ORLANDO, Fla. – Feelin the ‘egg-flation?’
According to Instacart’s customer purchase data, Florida started the year as second most expensive state to purchase eggs with an average of $6.36 a dozen, a nearly 60-cent increase from 2022.
That has some people ditching grocery stores and flocking to farms and feed shops to buy their own chickens.
But what is the real cost of raising chickens and will you save money collecting your own eggs?
“We’ve been going through quite a bit where I’ve had to go through three hatcheries in the U.S. and all three basically were sold out. I had to book chicks in advance to get anything,” said Palmer Feed Store President Bill Palmer. “150 will come in and go right back out the door the same day, it’s pretty amazing.”
The cost of chicks right now can go anywhere from $3 to $5 depending on where you get them.
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In fact, News 6 Anchor Julie Broughton bought two from Palmer several months ago. One named Lady Cluck and the other named Carmen.
“My daughter came home from school and said she wanted her agriculture project to be raising chickens,” Julie said.
Until the chicks are a few weeks old, they have to stay in a very dry and warm environment. Julie and her daughter Isla took in a flock of chicks, including others purchased by classmates, during the winter break.
“We had nine chicks in our townhome bathtub and my dog was very curious about them, so I wanted to keep an eye on them to make sure he wouldn’t mess with them,” Julie said. “I was surprised how quickly they bonded with us and how much personality they have.”
Julie said the chicks grew quickly and can take about five months before they lay their first egg.
Julie making trips back to Palmer Feed for food. The chickens have to eat, right?
“A 50 pound bag is $21, chick starter is $28 for 50 pounds,” said Bill. “If you have several chickens and keep the feed dry and store it properly, it can last about a month.”
Housing is probably where most of the investment will go. The chickens need some kind of coop that can range from a couple hundred dollars, to thousands of dollars depending on how many chickens will be living in it. You have to be cautious though – Palmer said chickens are in high demand, not just for people.
“You have to have a pen that is secure and safe because there are raccoons and possums and people let their chickens out and there’s hawks and owls that will eat them up in a heartbeat. Everyone loves chickens,” Bill said.
Luckily for Julie and Isla, their chickens stay in a large coop at school shared with other students’ chickens, sharing the cost for food and upkeep, so that it was cost efficient.
“Isla along with her classmates are cleaning out the coup, feeding the chickens every day, so it’s a lot of work,” Julie said.
And there’s some miscellaneous expenditures.
“The kids were doing a presentation at school for their agriculture program. They were taking some of the animals out to present to the students to encourage them to be a part of the agriculture club, and Isla wanted a leash for Carmen,” Julie said. “I Googled chicken leash, and was surprised to find that it existed. Carmen walked on a leash, I don’t think she enjoyed it though.”
The reward... fresh eggs every other day.
“The shells are all fun colors for different chickens but the inside’s all the same,” Bill said.
How about the taste?
“Yes, there is a difference. Everybody I’ve given these eggs to says so. The yolks are brighter and they have more of a rich and savory taste, but the eggs are smaller,” Julie said.
Back to the initial question: Is it worth it to raise your own chickens for the eggs rather than paying for them at a grocery store?
“I’d hate to say no, but you have to get a cage, feed and probably with the loss of an animal, I think it’s borderline cost efficient. If you had a bunch and sold the eggs it would be worth it, but for four chickens, it’s a hobby,” Bill said.
“It can be a lot of work, I think it just depends. Your time is valuable. Is it worth it every day to get up and clean out the chicken coop and feed them and raccoon proof the coup? If you love animals and you just love the experience, you’ll find they’re really sweet and they do have personalities which I never knew. If you want the experience, then absolutely. I think if it’s solely just for financial reasons, probably not, but it’s been a great experience for Isla and I love having chicken grandbabies,” Julie said.
There is a wide range cost for raising a single chicken, but on the lower end after the initial cost of buying a chicken and building the coop, we calculated the cost is only about $200 to $400 a year. So if you’re paying more than $8 a week for eggs, then getting your own eggs the natural way may be worth it.
Do you have chickens? Let us know about your experience below in the comments. What are you doing to makeup for the higher cost of eggs?