The price of eggs.

“Oh, you have chickens! How nice not to have to buy eggs!”

Well. Yes. And no.

The full disclosure is that we’ve gotten exactly one egg in the last two weeks. I’m thinking of putting it in a museum.

Those eggs you get in the store? They come from factory farms where hens toil under 24/7 flourescent lights to stimulate laying. As the birds age and production declines – after just one or two seasons – they are “replaced”. I don’t advise looking too deeply into what defines “replacement”. But it’s a business model that keeps eggs on the grocery store shelves – at a pretty price these days. $6.99 a dozen at Gelson’s for “pastured” chickens, which technically means they are permitted to walk around outside.

Our own flock is indulged with hours of supervised outdoor playtime every day. They hunt bugs and worms and are showered with treats and they go to sleep in a spacious coop that is mercifully dark except for the nights they peek out the window from their roosts and see a rising full moon.

All that, and one egg in two weeks.

Here’s the problem.

We have Willa, the apparently permanent broody. She went broody in early July, was not smart enough to adopt the chicks we brought home for her, but continues to scream her piercing broody scream whenever we approach. Broody hens do not lay eggs. Just give it up already, Willa and get back to work!

We have Ginger, who is now a ripe eight years old and somehow still manages to surprise us with an egg, oh, every two or three months…

We have Ava, who is six and a half years old, and does still comes up with the very occasional egg,

as does her hatch-mate Bella. Had their fates been different, they would have been “replaced” long ago.

Bella is the smartest chicken we’ve ever had. She’s too old and heavy to fly up to the nesting counter so she “tells” me when she wants to lay an egg and I carry her over to her preferred spot. The first few times it happened I assumed it was a coincidence, but it has become a routine. Bella might be my favorite hen ever!

And we have Edith, whose photo I won’t bother to show because she has been busily molting for the past several weeks, and she is not looking very pretty. Oh, and molting hens don’t lay eggs.

Lots of excuses for not laying eggs around here…

Which brings us to the chicklets. As you’ll recall, we brought them home six weeks ago for Willa, who pondered them warily for a brief moment and then decided that rather than being a mother she would much prefer to peck them to death.

So instead of the hoped-for madonna and child scenario, we currently have two scarily large juvenile birds in a cardboard box on the bathroom counter.

Peggy and Beauty are still too small to join the flock but too big to spend all day in what is basically a glorified shoebox, so the CE sectioned off an area of the chicken pen where they spend the day and can see and be seen by the flock, which is step one toward their eventual acceptance.

So back to the cost of eggs.

There was, of course, the original cost of coop construction, a labor of love but also somewhere in the four figure neighborhood, I suspect. Speaking of labor, if we were to get paid for animal husbandry chores at say, the princely sum of $15 (current minimum wage) we’d rake in $300 or so a week. There’s chicken feed, which is not as cheap as the colloquial “that’s chicken feed” would suggest – anywhere between $25 and $40 a bag these days. There’s the pine shavings, the corn scratch, the sunflower seed treats, etc. etc. etc.

Makes that egg up above look a bit costly, doesn’t it.

Oh, but there’s more. We now have to add in the hospital bill, occasioned by the CE’s herculean efforts on behalf of the chicks.

Seemed like a good idea at the time, I guess:

“Hey, I think I’ll just heave this 50 lb. doghouse over the fence so I can clean it up for the chicks to play in”, he said.

Cost of the upcoming hernia surgery? Um, priceless?

Oh well, at least we’ll eventually get some eggs…

About polloplayer

Empty nester searching for meaning of life through the occasional chicken epiphany.
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