Story & Photos by Stacy Bronec

The first step and this is key, you must declare, “I’ve always wanted chickens! Wouldn’t it be fun?” (Even if you just thought of this adventure yesterday when you saw the fluffy chicks at
the farm store.) You imagine restoring the old run-down coop in your farm yard and ask your husband, “Can you fix the coop for me?”

He’s in the middle of seeding spring wheat, so he shakes his head, “Remind me this winter when I’m not so busy.” Winter rolls around, and the last thing you think of is trekking through the snow to a chicken coop, and you forget to remind your husband about the project. Spring comes and you see the fluffy chicks at the farm store, reminding you of your chicken farming dream. Once again, your husband says he’s “too busy” to make the coop. “Remind me this winter.”

Repeat for six years.

Then, finally, on a spring day, your husband announces, “I’ll get to work on the coop.” You panic, picturing real-life chickens in your backyard. Aren’t I scared of birds? Do I want to spend my days cleaning chicken poop? Whose idea was this?

But you nod to him and silently berate yourself for repeatedly asking for chickens but decide it’s too late to change your mind.

Your husband works for a few weeks on and off, restoring the old coop – the one with rotted floors. He installs a cute turquoise door to match the new tin siding. One day, he walks into the house and says, “The coop is ready! Come out and see!”

Quickly, you Google, “How long do chickens live?” (Answer: 5-10 years. But most backyard flocks live 6-8 years.) With knots in your stomach, you follow him outside. You smile, “It looks great, babe! Thank you!”
The next time you’re at the farm store, walk smugly past the fancy chicken coops with the $2,000 price tag, knowing you saved hundreds of dollars by not buying one. Refurbished Chicken Coop: $500.

On a spring day, load the family into the car for a trip to town to begin your new endeavor: chicken farming. You plan to bring home five chicks, but you’re unable to resist all the cute fluffy chicks (forgetting they turn into not-so-cute hens) and get ten. You rationalize that one could die (chicks seem fragile), and one rooster could be masquerading as a hen. You’ll only have eight, which seems like a reasonable flock. Chicks: $50. First bag of feed: $25.

The chicks move into their refurbished coop, and you feed and water them. Surprisingly, they all survive for months. Second and third bag of chick feed: $50. Grit & Oyster Shells (apparently, food isn’t enough; they also need these): $20.

The summer rolls by, and you start counting back the weeks on the calendar, trying to estimate when these chickens will begin paying for themselves. Each morning you go to the coop, only to find more poop and feathers – no eggs. Each time you open the door, one hen comes after you, and you’re sure she has it out for you. Your husband declares, “She’s just curious!” Secretly, you hope she’s a he so “she” can be removed from the flock.

One day, you tell your husband, “Come see this chicken yourself! Just open the door and see what happens!” He opens the door, but the hens just cock their heads and stare at him. You sigh, rolling your eyes at the traitors.

“I believe you, babe,” he says, closing the door.

On a brisk late summer morning, approximately nineteen weeks after the chicks came to your farm, you open the coop, and with low expectations, you check the nesting boxes. Empty. Resigning yourself that today is another day of poop and “curious” hens, you start to walk away. But then, on the floor of the coop, you spot it. One egg! A tiny brown egg! You aren’t sure which hen laid the first one, but give them all a handful of mealworms in celebration. Bag of mealworms: $15 Now, try to decide what to do with this one egg. Save it for baking? Make a fried egg? Go with a tiny fried egg with toast. You can’t tell if the egg tastes better than the ones from the store, but decide you must not tell anyone that.

The next time you’re at the grocery store, note the price of a dozen eggs. Place your hand at your throat and say, “I can’t believe people have to pay that much for eggs these days!”

Slow your cart, imagining the one hen who may peck your eyes out – but shake your head at the thought and keep walking down the aisle.

And that is how you save $5 on a dozen eggs.

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