Saving Money – Economics of Home Produced Eggs

This article on saving money – the economics of home produced eggs was originally written in 2006 and updated in 2014.

The poultry industry, like most of the food industry in the UK, is extremely efficient and produces both eggs and table birds at extremely low cost to the consumer. Can you actually save money or make a profit with home egg production?

Eggs in BoxWhen you take the labour into account, I doubt you can make a really convincing case for keeping a few chickens at home just on economic grounds. Still, let’s have a go!

The actual economics of your home egg production will depend on a number of variables. I’ve tried to state these in such a way that you can calculate the value to yourself, without getting tied up in accounting concepts.

Chicken Housing and Equipment

First of all, we’re going to need housing and some equipment like a feeder and water dispenser.

Taking a guess at a cost all in of £300.00 and a lifespan of 10 years, that gives a cost of £30.00 a year to house our hens. Building your own house, see the chicken coop plan available here, or converting an existing shed could reduce this figure, as could buying second hand housing, although you would be lucky to find second hand poultry housing in good condition and pest free.

My research indicates that this is a reasonable price to house up to six hens. Obviously housing more hens could mean that your cost per hen falls, but I think six is probably more than enough hens to provide eggs for the average family.

Buying Your Hens

Next we have the cost of the hens themselves. This could vary from £1.00 for an ex-battery bird to £20.00 for fancy breed. Lets work on £10.00 and a productive lifespan of 3 years. Ex-battery hens have already been worked hard for a year and your losses due to health problems will be higher. Having said that, there is satisfaction in giving them a good life after their time in the battery and in hard economic terms, they may well be the best bet for the home producer.

For sake of argument, we’ll assume no losses due to illness, Mr Fox or what have you.

Cost of Feeding the Hens & Consumables

The final cost is food & consumables such as cleaning products, pest control and disinfectants.Even free-range chickens require bought in food if they are to maintain condition and produce all those eggs for us. This is yet another variable in the equation. Reducing the quantity of balanced bought in rations may well reduce the quantity of eggs produced and even affect the health of your chickens.

Talking to a chap who keeps a commercial quantity of birds, he reckoned his feed cost at £8.19 per bird per year. As a keeper of just a few backyard hens, the cost of feed will be higher than that paid by bulk buyers, especially if you buy organic feed. I reckon around £16.00 per year per hen from a cursory look. Add in a couple of pounds a year for the consumables and we’re at £18.00

Annual Costs for Keeping 3 Laying Hens
Housing
£10.00
£30.00 per year split between three hens
Purchase of Stock
£3.30
£10.00 per hen over 3 years
Food, Consumables
£18.00
 Per hen, per year
Total Cost per Hen
£31.30
 Per year

To illustrate how these costs may vary, lets assume we buy lower cost birds, make a saving on the feedstuffs and keep six in the same house.

Annual Costs for Keeping 6 Laying Hens
Housing £5.00 £30.00 per year split between six hens
Purchase of Stock £1.75 £5.25 per hen over 3 years
Food, Consumables £16.00   Per hen, per year
Total Cost per Hen £17.75  Per year

You can see that the cost of keeping a few hens will vary quite considerably depending how you do things. I think you could bring the costs down further but we have a fair average to work with

The Returns (Income or Saved Spending)

The other side of the equation is the number of eggs produced. Once again we need to make some assumptions. Depending on the breed and how they are kept, we could reasonably expect between 200 and 250 eggs a year per bird.

Modern hybrid breeds of chickens are more productive than pure breeds and some fancy chickens are very unproductive by modern standards.

The hen naturally lays less in the winter than the summer and this effect can be mitigated by the provision of artificial light to control day length for the birds. Of course this is an additional cost and you may feel you are pushing the birds too hard against their nature.

How much is an egg?

Before we decide that, we need to know that chickens tend to lay larger eggs as they get older and they also lay fewer eggs as they get older. So again we are going to work on averages. It’s only fair to compare our eggs with free range eggs rather than the cheapest battery eggs and really we should consider organic eggs as well.

I surveyed the cost of eggs in Tesco, the largest supermarket in the UK on 25th January 2014 and found that a free-range egg varied from as high as 33p per egg to as low as 15p per egg.

The average price in markets and at the farm gate seems to be around the £2.00 a dozen or 16.5p per egg so we could work on that. Having said that, comparing with organic eggs at 36p each would be a better comparison.

Return in Cash Value of Eggs per Hen per Year

Now we said our birds will produce between 200 and 250 eggs per annum so we shall work on an average production of 225 eggs per hen per year.

At 16.5p per egg this gives a cash value of £37.12 per hen per year and at 36p per organic egg a total annual value of £81.00

Profit per Hen per Year

So, our potential profit per bird per annum, or saving on shop bought eggs, is between £63.25 per hen per year based on six hens and compared with organic eggs. Comparing with three hens and free-range eggs shows a profit of just £5.82.

When I first did this exercise back in 2006 the ‘profit’ was approximately the same on the 3 hen calculation but the potential on organic eggs has more than doubled.

Conclusions

Of course, we could keep more chickens in the same house reducing the cost, buy cheaper chickens and food to increase the ‘profit’ However, once we factor in labour we can not make any high profits on a few hens in the garden.

We can say that our hobby has – at worst – not cost anything and we have the benefit of knowing our hens are well kept and happy as well as our eating eggs that are nutritionally better and taste better even than store bought free range or organic eggs.

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