We recently encountered the opinion of someone named Mary Cuff, in a periodical called Modern Age, dismissing the family smallholding in these words: “Only the most privileged people can afford to quit their jobs and their urban and suburban lifestyles to become gentleman farmers living off the land.” We do not know how many people ‘living off the land’ Ms. Cuff is acquainted with, but relative to opinions like this one, we would like to share some numbers:
A chicken is supposed to eat one-quarter pound of feed per day. I’m not sure whose chicken that would be, or what would be its breed, age, size, and position in life, but we’ll take it as a general rule that a laying hen eats something in the neighborhood of 4 oz. of something every day. Ours do. Generously, that means we need a few pounds short of 100 lb. of feed per bird per year — not a small amount.
Our own birds eat fermented or sprouted wheat, in addition to grass, bugs, and a bit of meat or milk for protein. The grass, bugs, meat and milk are all free products of our land, things we have in abundance and need to feed to something. The wheat we buy, at $5/bu. (roughly 60 lb.). That’s just over $.08/lb., so we may spend as much as $8/bird/year on feed.
Now, our birds lay at a rate of something like 50%, averaged over the year, or about 180 eggs/bird/year. 180 eggs is 15 dozen eggs — from a bird we pay about $8/year to feed.
That’s 15dozen pastured, cage-free, soy-free, corn-free, GMO-free eggs for just over $.50 per dozen.
The cost of buying the chick and raising it to laying age — about $7 — can be discounted, because when the hen gets too old to lay we’re going to make chicken pie, and feed the bones to the hogs.
Glory be to God for chickens and privileges.