Cracking the cost of eggs: Can a backyard henhouse save you money?

Mar 2, 2023, 7:06 AM

MARRIOTT-SLATERVILLE, Utah – For Kristina Enz and her family, breakfast begins in their backyard. That is where you will find her flock of 30 chickens.

Enz says she has raised chickens pretty much her whole life.

“These are my pets, and they give me food,” she said.

Like any pet, they can be full of personality.

“His name is Fabio because he’s kind of high maintenance,” she said of one of her more feathery roosters. “Her name is Cupcake and she’ll actually walk right up to me.”

As Matt Gephardt discovered, chickens have personalities just like any pet. In this case – even sassy. (KSL TV)

Pets are one thing, but as egg suppliers – Enz said backyard chickens are unbeatable.

“I can’t eat restaurant or store-bought eggs,” she said. “They taste so different to me, and I find the textures way different as well.”

Shelling out more money for eggs

Store-bought eggs have become pricey, due to inflation and the deadliest outbreak of avian flu in U.S. history. Over 58 million egg-laying hens have been wiped out. In January 2022, the average cost for a dozen eggs stood at $1.93. By this past January, that cost jumped 250% to $4.82.

With that surge in egg prices, backyard chickens have become a big thing. Enz helps manage a Facebook group for enthusiasts.

“Just in the last two weeks alone, I’ve added hundreds of members,” she said.

Chicken owner Kristina Enz helps manages a Facebook group for backyard chicken enthusiasts and says membership has soared since egg prices started going up. (KSL TV)

But will keeping chickens save you money on eggs?

The answer is not exactly hard-boiled.

“It’s a nice way to be much more self-sufficient,” answered Enz. “You kind of save money.”

Costs to consider

The average chick sells for $3 to $5. Egg-laying hens run between $20 to $50.

And speaking of running, they will need some space to roam, and they will need coops. You can buy one for as little as $160, or you can pay thousands for a much more elaborate coop.

“It doesn’t even need to be that big,” Enz said about coops. “For two or three hens, you just need a pen, maybe 4 feet by 2 feet is all, and just a place where they can sleep at night.”

Enz said you will need a feeder and a water container, which run about $5 to $10 a piece for the most basic ones. A bale of straw for the coop’s floor will run you about $7. Then the feed – a 50-pound bag costs between $20 and $25.

“If you have two or three hens, that 50-pound bag is going to last you a month,” Enz said.

How many eggs to expect

Most hens can lay an egg a day, but that is affected by factors like nutrition, health, weather and predators.

“Keep covered runs when you can,” Enz said. “I do lock mine up every night. I actually have a coop door that comes down and everyone’s securely put away because I do actually have coyotes out here, and raccoons and skunks.”

If everything goes well, you can expect a hen in its prime to lay up to 250 eggs a year. With three hens, that will add up to 750 eggs or nearly 63 one-dozen cartons.

“My operation is a little bit bigger, so I kind of break even,” Enz said. “But if you’re doing a small scale, like one or two hens in your backyard, then yeah, go for it because then you’re getting eggs every day.”

A healthy chicken in its prime can lay up to 250 eggs a year. (KSL TV)

Other ways to save on eggs

If the costs of raising chickens and the time you will have to invest are not worth it to you, there are other ways to get eggs without having to scramble for extra cash.

Farms or farmers markets tend to have lower prices. So do warehouse clubs, though you might have to buy dozens each time. But you could split bulk eggs with friends or family. Or, you can freeze them for up to a year, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture — just not in their shells.

Between January 2022 and January 2023, the average price of a dozen eggs climbed from $1.93 to $4.82, largely due to an outbreak of avian flu that has wiped out nearly 60 million egg-laying hens.

Other benefits of backyard cluckers

For Enz however, raising her own chickens is not about saving money. She likes knowing how her chickens are treated and fed. “Mine forage for bugs, they get a healthy feed, they get grains, they get our kitchen scraps — they get a nice, wide variety of diet.”

The eggs from her flock are much fresher and last longer, she said.

“The eggs you get at the grocery store, are actually, by the time you get them, (they) are about a month old,” said Enz.

And if nothing else, chickens are pretty darn entertaining.

“Believe it or not, they’re yard art because you get the colorful pretty birds walking around your yard,” she said.

But before you run out and buy your own chickens, check with your city first. Some have limits or outright bans because of noise and egg-loving rodents. And selling your extra eggs may help offset costs. The Utah Legislature is mulling over a bill that exempts a backyard egg producer from health department regulation unless the department can show the producer’s eggs pose a risk.

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Cracking the cost of eggs: Can a backyard henhouse save you money?