Anyone who’s shopped for eggs in the past few months has no doubt been shocked by the cost of eggs doubling or even tripling, at least in Ventura County, where I live. Why am I buying eggs, especially since I have a flock of hens who give me eggs?
Cost of Eggs in Ventura County and at Faucher Family Farms
Friends look at me when I complain about the price of eggs like I’m crazy. “Aren’t you egg-inflation-proof?”, they’ll ask. No, I’m not. For two reasons.
First, egg output drops dramatically in the darker and colder months of late fall through early spring. Hens need lots of sunlight and warmth to produce at peak capacity. For my chickens, that’s about 5-6 eggs per hen per week. I have 16 birds in my flock. So, during the height of egg-laying season, from late spring to early fall, I get over 6-7 dozen eggs weekly. That’s something to cluck over! It’s why I give away so many eggs much of the year to colleagues and clients. Karen and I love eggs but – c’mon – two people cannot eat that many eggs. We could sell them, but that would take more time than it’s worth. I have a neighbor whose kids used to go door-to-door selling his surplus eggs, but my daughters are in their 20s and refuse to cooperate on this money-making scheme of mine.
Anyhow, back to the cost of eggs, which a lot of people besides me have been commenting on. Eggs from a backyard enterprise like mine are not free. In the lean winter months, it definitely costs me more to raise my own eggs, than to buy them. In the flush summer months of peak egg-laying, I probably break even.
Costs of Raising Backyard Hens
First, the basic equipment set-up for my hens has cost about $2,000. There’s the coop. I have a plastic Snap-Lock with locks everywhere to prevent the very wiley and very smart raccoons and coyotes in my neighborhood from opening the hens’ bedroom at night and eating them. The Snap-Lock doesn’t look as nice as traditional, wood and wire coops but it’s a lot more secure. I have a shaded dog run attached to the coop. And then there’s all the water and feeding accessories. And the heater lamps and special boxes for the chicks. I’ve had the hens for 7-8 years, so the equipment cost is down to just under $1/day.
Second, food for the flock isn’t cheap. A bag of feed costs $25 and 15 hungry beaks peck through a bag in 10 days. Karen feeds all our table scraps to the hens (and says they’re as good as a dog for reducing her guilt about food waste), but I’m still out of pocket about $2.50/day feeding those ravenous birds.
Finally, the egg-laying life of a hen is much shorter than her eating-on-my-dime life. Chicks don’t mature into egg-laying hens until age 6-7 months. That’s a long time to wait and feed before production begins. And egg-laying slows down dramatically when a hen turns three. They often live two or more years longer. Eating that $25/bag food. Which means that what I actually spend on food for egg production is doubled, to about $5/day. Am I “mean” pointing out that hens spend about half their lives not laying? Factoring that into the cost per egg of keeping chickens? I don’t think so, even though some people bizarrely (to my mind) keep the birds as “comfort animals”. I’ve written about this before: at Faucher Family Farms, hens aren’t pets. They’re workers. Sorry. Call me species-ist. My daughters do. And, since they’re expected to work, I like to know exactly how much their output – um, eggs – cost me.
My calculations: it costs about $5.75-$6/day to raise my own eggs. In the winter months, I get only 1-2 eggs a day, which means I’m spending $2.75-$3 per egg. Ouch! In the warm months, I get about 11-12 eggs a day, so I spend about 45-50 cents per egg, or less than what a dozen currently costs at the store, at least as long as the $4-5 norm for a dozen eggs in the supermarket holds.
Over the course of my Egg Empire, I figure I’ve spent slightly more on raising hens than I what I could have bought the eggs for. But, my eggs are always fresher and tastier. And even though I expect those birds to pull their weight and lay, I also like watching them when my mind wanders from tax and bankruptcy law. So, for me, raising chickens is worth it.
Cost of Raising Hens & Tax Deductibility
Is there any connection between the hens of Faucher Family Farms and tax law? Yes, there is! A few months ago I was speaking with an IRS auditor on behalf of a client, and thought to ask: would you accept the cost of my hen feed a tax-deductible, marketing-related expense because I give my eggs to clients, potential clients and colleagues who make referrals to me? I even write about the “girls” in the Faucher Law Newsletter and this blog. Well, you could have blown a feather out of my cap: he said yes! So, maybe raising my own eggs isn’t so expensive after all…
Have questions about setting up your own backyard flock of chickens? Or about tax law? Call me at 818-889-8080.
February 3, 2023