Slate ran a story a few weeks ago in which the author asserts that "keeping chickens is a filthy, time consuming, and expensive way to keep the pantry filled with eggs."
I expected keeping chickens to be all those things, but have been rather shocked by how easy and cheap the whole experience has been. So far. For us.
In terms of cost, we had a head start:
1. we have a big yard that was already well fenced to exclude deer
2. we had a ramshackle playhouse that everyone avoided because it was funky and filled with spiders. This was converted to a henhouse in one afternoon with an $18.99 roll of chicken wire.
Here are our out-of-pocket poultry expenses as of today:
wire, water bowl, chick feeder, feed, bedding $68.54
bulbs & clamp lamp $18.24
the chicks themselves $35.00
That's a steep down payment on eggs we will not get until August at the earliest, assuming nothing goes wrong. Alberta Einstein comes from a breed of bad layers and our bantam's eggs will be puny, so I'm going to assume those two losers will contribute nothing. Let's say the ten other hens (we're hoping they're all hens) lay 3 egg a week. Thirty eggs a week are worth $6.98 at the rate I've been paying for moderately fancy supermarket eggs. Will the chickens ever earn their keep? Don't know. But it seems at least conceivable. I'm keeping track and will report back.
As for labor, the chickens require 10 minutes a day. Filth is a non-issue now that they are outside.
The bees, on the other hand: MONEY PIT. We won't get any honey until next year:
Here's what I've paid so far:
sugar for feeding the bees in early weeks $13
bees themselves (2 packets) $188
equipment, boxes, gear, books, smoker, paint $733.69
That is one freaking expensive hobby. Interesting and noble and all that, but holy hell.