Fresh eggs all the time

Raising Backyard Chickens for Eggs

by Debra Karplus

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How much money does your family spend each month on eggs? How many dozens of eggs do you regularly consume? Do you buy the supermarket variety averaging about $1.50 per dozen? Or do you shop for the farm fresh organic eggs from free-run chickens, costing closer to $5 per dozen? Have you ever thought about raising your own backyard chickens for eggs to save money? Raising hens in your yard to produce fresh eggs may have many economical and health benefits.

Be sure your city allows residents to raise hens in their backyards legally.

An increasing number of municipalities are allowing residents to raise hens for eggs in residential backyards to advance urban food production. Some, such as Urbana, Illinois located in the central part of the state surrounded by a large state university, allows for backyard chickens with no licensing requirements. Other places require a one-time licensing fee and specific regulations regarding the minimum and maximum number of hens, coop size and features, and so on.

Additionally, your city ordinance may specifically allow hens but not roosters. If you remember anything from high school biology class, you know that it's the hens that lay the eggs, not the roosters, and it's the unfertilized eggs that you want in your kitchen. Also, many city ordinances specifically ban the sale of eggs from your property due to zoning regulations. Contact your city hall officials and obtain in writing information regarding raising hens for eggs in your neighborhood before you embark on the next step.

The cost to get started with egg-laying hens in your backyard is amazingly inexpensive.

If you have a dog or cat, you know that pets can become very expensive over time. Backyard chickens, though not really considered a household pet, cost comparatively much less to raise. And if done successfully, with the average hen laying about an egg a day, raising backyard chickens can be very cost effective once you get started.

Most of your expenses will be one-time initial costs. If your town allows backyard hens, there is probably a license that you need to purchase first. This may cost about $10 to $50, depending on where you live.

Your biggest cost will be your coop. You can purchase an upscale assembled coop delivered to your house for about $600 or more if it has additional features. Simpler coops cost closer to $200 or less, depending on if it's assembled and delivered. But, for under $50, you can find designs, instructions, and videos online that show you exactly how to build your own chicken coop. You may even be able to use some scrap wood, screening, and other materials that you already have in your basement, garage, or workshop at home.

Of course you will need to purchase chickens or hens. The website has much information about raising hens for eggs, including varieties that are best for laying eggs. Chickens are social beings, so you will want to buy at least two, and no more than your town allows. Expect two hens to lay about a dozen eggs a week. The baby chicks can cost as little as $1 each; hens ready to lay eggs cost about $10 each. A hen lays eggs for only a few years and tapers off its egg-laying as it ages, so periodically you can expect to purchase additional younger hens.

Feeding your hens will be your main ongoing expense when raising backyard chickens.

You can look online or visit your local feed store, if you happen to have one nearby, to get appropriate cuisine for your flock. A 50-pound sack of feed costs under $14. About four pounds of feed can yield about a dozen eggs.

Before embarking on hen raising, you want to determine if you want the responsibility of caring for hens, just as you would if you were about to welcome a household pet into your family. If you happen to know anyone who raises chickens in their yard for eggs, ask them what if involves. There is also much online information about hen raising; search "raising backyard hens." Additionally, if you have a university in your community, their cooperative extension office may be able to answer your questions.

Raising chickens is a great learning experience for your children. It's a terrific way to be more self-sufficient and eat fresher and better quality eggs than any you will find at a supermarket. Put some serious thought into the idea of raising backyard hens for eggs before getting started.

Debra is an occupational therapist, accountant, teacher and freelance writer. She is a writer for Advance for Occupational Therapy Practitioners. She also writes for Grand Magazine, has some items (fiction and non fiction) selling on (kindle), has written several travel articles for the Champaign-Urbana News-Gazette and several articles for and volunteers as a money mentor for the University of Illinois Cooperative Extension money mentoring program. Learn more about her at

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