If you are like most new chicken owners, you fell in love with the idea of getting yourself a cute flock of backyard chickens and then quickly found out that you were spending way more money than you thought.
First off, realize that these feelings are completely normal and it happens to all of us! However, unlike everyone else, by the time you are done reading this article you are going to learn the secrets to saving money while tending your flock.
Skip the Frills
Expensive Calcium Booster Supplements
This is completely unnecessary if you give your chickens a balanced diet. Some chicken owners will try to argue that purchasing things like pricey ground oyster shells is necessary to have just in case their chickens begin to lay eggs that don’t have strong shells. The truth is that the key ingredient calcium carbonate, found in ground oyster shells, is already abundant in their quality standard feed.
The first step toward helping your chickens strengthen their eggs is to feed them dairy-based simple kitchen scraps, like cheese and milk. Although, be sure not to go overboard because too much diary will give your chickens diarrhea.
If that still doesn’t help increase the strength of their shells, just dry out and grind up their own egg shells to feed it back to them. While this may sound odd, it is completely natural. The best part is that the egg shells are 100% free!
Save Money on Feed
Chickens are omnivores, which means that they eat both vegetables and meat. This is great news for us because you can give your chickens a free meal while reducing the amount of food waste in your household. Just be sure to feed your backyard chickens a healthy selection of table scraps each time.
Feel free to feed your backyard chickens things like: vegetables, meat, yogurt, sunflower seeds, oatmeal, rice, cereal, cheese, milk and whey.
Stay away from feeding your backyard chickens things like: junk food, uncooked beans, avocado peels and potato peels.
If you have both the space and the grass, let your little chickens scratch around a bit. They will be digging up nutritious little bits to eat like: grass, weeds, worms, and insects. The most important thing to remember is that the more that you let your backyard chickens free range, the less you will need to feed them the store bought food.
Saving while Staying Warm
Fix the Ventilation
Placing a heater in an enclosed coop during the winter can not only be dangerous, but can also very expensive.
While using a flashlight, check your coop for any holes or separations where the wood meets. If you find that the light is shining on the opposite end, your coop is suffering from a poor ventilation issue. This is the equivalent of leaving your bedroom window slightly open at night on a snowy night. Brrr, no thanks!
Fill the gaps with caulk until you seal up any unnecessary spaces. As a test, try and use your flashlight again to see if any light comes pouring out of the other side. If not, your job is complete. For more information on keeping your backyard chickens warm in the winter, check out our post: Tips for How to Care for Chickens in the Winter.
Buying Extra Nesting Boxes
1 Chicken + 1 Box ≠ Zero Problems
Let’s be honest, one of the main reasons that we have chickens is so that we can enjoy some of those delicious homegrown eggs. So we do everything possible to make sure that our chickens are happy and healthy. We even make sure that each chick has their own bunk.
Unfortunately, chickens can be fickle about their accommodations. To be honest, I didn’t know what I expected. Even if I put their names on the front of their nesting boxes, it’s not like each chicken would line up orderly to their assigned bunks. It doesn’t matter if you filled each corner of your coop with nesting boxes, your chickens are going sleep on the floor and fight over particular nesting boxes for no reason. Just know that this behavior is normal, irrational chicken behavior.
Entertainment and Toys
With urban farming and raising backyard chickens becoming quite popular these last few years, we have seen the emergence of some pretty wacky toys meant for your chickens. Now before you buy your chicken the latest iPad take a step back and just look at your chickens. They don’t need any fancy or high tech devices. Chickens that are allowed to free range are as happy as can be. Just look at all of the fun that your chickens are having when you aren’t there:
If you want to make some toys at home for your chickens to entertain themselves, try your hand at some of these classics:
1) Take a single piece of rope and hang a head of cabbage just low enough off the ground so that your chickens need to jump to get at the cabbage.
2) Once the chickens eat all of the cabbage off of the rope just leave the rope there for a few days. You’ll notice that some of the chickens will jump and use the rope as a swing.
3) You truly haven’t felt pure joy until you surprise your chickens with a pile of garden weeds, raked leaves and some feed sprinkled throughout the pile. Though I have a feeling that you will be more entertained than the chickens.
Raising backyard chickens does not need to be an expensive affair. With a little bit of planning and imagination, you will be able to make your chickens happier while saving some extra money at the same time. For a complete guide on how to raise chickens, check out our post: How to Raise Chickens