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Los Angeles Urban Chicken Enthusiasts Message Board › Not worth it?

Not worth it?

A former member
Post #: 71
Today I gave some thought into how year 2 on chicken ranching is going here in LA for me. It hasn't gone well this year and not considering the monetary angle much, I'd still say it hasn't been worth it. First of all, I don't consider my chickens to be pets, they are livestock. As such, results are expected from being fed and cared for, mainly eggs. I don't even eat that many eggs, maybe 12 a week. If hens are done producing, they are culled. I get more eggs than I need for far more cost than buying cage free eggs from Trader Joe's. I like chickens but they aren't my friends.

I've had a lot of problems with predation this year: one chicken was hugged to death by a feral cat through the mesh of the run, I've had 4 possums get in or under the run mesh to attack my chickens- I trapped and relocated them all. Now, I have a midnight skunk that has taken to trying to take my chickens out, after digging and crawling under the door. I have to manually go out every evening for their safety and put the chickens in their coop since they'd rather stand on the feeder at night, it being higher than the door to their coop.

Worse, they foul their water and constantly knock the waterer over and run out of water to the point that I need to consider a nipple waterer, shelling out yet more money.

I think the hassle and cost hasn't been worth the experience and eggs. This will probably be my last year ever with chickens. It's a shame too because I wanted to have my daughter grow up with the experience of chickens, but the calculations don't pan out.

Maybe I should've given them fancy names and called them my masters or something, that might've made it worth it. tongue
Laura B.
Group Organizer
Norco, CA
Post #: 219
hello Tyson,
thanks so much for sharing your experience... I always tell people if you are just getting chickens for the eggs, boy! it is so much cheaper to get them even organic from the store... we don't have any clue (at least I didn't) what goes into having chickens... if it was for the eggs, according to my calculations, these eggs are $100 dollar/each... no kidding...

I totally understand where you are coming from... here, look at me... I give them names, (not fancy thought smile), I've said I'm their slave (I AM), I call them my family and friends, I'm totally bonded with them... yet, I understand how much work it is... what a sacrifice... to me it's worth it, only because they are my family, my friends... but just for eggs??? no, no way... not worth it...

It's so different than having "a" dog, or "a" cat... because, in my case, I have 37... so it would be more comparable to having 37 cats or 37 dogs... boy! and I keep adopting them and rescuing them... it's crazy!

There is the trend, a good trend, to go back to basics, down to earth, but are we wiling to do what the farmers do? they have my total respect and admiration after having gone thru the experience of chickens... and that is nothing compared to a real farmer, with lots more animals and/or plantations to tend to...

maybe we are too city-ish...

Thanks again for your honesty, for sharing openly... and I totally agree with you... for the eggs, not worth it!

user 28416502
Los Angeles, CA
Post #: 13
Hey Tyson,

you make some very valid points and I think if I had to go through the predator attacks you have had to experience, I would probably reconsider the whole thing as well.

Fortunately in the 3 years I have had chickens I haven't lost a single one (well not through predators...).

This is what I have learned so far from my experience:

- The upfront costs were very high, mainly due to building a super-safe coop and run. (Our inquisitive neighborhood raccoon likes to stop by on a regular basis just to make sure I didn't forget to lock up).
- Organic chicken feed is not cheap. But keeping a worm-bin (Black Soldier Fly Larvae), feeding kitchen scraps and getting free greens from the farmer's market helps big time. It also feels great to not waste food anymore.
- I recently started selling my leftover eggs and the demand is great. So much so that I started increasing my flock to keep up.
- Selling extra eggs is beginning to cover the entire feed costs.
- Spending time every morning feeding the chickens has become a soothing ritual. I actually look forward to it. Just watching them is just very relaxing.
- Seeing my children play with the chickens/collecting eggs/learning and appreciating where our food comes from is priceless.
- Layer chickens are way too precious to cull for meat.
- I invested in a $20/nipple waterer (hanging bucket that I got from Amazon). I only have to change water once every week (keeping their water clean used to be the most annoying and time consuming chore, but not anymore).

In the end, obviously, to raise chickens or not is a very personal decision.

A former member
Post #: 210
With 6 years of raising and learning about chickens I will be repeating most of what Laura and Sven said.

  • I got into chickens because the price of eggs was rising and this was to get some control. I used to buy the same eggs. From that prospective, it is not worth it because Trader Joe's is cheaper.
  • Since you cull, and therefore do not have the expense of treating a sick/injure chicken, I believe the main reason TJ is cheaper is that it cost substantially less to feed 5,000 and up to 150,000 chickens when compared to a few backyard hens
    (a) farmer gets a volume discount
    (b) because farmer can mix their own feed, there is more pricing power because out of the main items that need to be in the feed (protein, calcium, etc) you can substitute, ie use different protein sources, calcium sources, etc where, for example, if one protein source goes up switch to a cheaper alternative
  • If you get too many eggs in the summer, sell them or exchange for food your neighbors are growing. I was giving them away and some offered fruits from their garden, which was nice.
  • Production hens produce most days and all season; if that is what you have, you can reduce the size of the flock. Alternately, for people concerned about the long-term health effects of the flock and prefer non-production hens, you naturally get more in the summer during extended daylight and less during the winter. Keep enough hens to produce year-round and sell the rest (summer eggs, vacation, etc).
  • Predator losses can be avoided by properly designing the coop and, to be extra safe, hiding feed, nesting boxes and roosting from outside view. My first loss was to a raccoon, so I rebuilt the coop into a fortress, using hardware cloth, and never had any issues again.
  • If chickens jump on the feeder, be creative. Think of something that will prevent them from jumping on it. For example, if you have a suspended feeder and flip a cone through the string, it is very hard to stay on the feeder as they will slip down. I built my own with the top too narrow to stay on it for more than a few seconds.
  • Same goes for waterer. You can raise it high so it is not toppled, switch to nipples. There are many design examples on BYC, YouTube, just everywhere you look there are others having the same problems

My reasons to have chickens:

  • If free-range, chickens
    a) add texture, life, "meaning" to the backyard
    b) keep insects and small pests to the minimum
    c) aerate and feed the soil
    d) eat excess greens
    They can also damage the garden when no ones is around to stop them, but this can be prevented trough rotations, temporary borders, etc
  • 24-hour supermarket
  • Sustainability: Mix chickens with food garden and water harvesting and you got one powerful loop

Being in California, why should we care about disasters "from a drought in the U.S. to a hot summer in Russia to excessive rain in Brazil" (WSJ Aug 10: Bad Weather Pushes Up Food Prices)? It is cheaper and more sustainable to grow your own food, especially if compared to store-bought organic or (at a min) non-pesticide. Chickens can eat the excess while lowering feed cost. In addition, a green diet is healthier than a fat diet most of us in the Western world are exposed to. Your child is more likely to eat something she grew than one from the supermarket, and that leads to healthy eating habits + lowering probability of future health issues.

The way I see it, chickens can perform other duties than pumping eggs. Garden duties, saving you a trip to the grocery store, and when combined with other items they cost less and even if slightly more they are an insurance premium against disasters.

In conclusion, this is a very important topic:
1) Chickens raised the same way as on a farm, they are more expensive due to feed cost (since you cull this excl DYI treatment, vets, etc)
2) Fruits and veggies raised the same way as on a farm, they are cheaper
3) Chickens and food gardens combined are cheaper; add water harvesting and the cost is much lower

Victoria had a list for people considering chickens. This is a great topic to consider.
Los Angeles, CA
Post #: 194
We all have our reasons for getting into chicken keeping. But I do think its important to recognize our limits, and I salute Tyson for being honest. Caring for animals, whether pets or livestock, requires a mindset and commitment that not everyone can pull off. Better to bow out gracefully (and be a grownup about it) than to keep struggling, when its the animals that are forced to cope with the conditions you are providing them. If your heart isnt in it, youre not doing them or yourself any favors by just plugging along. Thanks for being truthful. If you do decide to "get out" Im sure there will be many here who will give your birds a new home. Best wishes.
Roberta K.
user 10948851
Los Angeles, CA
Post #: 152
Agree, life is too short to do something that you don't love.
A former member
Post #: 211
Agree, life is too short to do something that you don't love.

Some do it for love, some do it for company, it will be interesting to hear from others.

Tyson got into raising chickens for the same reason I did: monetary reasons. It is possible to prevent all of what he, I and many others had gone through, and this was the idea behind what Victoria has in mind.

Once everything is laid out with feedback from others here then people can decide whether it is worth to even start.

It is actually possible to turn a profit:
1) Build the coop from scraps.
a) Get high-quality lumber (in my case, almost brand new) from anyone doing construction
b) Feeder, waterer can be constructed from scrap, a bucket + nipple
c) Only cost to build the coop is hardware cloth, door hinges, locks and rain cover. This is where I wouldn't cut any corners.
2) Have the chickens free-range and eat scraps from garden or house. Just be sure they get sufficient intakes such as protein, calcium, etc (listed on feed and recipes found online). This can substantially save on feed cost.
3) Add supplements to increase quantity + quality of eggs and life expectancy.
4) Treat hens yourself / cull.
5) Sell or trade excess eggs.

Going to vets puts you deep in the red. Before learning about prevention and DIY methods I spent $500-1000 on different vets, one hen. From my experience, "chicken" vets around here rarely treat chickens, and you are better off treating things yourself. Prevention is tops. Adding calcium, ACV, sunflower seeds, DE cost so little it is a no-brainer.

Following the first four puts you at break-even or small gain. Following the 5th results in profits, but it simply wasn't worth my time so I just gave the eggs away to just about anyone.

That is how I got the current hen. Someone 10+ blocks from me found the hen in his backyard and thought she was mine. I haven't had any hens for maybe a year, but gave him eggs back in the days and he thought it must be mine. Now I am stuck, but she is a really lovely chicken and fun to have around.
A former member
Post #: 212
Anyone else wants to add their story? Looking back, what did you learn, what would you change?
Laura B.
Group Organizer
Norco, CA
Post #: 222
Thanks again Victoria and Marty... and Tyson for reaffirming how important is to tell others before they get into having chickens... I can't stress enough how much work it is and what a life changing experience it is...

if you are up to the work, being laid out so clearly by Martin, Victoria and hopefully others, it can be an awesome healing experience as well...

I simply fell in love with them... if you connect with them you will find very intelligent, sensitive, emotional beings... they are little humans (or we are just like them, just another specie) and can be so healing... they give us so much too... my time with them is my time to slow down and just be... there at ONE with Nature, with the Earth, understanding we are all interconnected... it reminds me of "Avatar the Movie", the oneness of Life... the Unity among all beings... it can be such precious and magical experience...

but, just know what it entails before getting into it... it's certainly not for everyone... for me, I believe it was just destiny to cross their path, and I feel so deeply blessed...
A former member
Post #: 72
I thought I'd take a moment to clarify a little. First, my baby daughter showed up this year which meant that I had the desire to spend a lot more time with her and a lot less to spend with my chickens. The predation hasn't helped. Even my garden has suffered, I don't have an edible plant growing right now. Everything that seemed to take place with the chickens this year just came at the expense of my time with my daughter.

I believe that my daughter has the right to understand at least a little bit where her food comes from, be it chicken eggs or... chicken soup. This is an experience she will have. Seeing as how she is only 6 months old right now I'm considering throwing in the towel so to speak for a couple years, letting go of my new pullets and taking some time to reinforce my chicken fortress.

I haven't made any decisions yet, but I understand it's a lot more than the eggs but a connected feeling with your food sources. I'd still love to keep chickens, but perhaps this moment isn't the best to do so.

Thanks for your helpful considerations and advice.
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