Tuesday, 31 January 2012

Backyard Chickens - Return on Investment

written by Gavin from The Greening of Gavin

This article is a re-post from my personal blog.


Not many backyard chicken urban farmers think about the return on investment of their flock very much, as chickens are more of a passion than a business, and as I have mentioned in previous posts about chickens, not only are they great pets, are willing workers in the garden, they also lay the best eggs ever.

Not only do these eggs taste much better, they are nutritionally better as well! Mother Earth News mentions that eggs from chickens that are allowed to roam on grass (instead of being confined to cages as is the case for the majority of commercially produced eggs) have;
  •  1⁄3 less cholesterol
  • 1⁄4 less saturated fat
  • 2⁄3 more vitamin A
  • 2 times more omega-3 fatty acids
  • 3 times more vitamin E
  • 7 times more beta carotene
(reference; http://www.motherearthnews.com/eggs.aspx)

I know that in economic terms this is an intangible benefit, so how does one calculate the Return On Investment for your backyard chickens?

Well do I have the tool for you!  I found a fantastic calculator on-line that you can figure out the financial benefits of your chickens.  Here is the link to it.   http://www.ruleworks.co.uk/cgi-bin/PoultryROI.exe?Guide=Poultry&t=Poultry%20ROI%20Calculator

Here is how mine worked out.

"Poultry ROI Calculator

Your Poultry cost per year is $ 27.20
Housing cost per year is $ 52.00
Feed quantity required per year is 321 Kg for 8 Large Fowl
Cost of all feed products per year is $ 354.05
Consumables / other cost per year is $ 202.00
Total Cost per year is $ 635.25
Your eggs sold value per year is $ 87.75
Hatching eggs sold value per year is $ 0.00
The remaining eggs valued at shop prices $ 351.00 for your own use.
Total Return value per year is $ 822.75

Your Total Profit is $ 187.50 per year.

Well done. Of course this profit calculation does not include your labour costs"
Now even though it says I make a profit because they are great value for money, I personally wouldn't care if I made a loss.  They are just like any other household pet as far as I am concerned (unless of course you breed your chooks for meat).  No-one questions the ROI of a dog or a cat, and they certainly don't lay eggs for your breakfast!

So for those interested, I would love to see how your ROI comes out.  Don't forget to select the right currency for the calculator.  It doesn't affect the calculations as it just changes the currency symbol on the calculator.  It just looks better, that's all.

Anyway, happy ROI calculating.  It is simple and easy to do if you know most of your costs on a monthly basis.

Give it a go and let me know how you went.

Sunday, 29 January 2012

Beauty in the Every Day

by Danelle Stamps at The Stamps Family Farm

There are some days when farming and simple living are anything but simple. There are some days where living this life, caring for animals and land and people is just so breathtakingly hard that doing chores in -40 degrees Fahrenheit temperatures with 60 miles per hour winds is preferable to facing the daily realities of farming. 

Animals die. Crops get flooded out. Children get sick. And the sun still rises in the East every morning.

This last year has had some hard lessons. We lost 15 pigs total to disease and heat. Preventable disease, but we didn't know enough to have vaccinated them and they died. We lost two llamas to a parasite because we didn't know enough about regular worming. We are armatures let loose to learn hard lessons at the expense of our livestock and no amount of book learning or Internet websites can take the place of these hard realities. 

But we are still here. Still farming. And these experiences made us better stewards of our flock. We know more about disease management and animal care and nutrition. 

You just have to know, if you are going into farming with no experience or mentors or help, it isn't easy.

That said, I started to sit down and write this week's post about finding beauty in the harshness of winter or farm life or daily grind. 


 Instead, I'd like to pose a question: What lessons have you had to learn the hard way? What losses built your skills? What things should new farmers know before going into it feet first?


My top four: 

Get to know your local vet, explain what you want to do and ask for advice, supply lists, and a lesson in how to administer shots. Ask how or where it is proper to dispose of animal carcass, especially if there is a burn ban.

Practice or list out what to do in an emergency. Who to call. Where supplies are. What and where to go.

How will you handle failure? Really. What things will you have in place to mourn your losses, to do things better, to not beat yourself up when you need to be working on making things better. 

Winter food supply for livestock. Last year, mid winter we had to frantically make calls to get more hay delivered. This year, all was purchased in October and stored well. The only mishap we have had is a dropped round bale on our truck (damaged the truck bed door). 


As with anything, make time for yourself. Each moment get ready for the next one and live it with grace. That is beauty. That is life.

Saturday, 28 January 2012

Fencing in the Wild


by Linda from The Witches Kitchen


I've ticked off one of my New Year's Resolutions. We've just come home from a week in wild weather at Point Lookout on North Stradbroke Island - one of the most beautiful wild places on earth. I went swimming in the surf every day, collected seaweed for my seaweed brew, and walked around North Gorge every morning.

North Gorge walk at Point Lookout is spectacular. I never ever walk it without seeing wildlife - pods of dolphins surfing in on waves, sea turtles, manta rays, humpbacks in whale season. When we were kids the walk was a goat track round the rocks, a narrow unfenced track with sheer drop-offs 40 metres down to ocean so blue you can see turtles swimming metres underwater.

I vividly remember going round the gorge once as a child - I must have been about nine or ten - in wild weather. Lashing rain, huge waves crashing against the rocks sending spray up even to the 40 metre height of the headland, sea turquoise mixed with gunmetal, the gorge full of mermaid foam.

Gradually, over the years, the walk has been tamed, first with steps in the rock, then fencing along parts, then broadwalks. This time, for the first time, most of the way is broadwalk. It is a beautifully built broadwalk, and I can see the point. I have walked it with my kids with my heart in my mouth. I have feared to take other people's kids, especially in wild weather. But there is a part of me that mourns the taming.

We humans have an appetite for thrill. On the way there we passed Dreamworld themepark at the Gold Coast,  advertising "The Tower of Terror" where "riders soar 100m into the atmosphere dangling for several seconds of stomach-churning weightlessness at its peak before plummeting back to earth". Dreamworld says the Tower of Terror mark 1 had over 8 million "panicked passengers."

It's an odd idea. A hugely expensive, constructed mechanism designed to create the thrill of fear, the illusion of danger without real danger. Artificial. Unreal. A lie.

I don't think that kind of exploitation of the taste for terror is healthy, but I do think there is something valuable that is lost - maybe necessarily, but sadly - in the broadwalk around North Gorge. That walk taught me, as a child, some valuable lessons, like some risks are not make-believe but permanent. Wild nature is spectacularly beautiful and can take you to profound places, but it doesn't take care of you.  I can do things that are risky and keep myself safe.  Fear is not a reason to stop, or a reason to go, but a reason to take care.

North Gorge offered the opportunity to look at real danger, to experience the thrill, but to have total control over the risk. Fishermen have been washed off the lower rocks, but I can't find a record of anyone actually slipping off the track. It's a lot more relaxing and meditative a walk these days, and still spectacularly beautiful. But thrill that is both real and confrontable is rare, and it's a bit sad to lose it.

Friday, 27 January 2012

Changing spaces

by Rhonda at Down to Earth

When we first moved into our current home, we made quite a few changes. The house had been lived in by an older couple and some of the things that suited them didn't suit us. We pulled up the carpet and laid a wood floor, we changed the kitchen, added verandahs front and back and put in gardens and the chook house. We, although we didn't know it at the time, were getting ready to live more simply.

It's very easy to look at a new home and see spaces you don't really like, or know they won't work for your family and just ignore them. I want to encourage you to change what doesn't suit you. If you don't, you're changing yourself to suit the house.


We all have different circumstances and expectations but all of us can benefit from changing our living space to suit how we live. For instance, if you do a lot of sewing, you should have a space to store your equipment and fabrics; if you write or paint, you should have a quiet space to do it; if you bake a lot, have all your needs close to where you work. Outside, your mower and garden tools will serve you well if they're stored in a space out of the weather and close to a work bench were you can carry out your maintenance.



I guess the obvious and easy change is to create garden beds where there are none and to build a chook house or tractor. That change alone, while not costing the earth will equip you to provide a measure of fresh food right from your home. But there are other less obvious changes to be made, you just have to look at the space around you in a creative way with a focus on your sustainability.


Out in the back yard, along with the gardens and chickens, you could think about water tanks or barrels. If you don't have the finances for that now, it might we something worth saving for if your climate is fairly dry, if you get all your annual rain in a few months, or if you have a vegetable garden. And even if you don't have the money for big tanks right now, see if you can set up a system whereby you collect some water when it rains. We have a couple of 200 litre tubs here that, when full, can keep our garden going for a week. We just fill the watering cans or buckets from the tubs and transfer the water to the garden. It's more work than hosing, but we don't mind carting our harvested water the short distance. Make sure you set up your collector tanks close to where it will be used. Btw, mosquitoes take about 10 - 14 days, depending on the type, to go from egg to mosquito. Harvesting the water within a ten day period will kill the larvae before they fully develop. Or, you could just scoop the larvae out with a fine fish net.

Inside the home you might look for a cupboard to store your stockpile. I think one of the downsides of many modern homes is the lack of cupboard space. Think creatively about your cupboards, if you have a big cupboard near your kitchen, or in the laundry or garage, that may suit your stockpile better than what is currently in it.


Move pots and pans, baking supplies, tea and coffee making supplies close to where they're used. Organising your kitchen well will save you a lot of time and effort. It just takes an hour or so to think about how you work in your kitchen and then moving things closer to where they're needed.


Make a space to sit with your tea and coffee. This space might also serve well as the place you talk quietly with your partner, read to the children, write letters, knit or stitch. You need a space like this just as you need a place to store your linens or groceries. Make a space for yourself - make the house suit you, not the other way around.

I could go right through the house but I'm sure you get what I mean. Making small changes to your home will make your life easier. Modify the house to suit the type of family you are. Make the spaces work for you and if they don't, change them. Your home is one of the key tools you have in your life, making a few adjustments to make it work as it should and have it accommodate the activities of your family, will make living there easier. There will be some changes that cost money, just do them as the money becomes available, but many changes will cost only the effort you put in to make them happen.

I hope you identified some changes you want to make when we did our simple audit last week. So if you have some plans, I encourage you to dive right in and enjoy the process of change. You'll be making your home fit your family instead of living with the feeling that the house isn't quite right. This is another one of those things where we take the bull by the horns and give it a good shake, instead of sitting back wishing things were different.

Do it thoughtfully, take it slow and enjoy the change.

Thursday, 26 January 2012

Naturally caring for kids teeth

by Amanda of Amanda Brooke

In recent months our youngest son has had his wee baby teeth cleaned with a clean damp cloth. Last week he took the next step up to a junior size toothbrush and toothpaste. It is an exciting time as he explores the new sensation of flavoured paste and a brush being stuck in his mouth with bristles on it!


You can start cleaning your children's teeth from the time that the first teeth start arriving. You might like to start by using a clean, damp (I dampen with cooled boiled water) cloth and then try a small age appropriate toothbrush or a silicone finger brush.

We are using toothbrushes that have a biodegradable handle. You simply break off the head and throw that in the rubbish and the handle can be thrown in the compost.


I am keeping Ben's toothbrush and pastes separate from the older kids brushes. I air dry the brush and then store it in an airtight container. I wrapped the top of a jar in kitchen string to 'spruce' it up a little and everything is together and neat when we finish brushing.

Our toothpaste is one I grew up with - 'Jack n Jill' - which still comes in the great flavours it used to. It is made from organic ingredients and is safe to use from 6 months of age.

Whilst some may view these items as expensive compared to some of the readily bought supermarket brands I feel good about choosing to buy these organic and recyclable items as they are both good for my children's health and the environment! I am not sure about using homemade oral care products on children....this is something I'd like to look more into!

Starting good oral care habits early is important for your child's health. What products do you use for your family? Have you thought about using organic toothpaste, making your own or using compostable brushes?

Amanda x