Many people get into chicken keeping before they have a realistic view of the cost of raising chickens. We’ve been raising chickens for well over a decade and will breakdown the costs of raising chickens including start up costs of raising chickens as well as how much it costs to maintain chickens.
In general, we’ve found that keeping a small background farm with a few chickens is NOT going to make you money, even if you are selling the eggs. Of course there are exceptions to this but this has been our experience. In order to make money raising backyard chickens, you will need a large crop that makes the costs stretch further and become more efficient.
In this article we are focus on exploring how expensive keeping chickens is and whether this cost is worth it. It’s also important to note that there are other benefits of raising chickens, but cost is important, especially when you get started.
What are the Different Costs of Raising Chickens
It’s important to break up the start up costs and maintenance cost of raising chickens. Below are some of the costs. Not everyone will have every expense since you may already have an outbuilding to use as a coop. There is also a range of costs depending on where you are living. Here are some of the common costs.
Start Up Chicken Keeping Cost
- Cost of the Coop
- Chicken Feeder and waterer
- Fencing material and posts for a Run
- Chickens or chicks
- Costs of Raising chicks (brooder, feeder, waterer, chick heater)
- Optional: coop heater, automatic chicken door, chicken coop camera
Cost of Maintaining Chickens
- Chicken Food
- New Chickens
- Medication and/or vet expenses
- Coop and Run Maintenance
- Cleaning Supplies
- Utilities (electricity and water)
Time and Labor Cost of Raising Chickens
Make sure to take into account your own time and labor. This includes actually cleaning and feeding your chickens as well as buying food and learning.
Range of Costs
Here’s a table that lists the range of costs for various items related to starting up and maintaining a chicken-keeping venture:
|Cost of the Coop||$200 – $1,000+|
|Chicken Feeder and Waterer||$10 – $50|
|Fencing Material and Posts for a Run||$100 – $500+|
|Chickens or Chicks||$2 – $20 per chicken or chick|
|Costs of Raising Chicks (Brooder, Feeder, Waterer, Chick Heater)||$50 – $200+|
|Optional: Coop Heater||$50 – $150|
|Optional: Automatic Chicken Door||$100 – $300+|
|Optional: Chicken Coop Camera||$30 – $100+|
|Cost of Maintaining Chickens|
|Bedding||$5 – $20 per bag|
|Chicken Food||$10 – $30 per bag|
|New Chickens||$2 – $20 per chicken or chick|
|Medication and/or Vet Expenses||Varies widely, typically $0 – $50+ per month|
|Coop and Run Maintenance||Varies|
|Cleaning Supplies||$0 – $20 per month|
|Utilities (Electricity and Water)||Varies widely, typically $0 – $50+ per month|
These cost ranges provide an estimate of the expenses you may incur when starting and maintaining a chicken-keeping hobby or venture. Please note that the actual costs can vary based on location, the number of chickens, and the quality of materials or services chosen.
If you are trying to calculate the cost of raising chickens you can add up your own expenses using this table.
How to Save Money Raising Chickens
Cost of Eggs
One of the key determinations that will help you decide whether keeping chickens is worth it for you, is the offset cost of eggs. Start by determining how many eggs you eat as a household and how much you pay for eggs. As a family of 5, we eat about 2 dozen eggs a week between breakfast and baking. In general, we pay about $4 for a dozen good eggs.
This comes out to $8/week * 52 wees/year = $416/year
There are a few other important considerations when you are trying to determine if the cost savings of not buying eggs outweighs the cost of keeping chickens:
- Many of the chicken keeping costs are up front costs. After you have a coop and run set up, costs go down significantly.
- Chickens generally stop laying during the darkest part of the year, and produce less eggs as they get older.
Tips for Saving Money When Raising Chickens
Homemade Coop and Run Designs: Building your own chicken coop and run can save a significant amount of money compared to purchasing pre-made structures. Look for DIY plans and designs online or in books to create a functional and cost-effective coop. Using reclaimed or repurposed materials can further reduce costs.
Growing Your Chicken Feed: Consider growing some of your chicken feed to reduce expenses. Planting a small garden with crops like corn, sunflowers, and greens can provide fresh and nutritious food for your chickens. You can also explore the option of sprouting grains for your chickens, which can be a low-cost and high-nutrition feed source.
We’ve done this and grown fodder for a chickens. This is a helpful tip, but can’t fully replace chicken feed. We do find that we spend more money on feed during the winter when the chickens have less forage to eat.
DIY Healthcare and Medication Options: Learn basic chicken healthcare and first-aid skills to handle common issues without needing expensive veterinary visits. You can make your own chicken-friendly remedies for minor ailments, such as natural wound care solutions.
Bartering or Trading Resources: Establish connections with other chicken keepers in your area. Bartering or trading resources with them can help you save money. For example, you can exchange surplus eggs or chicks for different breeds or supplies you need. This not only reduces expenses but also fosters a sense of community among chicken enthusiasts.
Reselling Surplus Eggs or Chicks: If your chickens are prolific layers or you have a successful breeding program, consider selling surplus eggs or chicks to local markets, neighbors, or other chicken enthusiasts. This can help offset the costs of raising your chickens and potentially turn a small profit.
Keep in mind that many cost saving strategies result in increased time and work. You will need to balance this with your specific situation. An example of this was that we did not get a heater for our water the first year we raised chickens, and spent many hours hauling and thawing frozen water. Ultimately this was not worth our time.
It’s also important to remember that some of the optional chicken keeping supplies may save you money in the longer run (such as chicken coop camera).
Final Thoughts on the Cost of Raising Chickens
On a small backyard scale, you will end up spend about the same money as you invest in most situations. It’s important to keep a long term perspective and remember that most of the cost of raising chickens is up front when you are getting started.
You should also keep in mind that there are many other benefits to raising your own chickens including healthier and more delicious eggs, garden and bug management, and pure enjoyment.