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Surprise: Urban Chicken Raising an Exercise in Losing Money

Joshua Levin's day job makes good use of his MBA from NYU's prestigious Stern School as a sustainable agriculture consultant. In his spare time, he's raising two hens in his Brooklyn backyard to see if he can make it a cost-effective exercise in urban farming. Can he do it?

With up-front costs at a very low $121 (mainly because he found some chicken wire AND repurposed an old dresser as a chicken coop, which would've otherwise cost him $300-$450), monthly organic feed costs at $31.50 and his two hens producing a combined egg/fertilizer value of $27.66, he would've been losing money every month. Replacing a percentage of the organic feed with local organic matter (free-ranging + kitchen scraps), he found it was possible for an urban farmer to recoup the investment with just two hens within one to two years—but that assumes you're composting the manure and using it for a garden, so you can't just raise chickens and not plant. PLUS it doesn't factor in all the (presumably billable) time you spend assembling everything at the start and maintaining it every month.

In conclusion: you're probably better off joining a CSA or becoming a regular at the farmers' market than you are raising two chickens in your backyard. First, you'll be helping support the local farmers, who are already very much endangered small-business owners. Second, it's much less work—having lived with chickens, I assure you having to clean a chicken coop is quite possibly the boner-killer of urban farming romance stories. Third, your neighbors won't hate you!

· Backyard Chicken Economics: Are They Actually Cost-Effective?> [Good Eater via Chow]

— Lia Bulaong

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