Lilly Lays an Egg

May 27, 2010

By John Newcomer:

Last week,  I got an excited call from my wife.  “You will never guess what just arrived?” she said.  What could it be?   Gutters for the garden shed?  No.  My new iPad?  No.  Our appliance rebate?  No.  What then??  “Our new chicken coop and four chickens!!” she shared enthusiastically.  What??!!  And so began our journey into the world of backyard farming.

Urban Chickens

Minne, Lilly, Ruby, and Abilene

We are now the proud owners of  Minne, Lilly, Ruby, and Abilene… clucking and foraging away. Apparently, I am not alone.

The Urban Chicken

The urban chicken is now mainstream America.  Cities large (Chicago, IL) and small (Asheville, NC) across America are adopting ordinances that allow residents to raise chickens in their backyards.  The national trend is driven not by economics, but by nutritional concerns about the food we eat.  However, given the cost of organic eggs it is also  very economical to raise chickens.

What does it cost and how hard is it raise chickens?

The Simmons Family & their rooster

Russ and Polly Simmons of Hendersonville, North Carolina have been raising chickens for the last year. They bought their first chicks for only $2.00 a piece.  In just 5 months, the chicks were laying eggs.  If you are impatient you can buy a full grown egg laying chicken for $10.00.  Chicken feed is dirt cheap.  Only $10.00 for a 50 pound bag.  Chickens also like stale bread,  table scraps, pretty much anything that is going into the garbage.

According to Russ Simmons, three chickens will lay two eggs per day. Organic eggs sell for $4.00 for a dozen eggs.  Do the math.  It only takes a couple of months to cover the cost of your chickens and feed.  The wild card in the price equation is the cost of the coop. Russ Simmons built his, and he estimates that it cost him about $500. The good news, chickens are not fussy and any coop will do them just fine. A few pieces of scrap wood and cardboard boxes work just as well as a big fancy one.

Chicken Coop

Chickens are easy keeps.  They will not range very far and come back to their coop every night.  The really good news is they  lay their eggs in the roosting boxes in the coop.  Yes, no hunting the eggs.  Every few days you need to spread straw on the floor of the coop, and every few months remove the straw, which now makes great compost for the garden.

Health benefits of organic eggs

Eggs have gotten a bad rap on health benefits.  Yes, they contain cholesterol, but most of that cholesterol is not absorbed into the blood stream, and they contain a lot of good stuff like protein and choline.  According to a study by the Harvard Medical School, an egg a day is just fine for most people.

More important is the recent study of the President’s Cancer Panel.  It calls on America to rethink the way we deal with cancer and calls on a more rigorous regulation of chemicals.

This is the reason backyard chickens are becoming so popular.  As Polly Simmons points out, she knows for a fact that her eggs have no hormones, chemicals, and are 100% organic.  “And they taste better!”

To name or not to name your chickens

Yes, chickens will one day stop laying eggs.  Then what do you do?  Does Lilly become Sunday dinner? Or remain free to roam around the backyard clucking away.  After providing your family with so many delicious breakfast omelets, my vote is to let her cluck to her hearts content into her golden years.  And don’t get any silly ideas about finding out whether a chicken can really run around with it’s head cut off!