From Eggs to Compost: Why Keeping Chickens is a Smart Choice for Your Backyard

Let me start by saying I am NOT a bird person

They have beady eyes and they’re skittish as hell and just generally freak me out. I am never going to be the person who says “oh my gosh look at that beautiful bird!” and yet, as long as I am able, I will have a flock of backyard chickens. They don’t take up much room or cost a lot to maintain and they turn our weeds, bugs/pests, food scraps and leftovers into a complete protein, like magic.



The short answer, yes. The really long winded answer that involves math explains below…

Our flock of backyard chickens consists of 4 Austra White hens and 4 Barred Plymouth Rock hens. Both of these breeds lay between 5-6 eggs per week each. We chose these breeds because they are mellow mannered and prolific producers which means with proper storage we can provide 100% of our eggs each year and handle the birds with ease!

Based on eggs alone, yes, the math is hard to argue with. Starts up costs will be different for everybody based on coop supplies, quantity of chicks and even brand of feed. On average we collect 4 dozen eggs per week (16 dozen per month * 10 mths = 160 doz/year

With our local supplier’s 19% layer @ $.78/ #

1# feed/day @ $.78/# * 30 days = $23.40/month

$23.40/16 dozen eggs = $1.46/dozen organic, farm fresh, pasture raised eggs.

With non-organic Pellet Feeds @ $20/50# = .40 /#

1# feed/day @ $.40/# * 30 days = $12/month

$12/16 dozen eggs = $.75/dozen farm fresh, pasture raised eggs.

Where I live, the cheapest eggs I can get are $3.99/ dozen and the most expensive are $8.99/dozen. Either way, I am coming out on top.

Eggs aren’t their only thing though…

Chickens are excellent foragers and will scratch up weeds and their seeds in your lawns and gardens while fertilizing! Careful though – they can’t tell the difference between your prized tulips and a snack so free range with caution! Tell me where you can get free weeding 12 hours a day and room and board only cost $12/month!

Finally, they are super easy to care for with a minimum average 3-5 minute interaction time per day.


NO! This is easily the most common misconception. Roosters serve 3 main purposes in a flock, they act as the protector, have a faster growth rate for meat and they fertilize eggs. 

Once a laying hen reaches sexual maturity she will lay an egg every 26 ish hours (like a period) with or without a rooster.  If you have no rooster in your flock your eggs will never turn into baby chicks.

Most often roosters are not allowed in urban and suburban areas due to their cock-a-doodle-doing. The ironic part is thata flock of backyard chickens can be fairly chatty especially when singing their egg song after laying each day.

a chicken in long green grass looking at the camera out of her left eye


Like anything you can make this cost as much or as little as you want. We have gone through several coop set ups over the years based on our needs at the time. We are currently on a custom built coop and there are still major changes I would make to it! Don’t get caught up in making it perfect. You likely don’t know what is actually most important to you yet!

Potential Start Up Costs:


Chickens begin to lay eggs usually between 16-26 weeks. They need 14 hours of light to form and lay an egg so usually take a break for winter. Here in Colorado, our birds stop laying around November and begin laying in late February when the days start getting longer.

They will continue to lay eggs for several years but their hit their peak around 3 years old. They can live until they are around 7-10 years old.


Grocery store eggs would lead you to believe that chickens are vegetarians. I am here to tell you, they are not. Chickens are omnivores – they eat a variety of seeds, bugs, and meats (including whole wriggling mouse if they’re lucky enough). They will even eat their own eggs if nutritionally deficient.

The easiest way to feed is with a nutritionally complete feed in a pellet or crumble form sold in feed stores. The birds will also benefit from being supplemented with calcium and grit for proper digestion.

We complicate things a little bit at the Fry Farmette by fermenting their whole grain feed and providing ample forage and food scraps as a supplement. It isn’t necessary but it allows us to use less feed overall and afford a higher quality feed for our flock!

Where do I buy chicks?


Online Hatchery

This is your best bet if you want a specific breed, sex, or in summer/fall!. 

As suburban homesteaders we have limited space and believe in maximizing our flocks potential by striking a balance between laying capability, temperament, and heirloom breeds.


Feed Store

If you just want chickens RIGHT NOW and don’t care their sex or breed, pick up chicks at the feed store!

They are almost always available in the spring plus you can grab any last minute supplies on your list!


Local Farm or Breeder

Supporting local is always preferred when possible but sometimes it just isn’t realistic.

Local Facebook groups often have a list of breeders in their files! Be sure to check them out!


Society certainly tells us that the best time for chicks is spring but if you have spent any time around us you have heard us wax poetic about the pros of raising fall chicks. 

We have always lived in suburban areas with defined zoning laws about the number of birds that we keep and that means taking steps to ensure that we get the most bang for our buck out of our flock.  

I watch other homesteaders jokingly chide their flock of 30-75 on social media for being “freeloaders” during the winter after still collecting a basket of eggs for their families.  When you are only allowed 2-6 backyard chickens, the winter egg drought looks a lot different. Often not collecting any eggs between the months of October-February.  We select early laying breeds to ensure we get the most out of our egg year but also believe that our girls deserve a break.  They work hard for us each year!

Fall Chicks


Here in Colorado we get extreme heat and extreme cold. We have noticed that going through a winter first prepares them better for future frigid days.


Chickens lose all their feathers at about 18 months old. During this time, they stop laying eggs as their body focuses on growing all new feathers.

With fall chicks, this usually falls during their second winter which means you don’t lose any egg laying time.


Chickens need around 14 hours of daylight to lay an egg. As soon as the days get longer, your hens will begin to lay.

Which means you fed them at most for 6 months before you began to see a return on your investment.


Chicks need access to some type of heat source until their feathers come in. If they are raised by mom, they tuck under her wings and use her body heat. Each week as their feathers grow in they need less and less added heat.

Fall in Colorado is mild with temperatures easily still reaching the 80s-90s during the day which means they can be more active and not be huddled under their heat source.

Spring Chicks


The number one reason people get chicks in the spring is because that is when the feed stores order them! Commercial hatcheries supplement light to get their hens to lay earlier and eggs can be fertilized again.

If you can resist the temptation, Later in spring you can even get them for .50 when the feed stores are tired of keeping them alive!


Chickens lose all their feathers at about 18 months old. During this time, they stop laying eggs as their body focuses on growing all new feathers.

With spring chicks, this usually falls during their second summer which means losing precious egg laying time.


Chickens start laying eggs usually between 16-20 weeks.  Some breeds lay MUCH later than that, especially those easter egger types!

If you raise a chick that takes 8 months to mature starting in march or april, it is likely that the days will be too short for her to start laying eggs until the next spring. which means you have fed them a lot longer without any return.


Chicks need access to some type of heat source until their feathers come in. If they are raised by mom, they tuck under her wings and use her body heat. Each week as their feathers grow in they need less and less added heat.

Spring in Colorado is brutal with low temperatures and late season snow storms which means a less active bird and a much longer time providing heat.

Time to turn the tables!


Chicks are cute and so easy to bring home – trust me, I know! but making sure you have the equipment you need to keep them healthy and safe is crucial! Its one thing to grab a few last minute items when you pick up your babies at the feed store and another to have 10 week chicks in your bathtub because your coop isn’t complete and its 10 degrees outside (don’t as us how we know!).

We take raising animals very seriously and we have learned a lot of tough lessons along the way. Domesticated livestock don’t really just figure it out. We alone are in charge of their well being and safety. That starts with having what you need when you bring them home.

You can download our printable chick start checkist here.


Do you travel for work or take frequent vacations? Animals need fed and care even when you go away! Will your regular house sitter engage with chickens? Can you afford extra charges for that?

Does your current pet have a high prey drive? Are you able to train them? Or will you have to hire a professional?

Make sure you consider everything before getting started!


There are a variety of reasons why you may want to raise chickens! Whether it is more control over your food supply, teaching your children to care for animals, or starting a business there are several factors to consider!

What is most important to you and your family?

  • Egg size – most recipes use a standard large egg found in the grocery store but chickens lay eggs ranging from small to jumbo! Know what size egg your chickens lay so it doesn’t affect you can adjust your cooking accordingly
  • Egg Color – Egg color has NOTHING to do with the nutrition or quality of the egg! Chickens can lay an egg in a wide range of colors, from the traditional white and brown to blue, green, pink, or green!
  • Egg quantity per week – a leghorn chicken can lay 6 eggs per week while a easter egger can average 3. How many eggs do you expect your family to go through in a week?
  • Chicken size – larger chickens need more square footage in the coop and in the run
  • Temperament – some breeds are NUTS and others are super chill if you are raising chickens to use in lessons with your kids you may want to stock with a Buff Orphington over a leghorn.
  • HOA or zoning restrictions – I think we can all agree that it would fundamentally suck if you spent all this money and time researching and installing only to find out you have to get rid of them or enter a lengthy legal battle (HOA rules are no joke!). Know the laws and codes in your area first!


Don’t be fooled into thinking that just because you don’t live in the mountains or the woods that you do not have predators in your area. Chickens don’t have a lot of natural defenses they don’t fly or see well night and that leaves them vulnerable to a number of predators. We are responsible for their safety. I recommend you pay attention to the local predators in your area so you can make a plan of action for a secure coop!

Below is a list of predators we saw almost daily in our city rental!

  • Ariel Predators
    • Hawk
    • Falcon
    • Bald Eagle
  • Climbers and Diggers
    • Fox
    • Coyote
    • Racoon
    • Skunk
    • Opossum
    • Snake
  • Bugs
    • Mites
    • Lice
    • Flies

Chickens also have a number of issues that can arise that may lead to a life or death situation. Vets for backyard chickens are few and far between. If you do find one, they will likely be very expensive.

This may be the unpopular opinion in suburban circles but I can assure you in ag circles it is completely normal – make sure you are comfortable culling an animal. Predators and disease happen. Not all problems or diseases are necessarily a death sentence and we have found a lot of very helpful people on facebook groups and other forums who are willing to physically help or talk you through treating your bird. However, sometimes the bird is beyond repair and they will recommend culling.

It is not humane to keep an animal suffering to make yourself feel better.

Have I convinced you yet?

I truly believe that every family could benefit from a small flock of chickens! Excess eggs can be offered to neighbors and tons of yard and food waste would stay out of landfills. What do you think?

No matter what you decide we love to see and hear about your adventures on your property, big or small! Please leave a comment or tag me on Instagram with @TheFryFarmette and #TheFryFarmette so we can cheer you on!

2 thoughts on “From Eggs to Compost: Why Keeping Chickens is a Smart Choice for Your Backyard

  1. This was sooo helpful Kati, thank you! Some of your links to the brooder and feeders didn’t work for me though..just fyi. I am still in the research mode but think I do want to pull the trigger if I can budget and figure out our coop situation.

Leave a Reply