Egg prices are going up. Should you get your own chickens at home?

Eggs! They're one of the cheapest forms of protein and can be eaten at breakfast, lunch, or dinner. But, like all food in 2022, eggs are getting expensive.

"There's a shortage of eggs because the flock numbers are lower," Poultry Industry Association's Michael Brooks told The Project on Monday.

"It doesn't mean we'll run out of eggs, but we certainly don't have the number we had 18 months or two years ago."

The cost of eggs has increased by 11.6 percent since September last year, partly due to the ongoing war in Ukraine, which has spiked the price of wheat - a major component of chicken feed.

And prices could rise further when new laws for caged housing come into effect in December. The industry is moving to a more humane method of keeping hens, providing more space for them to live in and abolishing battery-type cages. However, that will mean there will be fewer chickens laying eggs. 

Farmers have been preparing for the law change for years, but it's coming at a time when prices are already high. 

So if the humble egg is going to become a luxury item, could having your own supply in the backyard be a solution?

The fact is, you don't have to live rurally to own chooks.

In Auckland, Dunedin and Wellington, you're permitted at least six chickens in your backyard, even if you live in the city. In Christchurch, there are no limits - as long as the neighbours are happy. 

Roosters, as you would expect, are not allowed. Also, they don't lay eggs - just FYI.

Andrea Graves has a doctorate in animal behaviour science and helps others take their first steps in their chicken journey.

"You've got this incredible connection with nature where you get to know these animals providing your food," the author of What Your Chickens Want You to Know told The Project. "We don't really have very much of that these days."

And Graves said there are far more benefits to having chickens than just breakfast ingredients just outside your door. There's also all that free poo.

"It collects under the perch every night, so you can just scoop it up every day or two and throw it in the compost heap or the worm farm. Worms really love poo, chicken poo," she said.

"It's full of nitrogen and phosphorus, which is what farmers and growers buy to fertilise their plants. And you're getting it as a byproduct of your eggs. You should be valuing poo."

But, the big question: can having chickens at home really save you money?

"There are the set-up costs, but once you get going - you've got your birds, food, and maybe a few wood shavings and things - I figured out it costs probably about the same as the cheapest caged eggs at the supermarket. Except, of course, you've got your own high-welfare eggs from home."