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What are some good ways to lower the cost of having chickens?

Discussion in 'Feeding & Watering Your Flock' started by mason123h, Jan 2, 2011.

  1. mason123h

    mason123h In the Brooder

    Dec 27, 2010
    I spent a lot of money to get chickens and they have just started to lay eggs, but I am seeing that the feed is expensive and I dont think that it will pay for itself. Are there anyways that I can lower the cost of having chickens?

  2. clairabean

    clairabean Songster

    Nov 7, 2010
    Kootenays of BC!
    Try to get all the equipment second hand or make it yourself.

    Scraps. Lots of food scraps. Ask your friends to save their leftovers for you, ask the grocery stores if you can have their unsellable produce/bakery items for free. If you are in a nonsnowy climate, cut some fresh greens.
  3. First off is to do research. Get the smallest chicken that lays the largest egg and only how many you need to feed your own family. Or you could get 12 more than you need and sell a dozen eggs a week for $3.00 and every four weeks that buys a bag of grain.

    I always loved the big breeds but I find there are so many hens that mature to 6 lbs or under that lay a really nice egg. I have a bunch of small mutts that are totally cheap to feed and they all lay med to large eggs!

    Hope this helps!
  4. biddyboo

    biddyboo Songster

    Apr 27, 2008
    Ashland, Missouri
    Free ranging allows your hens to browse for seeds, greens, and insects to supplement their diet and lessen the amount of purchased feed you give them. I thought this would only be for warm months, but our hens are out scavenging every day unless we're having a deluge or the ground is covered with snow/ice. If you grown a vegetable garden, once the plants are established you can turn the hens in to browse for bugs and weeds. Be forewarned...they'll eat every scrap of new seedlings or tender young plants, so be wise about when to let them in. Also, scraps from your kitchen that would have been tossed can be given to your hens. There is little they won't eat, but I do avoid citrus because I've read it is not nutritious for fowl. Nearly everything else we've been cautioned about has been fine with the hens, no ill effects. We check with our local grocer to see when outdated, bruised, or darkened produce is being taken from display. We don't always come away with chicken treats, but we usually get a boxful, free. We still offer laying mash, scratch, BOSS, and Calf Manna to our flock, but we believe the supplements enrich their diet and stretch the purchased feeds. Best wishes on coming up with other ideas...~G
  5. kitchwitch

    kitchwitch Songster

    Feb 3, 2009
    Greensburg, Pa
    don't get chickens! lol! Seriously, they'll always be the most expensive eggs you'll ever eat. As far as how to make them cheaper here we go:

    Buy locally, with no concern for breed

    shipping costs a fortune, but if you want 3 Salmon Faverolles, 2 GLWs, 4 Ameraucanas and 1 Welsummer then you're going to have to pay for what you want. However if you go into this saying "I want a dual purpose brown egg layer" and that's your only criteria, then you can probably find some Red Sex Links on CL for cheaper than ordering from My Pet Chicken or any # of hatcheries. Also; if you can, get a rooster and you'll hopefully never have to buy baby chicks again.

    Only buy what you need

    Family of 4? you only need about 3-6 chickens. While in the summer you'll have a lot extra you can sell to family and friends, remember that once winter hits you won't be getting 3-6 eggs per day. My suggestion: freeze extra eggs for winter months. I freeze mine 2 dozen at a time by straining them through cheesecloth into a gallon freezer bag. I freeze mine flat so they stack easily. Freezing them for winter use saves you from having to buy them.

    section 8 coops

    That's what I like to call my "I have a low income" housing for my chickens. All of my chickens from this spring onward (and turkeys and ducks) are being put into hoop houses. Hoop houses are just one of a variety of inexpensive housing ideas. Generally speaking you can have cheap chickens or you can have a pretty coop. Unless you have lots of building materials already on hand, the coop is going to be the most expensive part of having chickens. If you have to have a pretty coop, you're just going to have to bite the bullet and fork over the cash to build (or purchase) an attractive coop. Otherwise housing for chickens can be made out of pretty much anything. Also remember, if you're fencing in a run chicken wire or hardware cloth isn't cheap. If you can free range your birds, that'll cut down fencing costs.

    time of year

    I get my first batches of chickens in April or May (last batch in October). Why? because I don't want them in my house. chickens under heat lamps stink to high heaven. they have a not-so-faint aura of microwaved Velveeta cheese no matter how clean I keep their bedding. I get my chicks and they stay inside for about 3 weeks under heat then they go outside with heat only at night for a couple weeks before I turn it off completely. (keep in mind that their brooder only starts off at about 80 degrees) This means that while most people are running heat lamps for 8-12 weeks in February I only run mine for about 4 1/2 weeks in late spring, early summer. Saves on electricity and I haven't lost a chick yet due to weather


    I grow all my own veg from seed. Being that it's just my husband and myself I end up with many, many more plants than we need. Every year I plant a big garden for us and a big "chicken garden" for the gals. It costs me no more to provide fresh fruit and veg specifically for the chickens and it means that their feed costs are less in summer/fall. I also save kitchen scraps to give them daily and sometimes when I'm feeling generous I'll buy a bag of crickets or nightcrawlers for them. In the winter they get regular old feed with kitchen scraps. Free ranging them also is a great feed supplement as long as they always have access to good greens.

    Eat them

    Don't let excess roos become a problem and certainly don't keep feeding lazy hens. Say you have 6 hens and a roo and it's November and they're production is coming to a grinding halt, don't feel obligated to keep feeding them. Let them feed you. You can knock off 3 or 4 hens for winter and come spring have some darling chicken nuggets (baby chicks) to replace them.

    Of course you may not want to eat your chickens, you may never have a rooster and you may have a solar powered coop whose exterior looks and interior features rival that of your neighbors homes, so take from this what you can and remember; while it's cheaper to have no chickens at all, it's not nearly as much fun!

    edited for clarification and grammar
    Last edited: Jan 3, 2011
  6. Olive Hill

    Olive Hill Crowing

    Apr 19, 2009
    It's a rare backyard flock that can even break even. If you want cheap eggs, shop at walmart. If you want fresh eggs from your own chickens, you're probably going to have to pay. [​IMG]

    That said, you can get closer to breaking even if you free-range the birds on varied terrain daily; buy your feed in bulk from a local mill; choose breeds that have a good feed to egg ratio -- ISA Browns are laying machines, for instance; remember your coop and other long-term supplies aren't a cost that just this batch of chickens needs to absorb, you'll have them for many years to come; keep them without frills, scratch, heat lamps for grown birds in the winter, store-bought treats, etc are expensive and unnecessary, if you're looking to do chickens on the cheap, don't use them; don't let anything go to waste, when those hens slow down in laying, eat them. They make great sausage; etc.

    Good Luck!
  7. plantmgr

    plantmgr Chirping

    Aug 13, 2010
    This is a great thread with very good info. I've been wondering this same thing. Unfortunately, it's winter and the free ranging doesn't work well here in Northwestern Illinois. This is the first week we've been without snow since long before Christmas. We also have coyotes that like to snatch up a chicken or two for a snack here and there, so I have kept mine in their pen for months. I'm hoping when the weather gets warmer I'll be able to let them out some. My plan is to have my husband build me a nice chicken tractor so I can move them all over the yard, but still keep them safe.

    The kitchen scrap thing is great. I have started feeding them that recently, and they love it. I wish I would have thought of it sooner. Can't wait til I have my garden again to give them the discards from that. I've also been stretching feed with corn that got spilled on the ground near the grain bins or in the field. My husband farms, and calls me whenever there is a corn mess to clean up. That's probably not an option for everyone, but you can buy shelled corn cheaper than layer feed at Farm and Fleet that can stretch your dollar. It might make the chickens fat though, but mine are doing very well.

    I do agree that chickens are not cost effective(especially in winter), but I still love 'em. I've heard that a lot of chickens stop laying at all in the winter, and my 22 EEs are giving me 12-19 eggs a day still, so I consider myself lucky.

  8. Ohhhdear

    Ohhhdear Songster

    Aug 15, 2010
    West Michigan
    I have ISA Browns, and I'm still getting 10-12 eggs every morning in the middle of a hard winter. The coop was the big expense, but it will last a lifetime. I've seen coops made from old pickup truck caps fitted out with roosts and nest boxes. Chickens are very adaptable as to where they live if the basics of dry and draft-free are met.

    You can recoup feed costs if you sell your eggs. I get $2.50/doz from the road traffic or at the farmer's markets, or $1.50/doz from the feed mill. Since I sell eggs and I have a resale tax license I don't have to pay sales tax on the feed I buy. I sell 3-4 dozen a week out my door, and take the rest to the feed mill. Well, the rest that my family doesn't eat. I also give eggs to my inlaws and son's family.

    Augmenting commercial feed with table and garden scraps really helps. It's amazing what chickens will eat. You don't have to sterilize table scraps or do anything special because they're omnivores. Getting scraps from your neighbors is good. Give them a lidded container to scrape plates into and trade them for a clean one once or twice a week.

    Let your chickens free range saves a LOT of feed, except when the ground's too frozen for them to find bugs and green stuff. If you fence in as much area as you can, let them out in the morning and they'll go back to roost in the coop when it's dark. Fencing costs money, but it's worth it to keep chickens out of the road and critters out of the run. However, you'll lose almost every decorative planting in their area.

    I also buy "scratch", horse sweet feed and bulk oatmeal, which gives them something to dig for in the leaves and entertain themselves in the winter when nothing's growing.

    Remember, before we had commercial feeds available, people would just toss their backyard chickens some cracked corn every morning to keep them nearby, and they'd do just fine free ranging.

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