Backyard hens not only provide delicious eggs for your breakfast table, provide fertilizer for your garden and eat your kitchen scraps and weeds - they also make a great 'economical' family pet. Forget the dog, cat, fish or guinea pig. Hens are the increasingly popular, cost-effective pet emerging in suburban backyards.
One of the first expenses incurred when adding a pet to your family is the cost of the animal itself. It's quite common for several hundred dollars to be spent on pets such as purebred dogs and cats. This is thankfully not the case for the humble backyard hen. 'Point of lay' hens which are almost ready to lay their first egg and aged around 16-22 weeks are not only inexpensive to actually purchase but cost very little to keep. These young hens, referred to as 'pullets', generally cost less than $20. Generally the younger the pullet, the cheaper it will be, as you have to be prepared to care for the bird for longer before she'll lay you her first egg.
Like many other pets, hens do require adequate housing, which is likely to be the largest outlay of money you'll experience with these animals. There is a range of mobile hen houses available to purchase online, or you might like to attempt to make your own if you're particularly budget conscious. If purchasing a pre-made coop, you'll find that there's a range inexpensive, imported hen houses available online, priced from around $200. Of course, as is often the case, you get what you pay for. These are cheaply made and might last you a year or two at the most. Other quality Australian made hen houses which will last you much longer, are priced from around $500 plus delivery.
You'll also need a laying box, for the chickens to lay their eggs; perches for the chickens to roost on at night, and a suitable self-feeder and drinker.. These final items may cost you around $40-$80 again depending on the quality of feeders you purchase.
In terms of feed, hens need around 700-900g of a grain mix or pellets per week. This amount will vary depending on the quantity of kitchen scraps or garden weeds that you're able to give them. Depending on quality of the mix, poultry feed varies in price from 70-90c per kg. So you'll likely spend around 70c per week on feed, per laying hen.
In return for feeding and taking good care of your hens, you'll get very tasty organic eggs each morning (around 6 per week per hen) and plenty of manure to fertilize your garden. With free-range eggs costing at least $4 per dozen, you've got a good return on investment (particularly compared with other pets which don't contribute to your breakfast!). Over a year you'll be spending approximately $36 on feed per hen and you'll be saving $104 on eggs, not to mention the free fertilizer for your garden. On average, suburban hen owners have around 3 hens, so that's around $270 in your pocket each year.
Hens are such a simple way to bring a little bit of country to your backyard. They're such a low cost pet that they actually 'earn' you money. Can't get much better than that!
Your new backyard pets will love a Royal Rooster hen house. These hen houses are well made, will last the test of time and look great in any backyard.. These aluminium-framed hen houses, look great, are very durable and will provide a great home for your new backyard pets.