KANAWHA COUNTY, WV (WOWK) — Lately everyone is talking about the price of eggs. According to the Consumer Price Index, egg prices jumped 60% in 2022. That has many people scrambling to find ways to save money.

But if you are thinking about getting backyard chickens to help ease the expense, you may want to pause to consider the investment.

At Trillium Family Farms, LLC in Tornado, West Virginia, there are about 24 chickens. The care of the chickens is a family endeavor. We met the owner of the farm, Elizabeth Hernandez, and her sons at the Patriot Guardens program. They were attending the first in a four-part series on Backyard Poultry Production.

“When we had our old house, I never really thought of having chickens and having free eggs and how much work it is to raise chickens,” said her son, Christopher.

Christopher and his brothers are young but they weren’t afraid to speak up and ask questions during the class.

“We’ve gotten a lot more eggs than I thought we would,” said Caleb Hernandez.

Instructor Scott Byars covered topics from building a proper enclosure, to the dangers of predators, to the supplies you need to get started and the right kinds of chickens to get the type of results you want.

The Patriot Guardens program provides education about agriculture production to active and retired military and their families. Byars said the Backyard Poultry class is topical as egg prices continue to make headlines.

“The great thing we have is the flexibility. We can kind of react like the National Guard does to emergencies. We have that same flexibility. So we are able to come in and set up these trainings and offer them on a pretty short notice,” Byars said. Byars is a Specialist in Agriculture Education. He also raises chickens at home.

The class was packed with people of all ages and skill levels and people with varied goals for their chickens.

“I have a tiny bit of information on chickens, but this has really helped,” said Rose Holt. She only has a few birds in her backyard. She rarely eats the eggs and gives most of them away to family members. For her, the reward is the joy she gets from having them around. “I’d like to have more if I only had room,” she said.

But if you are thinking that raising your own chickens and harvesting their eggs will cost less than buying them at your grocery store, think again.

“If you are doing eggs in the backyard, you are probably not exactly saving money,” Byars said. He bought a small kit at a local feed store for about $30 to demonstrate to the class the essential items they’d need. But he said realistically people will spend far more just on equipment.

“A waterer is going to be anywhere from $17 to $38 depending on the size and style. Then a feeder is $12 to $15 and the price goes up. These little feeders would still end up being around $9,” Byars said.

Chicks are fairly inexpensive to purchase but sometimes they can be fragile and harder to raise. Adult chickens can be pricey especially if you are buying several.

“Right now the standard laying chickens are anywhere from $20 to $27 a piece,” he said.

You also have to consider the price of feeding the chickens.

“A 50-pound bag of layer crumble is almost $20 a bag. And a bag of cracked corn – which a lot of people mix the two – is right around $11 a bag. And if you go out and get the oyster shell, that is $10 to $12 a bag. Add all that together and it adds up real fast,” Byars explained.

The chickens have to have a place to stay away from predators. Depending on what you want, you can get a pre-fabricated coop for around $400. Even if you are building one from scratch, he said to be prepared to dig deep into your pockets.

“Chicken wire for a 25-foot roll is in the range of $48 to $68. For an average-sized pen or chicken coop in the backyard, you’d probably have $200 in wire alone; then another $25 in screws. If you bought the lumber, I don’t even want to guess what that would end up being,” Byars said. He said people could save a little by building the frame of the coop with pallets.

Byars says he’s not trying to discourage people from getting backyard chickens. He just wants them to have a realistic look at the potential expense. He also emphasized that saving or making money isn’t the only benefit.

“I mean, you know where those eggs have come from, you know how they were handled, you know how old they are, you know what they were fed. There is the therapeutic side of it. You get to see them grow and how they live in the environment. You have a greater appreciation for that and then, in turn, you are getting eggs from them and so those eggs are kind of like the bonus,” he said.

Raising the chickens at Trillium Family Farms is a learning experience for the kids in the Hernandez family. They get lessons not just from an agricultural standpoint but also in the areas of budgeting and business.

“I keep track of how much feed costs during the year so I can kind of judge,” Elizabeth Hernandez said. “It usually goes up in January and February anyway and then tends to creep back down.”

They sell the eggs they don’t eat and they make a little bit of profit.

“We were able to store eggs when they were laying a lot so that now when they are laying less we are still able to sell to have them pay for themselves,” Elizabeth said.

They have a farm Facebook page and other social media where they post about what goes on around the farm and what they’ve learned.

They are hoping to keep learning through classes like the one at Patriot Guardens and to help others see what all goes into the eggs that eventually end up on your plate.

The Patriot Guardens classes are also open to the public. To find out about upcoming courses, click here.

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