So your kids (or spouse) talked you into chickens. Now, one of the first questions that came up was probably: "How much is this going to cost?" The good news is chickens are really not that expensive to keep and there are lots of ways to cut costs and save money. This article will give you an idea of how much you can expect to fork out for the chickens and their basic needs, as well as some ongoing costs. Let's say your starting small, with only three hens.
The approximate costs to raise 3 hens would be:
- Chickens: $3 - $30 per chicken depending on age, breed etc.
- Coop: Free (recycled materials) to $2,000 & up (new & fancy). Average is usually around $500
- Feed approximately $15.00 per month.
- Miscellaneous $10.00 per month.
**Please note: that all prices listed here are very general estimates only and can vary greatly from state to state, between cities and towns etc. So shop around for the best prices before buying, especially with ongoing expenses such as feed. All prices listed are US$.
**Tip: Starting with small chicks instead of buying mature chickens can save you quite a bit of money, though the downside is you will have to wait 5-6 months for eggs. I once calculated that if I bought day-old chicks instead of POL hens from a breeder, I would've spent half the money I paid for those pullets!
If you decide to raise your own chicks you can expect to pay $3.00 and $5.00 per chick (day-old) for popular breeds and for rare breeds you can expect to pay up to $50.00 or more per chick.
Older chicks and mature chickens' prices vary greatly between breeds, age of the chickens etc. Expect to pay $20.00 and $50.00 for a pullet and $5.00 to $15.00 per rooster. **Tip: Unwanted roosters are often offered "free to good homes", so if you're not fussy about the breed/quality and want to get a rooster for your flock, keep an eye out for Free Re-Homing adverts.
HOUSING YOUR FLOCK
If you decide to raise chicks you will need a brooder for them. A basic pre-made brooder will cost you between $75.00 and $100.00. Most chicken owners build their own or improvise brooders out of a large range of items. Old rubber maid tubs, crates, packing cases etc will serve you well for a small number of chicks. (Make sure you allow enough space - ideally at least 1 sq foot per chick - for the little guys as they will need to stay in there for around 6 weeks, unless the weather is really mild and you can move them to the coop sooner.) You can also build your brooder out of recycled materials. See here for designs and ideas.
Pic by Wolfscout
You will need to keep the chicks warm for the first few weeks while they are feathering out. A heat lamp and bulb will cost between $20.00 and $28.00.
Feeders and waterers for the brooder (and later the coop) cost between $8.00 and $40.00, depending on size and design. You can save money by making your own waterers and feeders. **Tip: Egg boxes make excellent "feeders" in the brooder and most shallow, clean, dishes can work quite well for water while the chicks are small.
Older chicks and mature chickens will need a coop to sleep and lay their eggs in. A pre-made coop can cost you anywhere from $50.00 for a small, secondhand coop to $4000.00+ for a brand new, made-to-order chicken mansion. You can save a LOT of money building your own coop, see here for coop designs.
Sally Sunshine's "Hinkel Haus" made of recycled materials
FEEDING AND BEDDING
A 50 lbs bag of chick starter crumbles will cost you around $15.00- $18.00. Prices differ quite a bit between medicated, non-medicated, organic and regular feed and of course between different brands. **Tip: you will pay less per pound if you buy feed in large amounts.
Grower and "all flock" feed for older chickens will cost around $17.00 per 50 lbs bag and layer pellets between $15.00 and $30.00 per 50 lbs bag, depending again on brand and whether you buy organic/regular. Scratch grains cost around $10.00 per 50 lbs bag, between depending on availability and quality.
Wood shavings cost around $6.00 (.276 cubic meter loose and .092 cubic meters compressed). Straw will cost you between $3.00 and $12.00 per bale, depending on availability, quality and size of order. Sawdust pellets will cost around $4.00 per 40 lbs bag.
How much a chicken will eat is near impossible to say. Certain breeds, Leghorns for example, are not big eaters. It also depends on the size of the chickens are they bantams or large fowl? The time of year (chickens eat more in winter and less when it's hot) and whether they free range or not. A free ranging chicken can find a lot of food in plant materials, bugs, etc and will eat less than a chicken that is kept confined in a coop and run. As a rough guide:
-A chick will eat roughly 9-10 lbs of feed in it's first 10 weeks.
-A mature, standard size chicken will eat approximately 5 lbs of feed per month, if allowed to free range, and an active laying hen, if confined to the coop, will need around 6 lbs of feed per month.
In addition to feed and bedding materials, add roughly $10.00 per month for miscellaneous extras, such as medicine, pest control, egg boxes etc.
Another question that gets asked frequently is: will keeping my own hens work out cheaper in the long run than buying eggs from the shop? That very much depends on your financial input. You can save quite a bit of money by starting up and raising your chickens on a shoestring and you can save by shopping around for the best deals on feed. Here is a good discussion with tips on how to save money on chicken feed. Also check if you are allowed to sell any extra eggs in your state as that can help you recoup some money, or at the very least cover some of the feeding costs.
We'd love to get your thoughts, comments, and experiences on the costs of raising chickens, so we started a thread to get your feedback here: