It has never been more advantageous than now, with the rising price of eggs, to be able to keep backyard chickens. I am rather fortunate that our city allows residents to keep small flocks of hens in their yards. Roosters are banned because they are noisy and crow. Fortunately roosters are not necessary for egg production.
I happen to be one of those nutty people who loves chickens. We consider them pets first with the added bonus that they give back. Our four girls lay close to two dozen eggs a week and we are able to easily sell our surplus eggs. Right now I charge $3 a dozen.
Chickens can be pretty self sufficient when it comes to their expenses. Anyone with a little skill and a few tools can build a coop inexpensively and quite often wood can be had for free. Shipping pallets are an excellent source of wood for building a coop and many companies are all too happy to get rid of them.
Our coop was constructed mostly from the leftover boards after we replaced our fence. I did buy a sheet of OSB plywood for the floor and ceiling, a pressure treated 4 X 4 and a roll of chicken wire. I scrounged up a pile of 2 X 3s from a friend's scrap woodpile to frame in the coop and pen area. I had a coffee can full of hinges and latches I had collected over the years so I didn't need to purchase any hardware. I also had enough screws in my miscellaneous can of fasteners to get the job done.
I opted to purchase simple feeders and have even made a couple out of empty gallon milk jugs. Pelletized feed is readily available at our local Zamzows feed store and we supplement their diet with scratch grains, dandelion greens and our kitchen scraps. Whenever I make a salad, which I do quite often, they always get one too made out of the trimmings. We also planted them their own row of lettuce in the garden this summer. Since chickens can be messy eaters I routinely remove the feeders from the coop and allow the hens to scratch and pick at the ground so they will clean up all their spilled food. This saves us a lot of money and pretty much eliminates any waste.
A few times a week I let the ladies out of the coop to scratch for bugs and have some fun. Chickens are wonderful at pest control and have pretty much eliminated our ant and earwig problem by keeping the critters in check.
Keeping the coop and pen area clean takes me very little time. I employ the deep litter method which simply means we put a thick layer of pine bedding in their nests, along the floor and under the roost. Occasionally I do a little poop scooping to tidy things up and add the manure to our compost bin. I add extra pine bedding as it is needed, which surprisingly, isn't all that often. About every six weeks I rake the pen area outside and add that to the compost bin as well.
Twice a year I do a deep clean and remove all the litter down to the wood floor and begin again. It takes me very little time and I don't mind doing it a bit. Especially as the pine shavings absorb moisture and keep odors to a minimum, which we all appreciate.
Although there is an initial upfront investment in the beginning eventually they are able to contribute enough to their upkeep that it all evens out. By selling the extra eggs we easily make enough to purchase all of their food and any other supplies they need. They may even make a little extra.
The bonus for us is hours of entertainment as chickens are really funny to watch and interact with. Not to mention the delicious farm fresh eggs we get to eat every day.