The Cost of Raising Backyard Chickens – Will You Save Money?
People often wonder if purchasing chickens to raise in the backyard is worth the time and money they will invest. This is a personal decision everyone considering this step will need to make. However, having an idea of how much it costs to raise the chickens will be of help. Following are some ballpark figures to assist in this process.
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The Price of Chickens
The price per chicken will vary with the breed selected. You can expect to pay anywhere from $3 to $30 per chicken, depending on the age and breed of the chicken.
For our example, we will use the Rhode Island Reds, a popular breed for many backyard flocks. Baby chicks cost just a few dollars each, but they require special care when first hatched. Add at least $100 to the budget if you are raising baby chicks. Common expenses include a brooder box for chicks (about $70 on Amazon), a heat lamp and bulb (about $30) to keep them warm.
New chicken owners may prefer to buy started chickens that are at least 4 weeks old since they require less special care and equipment in their new home. Juvenile chickens can be purchased from local hatcheries as well as online. For example, four week old Rhode Island Reds at the McMurray Hatchery cost about $17 each.
Video: Rhode Island Red Chickens
Here is a great video where you can see the changes from a young chick to a mature hen. It’s amazing how fast your chickens will grow.
Consider both the cost and time it will take to raise your new chickens to an age where they start to produce eggs. The Reds will lay their first eggs at about 18 to 20 weeks.
How Much Will The Chicken Coop Cost?
Chickens truly don’t have much preference when it comes to their shelter. If they have room to move, a place to roost and a nesting area for hens, they tend to be happy. For this reason, a person can spend as little or as much as they want on providing this shelter. The amount of money spent on the chicken coop is normally more dependent on the owner’s preference and style.
If you purchase a brand new chicken coop, this will likely be your biggest expense. Consider these two options from the Urban Coop Company. The first is a mobile chicken coop which can house two to four chickens. The price for this chicken coop is about $500.
A second option from the same company is tall enough walk-in and check on your chickens. This design can hold up to six chickens, so is just slightly larger however the price is about a thousand dollars higher at $1650.
As you can see you can spend hundreds or even thousands of dollars for a fancy coop that is brand new. Keep in mind this is not necessary, and the average person will spend around $500 on a coop for four birds. But when sizing your chicken coop, the general consensus is to go bigger than you think you will need. Somehow we always end up buying more chickens.
Since this can be a major cost for many families, you can also go the DIY route and build your own. You can even use mostly recycled materials and keep the costs way down. If you decide to build from a set of chicken coop design plans, you will have a wide range of materials to choose from based on your budget.
Feed and Other Materials Needed
Chickens must be fed regularly. Plan on a minimum budget of about $15 per month per chicken for feed. Free-range chickens may need slightly less, and organic and or medicated feed will cost more. There are many brands to choose from.
When actively laying eggs a hen needs more food, and chickens eat less when the temperatures start to rise. Be sure to take these factors into account when budgeting for food.
Miscellaneous supplies will be required to take care of your flock. Here are a few common expenses you can expect.
- Bedding material such as wood shavings, straw or shredded newspaper will need to be replaced on a regular basis in the hen house. Budget $10 a month for the bedding.
- Chickens need to see the vet at times and may require medication. This adds to the cost of raising them. An average vet visit will run you about $75.
- Cost of repairs to the coop and or chicken fencing can be expected, especially if you have predators such as raccoons or fox nearby.
- Pest control and removal can add to the chicken owner’s expense. Snakes and mice are commonly found in the hen house and should be taken care of quickly.
- Daily supplies such as egg cartons, tools and cleaning supplies should all be factored into the overall budget.
As a person goes to determine if raising chickens is a viable option, they look at the cost of eggs in a store as well as how much they pay to purchase chicken for lunch or dinner. While prices vary by the area, we’ll use some averages to compute the overall price point. Eggs cost about $3 a dozen; $4 for organic or free-range.
Cost of Raising 4 Chickens for 1 Year
OK, now it’s time to sum it all up. We will base our estimate on 1 year using some ballpark figures. We’ll assume our family built their own chicken coop from one of the design plans on our site. They used all new materials from the hardware store.
- 4 Chickens @ $20 each: $80
- Chicken Coop Buildout: $200
- Cost of Chicken Feed: $60
- Vet Bills: $100
- Miscellaneous Supplies: $50
Total Cost: $490 (Year 1)
In Year 2, you won’t have the initial investment cost, so your costs become much more affordable.
- Cost of Chicken Feed: $60
- Vet Bills: $100
- Miscellaneous Supplies: $50
Total Cost: $210 (Year 2)
The Verdict: Will You Save Money?
Now – Let’s estimate the savings from having farm fresh eggs. We’ll assume a family of 4 that eats eggs 3x a week. This makes the math nice and easy. That’s 1 dozen eggs a week and just about what 4 chickens will produce. Total Savings: $4 x 36 weeks = $144 saved in grocery store egg costs. We estimated 36 weeks of egg production based on based on the purchase of 4-week old chickens that are ready to produce at 20 weeks.
In year one, a flock of four hens will actually cost you money. Based on our example, you would have spent an extra $346. In year two, however, you won’t have the extra cost of building the hen house or the wait time for your chickens to mature. The year 2 savings will be the full 52 weeks @ $4 each, which is 208. This means by the second year, you will break even.
Year2 Cost: $210 with a savings of $208; so by the second year, you will break even.
However, what people also need to consider is the quality of the food when they purchase chicken or eggs in a grocery store. Can one truly know if the food contains chemicals or hormones? These are only two concerns that many people have when it comes to their groceries. Some people choose to buy organic products to avoid these issues. However, this increases the cost even more. As a result, many people will find raising chickens for eggs and meat is a smart move.
What many people fail to consider when determining whether raising chickens is worth the expense is the entertainment they provide. Many families opt to purchase breeds that love to be petted and held, making them a great outdoor pet for kids.
Furthermore, they don’t make messes in the house, and they can be very entertaining to watch as they run around the backyard. Some of my favorite memories on the farm included feeding the chickens. It’s one of those simple pleasures of having your flock greet so happily when you bring them fresh treats.
Children learn how to care for animals and discover a great deal about life in the process. They get firsthand knowledge of what it takes to keep the animals safe, comfortable and happy. There is no price that can be put on this.