Why Free Range Eggs Cost So Much, and We’ll Never Be Chicken Farmers

Why Free Range Eggs Cost So Much, and We'll Never Be Chicken Farmers

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Bad News

Remember the Headless Chicken and the Great Guinea Massacre from last year’s Gardening Adventures?

I have more bad news.  

After all that, we’re now down to one chicken and zero guineas.  We tended those birds all winter long in order to reap the benefits of bug control and free-range eggs this summer, to no avail.

And this time, the predator was not Trooper the Weimaraner.

Something–mostly likely a raccoon–nabbed all three guineas in one fell swoop, just as we were ready to plant this year’s garden.  And over the last two weeks, something–most likely a hawk–has picked off the chickens, one by one.

We’re pretty sure a raccoon got the guineas:

  1. Whatever it was had to move a bucket filled with dirt and manipulate a latch in order to access the guinea coop.
  2. Several days later, we found a raccoon inside the chicken coop.  Inside!  The chickens were fine; the raccoon was merely napping.  Seriously.  It was during the day, which perhaps accounts for his groggy behavior, but we’re not convinced there wasn’t something amiss with this critter.

So here we are, our garden growing like crazy with one solitary chicken to patrol the bug population.  One chicken!  And one egg a day ain’t gonna cut it, either.  Sigh.

We do have two new batches of poultry–six guineas and six chicks, but we’re leery of turning them loose outside without some sort of protection.  The new poultry was purchased just before we lost the adult birds; otherwise, we’d have bought more of them.  At this rate, six of each seems sadly inadequate.

Did I mention we also recently discovered a possum in the hen house?  And a four-and-a-half-foot rat snake?

It’s Not as Easy as it Looks

And now we finally understand why free range eggs are so darned expensive.

It’s because you must buy and raise approximately ten (or more) times the number of birds you actually want to end up with.

And you must build secure fences.  And install complex latches on your coops.

And when all else fails, you may need to bring in the big guns.

The Big Guns

Mr. Native Texan is looking into the possibility of acquiring a certain breed of dog known for protecting chickens from predators.  According to his research, this dog–the Anatolian Shepherd–can live with a flock full-time and will successfully protect them from harm.


There Were Some Homesteaders Who…

I must admit this whole adventure is starting to remind me of the Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly:

They got the shepherd to guard the birds,

They got the birds to eat the bugs,

They had the bugs because of the garden,

And so on.

Those crazy wannabe homesteaders…

And that, my friends, is the reason why free range eggs are so expensive, and why we’ll never be true chicken farmers.

Photo credit: Anatolian Shepherd

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Kathleen | Roots & Boots

Let's get real! I’m Kathleen Henderson, your Natural Living Mentor. I’m on a mission to help families see the joy in real food, while finding natural remedies and creating a nontoxic home. Learn more about my story >>


  1. Diane Connor on 06/18/2014 at 12:41 pm

    Being a city dweller I did wonder why they cost so much!
    I really appreciate your blog and the info you give. Blessings to you and your growing family.

  2. Sally Farb on 06/19/2014 at 3:04 pm

    We also have lost several of our chickens to raccoons and hawks. The favorites always seem to go first. Very heart breaking to some of my children who grew so attached. We have nursed injured chickens using essential oils only to have them almost fully healed to suffer a fatal attack. For some strange reason this summer we have no possums or raccoons or hawks. We are getting plenty of eggs… if we can find them! they like to lay in the yard in the summer and each time we find 14 or so eggs in a clutch they change their nesting spot. In the lush greenery of Oregon there are too many places to hide. We do have something digging under the coop and tunneling… so does that mean a rat or a snake?! We have never seen a rat or snake. We are on 1/2 acre in suburban Beaverton. Several lots are our size but most are smaller. it’s an established neighborhood with some new housing here and there and our house being the original on the street, about 100 years old. Seems weird to rats or snakes to show up now and all the raccoons to disappear… not sure which is better but the chickens are staying alive and doing well… except for the one that just went limping by my window as I type….

    • Kathleen on 06/22/2014 at 3:16 pm

      Sally–I’m so impressed that you have chickens on your 1/2 acre in a neighborhood–good for you! Our chickens were laying eggs outside of the coop as well–always an adventure to search for them. 🙂

    • Kathleen on 06/22/2014 at 3:18 pm

      Thanks, Diane. I was sort of joking about why the eggs are so expensive–I don’t think they should cost so much! Around here, the standard price is $5/dozen. (Which is, by the way, the same price we saw at a farmer’s market in Manhattan!) BUT after our own experiences I do sort of see how the cost could be justified. 🙂

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