This post also appears in the Curmudgeonly Professor blog, due to the widespread universal interest among educated urban people of experiencing the joys and delights of having chickens clucking, etc., in their back yards.
My sister Ann called me yesterday to inform me that she is about to raise chickens in her back yard, which apparently is allowed in rural Orem UT pop 80K or so. She and her husband even attended a chickens class with about 35 other excited chicken enthusiasts. She opines that she would have a mere five chickens which, if my arithmetic is correct, and if the biddies would perform optimally, would produce 35 eggs per week, 140 eggs per month, and 1,680 eggs per year. After subtracting down days for biddy headaches, egg no-shows, and tired chickens, one might get 26 eggs per week if one can find where the clever old birds have laid them.
I'm not sure Ann asked me what I thought, but I told her anyway. I told her I can buy 2 doz. eggs at Albertson's for less than $3. I don't have to clean up chicken you-know-what, buy feed for $20 a bag, and shoo them out of the kitchen door. As an economist, I figure each egg would cost more than the 2 doz. carton I could buy at the store.
The Curmudgeonly Professor is not an amateur at this chicken business. As the Wyoming State President of the Future Farmers of America and the editor of the school paper, one of my most egregious jobs was to clean off the chicken roosts in our chicken house each Saturday. I do not want to go into detail. Numerous red mites were in evidence and I was worried that they would give me some infectious disease and that I would die before the State FFA convention. I became adept at chopping the heads off chicken bodies and watch them flop around until they realized they were deceased, at which point Mom would de-feather them and we would have wonderful fried chicken for Sunday dinner.
Moreover, I have a Bachelor of Science degree in Agriculture from the University of Wyoming. This major was sort of by default because it was the fastest way I could graduate and I was sick of scrubbing every toilet on the UW campus a plethora of times and cleaning the ash trays on the President's desk. One of the requirements for this degree was to take a course in Poultry Production. So the summer of my last year, I took the required course in chickens by correspondence. I remember drawing spectacular lab exercises of an egg, a chick within an egg, and a few other anatomical and scientific depictions of chickens in their various states of life and death. I may or may not recall being required to write an essay on the topic, "Which came first? The Chicken or the egg?"
Thus, I am an expert chicken expert, not to be confused with being a coward, which I can also be one. of. As I offered these scenarios to my sister Ann, I think she became more and more excited about the bucolic and idyllic experience of having five old biddies follow her around the back yard, clucking and doing their business at random, and laying their $5 apiece eggs. At least, I told her, the eggs would be fresh; the whites would stand high, and the yolk would be perched at the summit.
I will keep you posted on how this drama plays out.