Best Egg Laying Chickens
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Why The Best Egg Laying Chickens Can Save You Money at the Checkout

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In a world where the cost of living continues to rise and financial uncertainty seems to be the new norm, many Australians are looking for ways to save money on household expenses while maintaining their quality of life. One increasingly popular solution is keeping productive backyard chickens like our Hy-Line Browns. Not only do chickens provide companionship and a huge amount of joy to their owners (as we discovered in our 2023 survey), but they also have the potential to reduce the cost of purchasing free-range eggs from the supermarket. This is particularly relevant now as at the time of writing this, we have 20% fewer eggs available in Victoria due to the Avian Influenza outbreak.

In this article, we’ll delve into the financial aspects of backyard hen keeping and compare the costs and benefits of purchasing free-range eggs from the supermarket. We’ll start-off with a current snapshot of free-range egg prices (dozen cartons), from both Coles and Woolworths as of the 12th of June 2024 (see the following graphic).

The Price Comparison

To provide a clear understanding of the financial implications of keeping backyard hens, we will base our calculations on a family of four, keeping a small flock of four hens. On average, this family would likely purchase one or two dozen eggs per week if they did not have their own backyard layers. 

At current market prices, one dozen free-range eggs cost on average $7.13 but as you’ve read in the graphic, depending on preferences, prices can go as high as $9.20 and as low as $5.50. However, if you normally buy your eggs from a farmer’s market or some other market such as Queen Victoria, Prahran, South Melbourne, or Footscray markets, you would expect to pay over $10 per dozen for your eggs. The more expensive, organic, low-density and pasture-raised hen eggs would be closer in quality to the eggs collected from your own backyard chickens.

Over the course of a year, just one dozen eggs purchased at the average supermarket price of $7.13 adds up to a substantial $370.76. Two dozen eggs at the average price, will obviously be double that figure at $741.52. For those of you buying your eggs from markets, you’d be looking closer to $520 per year for one dozen and over $1000 for two!

In contrast, four of our popular Hy-Line Brown hens can easily supply a family with an impressive, yet conservative average of 24 eggs per week for up to two years when fed a quality layer feed. This means that the family would have access to fresh, high-quality eggs right from their own backyard.

Initial Set-Up Costs

As for all animal keeping, when starting out with keeping backyard chickens, there are initial set-up costs to consider. For our example family, they would need to purchase four young Hy-Line hens at a total cost of $160 (4 x $40). Additionally, they would need to invest in equipment, supplies and a coop which can range from $200 to $1000 and beyond, depending on the products chosen. In total, the initial set-up costs for a lower-budget backyard chicken setup would be around $536 (See first table). For those with a larger budget, they could get a great setup for around $1566 (See second table).

Ongoing Care Costs

In addition to the initial set-up costs, there are ongoing expenses associated with caring for backyard hens. These costs include healthcare, bedding, nesting and of course, chicken feed to keep them laying eggs. On average, annual healthcare costs (with a couple of extras), for four hens are estimated at $100, while bedding comes in at $25 per year. Using a deep litter system means that the hen’s dropping are being broken down into compost so only an occasional top-up is needed. Making sure that your hens don’t start sleeping in their nest boxes also means that you won’t need to change your hemp nesting every year. 

The most significant ongoing expense is feed, with ten x 20kg bags of Sustainable Layer feed at $40 each, totalling $400 per year. In total, the ongoing care costs for four hens average around $525 per year.


The Long-Term Financial Picture

Excluding the initial setup purchases to get started from “ground zero”, if you normally buy 1 dozen free range Supermarket eggs each week, your flock will provide you with an extra 12 eggs. This provides a cost saving of $370.76 if you normally buy supermarket eggs at the average-cost price. After removing the ongoing $525 cost of maintaining your four hens your costs have been reduced to $154.24.

However, you still have an extra dozen eggs available to eat, sell or give away worth $370.76! Of course, if you tend to buy more “representative” eggs from a market rather than supermarket, then you will be more likely to pay for the entire ongoing costs with your first dozen eggs then contribute significantly to paying for your initial purchase costs with your second dozen.

If you normally buy 2 dozen “average” eggs each week, you’ll save $741.52 each year. After you remove the ongoing costs of $525 you’ll be left with $216.52 in your pocket. Remember that we have erred on the side of caution regarding egg-laying frequency as most customers feeding their Hy-Line Browns our Sustainable Layer report 7 eggs per week (28 eggs), from each hen in the first 18 months.

The Cost-Effectiveness of Backyard Chickens

When comparing the costs of owning backyard chickens to purchasing supermarket or market free-range eggs, it becomes clear that keeping hens can be a cost-effective choice in the long run. Not only do backyard hens provide a consistent supply of fresh, high-quality eggs but they also offer numerous other benefits that aren’t easily quantified in monetary terms.

Additional Benefits of Backyard Hen Keeping

Beyond the financial advantages of owning “pets that pay the rent” (thanks Tanya), backyard hens contribute to a more sustainable and self-sufficient lifestyle. Their nitrogen-rich manure serves as an excellent fertiliser when broken down into compost promoting healthy plant growth and reducing the need for synthetic fertilisers. Hens also act as great natural pest controllers helping to keep pest insects at bay.

Along with this, the joy and companionship that backyard hens provide is significant. These highly social creatures (particularly the Hy-Line and ISA Browns), have unique personalities and quickly form strong bonds with their owners. Sharing fresh eggs with neighbours and friends is also a great way to improve our social connections.

Environmental Impact

Keeping backyard hens can help reduce your carbon footprint. By producing your own eggs, you eliminate the need for plastic or cardboard packaging and reduce the transportation emissions associated with store-bought eggs. Additionally, hens help recycle some kitchen scraps, reducing food waste and contributing to a more eco-friendly household.

Educational Opportunities

For families with children, backyard chickens offer a unique educational opportunity. Children can learn about animal care, responsibility and where their food comes from. This hands-on experience can help to instil values of sustainability and respect for nature at an early age and is just great fun for them.

Freshness and Quality

The taste and quality of fresh eggs straight from backyard hens are often far superior to supermarket eggs and particularly if provided with a top-grade feed and variety of healthy scraps. Egg freshness can’t be beaten and most of our customers report richer yolks, thicker egg whites and better overall egg flavour. Knowing exactly what your hens are fed and how they are treated also provides peace of mind regarding food safety and quality.

Keeping productive backyard chickens offers a cost-effective alternative to purchasing free-range eggs from the supermarket or market. While there are initial set-up costs and ongoing care expenses to consider, the longer-term financial benefits are clear. 

However, the advantages of backyard hen-keeping extend far beyond mere financial savings. These feathered friends contribute to a more sustainable and self-sufficient lifestyle, provide natural garden care and bring joy and companionship to their owners. As more people seek ways to save money and live healthier, more fulfilling lives, backyard chickens continue gaining popularity as a rewarding and cost-effective choice.

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