Before I got misty-eyed about Henny Penny coming to live with us through a move to change ordinances to allow for backyard chickens in our locale, I wanted to be steely-eyed about R.O.I. I formulated questions like an angel investor interrogating an entrepreneur during an elevator pitch: What's the business model of raising chickens in the backyard? What's the return on investment? What's the exit strategy?
About the business of anything, I ask Doug Mauer, President of Biz Net Technologies, Inc. and Managing Partner at Brush Mountain Data Center. If he isn't in the business, he knows someone who is. In this case, he's in – he has chickens. Here's an excerpt of his email reply to my query about the business of raising chickens, used with his permission.
We have had our chickens for about 1 year and 6 months. We started with eight and now have 5. The losses were due to dogs (not ours) and illness.
We initially bought 6 bales of straw, a 6' x 8' chicken house ($1200). We also bought a few bales of sawdust chips/flakes, which I don't think we actually use much, but they are cheap.
We still have 3 bales of wood chips left. The chickens drink less than a gallon of water a day, probably a little less than 1/2 gal.
We feed them about $15 worth of chicken food/scratch per month and we buy the most expensive you can buy, organic.
We get an average of 3-4 eggs per day over the long run. They don't lay for a couple of weeks each year, but not at the same time, so we've never been out of eggs. With 5 chickens and our use of 4 eggs per day, we keep pretty well stocked up.
Chickens are very social animals so you need at least 3, I would think, to have happy chickens.
You simply can't buy eggs that taste this good, though, and it is a real pleasure to watch chickens do their thing. They get to know you and ours actually like to be picked up.
We have probably $2000 in our chicken operation so the R.O.I. is probably sometime after our 90th birthday.
Based on Doug's feedback, I ran some steely-eyed numbers:
Eggs at $2.00 per dozen makes them $.17 per egg. At 4 eggs per day, that's $.68 per day, $20.40 per 30 days, and $248.20 per year. After initial start-up costs, then on-going operational costs, yep, that's R.O.I when I'm about 90.
But the chickens liked to be picked up?! I could get tears in my eyes about that.
Mr. Handshake 2.0, I have a business proposition for you. The R.O.I? Well, it depends on how you look at it…
Photographs by Vicki L. Mauer. For a personal view of raising backyard chickens, please see On Backyard Chickens by Vicki. L. Mauer (.pdf).
For further interest: Backyard Chickens: Multi-dimensions of the Cost of Doing Business