‘Is raising chickens in your backyard economical?‘ ‘Is owning chicken worth the money and time that goes into it?‘ ‘Will it benefit me in the long run if I put up the upfront cost?“
These are a few of the questions that may pop up in your mind if you are considering the pros and cons of raising your own chickens.
The short answer is that keeping chickens can be cost-effective if you do it right. The initial expenses are numerous, But once everything is set up, there are many ways to cut down the cost of chicken farming and to enjoy the financial benefits of this endeavor by selling eggs and/or meat as an extra income source.
The cost of raising chicken ultimately depends on your objective: Whether you are raising chickens for eggs and meat and want to ensure that your food source is healthy or you are purely in it to make a profit. Your goal will be an important determining factor in the cost and returns of owning chickens.
This guide will not only provide you with a way to do cost-benefit analysis with ease before taking a plunge but will also cater to your unique situation based on your goals. Read on to discover what it takes to start raising your own chickens and the cost attached to it. It will also help you make this venture budget-friendly and profitable.
Keeping chickens can be expensive but it certainly does not have to be.
Table of Contents
Cost of Owning Chickens
Whether owning chicken is cost-effective or not depends on your end-goal. If you never bother to go to the farmer’s market to buy premium quality nutritious eggs and prefer to save money by buying cheaper eggs, then chances are that owning chickens will not be as cost-effective for you. Even with budget-friendly alternatives, it’s difficult to match the low prices for factory-farmed eggs that you get at the grocery store. But if you deeply care about your food source and take extra steps to only buy the superior quality and expensive eggs then keeping chickens can be economical for you.
If you are still considering getting your own flock, here is an estimate of the cost:
Here is a list of items that you need in order to raise hens in your backyard:
- Chicken Coop
- Feeders and Drinkers
The Cost of a Chicken Coop
The price of chicken coops mainly depends on what you are looking to invest and how handy you are.
New coops can cost anywhere from $200 to $2000 depending on the included features and the building materials.
But if you are handy and willing to build your own coop then you can easily manage and reduce the costs. If you buy brand new materials to build a coop, it may cost you somewhere in the area of $200 to $350, and if you used recycled materials and stuff lying in the backyard (like your kids’ old playhouse) then you won’t have to spend much at all.
So, depending on your preferences and skills, you can either get creative in order to save money, buy a cheap coop, or splurge on a pre-made chicken home with hand-crafted nesting boxes, roosts, and automated doors.
Feeders and Drinkers
The price of feeders and waterers depends on how many chickens you are planning to keep. A small feeder may cost anywhere between $5 and $25, while you may have to pay upwards of $60 for heavy-duty feeders.
The cost of waterers typically ranges from $5 to $50. I suggest you pick a high-quality waterer to ensure the chickens are well-hydrated in all seasons, as water tends to freeze in cold temperatures. If you live in a northern climate, consider getting an electric heater.
For feed, plastic feeders are perfectly good.
The Cost of Acquiring Chickens
The cost of buying chickens varies hugely depending on breed and age at the time of purchase. The good thing is that you get to enjoy the luxury of having numerous options when it comes to purchasing your first hens.
Here are your options:
Getting Baby Chicks
Day-old chicks is usually the cheapest option. A baby chick costs around $2 to $5 depending on the breed and the breeder.
Although baby chicks cost less upfront, they do require extra care, and if you decide to get day-old chicks, you will have to wait several months before you can enjoy your own, fresh eggs.
If you are able to give baby chicks the best care by keeping them under a heat lamp and providing them with the right chick food, then this is the cheapest option for you.
Pullets are 4 to 12 weeks young hens. They usually cost $10 to $20 depending on the breed. At 4 weeks they have all their feathers and can be kept in an outdoor coop.
Pullets do not require as much attention as baby chicks and you wonøt have to wait as long for the first eggs. At this age, they can still be easily tamed.
Egg-laying hens are adult chickens that will run you anywhere from $10 to $100 each. As with younger chicks, the price depends on the breed, sex, age, and weight.
Buy laying chickens if you want to get to they egg-laying part right away. This option will also help you get a good estimate of the number of eggs you can expect to collect each week.
So, What Can you Expect to Pay?
This chart provides a summary of upfront cost. Notice the significant difference in costs depending on your willingness to DIY.
|Chicken (Flock of four)||$5 X 4 = $20||$50||$400|
|Waterers and Feeders (2 each)||$25||$50||$120|
Now that you have an estimate of the startup cost. Let’s dig into the ongoing expenses of owning chickens. Here is a list of items that chickens will need wither daily, weekly, or occasionally:
- Chicken Feed
- Medications and Supplements
Your feathery flock will be preoccupied by eating all day, but it is still surprisingly cheap to keep them well-fed.
An adult hen consumes about 1.5 lbs. of feed per week and a young chick needs around 1lb. feed each week. The weekly cost of giving your chicken layer pellets is just $0.75 on average.
If you decide to go with high-quality organic options, expect to pay around $1.50 to keep a chicken full for a week.
As a new chicken farmer, you may not yet know your preferred bedding. But you should know that are a couple of options available when it comes to bedding in the coop.
While bedding is often a matter of taste, it is ofter simply a matter of which is more easily available. Here are a few of the bedding options that you should consider:
This is the most expensive option because it will make your life as a poultry keeper a whole lot easier.
A bale of hemp can cost around $35 to $40. But it does not need to be changed as frequently as some of the other options, as it is highly absorbent.
Other options may produce a lot of dust, especially sawdust pellets that cost around $4 for 40 lbs. whereas hemp is dust-free. Hemp is also compostable.
Although hemp is a bit on the expensive side, it is a good option if you are willing to invest.
A bale (3.2 cubic feet compressed, 9 cubic feet loose) of wood shavings costs around $6 to $10.
Some farmers wood shavings over other mediums as it is easier to clean. Wood shaving is also readily available at hardware and home improvement stores.
Straw keeps your chickens entertained by providing them with something to pick in.
Straw is compostable but it requires frequent cleaning as pests can quickly make it their home. Straw is also harder to find in some regions.
If you choose straw as your coop bedding, remember to clean it thoroughly and change it immediately if it gets damp. A bale of straw costs around $5 to $10.
Medication and Supplements
At times, you may have to buy additional health supplements, medication, pest control, and tonics for your flock. It is safe to budget an additional $60 per year while doing your cost-benefit analysis.
So, What What’s the Bill?
This chart provides a summary of fixed cost of owning four chickens. Again we see a significant difference depending on your preferences.
|Feed (for a month)||$12||$18||$24|
In theory, you can expect one chicken to cost you at least $5 per month. But there are ways to lower that number.
How to make chickens cost-effective
If you want to save a lot of money raising chickens, there are ways to do so. First, you can just go with the budget-friendly options as mentioned above. Both when starting up and feeding the chickens.
Here are some extra tips that make chicken farming cost-effective:
Build your own Coop: The cheap chicken coops will cost you around $200, and they will not last very long as they are built from cheap material.
If you are creative and resourceful, you can bring down the construction cost to below $100. This requires looking for wood online or asking your neighbors and friends for materials that they may not need.
You can use buckets, crates, tires, and bins as nesting boxes and make it comfortable for your feathery flock with proper bedding.
Free-Range: To cut down the cost of chicken feed, you can free-range your chickens. Your curious birds will eat almost any insect, worm and even small lizards. They simply love scratching and digging up anything containing proteins.
Free-ranging your chickens will keep them entertained and cut down the cost of the feed. But to ensure that your chickens stay healthy, it is recommended to provide them with layer pellets in addition to free-ranging. Providing them with your kitchen scraps is also a great way to save some money.
These two things can easily reduce your feed cost by at least 50%
Bedding: Some backyard farmers occasionally use fallen leaves as an eco-friendly alternative. If you are in a pinch, you also start gathering leaves to save a bit.
Sand is also a great bedding material. If you live near a quarry, they will sell you a trailer load for next to nothing. You man even have sand on your own property.
Pest Control: To avoid the additional cost of pest control, you can take the feeders out of the chicken coop at night. It is also crucial to remove broken eggs from the coop. If pests cannot find food, chances are that they will not try to take over your coop.
A bit of creativity will get you far. On th eother hand, the cost of raising chickens can skyrocket if you are willing to splurge on your flock.
The Financial Aspects of Owning Chickens
Now that you have an estimate of the cost of raising chickens in your backyard, it’s time to dig into the benefits.
How you benefit from owning chickens depends on several factors. One being your input or investment. If you spend a lot on the start-up then your financial return will be negligible. But if you go out of your way to save on the initial cost and keep the ongoing expenses low, then you may see some real profits.
A typical chicken will lay around 20 eggs in a month which brings it to an average of 240 eggs a year. If you own a flock of four, healthy laying hens, that is 960 (80 dozen) eggs per year.
Quality eggs can be sold for $3 to $5 a dozen. If you usually buy high-quality eggs from the farmers’ market then your chickens will be cost-effective. But if you compare it to the 99¢ a dozen eggs at the grocery store then you will certainly not save much. Although you may still be able to make a few bucks by selling your surplus eggs.
Can You Put a Price on Joy?
By raising your own chickens, you get to enjoy fresh eggs every day. That alone also reduces any anxiety that comes with thinking about your food source; what are the chickens fed or if they are treated humanely.
Chickens may also be able to save you some on fertilizers and pest control. Chickens will take care of caterpillars and other pests, they love foraging and eating any creepy crawlies. And you can use their poop as fertilizer by composting it.
Owning chickens can be profitable, but how profitable depends on you. There are many ways to cut down the cost or inflate it, and now you are ready to make an informed decision.
Happy chicken farming!