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How much does it cost to raise backyard chickens?

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?"...
  1. BYC Project Manager
    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.


    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.


    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.

    For more money saving tips visit the Coop & Run and the Feeding & Watering Your Flock forum sections.

    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:

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  1. Cali Farms
    Great Article!

    There's a brand new online poultry auction site that just launched called
    (American Poultry Auctions)
    Starting your own backyard poultry business definitely helps with the costs of raising your birds and you can even make a large profit if you learn how to sell fertile eggs and chicks and get them all sold constantly. You can sell on this new auction site and start your own chicken business. They provide everything you need, even the birds!
  2. Slvdh2000
    When I bought my baby chicks, they were only $1.25 each!
  3. HennyPennyCO
    An additional comment on feed and wasted feed.
    My hens just did not like some brands of crumbles or pellets or layer mash and would throw the feed all over the place looking for the better stuff that they were sure I had hidden at the bottom of the feed dish!
    I bought a different feed each time until I finally found one they liked. It was an expensive organic one (of course!) but they love it and DO NOT waste it. The bag information says that it is complete and not to feed other feed, scratch grain or whatever, so I save on those expenses. They do still get their daily bunch of dandelion greens and the occasional handful of mixed scratch grains & dried meal worms for amusement's sake.
  4. Jack Speese
    I agree with Perry, Zulu, and Oliver. Economics can't be the main reason for a hobby flock, as it is impossible to do things as efficiently on a small scale as you can on a mass production scale. Even small- to medium-scale free range operations are still much bigger than the average backyard flock. And buying supplies such as feed in bulk is cheaper per unit. But you will have healthier, happier birds that will produce longer because they aren't forced and undoubtedly better tasting products. For me anyway it's sort of the same difference between assembly line products versus handcrafted ones.
  5. zuluchicken
    Without getting into much detail let me just say the following. It is almost impossible to keep chickens on the scale that we as "back yard keepers" do and make a profit- we are simply on a too small scale. Keeping chickens in your back yard should be for the fun of it and as a bonus a few fresh eggs every day.

    If you do the sums you will find that buying eggs at the supermarket is much cheaper but that is not the point. We enjoy our chickens- that is all there is to it.
  6. perrypogue
    Right from the beginning I decided that the cost of getting into chickens just had to be discarded. Instead I decided that I could afford them and it was worthwhile. So, I just stopped counting the cost and started enjoying the project. My 9 hens and 2 roosters (all RIR) are now 12 weeks old and they have become my greatest pleasure. I'm getting excited about getting eggs and listening to my roosters crow. I believe it will never be cost effective but I have no regrets. I love to watch them free range. I watch them go to roost and I open the coop the first thing in the morning. I love'em!
  7. Oliver Douglas
    So far, spent $169 on a coop kit, $11.00 for the four chicks, $8.95 for a water bottle, $6.95 for a plastic feed dispenser, $16.00 for chicken feed, $4.00 for parakeet grit, $9.00 for a big bag of pine shavings, $19.00 for a heat lamp and bulb, $5.00 for dried meal worms (which they ignore) and $12.00 for a big plastic bin I used for their brooder. They will be six weeks old this Wednesday (April 22, 2015). $262.00 spent so far, and all I've gotten from them to date is entertainment. One thing people forget when they run the numbers is that much of the stuff purchased (feed and used bedding excluded) is reusable at a later date for the next go-round. Yard sales can be a great resource for many new chick folks. Recycling old stuff, like wash tubs, auto repair hanging lights, etc can save a lot of money. At this point each of the little darlings have cost me over $65 each....when you throw out Mr. Rooster, that goes up to $87 for each of the three hens....haven't even gotten to the straw for the layer boxes....better not be any slackers when egg laying starts...
  8. OldHen13
  9. yyz0yyz0
    One thing I did not see mentioned was the re-use of old dog kennels for pens. I was able to score 8 12x6 chainlink kennel panels for free from a neighbor who moved into a house with an existing dog kennel he did not want. He was just going to take the panels to the dump, so instead he dropped them off at my place. I used 3 for the run sides(coop is 4th side) I then put two more panels on top and also got ahold of some rolled chainlink fencing that I attached to the bottom of the panels and staked to the ground for a digger apron.
    Now I have a predator proof coop/run, I never have to close the door to the coop as the run is safe. Love not having to deal with a door twice a day.

    One more thing to consider, for many of us chickens are more than meat or eggs, they are entertainment as well. So how much does a cat cost you or a dog? Neither of those give eggs and I wouldn't use their poop in my garden.
  10. cstronks
    This is an excellent article. Really gives good estimations and such regarding chickens. The only point I would disagree on is raising your own chicks. To start, the equipment needed to raise chicks does not come cheap (especially if you are hatching your own eggs!), and shipping is also costly. You'll also have to feed the birds for 20-26 weeks until the point of lay. I have always bought started pullets from local farmers, and they've been $5, $7, and $10 (the most i've ever paid for a bird). Within four weeks of purchase most begin to lay and from there on you're set. Finding pullets can be more difficult than finding chicks, but I've had great success using BYC and with local references from the feed store in finding birds.

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