Have you seen the price of eggs lately?? Shocking, I know!
If you have been to the grocery store in recent weeks, it’s no surprise that the price of chicken eggs is through the roof right now!
Here are a couple photos I took during one of my recent shopping trips.
And one store I visited was limiting the purchase of eggs to 3 dozen or less.
So, what is the deal? Why is the price of chicken eggs so high at the moment?
Like most things in the economy there are many factors that affect the price of eggs. Here are just a few.
What is causing the price of chicken eggs to be so high?
- Bird flu. Bird flu has been around for a long time, but a recent highly contagious strain has broken out in the avian world. In 2022, there were reports of increased bird flu happening which have only continued to increase. I personally have not had my own flock experience a case of the bird flu, but I’ve heard that if any of the birds in a commercial flock are showing symptoms, the ENTIRE flock must be culled (which means killed) in order to prevent the spread of the illness. For large egg producing farms, this can mean killing tens of thousands or hundreds of thousands of chickens. Yikes! Then the farmer would need to start completely over with chicks and wait the 5-7 months until they reach laying age. Are you starting to see the problem here?
The great news? Bird flu does not transfer to humans. So while yes, this is a big problem in the chicken world, it will not become another pandemic in the human world. It will just create high egg prices for a time.
- Inflation. We are still dealing with the ongoing economic effects of the covid shutdown that happened in 2020. Worker shortages and supply chain issues are still sorting themselves out. In an already difficult economic environment due to these issues, adding bird flu to the mix is tipping the scale in a not so great direction.
- Increased demand. During the holiday season, demand for eggs increases. Which makes sense because people tend to do a lot of baking or purchasing baked goods during the holiday season. All of which uses eggs. Then there is usually a lull for a couple of months before egg demand increases again for Easter. This is the time of year when eggs are in high demand. And heading toward Easter, the demand is going to be even higher.
- California egg laws. The last point I will mention here is one that a lot of people are not really considering. According to this article, in the year 2018, California passed a law requiring all eggs sold in the state of California to be from cage free facilities that comply with the new standards. What does this mean? It means that all the chicken farmers have to transition their farms to large open rooms rather than the typical egg farm where cages are stacked on top of each other. And while yes, the cage free farms are a positive step toward good animal husbandry and definitely should be celebrated, we can’t hide from the fact that it is also a more costly way of producing eggs.
And not only are all the eggs produced IN California required to comply with this new law, any eggs brought in from outside the state must also be from cage free environments. The implemenation of this law began on January 1st 2022.
Rather than using vertical space, now all the chickens are on the ground rather than vertical so the farmer can’t use his space as “efficiently” as before. Want to hear the great news? Instead of begin trapped in a tiny cage for their entire life, now all those chickens are free to walk around and use their muscles! So while, yes, this is a better way of producing chicken eggs, it is also a more expensive method. Which of course translates to the price of the eggs.
I did take a look at how many chicken eggs in the total US market came from California specifically. Fortunately, not as many as you might think. So while this point is part of the equation, it’s probably not a significant factor to the egg prices in the majority of the United States. But it’s DEFINITELY a contributing factor to the prices in California!
The next section is all about WHERE eggs are produced in the US.
Where are most chicken eggs produced in the United States?
I found it interesting to look into where most egg production happens in the US. The top 10 states that produce chicken eggs are as follows:
- North Carolina
As I mentioned above, the changes to the California laws ARE in deed a part of the increase in egg prices due to switching to more humane (but also more costly) egg production methods. But, because California is number 10 on the list of egg producing states, it’s probably not a significant part of why egg prices are so high across the entire United States.
This new law is for sure a contributing factor to the high price of eggs in California but I doubt that it’s affecting the prices in other states very much.
So, what can you and I do about the high price of eggs??
What can we do about the high price of chicken eggs?
Honestly?? Not much.
The reality is that the price on the shelf is the price you pay and you either choose to pay it or you don’t.
Just like when gas prices shot up really high, you either paid the price or you didn’t.
You can gripe and complain all you want, but you still have to pay the price on the shelf or at the pump.
The best thing to do when the price is high is simply to adjust.
The great news is that we are already seeing the price of eggs adjust downward. Things are smoothing out in the market and prices are beginning to settle down.
If you’d like to read more about the price of chicken eggs and the supposed chicken feed conspiracy, here’s a link to that post!
So, what EXACTLY can you do about the high egg prices?
These are just a few ideas about what you can do to adjust to the current price of eggs.
– You can adjust how much money you budget toward your grocery bill each month.
– You can adjust the amount of eggs you eat.
– Or you can look at increasing the amount of money your household earns
– Maybe you can adjust the source of where you buy eggs (looking for local sources or shopping at a farmer’s market might be great options).
– Wait it out. You can also just wait for everything to settle down and for prices to normalize.
Of course the other option is to get backyard chickens of your own to be able to get your own eggs from home.
I actually have a friend who used to have chickens and got rid of them just before the price of eggs increased drastically. She said she was really regretting not having chickens right about now.
I’m sure she is!
And I of course am really grateful that I have chickens so that I don’t have to pay the high prices that are in the stores at the moment.
But does this mean that YOU should go out and get your own flock of chickens?
So, should I get a flock of backyard chickens?
I know it may be tempting to go out and buy a chicken coop and some baby chicks (and I’ve heard of people who have done exactly that), but it may or may not be the best decision for you.
Buying your own chickens because the price of eggs is high, is kind of like buying an electric car because the price of gas went up. The higher amount you pay for the car will never pay itself off because of not paying for gas alone. The math simply doesn’t work!
Plus, it’s kind of a dramatic, knee jerk reaction that has long term consequences.
And when getting a flock of chickens, the math probably doesn’t work out either. Or if it does, it will be a VERY long break even point.
This is mostly because the initial cost of getting things set up for chickens is pretty high. Primarily the cost of the coop, but it could also be other supplies you need to get things set up such as feeders and waterers, grit, calcium, etc.
Even if you subtract out the initial setup costs, and only factor in the cost of feed and minimal ongoing supplies, it is still probably more expensive to produce your own chicken eggs than to purchase eggs at the store.
Will having my own flock save me money on eggs?
It’s certainly NOT going to be cheaper than buying the cheap white eggs that are factory farmed. If you are already in the habit of buying pasture raised organic eggs, then the cost might, eventually even itself out. But it’s going to take awhile.
So, no, gathering your own eggs from your own chickens is probably NOT going to be less expensive.
But in my opinion it IS totally worth it! If you are prepared for the long term (yet minimal amount) of work involved.
Keep reading to see if getting chickens is the right decision for you or not!
But first, a discussion about why the cheap white eggs from the store used to be sold so inexpensively.
Cheap White Eggs and Government Subsidies
I don’t know if you know this or not, but a LOT of food that comes from the grocery store in the United States is government subsidized. Which means the prices we pay is not the true cost of producing the food.
Agriculture subsidies are payments made from the government directly to farmers. Sometimes this is done to protect the farmers from market volatility (such as would happen in the dairy industry without the subsidies). Sometimes the subsidy money is used to incentivize certain production practices.
According to Stray Dog Institute, the 5 most heavily subsidized industries are, “Corn, soybeans, wheat, cotton, and rice. Other programs exist for sugar and dairy farmers. Meat producers benefit indirectly through subsidized, below-cost prices for animal feed.”
What the reality of this means, however, is that the price you pay at the checkout counter, is NOT the true price of producing the food.
So when you try to produce the food at home, you are surprised at how expensive it actually is.
And at the very least, how much work it takes.
The government subsidy practices that have been happening in our country have skewed the prices so much that we literally can’t understand the actual cost of producing food.
Because of the government subsidies, we cannot compare apples to apples when comparing homegrown eggs to store bought eggs.
What a typical American (myself included) THINKS food costs to produce and what it ACTUALLY costs without government subsidies are drastically different amounts.
I personally believe that producing some of your own food sure makes you aware of the actual, real cost it takes to grow that food + the amount of work involved!
And it also makes you appreciate your food more!!
Questions to ask yourself before getting chickens.
- Do I have the time to care for a flock of chickens? The time required is actually pretty minimal (once the chickens are at the adult stage and the coop is set up, of course). It only takes a couple of minutes each day to feed them and collect the eggs, and a bit more time once a month or so to clean out their coop. The majority of the time commitment comes at the very beginning while setting up a coop or raising chicks.
- Do I have the money to get the coop/brooder set up? The initial outlay can be pretty hefty, depending on the setup that you get. The coop and run are probably the most expensive parts. I built my own coop when I first got started which did save me money but took a lot of time. If you are starting with chicks, you will also need supplies for brooding chicks such as a brooder box, a chick warmer, chick feeders and waterers, and special chick food and grit.
- Do I have the desire to raise chickens? You also need to WANT to have chickens. I was pretty nervous about it when I bought my first couple of hens. But I quickly got used to everything and really enjoyed the process! You definitely need to be prepared for the inevitable chore of cleaning out the coop. This is part of the package deal and being willing to get your hands dirty is part of the job of being a chicken owner. If you like things to be meticulous and tidy and can’t handle anything gross, then getting a flock of chickens might not be a good fit for you. Getting chickens just because egg prices are high is not a good enough reason.
- Is my lifestyle conducive to having a backyard flock? If you are someone who travels for 3 weeks out of each month or if you have an office job that keeps you away from home from sunup to sunset, then chickens may not be a good fit for you. However, if your work schedule is flexible with plenty of days off during the week or you homeschool your kids, for example, then chickens might be a great fit for you!
If you have read through this list and have decided that, YES, chickens are right for you, then I encourage you to get a copy of my FREE EBOOK called Beginner’s Guide to Raising Chickens.
It will help you figure out everything you need to get started! It includes answers to questions such as these:
- Do you need to start with chicks or adults?
- Do you want to raise chickens for eggs or meat?
- What to feed your chickens
- What kind of coop do you need?
- What breeds are best?
Pros and cons of having a flock of backyard chickens.
To help you even more in your decision making, here are some of the pros and cons of raising your own chickens.
- FRESH EGGS! Straight from your own backyard!! What can be better than that?
- The satisfaction of producing some of your own food
- The manure to fertilize your soil
- They help keep bug populations down
- They are great at tilling a garden or grass or scratching out other vegetation
- Potentially fresh meat (if you harvest them for meat)
- They are fun to watch. High class entertainment for sure!
- Fairly inexpensive pets that produce eggs for you.
- If you have a small flock, you can still leave for a long weekend and they can take care of themselves with extra food and water provided.
- They make a great conversation topic
- Kids love them! Great learning opportunity/very educational.
- They can be noisy, especially if you have a rooster
- They can be smelly. The coop and run area can get a bit stinky. This can be reduced by cleaning it regularly.
- You may have local ordinances/laws that prohibit keeping chickens
- The coop needs to be cleaned regularly
- The cost of eggs is probably not lower than the stores
Aren’t backyard chicken eggs free food?
I recently went to a bridal shower for a friend who was getting married. While I was there, I was chatting with another friend, named Becky, who was in attendance too. The conversation turned to the price of eggs because they were at their peak at the moment and everyone was having a bit of sticker shock.
My friend, Becky, knew that I had chickens because she had been to my home before. She turned to me and said, “But you don’t have to pay these crazy egg prices because you have chickens.”
My response to her was, “True, I don’t. But I DO have to pay for the feed and other supplies.”
She hadn’t realized that there are still costs involved when you have your own chickens and that my eggs that I get from my girls are not, in fact, free.
Yes, there are ways to feed chickens for free or nearly free, but it’s tricky if not impossible to get to a truly NO cost chicken feed scenario.
Plus there are the costs of the initial set up of the coop, feeders, waterers, etc. Not to mention the cost of the bird itself. Which will be less if you start with chicks and more if you start with adults.
Should you get chickens?
So, to answer the question of if you should get chickens or not, like I said before, the answer is it depends.
It depends on your reasons for wanting to get chickens. On your lifestyle. On your time/money that you have available.
Know that it may or may not actually save you money over buying eggs at the store. And will likely be more expensive than store bought eggs.
But is it worth it? Absolutely!
Do I encourage as many people as possible to get chickens of their own? Of course!!
But I don’t want you to jump into something you’re not prepared for either.
A flock of backyard chickens can bring so much more than just eggs too.
Just the satisfaction of producing some of your own food is enormous!
Not to mention the food security of having egg producing machines right in your own backyard.
There really is nothing quite like going out to the coop and collecting a freshly laid egg that is still warm. It’s pretty incredible.
And chickens are so much fun to watch. They make the best entertainment!
If you have read this post and feel like you are ready to jump into the world of chicken ownership, be sure to grab a copy of my free ebook, Beginner’s Guide to Raising Chickens.
And welcome to the chicken owner club!
Happy chicken raising,