By Blake Sagar, CPA
It was never my intention to be an urban farmer. My wife found a free chicken coop online, and she just HAD to have it. Unfortunately for me, it was Mother’s Day of 2019 and I wasn’t in a position to argue. After researching how to care for backyard chickens, we took the plunge and brought home four Rhode Island Red pullets (toddler chickens).
When they first arrived, we felt bad leaving them locked up in their run/coop all day as it was about 60 square feet. We let them roam our (unfenced) backyard for a few weeks and they seemed to really enjoy exploring and eating our bugs. However, once they began to lay eggs, all bets were off. They suddenly had the urge to scratch our mulch and basically destroy the yard. After seeing notifications being posted to the neighborhood social media app Nextdoor because they wandered into a neighbor’s yard, we decided they needed some better containment. So, I enclosed their coop and gave them about 200 additional square feet that was all their own. I had read that the fence didn’t need to be any higher than four feet as they won’t fly over it. Turns out that wasn’t the case. So, I again built onto their coop and they now have a fence about seven feet tall!
We’ve learned that while chickens require a diet of a high-quality poultry pellet to make sure they receive the calcium and other nutrients to help with egg production, you can also supplement their diet with just about anything from the kitchen. We do meal prep on Sunday, and it’s a weekly feast for our ladies. They love the scraps from strawberries, celery, bread crust, etc. They are also resourceful in finding their own supplements. For example, our girls took out a chipmunk a while back, and it was quite a sight.
It took our chickens about 3 months to begin laying eggs, but by far that has been the most rewarding part of owning chickens. The yolks are brighter than store-bought eggs. Being a numbers guy, I had a running calculation on how much I had invested in each egg. At one point, we were at $40 per egg, which doesn’t sound like a wise investment. By the end of the summer they were collectively laying four eggs a day, so I gave up my calculations.
Now that we’ve lived through this seemingly never-ending pandemic, we are grateful for the distraction that the chickens have provided. This summer, we decided to grow our flock, and at one point it grew to seven chickens. The neighborhood raccoons have since exploited the weakness in our chicken fortress, and we now have five lovely ladies.
Once it got colder, we thought egg production might slow down, but that hasn’t been the case. They have continued to produce eggs regardless of the weather. On a typical day, we get 3 or 4 eggs. I hope my kids continue to enjoy raising chickens. They may not realize the uniqueness of our situation, but I know they are making memories.
Fun fact: chickens “clean” themselves by taking dirt baths.