Have you thought about trying your hand at raising chickens? Building a more sustainable home is all the rage these days, and having a few chickens around the yard can certainly help. Yet, while having an endless supply of eggs is great, does raising chickens actually save you any money? How much does it cost to raise chickens, anyway?
For a small flock, it is around $70 a month. Much larger flocks, like around 25 chickens, can cost you several hundred.
Today, you will see a cost breakdown of raising chickens, including the price of chicks, materials, feed, and more. Plus, you will get a few tips to help reduce the overall cost of raising chickens and make the practice more budget-friendly. Let’s get started.
How Much Does It Cost To Raise Chickens?
When you are looking to figure out how much it costs to raise chickens, there are a few things you have to consider:
- The cost of the chickens
- Purchasing and maintaining the chicken coop
- Chicken feed and grit
- Essential care supplies, treats, and toys
- Veterinarian visits
Some of these factors are going to be broken down, so you can see how much they affect the overall cost of raising chickens. Most of the costs reflected in this article are for a smaller flock, around 5-6 egg-laying hens. There are one time, up front costs that you must also account for, such as the coop, feed and water supplies, and the chickens themselves.
Cost Breakdown of Raising Chickens
When you begin to assess the economics of raising chickens, the first thing is the investment in the birds. There are several factors to consider:
- How you want to buy your chickens
- The breed you want
- How you plan to accommodate them
- Whether you are raising the chickens for eggs or meat
Price of Chickens
Obtaining chickens can be done a couple of ways. You could potentially purchase an egg incubator and try your luck at finding a fertilized egg. This may mean buying a couple dozen eggs from another family with chickens and placing them in an egg incubator. Optionally, you could ask around and see if anyone is giving up a chicken for free. The downside is that free chickens are often nearing the end of their egg-laying days.
The best way to obtain chickens is to go straight to a breeder and buy a couple of chicks. The cheapest chicks to purchase are day-old chicks, but you could also buy pullets (6-10 weeks old). Depending on the breed, you could pay anywhere from $3 to $30 per chick. If you pick up 5-10 chicks, expect to shell out between $15 and $300. You must also account for the brooder box for chicks, which run around $70, and a heat lamp (which goes for $30) to keep the chicks warm.
You may also find breeders selling “point-of-lay” hens, meaning they are ready to start providing you with eggs. These chickens are going to be slightly more than pullets.
All in all, you will end up paying around $100-$400 to get started with raising chickens.
Purchasing or Building a Chicken Coop
Another large upfront investment is the chicken coop. You cannot raise chickens without giving someplace safe to sleep. If you consider yourself handy, you may be able to gather up some building materials and create a coop yourself. This could potentially diminish the overall cost to less than $200, but you have to make sure the coop is made well. Any surfaces that are sharp could injure your chickens, and a lack of ventilation may make them sick.
Perhaps you would rather buy a prefabricated chicken coop. In that case, you can expect to pay at least $500 for a decently sized one. A high quality chicken coop will come with everything you need to raise happy chickens, including nesting boxes, perches, windows, ventilation, and much more.
That said, most prefabricated coops run between $200-$700. Add in that cost to the $100-$400 you can expect to pay to buy chicks and all the necessary supplies. Fortunately, once these things are bought and paid for, you don’t have to worry about needing the equipment ever again. Most chickens also produce eggs for about 5-7 years.
Furnishing The Chicken’s Yard
So you figured out what kind of coop you want. Now, you need to consider the extras. When planning to raise a flock, do not forget about water and food. A small budget-friendly feeder will cost you around $20-$25, while a higher-quality industrial strength feeder may run around $50. Depending on the size of your flock, you may not need a large chicken feeder that holds 50 pounds of feed at a time. Weigh your options — literally.
A 5-gallon water fountain is a good choice. You can provide your chickens with a full day of fresh water for a one time price of $35-$40.
Cost of Materials for Raising Chickens
The most expensive part of raising chickens is the recurring cost of supplies. While some items, such as the water and feed bowls are a one-time cost, you will need to pay for the bags of feed, the water, grit, bedding, lighting, and so on over and over again.
You also don’t want to skimp on these supplies. Going for low quality feed and bedding is only going to make your chickens ill. Since you probably want to avoid expensive vet bills, putting out a bit extra for high-quality feed, grit, and bedding is worthwhile. Plus, happier, healthier chickens lay better tasting eggs.
Here are some of the average costs of supplies for chickens:
- Feed: $50-$60 per 40-lb bag
- Chicken Grit: $8-$12 per 5-lb bag
- Oyster Shell Supplement: $12-$33
- Chicken Starter: $13.50-$30
- Bedding: $25-$50 per bag
- Heater: $35-$60 (for a cold environment)
- Lighting: $30-$60
You may also want to factor in the cost of installing an automatic door on the coop, lighting, fans, fencing, and other features you purchase for your chickens.
A Bit About Bedding
There is a huge variety in bedding materials for chickens, such as wood shavings, straw, pine needles, shredded paper, hemp, and more. Choose the one that is right for you. For now, let’s discuss the cost of using some of the most popular options: hemp, wood shavings, and straw.
Want something that is more absorbent than straw or wood shavings? If you have several chickens in the coop, go with hemp. This material is dust-free, compostable, and features a natural antiseptic. Because of that, you don’t have to change hemp bedding as frequently, which can save you some money. A 44-lb bale of hemp costs around $40.
Since you can find wood shavings almost anywhere you go these days, they are an affordable option. Make sure you are using wood shavings that are thicker and larger. Never use saw dust. Furthermore, wood shavings often have a high amount of acidity, which will balance out the nitrogen produced by chicken excrement. That keeps the air in the coop fresher.
A compressed bale of wood shavings usually costs between $6-$10.
For centuries, straw has been the most popular choice of chicken bedding. Easily attainable and affordable, straw works well. Plus, you can use it for composting. The downside is that you may have difficulties finding it in more suburban or urban settings. Secondly, straw can get damp quickly and draw pests. You must routinely change out straw to protect your flock from disease.
Straw typically costs around $5-$10 per bale.
Cost of Feeding Egg Laying Hens
A light breed chicken will typically eat around 0.24 lbs of food a day, which means they cost between $0.06-$0.15 a day to feed. Heavier breeds, eat a little more, around 0.30 lbs of food. This brings the cost of feed to $0.07-$0.19 a day per chicken.
In other words, if you have 5 egg-laying chickens of either bantam or average size, you can expect to spend $0.30 to $0.75 a day feeding the group. That is between $109.50 to $273.75 a year.
A flock of 25 hens of different weights and sizes, on the other hand, could cost between $1.50 and $4.75 a day. This means that you could wind up spending closer to $1,700 a year instead. The breed you choose, as well as the food, matters.
Annual Expenses When Raising Chickens
Aside from the food, bedding, supplements, and coop, there are a few other costs to look forward to when raising chickens. This includes health care and vaccinations.
Although chickens are fairly healthy in general, they are susceptible to a vast number of diseases and maladies, such as parasites. Mites are a common issue, and they can take some effort to get rid of. You can use diatomaceous earth around the chicken run to protect your chickens from mites and other parasites, but they may also need medications from time to time.
Vaccinations also protect your flock from things like fowl pox, Newcastle bronchitis, and Marek’s disease.
All in all, healthcare and medications for your flock could cost between $200 to $600 a year, depending on the number of chickens you have and what vaccinations they need.
Maintaining The Environment
Once your chicken coop is up and running, there is very little you have to do to maintain it. However, while maintaining a coop may not cost much, it does add to the overall investment of time and money. You will need to routinely clean out the coop, which takes time, do repairs on the coop throughout the years, repaint the coop, change out light bulbs, fix the fence, and replace bowls and feeders.
Don’t forget to also keep the chicken run clean. You may have to mow the lawn, weed out toxic plants, and clean up raccoon poop regularly.
Overall, it costs around $50-$100 to maintain a safe environment for your flock.
Ways To Recoup Some of the Cost of Raising Chickens
Let’s face it. You are not going to make millions while raising chickens this day in age. However, you can negate the cost of raising chickens and even make a little profit if you play your cards right. And by cards, we mean eggs.
Selling Fresh Eggs
If one good egg-laying hen can produce around 200-250 eggs a year, imagine how many eggs you could sell. Say you have 2 or 5 egg laying hens in the flock. That amounts to 83 cartons of a dozen eggs per year. Since local eggs are going for around $3-4 per dozen, you can easily earn hundreds of dollars. That counteracts the cost of keeping a chicken in the long run. In fact, selling eggs may help your flock earn its keep.
Moreover, you don’t have to just sell eggs. You could make baked goods with those eggs and offer those to the community, too.
Make sure that you consult the local laws about selling eggs before opening your small business to the public.
Using Compost and Manure
Sure, all that excrement and soiled bedding kind of sucks to clean up, but it does have its uses. If you have a small garden growing in the yard, you will be happy to find that the waste your chickens make in the coop can be used as compost. This saves you from having to pay for expensive fertilizer over and over again. Otherwise, you could also sell some of the manure and compost to shave off the cost of raising chickens.
Keep in mind that the fruits and vegetables you grow using that manure can also be sold alongside your eggs. Why not make a little farm stand and see how much you could make?
Finally, you can watch this video from the chicken coop owner:
Raising chickens is a fantastic experience. You gain a sense of fulfillment from raising chickens, since they return the favor with delicious eggs, meat, and companionship. However, you must know the cost of raising chickens before you begin, or else you could find yourself scraping at the bottom of the money barrel. Since it costs around $70 a month to maintain a flock of 5 chickens, plan accordingly. Budget wisely. And be prepared to sell off a few eggs to the community!
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.