroy Moreno, the owner of Moreno’s Feed & Pet Stores in Weslaco, who explained the pros and cons of getting your eggs from raising chickens at home.
At Moreno’s — “The best place in town to pick up chicks” — 5-month-old hens are being sold for $25 and 2-day-old baby chicks are being sold for $3.
Moreno said chickens begin laying eggs at six months and do not require the fertilization of a rooster unless baby chicks are desired. Otherwise, hens will continuously lay five to seven eggs a week regardless.
Some might think it is more economical to grow your eggs at home by purchasing a $3 chick or $25 hen. But in six months, how much will that chicken eat?
Based on the national average of $4 per dozen eggs and estimating that a family of five eats about a dozen eggs every week and a half for six months, then that family will spend $72.8 in six months. And they will have purchased just about 200 eggs.
If someone purchased three hens that were ready to lay eggs, then that household would be producing about 21 eggs a week.
According to Moreno, on average three chickens will go through a 50-pound bag of feed in 20 days. A 50-pound bag of feed is marketed at about $18.
Based on that, the household with hens on a proper feeding schedule would be shelling out about $163 every six months to produce 546 eggs.
This estimate does not include the price of the actual chicken or the price of care.
In this scenario, a family’s cost to raise the birds at home is about double that of what is needed to get the eggs from a the store, the family would end up with potentially many more eggs—if they felt inclined to count them before they hatched.
But then again, the family could only count on those eggs for part of the year.
For those who chose to purchase baby chicks, it is important to remember that they will not lay eggs for six months and they require a great deal of care. For the first four weeks, when chicks cannot fully grow their feathers, they must be in a box or cage with a heat source such as a lamp or heater.
Moreno said healthy chickens require mineral grit and oyster shells to provide calcium. For the best results, Moreno said the chickens cannot just eat grain, they need greens as well.
“They also do better on filtered water,” the feed store owner said.
Not to mention, the installation of a chicken coop. While every city has its own ordinance regarding livestock, Weslaco allows residents to own six chickens at once, the feed owner said. Those interested in investing in chickens should be sure to check their city’s ordinances before purchasing.
According to Moreno, there is no land restriction required to own the birds because most cities require that chickens be in a coop to not disturb neighbors.
“And during the day, the healthiest thing is to get them out into the yard for an hour or two hours or all day just eating grass and eating bugs out in the yard, which is the healthiest way to raise chickens,” Moreno said.
While the idea of having eggs ready to eat every morning may sound enticing, it is also important to remember that chickens do not lay eggs year-round.
In the cold months and during their molting period, chickens do not lay eggs, Moreno said. The molting period is when a chicken loses its feathers and grows in new ones, much like a snake that sheds its skin. This is typically in July and August.
Moreno said after two years, chickens stop producing as many eggs, and owners are left with barren hens.
During this time, owners typically make a decision to keep the animal as a pet or use it as poultry.