As the price of eggs increases, so has Texans’ interest in backyard chickens. But Raska says backyard chickens are not cost efficient.
According to a U.S. Department of Agriculture report, eggs were $4.25 per dozen on average in December 2022. A dozen eggs was $1.79 at the same time last year.
Inflationary pressure and the worst avian flu outbreak in U.S. history have caused soaring egg prices, and Dr. David Anderson, AgriLife Extension economist, doesn’t expect the prices to ease up any time soon.
Enter backyard chicken farming.
Most cities allow between three and five hens to be kept by a homeowner in a residential area, if they allow them at all. After paying for an adequate coop and their food each week, most chicken owners don’t break even.
Texas Sen. Bob Hall (R-Edgewood) has authored Senate Bill 326 that would require a city to allow up to six backyard chickens in a residential area. Rep. Briscoe Cain (R-Baytown) and Rep. Philip Cortez (D-San Antonio) have proposed similar measures in the Texas House.
Raska said that a few chickens will only produce about 10 to 12 eggs per week, adding that hens only produce eggs consistently for two or three years out of a ten-year lifespan.
“These are not egg machines,” he stated. “They are sweet, intelligent animals that can be very tame pets.”
Ami Anderson decided to take up backyard chicken husbandry during the pandemic. She’d been considering it for a while and decided the time was right with her children home from school and extra time on her hands.
She agrees with Raska that having backyard chickens is a commitment, but she is glad she made the decision.
While she appreciates the good quality fresh eggs her family reaps from her three hens, she only gets about a dozen a week — not enough to feed her family of six.
“We have the chickens for equal parts eggs and entertainment,” Anderson said about watching her funny hen antics.
So once the commitment and costs are considered and the decision is made to have backyard chickens, do the necessary research about their needs such as food, water, weather concerns, and protection from predators.
Before she took the plunge, Anderson researched for months. She built her own coop for their protection. She chose breeds that were suited to the Texas climate, would be friendly, and were reliable producers. She ended up with one ISA Brown, one Easter Egger named for the green or blue eggs they lay, and one Olive Egger that lays olive eggs.
Raska strongly agrees that adequate research is necessary before acquiring a flock of backyard birds. Too often he gets calls from people who have picked up chicks at a feed store and now ask, “What do I do?”
There are many resources for learning about backyard chickens, including YouTube videos, Facebook groups, online sites, and chicken clubs. County extension agents usually offer regular classes, so check the calendar or give the office a call.
Not everything about having backyard chickens is fun and entertaining. Anderson said she doesn’t love their litter. When she lets them free range in her backyard, they end up on her patio and leave their droppings behind.
Raska pointed out that while chickens are clean, they do generate waste that must be properly controlled. It can’t go directly into the garden, but can be used to ignite compost that can then be used to fertilize plants.
Keeping her hens cool in the summer has also been challenging. Chickens can endure cold much easier than heat.
Losing a hen to a raccoon almost made Anderson give up her chicken husbandry. Facing the brutality of losing her pet to a predator attack was rough, but she’s glad she’s stuck with it.
“The pros definitely outweigh the cons for us,” Anderson emphasized.
Editor’s Note: This article has been updated with links to Cain and Cortez’s bills.
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Kim Roberts is a regional reporter for the Texan in the DFW metroplex area where she has lived for over twenty years. She has a Juris Doctor from Baylor University Law School and a Bachelor's in government from Angelo State University. In her free time, Kim home schools her daughter and coaches high school extemporaneous speaking and apologetics. She has been happily married to her husband for 23 years, has three wonderful children, and two dogs.