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Reader Tip: We save $100 a year by owning laying hens

I loved this money-saving idea from Alice of Farewell, Office:

While I realize that not everyone has the space to do this, we save a lot of money (and earn a little, too!) by owning four laying hens.

Initially, we didn’t know how well this would work and so we went for minimal investment. We bought four chicks for $2 each and set them up in an unused dog kennel and an old dog house with straw inside for a nest. Now that they are full-grown, each hen lays an average of one egg per day and, because we have mild winters, they lay year-round. We get an average of two dozen eggs per week from our hens. We keep a dozen for our family and sell a dozen to friends or family for $2 per dozen.

This gives us $8 per month to pay for feed to supplement their diet, in addition to the scraps we feed them. This means that we pay essentially nothing for having free-range eggs year-round, saving us a good $100 per year.

This has worked so well that we just bought four new chicks, and next year we are going to add four more. Taking care of 8 – or 12! – isn’t any harder than taking care of four. You just throw them a cup of feed every day and collect the eggs. This is a perfect chore for my 7-year-old and we’ve decided this is going to be his job and business, with his savings portion going to his college savings account. -Alice

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  • nelia says:

    I love the idea but my HOA might not like it so much. Here where I live free range eggs are 4.50 per dozen, that will be even better savings. That is one of the few things I am willing to spend extra because the eggs are just so much better than the store.

  • I grew up with laying hens and LOVED it. Unfortunately we live in city limits and our city code is ridiculous (we can have up to three birds and two other livestock, but not five birds…what??). We’re going to try applying for an exemption so we can have 6-8 hens, but we’ll probably wait until next year.

  • Rae says:

    This is going to sound really stupid but I am curious so I’m going to ask anyway… are they loud and/or stinky? I said something about maybe I should get a hen or two since we love eggs so much but I was told they are stinky (and I have a small yard) and don’t want the neighbors to get upset.

    • Tarah says:

      Just like any animal, it depends on your chickens (with the noise). We’ve had some that weren’t very loud, and the ones we have now are extremely loud in the mornings…and when the cat comes around. They aren’t too stinky, but my back yard is covered in chicken poop. If you were to keep them in a chicken coop then the mess would be contained and not bad at all. We just let ours roam, with a tiny coop for laying eggs and sleeping. You wouldn’t need a lot of space though.

    • Alice says:

      I’ve never noticed that they are loud or stinky. We live on about 3/4 of an acre and they are in the back corner of our yard but still close to our back patio. I have never noticed the smell and no one has ever commented on it. They cluck but since we don’t have roosters, they do not crow and I don’t even notice the clucking unless I am in the coop feeding them. We also have two ducks and I will say that they are LOUD, epecially our female. She quacks loudly and incessantly and I definitely notice her when I am working in the yard. The ducks do dig for grubs but the chickens only scratch and do not tear up the yard. The grass that the chickens kill will simply grow back if we ever decide to stop. We will not have to deal with holes and trenches. I think they are very easy. It was my husband’s idea and I was very wary at first, but now I’m sold.

      • Rae says:

        we have like .2 acres so I do mean small lol. Maybe I can borrow some to see how it works for us 😛

        • catherine says:

          We have .19 acres and have had up to six chickens. We built a chicken tractor out of pallet wood since my husband could get really good quality pallets from his work. We have not hatched from eggs but we get chicks about 3 days old from a local farm that raises heritage breed chickens. When they are about two months old and still in the garrage, I can occasionally smell that we have chickens when I am in the garrage but once they are outside, we can’t even tell they are there. I will say that they poop wherever they are so I do spend a good amount of time cleaning off our patio but the rewards are totally worth it. My kids (4&2) love them and I’ve taken them to their preschool before to let all the kids see them. We only had one hen survive from last year so we’ve got one hen and five chicks. I’d say, go for it! They are actually cool pets and mine get along with my dogs just fine. If you want any more info about chickens on a small lot and how we manage, feel free to shoot me an email.

        • Cathy says:

          We’re also on 1/5 of an acre and have 10 chickens, 9 hens and a rooster. The rooster is a bit loud but so far no neighbors have complained. One actually told me she enjoys hearing him! However, if we get complaints we will get rid of him. The hens are only a bit loud when laying eggs. They are pretty proud of themselves and do their little “bock bock bock” thing then. They also do it for each other. It sounds like they’re out there singing “I laid an egg!”. “She laid an egg”. “Yeah, she laid an egg, woo-hoo!”. They really carry on but it’s just funny, not annoying. We normally get at least 7 eggs a day this time of year (up to 9 per day) even though some of our girls are in their 3rd laying season.

    • Alice says:

      I have never noticed that they are loud or stinky. We live on 3/4 of an acre and our chicken coop is in the back corner, but still close to our patio. I have never noticed the smell and no one has ever commented on it. They are not loud, and since we do not have roosters, there isn’t any crowing. They do cluck; however, I never notice it unless I’m in the coop itself. We also have 2 ducks and I will say that they are loud, especially the female who quacks very loudly. I certainly notice her when I am working the backyard. The ducks also dig in the ground for grubs, but the chickens simply scratch – no holes or trenches in the yard. I will admit that this was my husband’s idea and I was wary, but now I am sold!

  • RachaelP says:

    I’ve been thinking about doing this! We can have a small number of hens inside our city limits. It would be nice to be able to get eggs as well as chicken that’s hormone free and affordable!

  • Freebies says:

    I so want to do this- can’t in the house we are in now.. maybe someday.

    We have have a name chosen.. Chick Ann!!


    • Alice says:

      We only bought one to start and my son named her Henny. Then we added the other three and he simply calls them The Three Stooges. I wonder what he’ll do with the 4 new ones!

  • cathy says:

    I’ve been thinking of doing this myself. We live in a rural area with plenty of hawks, coyotes, foxes so I don’t think they would be around very long. If anyone has any tips on this, I’d love to hear them. thx.

    • Shaunna says:

      We live a rural area with all those other critters too. We have a fenced in area (all 4 sides and the top too) attached to a hen house – we let the ladies “free range” during the day – once the sun starts going down they just all go into the house on their own. Then we close the gate and they are safe for the night. If we are gone for the day – they don’t get to “free range” for the day – but just get to scratch around in the fenced area! I have seen plans for hen houses with fenced in yards that are on wheels that look like they would be wonderful on the web.

    • Alice says:

      We have a lot of that, too. Actually, we are having an epidemic of coyotes here. When we first started we did lose some our small ones to something…hawk, coyote, who knows. We have a covered chicken coop where we lock them at night but they roam during the day. After losing a few the first time, we now keep them caged until they are 2 months are so. For the first month, we keep them in a small cage in our house and let them outside only when we can supervise. For the second month, we have a larger cage in the coop and again only turn them loose under supervision. After 3 months, we treat them as we do our adults and we’ve never lost another one.

    • kjs says:

      We have issues with skunks, raccoons, oppossums, etc… Generally speaking, if the chickens are out during the day, they are fine. Always put them away at night. We have a “house” for them to lay their eggs in and an old dog kennel for them to be outside. We put chicken wire over the top and around the sides to keep visitors out. We have lost some chickens over the years to various animals, but that usually just meant we had a hole in the fence we needed to fix. Honestly, the skunks are the worst. They smell and you know they are in your yard. Not fun. But, having chickens and fresh eggs are worth it. Trust me, a store bought egg doesn’t even come close to a fresh egg. You wouldn’t think there is much of a difference but there is!! (By the way, we have an acre.)

  • I went to a gardening class over the weekend, and there was a couple there promoting their “own backyard chickens” class. They said it was near impossible to get hatchlings right now because of the popularity of backyard chickens. Anyone else hear of this?

    • GK says:

      Just this morning it was advertized that they are selling chicks and hens at Running’s in Rapid City, SD. Every spring they have at least 100 chicks they sell!

    • Alice says:

      We knew we wanted to buy 4 more this spring and my husband found a place that would have some ready on April 1. He called a week after that and they’d all been sold! That quickly! However, he found another place that still had some within an hour. The 4 we just bought are a different breed from our first 4 and I am anxious to see the difference in eggs; however, these hold the record for the longest laying season so I think that’s a good sign!

    • Andrea Q says:

      Yes. Having backyard chickens is a trendy, cool thing to do at the moment.

    • is sold out until Monday 🙂

      • Tami Calhoun says:

        If you have a Tractor Supply nearby, they have chicks available for another couple of weeks.

        • Michele says:

          Just an FYI, our Tractor Supply has instituted a minimum purchase on chicks. You have to buy 6 no less. Not sure if this is a policy for just our store or all TSC but it would be good to call first. 🙂

    • Nicole says:

      Wait two weeks. Then they’ll have more. Even when chicken raising wasn’t trendy, people would buy chicks like crazy for Easter. Because they’re cute and all. (:eye roll:)

  • Juanita says:

    How much of a winter can the chickens tolerate? (ohio)

    • Star says:

      Some chickens can tolerate cold better than others. Read up on the different types of chickens, and choose one that is cold hardy. We got the Rhode Island Red and I know that they are cold hardy!

    • birthrightrose says:

      We are in upstate NY and have done well with any dual purpose bird (can be raised for meat or eggs…they are heavier and can withstand the cold) Last year we bought 6 at Tractor Supply and they were supposed to be one kind, but ended up being Leghorns (those skinny commercial layers) They didn’t do well this winter. They all lived, but had cracked and frostbitten combs. I would make sure that they are dual purpose, Rhode Island Reds, Barred Rocks, Black Australops are all great. Chickens can take the cold very well. They do need a place out of the wind to lay and nest though.

    • Sandie Emig says:

      We have 39 laying hens, and winter them every year. Our hens are Rhode Island Reds and Brown Sexlinks. We live on the Mason-Dixon line in PA, so we get the snow and cold temps. Be sure to have a heat lamp on in the winter to provide both heat and light. Also be sure that the water never freezes. We use a heated base and it works fine. Insulate the coop, leaving only the small chicken door open. We sometimes open the screened window on mild days, but not often. As long as the hens are fairly warm, have water to drink, and have between 13 – 16 hours of light, they should lay all year.

  • Trixie says:

    I grew up raising chickens in Michigan. We kept a nice coop for them with straw filled nesting boxes. The coop was not insulated and the chickens would free range out doors most winter days with the exception of snow storms. At dusk they automatically went into the coop to roost and we just closed the door. Keep in mind if your hens free range over a large farm yard, you will probably find little nests of eggs here and there; don’t eat these unless you know they are fresh. It tends to happen more in the spring when they want to set. Chickens are very inexpensive to raise and offer lots of cheap, wholesome meat.

  • Sheila says:

    We had chickens for about 3 years. If you live in the North where you get snow and freezing temperatures, having chickens is a LOT more work than it is in more temperate climates. I’m had chickens when we lived in SoCal and it was no trouble at all. But we live in North Idaho now and honestly, we found that it cost more to have them than we got in eggs. In winter keeping them warm and laying is a challenge. We had heat lamps and heaters, but they didn’t like them and actually attacked the lights and broke them every few days. But if you don’t keep them warm, they don’t lay and their combs freeze. From about November to April they stopped laying regardless. Oh, and in the summer when the sun starts lightening the sky at 4 a.m. they are up and about and rather noisy, often waking the kids. Not fun for mom during the summer! The whole thing just became too much for the return if you ask me. We sold the whole lot — coop & all — on Craigslist last summer. This winter was such a joy not to have to deal with them! I would frankly rather pay for the eggs.

    • Andrea Q says:

      Thank you for sharing this, Sheila! Chickens can be a lot of work and sometimes it isn’t worth the savings. I’ve been researching it for months and we decided not to get chickens. I’ll buy free range eggs from the 4-H kids instead (and still save money).

    • dana says:

      if you place a red bulb in your heat lamp, you can leave it on 24/7 and the chickens won’t even notice.

  • ok, this might sound like a dumb question..but how do you keep them from flying off if they run free in the back yard. my aunt has little banty hens and a rooster as well now, but they have built a cage in their yard with roosting and nesting areas and it looked very costly to get going. if you really only need like a dog house or something i might be more for this, but our store eggs have been $0.49/dozen here for quite some time (im sure they will go up as gas prices do) so now its now a big issue, but we were always given yard eggs growing up and they are sooo much better.

    • Alice says:

      To keep them from flying, we clip their wings, and I could not agree with you more, I am doing this to have better eggs, yes, but also to save money. If it costs me too much money, it’s just not worth it. When we started, we used an old dog kennel and dog house with straw in it, but we just graduated! They now have a real coop with nests, but we did it every cheaply – probably $100. My husband was very resourceful and recycled things we had around the house and some things, such as fencing, were given to us. For example, we used old plastic milk crates lined with straw for nests. It may not be as cute as some of the coops you’ll find online, but it is certainly not an eyesore. I am very pleased with the way it came out and with the small investment it required.

    • Kendra says:

      I’ve had chickens (mostly bantams) for 10 yrs now and have never had to clip their wings to keep them from flying off. They roam our back barnyard, which is fenced but have never tried to fly over the fence. If you do get started with a few hens, they’ll learn where “home” is as long as you keep them in their pen for the first couple of months. They’ll learn this is where they get lay pellets, water and where they go to roost. After you begin letting them out to freerange (or to get grass/bugs), if there’s any time you need to get them back in their coop–I’m talking before dusk when they naturally go back in to roost–just hollar at them and toss some treats (bread, scratch, etc) inside their coop. Treats are a good way to lure them back in, say if you need to make a run to the store and don’t want to leave them out.

  • Courtney says:

    I grew up on a farm and one of my jobs was caring for the chickens. Having spent my childhood cleaning the chickenhouse (and trying to dodge those nasty, aggressive roosters!) I have absolutely no desire to own chickens ever again 🙂 Our neighbors have free-range, organically-fed chickens and I LOVE having access to farm-fresh eggs without having to do any of the work involved!

    • Lea Stormhammer says:


      I spent summers on my grandparents farm and my job was also to feed the chickens, clean the chickenhouse, collect the eggs and dodge the roosters! I also have no desire whatsoever to have hens. 🙂

      While I love fresh eggs, we use eggs for eating only once every few weeks and go through about a dozen eggs every 2-3 weeks. I can get eggs for at the grocery store $1 or less so that’s what I buy. If we used eggs like crazy, I’d probably find someone to buy them from.

      If some day I have a need for farm-fresh eggs and have no other access, I might consider having hens. For now, I’ll buy my eggs from the store! 🙂

      I will say that this is a lovely idea if enjoy the chickens and the eggs. For me, it’s not worth it.

    • Lisa says:

      I too grew up on a farm and have no desire to raise chickens 🙂 We too had nasty aggressive roosters! They’d sneak up and get you when you weren’t looking. I also had to collect the eggs from hens that would peck at me when I tried to get their eggs. I would put the eggs in my pant pockets (back when baggy jeans were popular) and once I ran into the side of the barn by accident and smashed all the eggs in my pockets, yuck!! It may be the reason why I don’t like eating eggs today 😉

      • Courtney says:

        I was recently talking to a little girl in my son’s class whose family lives on a farm. When I asked her how their chickens were doing, she said, “Fine…but I sure am scared of that rooster!” I said, “I hear ya, hon!”

        I absolutely dreaded having to open the chicken house door every morning because the rooster would come storming out the door and attack me. I would beg my older brothers to open the door for me, but they wouldn’t (they didn’t want any part of that rooster, either!) So I got really good at flinging that door open and then running for my life. 🙂

  • Mary Jackson says:

    Having chickens for eggs may be nice but if you calculate the start up cost, add in the price of the feed and pay your self minimum wage to care for them you end up losing money. (even with the sale of the extra eggs).

    • Crystal says:

      She detailed out in the post how it’s not costing them anything. However, it wouldn’t necessarily be like that for everyone. As always, it depends upon your situation.

      • I think it also depends on what kind of eggs you currently buy, what the area prices are, and what’s important to you.

        Due to some medical stuff, I’m supposed to only be eating hormone-free eggs (or anything else that comes from animals), which means I have to get organic. Around here, the cheapest I’ve found organic eggs is $3/carton, and I love eggs, but that’s kind of pricey!

        I will say that I think it should be something you enjoy, not something you dread, but I think there are several factors to think through when deciding whether your ROI is enough to do it. I also like the idea of it being a small business for her kid. The most I did as a little kid was a lemonade stand!

        • Cathy says:

          It definitely depends on that. We were purchasing free-range local eggs prior to getting our hens, and those cost $3.80 and upward per dozen. Even though we buy organic feed, the cost is $1.75 (less in summer when they forage more) per dozen…we’re on 1/5 of an acre so that would probably be less where there is more to forage available.

    • Heather Harman says:

      It really depends on the cost of eggs in your area. I ‘m shocked at the low prices I’m reading here! In my part of VA, regular eggs at the store are currently $1.79 a dozen.

      • Maria says:

        Yeah, the eggs at our grocery store are a good $2 a dozen, for non-organic, non-free range!

        So for us, the cost of feed still makes having our own chickens cheaper than buying eggs!

    • Star says:

      Do you add the cost of paying yourself when you stop in the store to pick up eggs? What about when you cook dinner? Clean your house? I think there are things that we do for ourselves that don’t necessarily involve paying ourselves minimum wage!

      • Jennifer C. says:

        I also think it’s invaluable what you’re teaching your children in raising the chickens, selling the eggs, etc. A family in our church has a son who has decided he really wants to be a farmer as a result of his parents’ branching out of their comfort zone and letting him raise some chickens, turkeys, and even 4 cows this spring!

  • Alice H. says:

    We’ve had chickens for many years and it’s not as easy as “You just throw them a cup of feed every day and collect the eggs.” I would like to have seen a meaningful post on how to actually take care of chickens. They need the proper diet, with a source of calcium like oyster shells and grit. They need a house with perches so that they can roost in the evening. Their house and yard needs to be cleaned regularly. This post didn’t really make all that effort and expense clear. And it also didn’t address what happens when egg-laying tapers off, as it does after the first year or two. We keep chickens so that we have direct access to free-range organic eggs. That’s the real benefit of keeping chickens. Keeping chickens – at least the responsible way – is not a money-saver as it was depicted in this article.

    • Andrea Q says:

      Exactly, Alice!

      Chickens only lay regularly for a couple of years (maybe three at most). They live 8 to 10 years. If you don’t eat the meat (or give them away to someone who will), that’s a lot of years of retirement.

      If you’re considering chickens, there’s a lot of info out there on the web and at the library. Please research it first, because it’s a big responsibility.

      • Alice says:

        Yes, the post was brief and I did not outline our entire setup. Our dog kennel was one that we were no longer using (no cost) and was 20X20 – with a larger fenced in area for 4 chickens. We also had a place for them to perch; however, again, my husband is very resourceful and because our fencing was hurricane fencing we were able to create multipe layers of perches by simply sliding discarded metal pipes in the holes of the fencing. They have a coop with nests and a perch and have an appropriately sized area for grazing. We also bought a bag of oyster shells once; however, as we did not notice a difference in our eggs or their shells, we did not buy another bag after we finished the first. We do live in the South and, therefore, our winters are mild. Our hens did not require any special care in the winter and they laid nearly all 365 days without any changes made to their care. My husband also works in the oilfield – as many men do here – and he was able to get some of the supplies we needed for free as they were being discarded. I did not mean to oversimplify; however, we do spend only 10 minutes a day feeding and collecting eggs. We also have friends who will use them for meat when they no longer lay. Our situation may not work for everyone, but we have managed to do this for relatively little money, we are able to eat eggs we could not otherwise afford, my son is learning responsibility and he is earning some extra money at the same time.

      • dana says:

        LOL! Chicken Retirement???
        These are not pets (unless you make them so) if you feel bad chopping their heads off, it is very easy to find someone that wants them to as a natural way to keep bugs out of the yard.

        • Andrea Q says:

          Some families will choose to make them pets and then choose the retirement option over eating them or letting others eat them, so it should be considered when making the investment. It seems that many people think chickens continue laying eggs for their entire life, which isn’t true.

    • Courtney says:

      I agree! Also, I’ve noticed that many people who have backyard chickens keep them in tiny little coops with enclosures that are maybe a few square feet at most. That is *not* enough room for chickens – they need room to roam!

      • Lauren says:

        If they are in moveable coops, those few feet can be enough, especially if they are the bantam (small) size. Lots of chicken tractors can be pulled around the yard every few days to give them access to fresh grass and bugs. is a GREAT site for beginning chicken owners.

      • Megan says:

        I’m with you Courtney, but I had to laugh when I read your comment as conventional chicken farmers pack those poor little chickens in so tightly that they can barely move! A few feet square would be luxury for some of those conventionally raised chickens (which is the whole point, I suppose, of raising your own – you know you’re doing it ethically).

        • Courtney says:

          I agree that factory farm chickens are raised in horrible conditions! However, I was more comparing it to how we raised chickens when I was growing up, or how the farmers around us do – with a roomy chicken house and a large fenced chicken yard. I cringe when I see chickens jammed into tiny little coops and enclosures.

    • Alice says:

      Yes, I did neglect to say that they do have a place to perch, but again it did not cost us anything. My husband is resourceful and because the fence is made of hurricane fencing, he was able to slide discarded pieces of metal pipe through the fencing creating multiple levels for perching. We also have put down oyster shell; however, our shells are hard without it and since we have run out, we haven’t bought another bag. I understand that our situation may not work for everyone. We are in the South and have mild winters, and my husband works in the oilfield and has access to some of the supplies we need. We are recycling things that would be discarded and saving money on eggs and eating a better quality of eggs than we could afford. I did not mean to oversimply our experience; however, we do simply go out every day for 10 minutes and feed and collect eggs. We are not investing a lot of time and money into this and our hens are doing well and producing approximately 1 egg/day year round. When they stop laying, I do have friends who will use them for meat.

    • Sarah says:

      Agreed. I’m disappointed in this post. While I’m all for people keeping chickens and being productive, this post really doesn’t give an accurate picture of raising chickens. If you do it purely to save money (and I’m not saying that the author is) and are just going to “throw” feed at the chickens, I would have concerns. I do appreciate the opportunity for young children to learn and earn money, but this post really concerns me. Maybe the author is exaggerating about how little effort they put into their animals, but I hear of too many people getting into this and not being able to handle it (kind of like parents getting little bunnies this time of year and then giving them up soon after.)

      I know this is a money-saving site, not a place for detailed info on how to raise animals in a responsible manner. But I wish the post at least made it clear that it involves work, commitment, and some daily effort. Perhaps links to information about RESPONSIBLE chicken care would have been helpful. If you are considering this, get in touch with your local extension or 4-H … or find someone who really cares about

      • Alice says:

        Our 8 chickens have 3/4 of an acre to roam and an enclosed chicken coop with perches for the evening. They are well feed and my son considers them his pets. One of them even sits and waits to be picked up. We also have a dog and we all interact together when we are outside. Still I maintain that once setting up the coop, they require little time and money to care for. We have Barred Rocks and Australorps and they are known for their quiet, easy disposition, as well as being good layers.

        • Maria says:

          One of our chickens follows me around like a puppy, haha.

          And I have to agree that they don’t take much effort to care for, in a good set-up. My husband fills their water and grain every few days, scraps just get thrown into their yard. So every few days it might take ten minutes to care for them, but otherwise it’s just picking up the eggs! And every few months their indoors gets cleaned out, new shavings are layed down, etc. But those shavings and any poops get thrown into a compost situation and later used on our gardens. Free compost, bonus!

      • Jillbert says:

        She sounds responsible to me. We’ve kept backyard hens for several years. It really is easy. I’ve never figured out how much money we save or spend on keeping them because they are like pets to us. Pets that give us delicious eggs. I would hate for someone to think we neglect them because there are days they only get food and fresh water. There really isn’t more to it. Yes, we clean out the hen house a few times/year. Yes, we give them scraps and treat. The kids pick them up and cuddle them (we have a hen that loves this…..also one that does NOT). Some days they get more attention (yesterday, I sat in their fenced enclosure on a stool, reading a book while they milled about me….), most days they do not. They are healthy, thriving, and seem pretty content scratching around their enclosure so I think all is well. And all is pretty easy as far as pet care (having a high-need crazy (but much loved) dog….these birds are a cinch).

    • Kendra says:

      Yes, I also noted that the author thought her hens were laying throughout the year because of the mild winters they had, when in fact it’s because her hens are young.

      • dana says:

        no matter the age, if the winter is very cold, they will stop, or slow laying. In our years of raising laying hens, age didn’t have anything to do with stopping in the winter.

      • Tami Calhoun says:

        My first year pullets almost always layed through the winter. 2nd year pullets didn’t. You can also encourage them to lay for longer during the winter with extended lighting in their coop. But I don’t really recommend that because they do need their rest. Winter time is their time to take a break from laying.

      • Michele says:

        I live in Florida, so mine did lay year around. From her responses, she is Southern too so I am sure this is the reason as well.

    • Kathryn says:

      For us, the start-up cost was very high (we did not have anything to work with like Alice did). We first did a tractor for the chickens (for nighttime), but even in the city a raccoon or possum got a couple of then by digging under at night. Devoting part of the yard to a permanent coup helped a lot (could bury fencing a few inches below the ground).
      In central Texas our winters are mild, but even with lights they stopped laying (both first and second year).
      With about 0.2 of an acre in backyard space, the poop from 6 chickens was all over the yard. With very little children wanting to play in the yard, this was a problem for me. I may rethink the setup and try again when I have kids old enough to help and enjoy it.
      I went to a private elementary school ( that had chickens the kids took care of and sold eggs from, as well as managed the corporation. I have amazing memories from this and encourage this type of learning!

  • I love the idea of this. We live in an apartment, so it wouldn’t be possible, but eventually when we buy a house we might consider this. I only know of one other farm around here where I can buy free range eggs and it is a 30 minute drive and the owner is extremely hard to get ahold of. We can also buy them at the health food store, but since I am trying to lower our grocery bill by a large percent, we can’t always afford the marked up prices at the store. I think this is a wonderful idea!

  • Andrea Q says:

    Organic eggs cost $3.49 to $4.49 per dozen at the local grocery store. I can buy them from 4-H kids or local farmers for $2.50 to $3 per dozen, which saves me about $50 per year (we eat a lot of eggs!).

    We had a chance to get four free chickens and I was really tempted to go for it, but when we priced materials for a coop, it just wasn’t worth it the money or the time.

    Chickens need 3 to 5 sq feet of living area per bird. They need to be protected from predators (including dogs) and if you live in a harsh climate, they’ll need an insulated coop and maybe a heat source.

    • Andrea Q says:

      Also, before you make the commitment, try to visit someone that has chickens. I grew up on a small farm, but I had forgotten how they smell. There’s something about the odor that I can’t tolerate, even though most other farm animals don’t bother me.

    • birthrightrose says:

      LOL! We were not as smart as you were about planning coop costs! We were not really going into chicken ‘farming’ (we have 9 hens) for money savings, but because we thought it would be fun to get our feet wet into country living with forgiving birds. We built a portable coop from the plans on Mother Earth News. That worked for the first few months but we soon learned it wouldn’t work year round. We built a coop, a proper one, under our carport. It took us one entire weekend and $300 in materials. In hindsight we could have done it for less, but we love our girls and they are worth it. I built my own water heater for the winter from a terracotta pot and light bulb learned from youtube. A friend recently started buying our feed in exchange for eggs.

  • Karen G says:

    before everyone runs out to buy chickens – be aware of whether or not you are allowed to have farm animals where you live. For example, my neighborhood is not zoned for farm animals and they are illegal to own – you can get a fine and the animals will be removed.

  • Jeni says:

    I have close family friends who raise quail for the same purposes of saving money on quail eggs. They choose to incubate some of the eggs and allow them to hatch. There would be no need to “purchase” new quail (or chicken in this scenario).

  • Cristinia says:

    We have 5 girls and no roosters- WE LOVE HAVING THEM! They are so much fun on top of getting fresh farm NO chemical/growth hormone eggs! They are great pets, are not stinky (we clean out the coop every once in a while with bleach water), they are fun to watch around the yard provide us with more than enough eggs( usually 4-5 a day and on a slow day- 2) My boys love feeding them, holding them and collecting eggs. Cathi- we have the same predators here as well and after a few sad losses, have built a predator proof run and coop. During the day we let them out with supervision and as Shaunna said, we do not let them out if we are not home. They still have plenty of room to roam in their run and I give them lots of table scraps on those days.

  • We would LOVE to have chickens. For now we happily buy most of our eggs from a dear friend. They taste so much better than store bought and have so much more nutrition.

  • Lauren says:

    This was going to be my tip to save $100! We have three hens (Ginger, Mary Anne and Mrs. Howell) and not only do they provide more than enough eggs for our family, they eat our food garbage and provide compost for my garden. My children LOVE the chickens, and feeding and watering them is the chore of my 6 year old, and collecting the eggs is the job of my 4 year old.

  • Dawn says:

    I raise chickens/ducks/quail here in NY, I hatch out chicks and sell them at the local auctions or on CL or sell fertile hatching eggs (I get 8.00 a dozen for my Purebred Ameraucanas, Silkies go for more ) There are a LOT of challanges to raising livestock, mainly predators. I lost 8 Silkie hens this winter to a Hawk (along with a Barred Rock hen and two Call ducks) and I lost a few more Silkies because it was just too cold here. There are a lot of good sites that have info on the different breeds of chickens, their egg laying abilities and how well suited they are for your climate. All of mine just started laying this last month, so its many months of feeding them with no return (They don’t have a heated/lighted coop, but they were fine. I had to move the silkies inside my rabbitry though) I’d also suggest looking into a heritage breed of chicken, there are many wonderful breeds that need help to save the breed!

    My ducks are far and away louder than my chickens are. I have Roosters because I sell fertile eggs, so it can get noisy out there if I have multiple pens going, but I got used to the noise. They can and do poop on everything, so if you do not enjoy chicken poo on your front stoop, you’ll need to pen them up.

    So my suggestion is to not just think about the value of fresh healthy eggs, but possibly some extra income from selling chicks/fertile eggs if you have the space and can have a Rooster. I’d much rather sell a dozen eggs for hatching for 8.00 than 2.00 for eating, lol

    Its going to be a challenge doing all the farming stuff this year, I just found out I am pregnant with my second child at 40, yikes. Looks like I will need that extra income to pay for baby stuff! :O

    Some good web sources:

    Backyardchickens (dot) com
    Henderson’s Chicken breed chart: (dot) html
    American Livestock Breeds Conservitory:

  • Megan says:

    How old do they have to be before they start laying eggs?

  • We just bought a house on about 1/3 an acre and I’ve really been considering things. We have 4 dogs who would probably LOVE to chase them so we’d need a coop for sure. I’m definitely looking into building a simple coop. All the ones I’ve seen online look really complicated, I love that you just used a dog house and dog kennel. That makes me feel like I don’t HAVE to have this elaborate custom built coop.

    • birthrightrose says:

      Those dogs may just be put into their place by the hens! Ours do fine with our dog, and by free ranging the birds, we have not had to use Frontline tick/flea oil on the dog for 2 years. The chickens eat all of the bugs! We live in the mountains, in deep country so the ticks are really an issue for many around here!
      Not buying tick treatment for the dog is $savings!

      • I certainly hope they would put them in their place, but I definitely don’t want to risk it! The dogs are inside most of the day so maybe I can have the chickens free range and just put them in when it’s time. Then again, I don’t know how much success I’d have chasing down several chickens everyday!

    • Wendy says:

      I have your concerns too. I have 2 large outside dogs and one that has killed our neighbors chickens in the past. He’s older now so I’m debating on whether to risk it. On one side, I would love chickens to help control our tick/bug problems in our yard. One the other side, we eat very few eggs. A dozen lasts us about 1 month. I would love chickens but an still considering if it’s worth the trouble.

  • Trish Y. says:

    I can give some more detailed info on having chickens. I think it would definitely be difficult to save enough money to pay off the cost of your necessary supplies (coop, feeders, chicken food). However, you have to consider the price of your peace of mind when there is a salmonela scare in our national egg supply and you don’t have to blink and eye because you know what your chickens eat and where your eggs came from.
    We have 8 chickens that give us about 2 dozen eggs a week. We have a family of 7 and can go through 2 dozen a week with no problem. We live in Arkansas, and the chickens definitely slow down in production during the winter. We don’t have terribly long winters, so keeping the girls happy isn’t too terrible. We have fenced off a space in our yard with picket fencing we purchased from Lowes… It is 16×16. We clip their wings so they don’t fly out. We have dogs that keep critters away, so we don’t worry about that. The girls have a home made coop that my husband made with our children one summer using scrap wood. It has the ability to be closed up if we need to keep them inside, which we do during especially cold temps or snow. You don’t need a rooster unless you want to hatch babies, so you shouldn’t have much trouble with noise if it’s just hens. With just a few chickens, we have to clean their coop about 1 time every 2 months…and it’s awesome for the compost. Our fence is movable, so we try to move it 2 times a year so the grass can recover. We have been so tickled at their different personalities. They are very social and love to have you near them, especially if you’ve raised them from chicks. However, we don’t allow them to stay without paying rent! If they stop laying, we allow them to fulfill another purpose…and they go into the pot. There are so many good books that give great info about backyard chickens. Like any animal you own, they require your help to be the most happy… They are not maintenance free, but aren’t really a ton of work, depending on your location I guess. If you end up not liking chickens, there are lots of people that would be happy to take them off your hands. We’ve had ours for 2 years and love having them

  • Kimberly says:

    While we do not have chickens, a friend of mine has about 12. She used the Mother Earth News plans for a portable, rolling coop. That way, they can move the coop every few days to give the grass a break. Her chickens are friendly and allow the kids to pick them up~! She said that they are pretty easy to care for….

  • dee says:

    The best hens to have are black sexlinks or red sexlinks..they are a dual purpose bird. meaning meat n eggs…they are also one of the few chickens left that have strong brooding instincts if you want to allow them to hatch out chicks. the roosters arent as aggressive as others either. being a farmer i have raised many different breeds of chickens and these are the best!..the red sexlinks look pretty bad during molting season but the black sexlinks stay beautiful….dee

  • TatersMama says:

    Dumb question…but how sanitary is it to keep chickens in the backyard? I know chicken feces can carry salmonella, and I would be concerned about my kids playing in this. I suppose if we had a bigger yard this wouldn’t be an issue since you could contain it. We have talked about getting some chickens up at my in-laws (3 acres), but I’m concerned about the time and effort, as well as the sanitary aspect of it.

    • Jillbert says:

      We keep our birds in a fenced enclosure. When we let them free range, they liked to perch on my patio table and under it which meant POOP in and under it. They poop a lot. I did not like that. Also my insane dog likes to eat their poop and that just did it for me. We built them a large predator proof (hopefully) run and there they stay. I do have a small, lightweight run that we use to let one or two of the girls have a day out in the yard for some variety.

  • Brianna says:

    Ok, so from these comments I gather that, a chicken is only good for laying eggs for about 3 years, right? Then, is after that time that you would use them for meat?
    Also, I know you need a rooster for them to lay chicks but how old are they when this takes place and how can you tell the difference between a chick egg and an edible egg?? How many chicks can one hen lay??
    So interested in doing this as we eat a lot of eggs and have a great desire to raise our own…..but I also agree that it seems like such a great opportunity for the kids to learn responsibility.

    • dana says:

      A chicken is good until you have ‘laid her out’ – the higher the protein content in the feed, the better she will lay, but she will burn out faster. You CAN use them for meat after this time, but you would have to use a pressure cooker, and we found that the effort wasn’t worth the piddly amount of meat – laying hens are built different than meat birds.
      There is no difference between a fertilized egg and a non-fertile one. Unless you don’t collect them often! LOL! Both are edible; the chicks don’t start to grow until the hen has started ‘setting’ the eggs, and that is only after she has a clutch of them – a hen will usually lay an egg a day, fertile or not, in nice weather (in cold weather, she has to use some of her energy to stay warm).
      Even tho they were ‘mom’s chickens’, one of our sons was in charge of them. He would feed and water, and collect the eggs – we paid him 50 cents or a dollar a dozen (we had at least 2 dzn hens for our fam of 13). He loved the job (most days). Any chores are a great chance to learn responsibility!
      Having laying hens is one of the few things I miss about having a house – now that our family travels in our RV fulltime, we don’t have them of course. I miss having them to eat the table scraps (no meat), and I really miss REAL eggs – once you have your own, it’s painfully difficult to eat store eggs again – they are nasty! LOL!
      Chicken feed can be expensive, but you can usually find cracked grain cheap, and they LOVE garden extras – you can save a lot more money in southern climates – it gets expensive to feed them boughten feed during the winter in northern climates, and unless you run a heat lamp (red bulb), they will lay less on top of eating more…

    • dana says:

      How long a chicken will lay will depend on the breed, but also how fast you ‘lay her out’ – the higher the protein content in the feed, the better she will lay, but the better she lays, the sooner she will be burnt out. After she is done laying, you COULD eat her, but you will need a pressure cooker. We found it just wasn’t worth the effort of butchering; laying hens are built much different than meat birds, and there isn’t much there.
      There is no difference between a chick egg and an ‘edible’ egg. Unless you don’t bother to collect them for awhile! LOL! A chicken will lay regardless of fertility. A chick will not start to grow until the hen starts to set – after she has laid a clutch of eggs (collected a pile, which is why if they free range, you may find rouge nests). A hen will lay an egg a day with the right feed or nice weather. Her production will go down in cold weather if she is not being fed enough protein – she has to use some of her energy just to stay warm.
      We raised laying hens for years, and it IS a great learning/responsibility opportunity. Chickens are easy to care for, are NOT a lot of work, and the eggs are FAB!!!
      I miss having chickens – I don’t care to eat eggs for breakfast anymore since store eggs are nasty looking (no color) and have next to no taste! Too bad RV parks probably would refuse us sites while we travel if we were to pull in with chicken crates bungied to the back of the RV! ROFL!!! 🙂

    • Alice says:

      We keep it simple by not having any roosters. We just keep hens and buy our chicks rather than hatch them ourselves. It’s also quieter in our yard because we don’t have the roosters, but my neighbor has some and I actually enjoy hearing them crow – although they often begin at 4 am! So consider that before adding roosters. Our breeds – Barred Rock and Australorp – are supposed to be good laying/meat hens. I have a friend who also keeps hens and who will help us butcher them if I want, but we haven’t yet so I can not attest to the meat. Although, I would expect the meat to be tougher because they will be older. We live in Cajun country so that shouldn’t be a problem. We make A LOT of gumbo here and the long cooking time and seasonings tenderize meat very well.

  • Carrie says:

    $2 a dozen for free range eggs? At our farmer’s market in the Chicago area there are 2 vendors: one sells for $5 a dozen and one $6 a dozen, I think. Both sell out within the first few hours.

    That was last year and the way prices have gone up I would not be surprised to see them charging $6 and $7 a dozen this summer. Even the conventional eggs are over $2 a dozen at this point at a lot of stores.

    I’ve thought of this, but friends told me they spend about as much on feed as they would have spent on eggs. Maybe because of we’re in a cold-winter climate?

  • Noah says:

    I’ve been trying to talk my husband into chickens for a while now, to no avail. What we spend on good quality eggs is rediculous!

  • dana says:

    We had hens for years – and now that we RV fulltime, it is one of the few things about having a house that I miss.
    Who cares about the savings – I miss eggs with real taste! LOL! 🙂

  • Cathy's Happy Chickens says:

    This made me smile! Keeping chickens is addictive – their eggs taste much better than the store bought ones – and they are a lot of fun! However, there is work involved in caring for them such as cleaning out the coop. One of the most important things I learned with my chickens is to put an electric fence around the bottom part of their coop & run to protect them from persistent predators. It’s turned off during the day and when they all go to roost in the evening, the fence is turned on. I first started with my chickens about 4 years ago. I was concerned about eating food that I knew where it came from. I have a garden and chickens just seemed like the next step. Before I knew it, I had too many eggs for my own household to use, so the neighbors come knocking on my door Sat mornings for fresh eggs. People I worked with started buying my extra eggs & when I retired from my job, they requested regular egg deliveries! Never a dull moment when you live with chickens!

  • Stephanie says:

    When my son was in 7th grade they hatched chicks at school. We took two of the chicks and one ended up being a rooster and the other a hen. We kept them in the garage for about a month and we just used a bankers lamp to keep them warm. We built a coop using wood torn up from our old walk way and built the floor of the coop out of an old coffee table. We used chicken wire for a run area. Our only cost was for the wire and it was inexpensive. We painted it to match the garage and house and even put a little mailbox on it. We had them for for 7 years until something got in the run and killed them earlier this year :(. They were a joy to have. Got one egg a day from Feb-Sept. Feed was cheap and we feed them lost of veggie scraps. We cleaned the coop every few months which maybe took a half hour. We didn’t do anything different in the winter. Here in Va we have lots of snow and cold but the chickens did great. We are planning to get more chickens in the next week. From our experience they are very easy to take care of and are a great source of eggs. We had never had chickens before and if we can raise them anyone can!

  • Cynthia A. Heber says:

    Great idea. Would ove to do the same. But here in my town, The laws state no animals. My husband was interested in having fresh eggs. They say that chicken poo is good for the garden.

  • KW says:

    Thank you for this post! We pay $4.00 for a free range eggs and after having them for a while, I’ll never go back to store eggs. They taste much better, they look and feel different (yellows are brighter and darker, shell is good and strong, the white and yellow of the egg are not runny) and I don’t fear of diseases from eggs coming from unhealthy chickens.

    I have to wonder at the people who are making comments regarding how inhumane it is to have backyard chickens because I’ve seen pictures and read stories about the inhumane conditions of ‘store egg’ chickens. I would have to think a chicken in a coop with room to move around (even if it is less than ‘the books’ say you should have) is much more healthy and humane than being confined to a cage where it can’t even move around in unsanitary conditions.

    I guess if you’ve read every book out there about how to build the perfect coop, have the perfect nesting box, have the perfect feed, have the perfect temperatures, it would become an expensive venture. I’m willing to bet that our ancestors did just fine without all of those niceties, and I’m willing to bet they didn’t have time to do much more than throw out scraps and cups of food with all of the other responsibilities they had during those times.

    With the economy going the direction it is, I think more people will be going the way of backyard chickens, and they will ‘make do’ with the materials they have at their disposal. I just read an article about how New Orleans is being overun with chickens (post Katrina) that are thriving being left to their own devices.

    • Jamie says:

      There are a lot of great websites that show people’s chicken coops from repurposed materials. One of my favorites is where the “coop” is inside the garage and you can open the garage window to the “run” which is a caged in section outside. It doesn’t have to be fancy and backyard chickens get a much better life than any commercial hen hands down any day. If anyone thinks a commercial hen has a good life it’s time to hop on google and become aware of where your food REALLY comes from and how those animals are REALLY treated.

  • Jamel says:

    One last note…just because you’re raising your own chickens….doesn’t mean they are hormone free. Read your feed bag….unless you grow your own corn…the hormones are still in the feed.

    • Heather says:

      Thank you! A lot of people don’t realize that.
      I have family members who think that the beef and pork Grandpa raises is hormone-free. But he just buys the regular feed, and those animals are ready to butcher very quickly . . .

  • Jamie says:

    Before you buy your chickens and build a coop you should check with your city office to see what their ordinance is – that being said our city does not allow any “farm” animals (with the exception of one bunny per household) and this includes chickens, HOWEVER there is a state law here in Michigan called “The Right to Farm Act” this law overrules any city ordinances and allows you to grow or raise pretty much anything you want as long as you are selling some of what you grow – I can sell one egg and my hens will be protected under this law. Most states have some kind of a right to farm act in place. It makes sense that the government shouldn’t stand in the way of you growing your own food on your own land.
    Also hens are no more noisy usually than children playing or dogs barking, and just like any animal you need to keep up on waste removal. I do not suggest a rooster unless your city allows them as part of their ordinance. Hen’s are one of the easiest and most rewarding animals to keep if you raise them from chicks and handle them frequently they can become loyal pets that also have the benefit of providing food. There is a great website dedicated to chicken lovers that has A LOT of information at Backyard Chickens . com

  • Dianna says:

    We have 2 roosters and 6 hens at the moment. The three names that stand out the most are crispy, fried and grilled. LOL That was my 7 year olds sense of humor helping her 3 year old sister name her chickens. They got 3 chickens for Easter last year and we decided to keep them and start raising them for eggs but most importantly they are so much fun for the kids as well as gives them something to be responsible for. We live on 3 acres in arkansas. We fenced in a 16 x 20 area with some leftover fence and t posts we had from a dog yard we built. We also had the ends of logs that were milled for lumber as well as scrap wood and were able to make our coop with one side left open. We made 3 boxes (you need a box for every 3-4 hens) We left one side totally open and hang a tarp that we can roll up and down during the winter. I split my produce/food scraps that are not meat between my compost and chickens. They also get the shells back after we use the eggs. They love shells and grapes. We do not buy food very often and we get average of 5 eggs a day. We sell/give 2 dozen a week or so and keep the rest. It really only takes a few minutes to take care of them. We totally clean the roost/coop with hose etc twice a year. I love knowing my eggs are “safe” and they taste so much better.
    If you are looking for more information I can recommend the book Keeping Chickens with Ashley English – All You Need to Know to Care for a happy, Healthy Flock. Not only does it cover all you need to know to raise your own chickens from start to finish it is a great coffee table book. It is also printed with recycled materials. I got my copy off Amazon with swagbucks credit.

  • MANDY says:

    hi, i am actually looking to get some chickens. What are your’e recommendations for a breed that is good with children. We have four acres and if we get some type of farm animal than it will lower our taxes. Plus we will get fresh eggs. I would love any advice. Thank so much

    • Dawn says:

      Cochins are very docile (I had the standard variety) but I had show chickens, and they were not great layers. Silkies are very sweet chickens than lay a smaller egg and they love to hatch eggs! But you have to be careful because they do not fly and have limited visability due to their head poof they are prone to predation more than other chickens. 🙁 They also do not roost (they’re ground sleepers)

      My Ameraucanas are nice chickens and I had Rhode Island reds that were also nice birds. I’ve never had an aggresive Roo here and I’ve had lots! Now my brother, every Roo he had was nasty and would attack his kid?

      Anyone who is interested in where their food comes from should watch the movie Food, Inc. (Its really not for the faint of heart!) Factory chickens (which is what your typical grocery store eggs are, from factory farms) are usually raised in battery cages 6-8 hens to a cage, its a sad life for a chicken. 🙁 Even if you cannot raise your own chickens you may be able to find a local person with fresh eggs for sale.

      I feel better knowing what my chickens ate. I’d raise my own Beef and Pork if I had the space. ;p

    • Alice says:

      We have Barred Rock and Australorps and we live in South Louisiana. We have been pleased with these breeds – good layers, quiet and docile – but I know there are a lot of other great breeds. I look forward to getting some different breeds next spring, too.

  • Holly says:

    We’ve had a variety of different chickens for years now and I would highly recommend Plymouth Barred Rock hens for the Pacific NW. They have a great temperament, are healthy, and are great layers. We just use a heat lamp in their house in the winters and occasionally have to thaw their water, but otherwise they are very easy to maintain; just feed them, clean them regularly, clip their wings occasionally to keep them out of the road and pick up their eggs. We Love our Chickens.

  • Mary says:

    Don’t forget to donate your extra eggs to your local food bank or needy neighbors!

  • cassie says:

    I really want chickens and we have the space for them but my husband doesn’t want to do it 🙁 Our farm supply store only has ducks right now(we were in yesterday getting another tomato plant) but I hope I can talk him into letting us do this next year! The kids would love it!

    • Dawn says:

      If you’re planting tomatoes, you need to either lock up your chickens once they’re red (The tomatoes, LOL) or lock up your garden! :O They LOVE tomatoes and hate to share!

  • Anne Belley says:

    Chickens are sure popular! I have been wanting to get some for years now, and last year we even drew up the plans for the chicken yard and coop, but life just got too busy! This is a great motivator to get going on the project! I do wonder how many chickens a family of eleven who eats more than a dozen of eggs a day would need!

  • Stacy says:

    For someone who wants the free-range eggs but doesn’t want to take care of chickens, we just helped a friend with the start-up cost in exchange for a share of eggs. She wanted the chickens at her house as a learning experience for her kids but couldn’t afford the start-up cost herself (we bought a coop). I and another family chipped in 1/3 of the initial cost and we will each get 1/3 of the eggs once the hens start laying. We should have another month or two before they are big enough and I can’t wait!
    I thought it was a great option all around. We don’t have to worry about our dog getting at chickens and she got help with the initial costs.

  • Jerilyn says:

    I’ve wanted to do this for a long time. I have fond memories of helping my great grandmother with hers. We finally have a house and I think I’ve convinced my husband 🙂 But we’ll probably wait until next spring, so we can get a fence/coop built. I’m busy making a lot of garden space 🙂

  • heather says:

    This is exactly what I’m trying to work out with my family (including the dog!) My husband owns part of a farm supply store, so my kids would sell eggs at the store on consignment. If we can just get that fallen tree off the old chicken coop!

  • Whew! That’s a lot of comments. I didn’t even think of our hens as a way to save money. We have an even dozen right now and I have photos of our coop on my blog. We get 10-12 eggs every day right now and sell them for $3 a dozen to neighbors. We buy a 50lb bag of feed in a month. We supplement their feed with letting them free range in the yard and kitchen scraps which they LOVE. When they see the compost bucket, they come running!

    I was not really on board with the whole chicken thing, but Alice is right, they are easy to care for and fun to have around. If you are thinking about raising hens, send me an email, I’d love to talk with you about it.

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