In recent years, with the cost of eggs and other essentials rising at the grocery store, many people have decided to raise and own their own chickens. After all, there are many benefits to fresh eggs and meat, organic pest control, and self-sufficiency. However, like any endeavor, there are costs associated with raising and owning backyard chickens. Before you decide to pick up a horde of chicks from your local farm store, consider how much it costs to raise and own backyard chickens. By understanding the one-time and ongoing costs, you can better prepare for your chicken-keeping life.
Initial Setup Costs of Raising and Owning Backyard Chickens
When embarking on backyard chicken keeping, the first step is to set up an appropriate housing environment for the birds. The cost of initial setup can vary depending on the size and complexity of the coop and the number of chickens you plan to keep. However, a fair estimate of the initial investment is between $500 and $1,500. You may end up spending more or less than this, depending on various features of your setup.
Ask yourself first, do you plan on keeping your chickens in a coop and run? Or will you let them roam free? How big of a flock do you want? Knowing these answers can help you better estimate the dimensions or number of the following:
A well-constructed coop is crucial for the safety and comfort of your chickens. The cost can vary based on factors like size, materials used, and complexity of the design. A basic DIY coop project can range from $200 to $500, including materials. If you prefer a professionally built or elaborate design, the cost can exceed $1,000, depending on customization and size requirements. Remember to factor in any additional costs for insulation, ventilation, lighting, and predator-proofing features.
Even if you want to let your chickens free range, you may still want to construct an enclosure around your yard. Fencing is key in protecting the flock from predators. The cost of fencing materials can vary depending on the size of the coop area and the type of fencing used. A reasonable estimate for fencing materials is around $200 to $500, though you may pay much more. Consider using sturdy wire mesh or hardware cloth to ensure adequate protection.
If you want eggs, you are going to need nesting boxes in the coop for your hens. You can either build or purchase nesting boxes for your ladies. If you opt for pre-made nesting boxes, prices can vary depending on the size, quality, and design. Alternatively, you can build nesting boxes yourself using basic materials such as wood, nails, and screws, which may reduce the cost. The cost of purchasing or building nesting boxes can range from $20 to $50 per box. Pre-made models are within the same range, if not a bit more expensive.
Feeding and Watering Equipment
Basic feeding and watering equipment are necessary for your chickens’ daily care. Feeders and waterers can be acquired for approximately $20 to $50, depending on the size and quality. You can choose from various options such as plastic or metal feeders, gravity or treadle feeders, and automatic waterers. Consider the number of chickens you have and their feeding habits when selecting the appropriate equipment.
The Cost of Purchasing Chicks or Chickens
Once you have prepared the environment for your chickens, the next cost to consider is that of the flock. Acquiring feathered friends is also an expense. While you could adopt chickens or get them for free, these chickens are usually old enough to no longer produce eggs. Thus, procuring fertilized eggs from a reputable breeder is your best option. Keep in mind that the cost of the chicks is going to depend on their age, breed, and demand. Some popular breeds will be harder to obtain, and you will have to pay more per chick to get them.
Here is the general cost of chicks, pullets, and hens:
- Chicks: Purchasing chicks is an economical choice but requires additional care and time before they mature into productive layers. The cost of day-old chicks ranges from $2 to $5 each, depending on the breed.
- Pullets: Pullets are young female chickens nearing the point of lay. They are more expensive than chicks but can start producing eggs sooner. The cost of pullets typically ranges from $15 to $25 each.
- Hens: Mature hens that are already producing eggs are the most expensive option, with prices ranging from $20 to $40 per bird, depending on the breed and age.
Popular Chicken Breed Costs
Most chicks are going to run around the same price, but the popularity or rarity of the breed may also influence the cost. Here is a look at what some popular chicken breeds cost to obtain:
|Rhode Island Red||$2 to $5||$15 to $25||$20 to $30|
|Plymouth Rock (Barred Rock)||$2 to $5||$15 to $25||$20 to $30|
|Sussex||$2 to $5||$15 to $25||$20 to $30|
|Leghorn||$2 to $5||$15 to $25||$20 to $30|
|Wyandotte||$2 to $5||$15 to $25||$20 to $30|
|Orpington||$3 to $7||$20 to $30||$25 to $40|
|Australorp||$3 to $7||$20 to $30||$25 to $40|
|Easter Egger (Araucana/Ameraucana mix)||$3 to $7||$20 to $30||$25 to $40|
|Silkie||$5 to $10||$25 to $35||$30 to $50|
You can also watch this funny video with life hacks on choosing places to buy chickens:
Ongoing Cost of Raising and Owning Chickens
Now that you have made a lovely backyard for your flock and have chicks that will soon be laying eggs, the next thing to keep in mind is the upkeep. The ongoing costs of raising and owning backyard chickens is, fortunately, not as pressing as the initial investment. Generally, the maintenance costs of owning chickens is going to set you back around $200 to $400 a year. You could potentially recoup some of that expense by selling dozens of eggs or fresh poultry to the community.
With that in mind, here are more details on the various ongoing costs:
The cost of chicken feed depends on factors such as the quality of the feed, brand, and region. On average, a laying hen consumes about 1/4 to 1/3 pound of feed per day. High-quality layer feed, specifically formulated to meet the nutritional needs of laying hens, typically costs between $15 to $30 for a 50-pound bag. The bag size and price can vary, so it’s essential to compare prices and check with local suppliers or feed stores for accurate pricing in your area.
To estimate the monthly feed cost for a flock, you can calculate based on the number of chickens you have and their daily feed consumption. For example, a flock of four to six hens consuming an average of 1/4 to 1/3 pound of feed per day would require approximately one 50-pound bag of feed per month. Remember that feed consumption may vary depending on factors such as the breed, age, and size of the chickens, as well as the availability of other food sources such as foraging.
Bedding materials are necessary to maintain cleanliness in the coop, provide insulation, and absorb moisture. Common bedding options include wood shavings, straw, hay, or pine pellets. Typically, chicken bedding ranges between $5 to $20 per bale or bag, though this may change depending on the material and its availability. Furthermore, the number of bales needed will depend on the size of your coop, how frequently you clean it, and the thickness of bedding you prefer. It’s recommended to have a few extra bales on hand for regular replacements and emergency situations.
Maintaining the health and well-being of your chickens is vital. While chickens are relatively low-maintenance animals, they may still require occasional veterinary care and preventative measures. Regular monitoring of your chickens’ health, practicing good biosecurity measures, and providing a clean and safe environment can help minimize the need for extensive veterinary care and reduce associated costs. Here are some potential costs to consider:
Medications and Vaccinations
Vaccinations are an important aspect of chicken health management, especially in areas where certain diseases are prevalent. Generally, vaccines for common diseases such as Marek’s disease, Newcastle disease, and infectious bronchitis can range from $2 to $5 per dose per bird. Some vaccines may require multiple doses or boosters, which can increase the overall cost. So, if you have a larger flock, that may amount to $100-$300 easily.
For example, if your flock of 10 chickens becomes infected with worms, you can find over-the-counter options for $10-30 per package. The cost may be higher than this, especially if you plan on purchasing a larger package.
In addition to vaccinations, occasional expenses for medications or treatments may arise if your chickens fall ill or require parasite control. Costs for medications can vary based on the type of medication, dosage requirements, and the number of birds being treated. It is advisable to consult with a veterinarian or poultry health expert to determine the appropriate medications and their associated costs for specific health conditions or preventive measures.
While chickens are generally hardy animals, there may be instances where professional veterinary care is necessary. Veterinary fees for chickens can vary depending on the location, the expertise of the veterinarian, and the complexity of the treatment required. It is wise to budget for potential veterinary costs, especially if you have a large flock or encounter any health issues.
Finding a veterinarian experienced in poultry care is crucial for the best possible treatment of your chickens. They can provide routine health checks, diagnose and treat illnesses, and offer guidance on flock management. Veterinary fees may include consultation charges, examination fees, diagnostic tests, medications, and any additional procedures or treatments. It’s recommended to inquire about the fees and services offered by local veterinarians to get a better understanding of potential costs.
The good news is that routine checkups at the vet are not required for chickens. There may be some years where you spend $0 on veterinary bills.
Miscellaneous Costs of Raising and Owning Backyard Chickens
In addition to the costs mentioned above, there are other expenses that may arise when caring for backyard chickens.
Maintenance and Repairs
Over time, your chicken coop and other equipment may require maintenance or repairs. This could include replacing worn-out parts, repairing fences, or improving the overall infrastructure. The cost of this may be off-set by your own ability to tackle these things. However, if you are unsure of how to go about repairing something, you may need to allocate those tasks to a professional, which is going to cost you. Generally, you can estimate about $20-$50 per year on coop and ground maintenance.
Regulations and Permits
Before starting a backyard chicken flock, it is essential to research and comply with any local regulations or permit requirements. Some areas may have specific rules regarding the number of chickens allowed, coop placement, or noise restrictions. These permits, if required, may involve additional fees.
Heating and Lighting
If you live in a colder climate or experience long winter nights, you may need to provide supplemental heating and lighting for your chickens. As such, you should factor in the cost of purchasing and operating heat lamps, heating pads, or other heating sources. Additionally, you may need to invest in artificial lighting to ensure consistent egg production during shorter daylight hours. Consider the energy costs associated with these additional requirements.
Regular cleaning of the coop and replacing soiled bedding is crucial for maintaining the health of your chickens. Depending on the size of your coop and the frequency of cleaning, this expense can vary. Budgeting for bedding replacement and cleaning supplies is recommended.
While not essential, you may choose to invest in additional accessories to enhance the comfort and well-being of your chickens. This could include items like perches, toys, dust bath materials, or automatic door openers. You could also DIY these items, saving you money.
Final Thoughts on the Cost of Owning Backyard Chickens
Overall, you are looking at spending $200-$700 per year on your small backyard flock. Meanwhile, initial start-up costs may run between $500 and $1,500, depending on the chicken breeds and coop size. Raising and owning backyard chickens can be a rewarding and cost-effective endeavor. While there are initial setup costs and ongoing expenses to consider, the benefits of fresh eggs, organic pest control, and the joy of interacting with these feathered friends often outweigh the financial investment.
Valerie has been content writing since 2016 for websites and companies all around the world. A traveler, dancer, martial artist, Valerie loves gathering experiences and wisdom. Her travels have taken her to over 20 countries, and she hopes to see more of the world soon.