Sunday, 22 May 2016

Chicken eggs

Chicken Eggs

I've just had an interesting conversation with a friend who wanted to buy some of our eggs. It started because we have some spare eggs and I was saying that he could have some for free while I had too many but any donations were welcome. When I didn't have spare ones then I'd have to charge. He said that he'd prefer to pay the full amount as he didn't like the idea of taken something free from me.

When I told him they would be £1.00 for half a dozen he seemed taken aback. I then said that they normally sell for £1.50 - I have already lowered the price because when some friends ask for things like this they are quietly hoping for a good deal, such as "mates rates". It then transpired that he was expecting to buy them for 50p per half dozen. We settled on a £1 because the price wasn't an issue, he was just surprised that it costs that much for home grown eggs.

Doing some sums shows the real price of having chickens in the back garden. It also shows economies of scale.

The same is true of vegetables or home made jam, but I'll show the costs of chickens.

If you presume the chickens are to be kept for 5 years, and that you want to have the chickens at full production, so you can have you're own eggs but also sell some, and if you presume you have to protect them from foxes etc the sums are as follows:

Chicken house with nesting boxes, 8ft by 6ft and 6ft tall, self build with guttering and water butt to collect water. £400 one off cost

Fencing, 6ft high metal with fence posts etc £300 one of cost

Electric fence £200 (cost is to cover a faulty control unit as well as initial setup - I had one fail after 1 year) - one off cost

20kg of grit (calcium) to keep their shells hard (we had some soft shells to begin with) - £7

Extras, water bottles, trays, feeders etc - £100 one off cost

Hens £5 ea x 20 = £100, but they only lay at full production for 2 to 3 years. x 2 lots = £200. 

Egg boxes, about 10p each

Feed £6.60 per week (not including driving there to pick up the feed)

Water from water butt but in reality some will come from tap.

The price per eggs over 5 years is about 13p+ which is 78p per half dozen.

That's the cost to us but if you want to sell them and factor in time for wages at £7.20 per hour at about 0.5 hours per day plus an extra 0.5 hours for cleaning them out once per week we have an additional £28.80 per week. An average of 100 eggs per week would take the price per egg to almost 42p - £2.50 per half dozen.

If someone wanted to genuinely cover our costs and pay for our time when they bought some eggs then £2.50 is a realistic figure with those wages at the bare minimum of what anyone would accept. Of course most people expect £10 to £15 per hour for their labour although no one would pay that to collect eggs and look after chickens.

The problem with selling eggs is that the price people see in the shops is based upon huge economies of scale and not quality, or animal welfare.

The next time you buy eggs from the side of the road for 70p per half dozen, just remember they don't know what it really costs them to produce from a back garden. Even the Co-Op is selling large eggs for about £1.50 in our local shop per half dozen.

The price of our chickens was cheap (excuse the pun) as they came from a friendly chicken producer but many people will pay £10 to £15 per bird.

The costs above can only be more for smaller flocks than 20, especially considering that many breeds won't produce 250 to 300 eggs per year as ours do. With your own chickens, depending on the breed, you may have one or some that keep going broody and just sit on their eggs. You may also get a disease in your flock or have particularly bad weather one year which will reduce their egg count.

£1.00 per half dozen is very reasonable, but won't earn you any money to talk about. £1.50 per box is about the minimum you would want to charge if it was part of your income but you are certainly not going to become rich any time soon.  


  1. Gosh, we buy eggs at the local farm gate for £1 per half dozen and they are wonderful. I will appreciate them even more now.

    1. A farm will be hitting an economy of scale with their production probably. It's the very small back garden production that is expensive, but even a small farm won't be making much money from a £1. Having chickens has certainly opened my eyes

  2. My parents share chickens with neighbours and my aunt and uncle, and they're a never ending source of challenges and problems. Last I heard, with bullying recovery and disease quarantine needs they were up to 2 main chicken areas and a couple of mini retreats. I can easily believe that raising chickens and looking after them properly costs quite a bit per egg!

    1. So far, I've been lucky with disease. Only a small amount of bullying but I do have a couple of small movable pens not factored in to my calculations.

      I know one farm that raises chickens from 1 day old to point of lay, then have 2 chicken sheds with 25,000 chicks in each, and have 4 batches of chickens per year. 100,000 chickens per year sold and they don't have a fancy lifestyle or nice car, but do work a silly amount of hours.

      I looked at the feed sums for that. A chicken needs 100g of food per day but with raising chickens perhaps that averages out at 50g per day. If they paid the same price for their food as me that would be a food bill of £438,000. Clearly they would buy food cheaper in bulk but not by a huge amount. If their food was 25% cheaper, which is realistic the bill would be £328,000 per year. I know they sell the chicks for £4 which means there is £70,000 left for both of their wages, and hiring staff and inoculations and building maintenance and water etc etc. How they pay for their start up costs of the building and land I'll never know.