Why aren't chicken economical?

polk county

10 Years
Oct 20, 2009
Why aren't chickens economical? Do you think the feed is overpriced? It’s just a byproduct of the soybean oil industry. Does anyone know how much it cost to produce a dozen eggs at home? That would be interesting to know.
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10 Years
Nov 25, 2009
Central Vermont
cause you have to build a coop, then feed the birds, then figure out what to do with the males, then keep the hens through the winter when they aren't laying and yes their food is overpriced. You can save some money if you cull very strictly and butcher your hens right when they pass two years, but most people don't really care enough, their just happy to get fresh healthy non battery caged eggs. I saved money without even trying by raising my own broilers last year. the price came out to just under the cheapest crap you could buy at the store, except mine was grass fed and all that jazz.


9 Years
Feb 16, 2010
Sweet Home, OR
Because we are overvaluing the feed and undervaluing the product. Commercially produced chicken (just like commercially produced everything) has minimized costs down to the microcent, at the total expense of the animal, and the consumer.

Backyard flocks focus on quality products and healthy pets, and since we're so used to seeing those cheap eggs at the store or inexpensive meat, we forget the actual cost.

Also, few backyard chicken owners are buying feed by the ton or mixing their own. You pay a pretty penny for that nice looking hen on the front of the perfectly wrapped paper bag.

I used to raise and breed pigs for many years as a 4-H/FFA project, and after I started mixing my own feed I cut feed costs of my brood sows by about HALF, and I had a better quality feed with more appropriate vitamins, minerals and protein for my project. It was nice to know that I was better controlling their intake for specific parts of their gestation and lactation, and between litters, vs. just changing the amount of feed and having to supplement on top of that (which is what I did while feeding commercial feed). I still purchased grower feed for my project pigs, just because they didn't eat half as much as the sows and it was a lot of work getting the sow's "recipe" right (and I didn't feel like doing it over again for a starter, grower and finishing recipe!).

Mac in Wisco

14 Years
May 25, 2007
SW Wisconsin
I think they can be, but most backyard flock owners don't manage their birds for high production. Bagged feed is expensive, is it overpriced though? Probably not. There are too many feed suppliers in competition with each other for anyone to overprice the feed. The extra cost comes from processing it into pellets or crumbles (vs a fresh ground mash), bagging, storage, marketing, and transportation.

Here is a breakdown I did in another thread about whether or not it is possible to make a profit selling eggs:


Let's take a look at a flock of 15 production hens, Leghorns or Red Sex Links, not a mix of dual purpose breeds.

Production 365 dozen / year

15 hens @ an average 80% lay rate will lay 1 dozen eggs a day.

365 days = 365 dozen eggs

Cost of Hens $150

Without going into the costs of raising them, lets say a point-of-lay hen (20 weeks) costs $10, that's a bit on the high side and you could even raise them yourself for cheaper.

Cost of Feed $434

4 lb hen eats around .25 lbs per hen @ 68 degs. Let's assume you don't heat the henhouse and they eat ad libitum @.33 lbs per day.

Bagged layer ration @ $12 a bag = $0.24 a lb

.33 lbs x 15 x 365 days = 1806 lbs per year

1806 @ $0.24 = $434

Electricity $13

Production hens need supplemental light. These 15 hens in a small coop will need a 60 incandescent lamp or the equivalent CFL at 14 watts. We'll assume that it burns 16 hours a day, even though it could be turned off during daylight hours.

14 watt CFL x 16 hours per day x 365 days = 82 kWH

At a high rate of $0.15 per kWH (I only pay $.10), then that's $12.30

Housing $120 per year

I built an 8x8 coop with wood floors, windows, and a shingled roof for around $800. This was using high quality materials purchased from the local DIY store. Covered run cost another $200 and I probably had around $200 in additional fencing, waterers, feeders, and supplies. So around $1200. This is just under $20 per square foot, which is in line with costs for most ag production structures, such as a large layer barn, or a hog barn, give or take a little.

Depreciating that over 10 years (IRS calls this a Single Purpose Agricultural Structure and allows a 10 year depreciation schedule), then that is $120 a year.

Total Cost $717

Cost per Dozen $1.96

Sell these eggs @ $3 / dozen and you've made a profit of ~ $1 a day or $365 for the year.

If your time caring for these hens is 20 minutes per day to feed, water, collect eggs, then you've made $3.00 an hour.


You can't eat all of your profits. On the other hand, if you sell at $3 / dozen and keep every third dozen for personal consumption, the enterprise pays for itself and supplies you with eggs. Your share of the eggs would be your profit.

This was using fairly conservative numbers. Costs could be tightened up a little.

Does not include any losses. If you use an industry standard of 5% loss you'd need a extra hen to meet that production.

Expenses are tax deductible. If you deduct these expenses and any sales tax paid as business expenses, the cost of production is actually less because you are not paying income taxes on that money. That can cut costs from by 15% or more, depending upon your tax bracket.


11 Years
Oct 1, 2008
Northern Colorado
Nice breakdown. I am sure that my hens do not lay at 80% rate. I think it has to do with the varieties I keep. And I give eggs away faster than I can sell them. I lose money hand over fist. I do beleive that if I really focused on the production side of things I could do a lot better. I view it as a not too expensive hobby. I sell my eggs for too little as well.


Premium Feather Member
13 Years
Nov 27, 2008
Glen St Mary, Florida
Not to be a wise guy or anything. But why isnt a dog or cat economical? To take a dog or cat to a vet is automatically $100 as soon as you walk through the door,then it goes up from there. I save money by having chickens as pets and they return me food. I have 18 chickens. If i had 18 dogs, I'd be bankrupt, not to mention the amount of food they'd eat. My wifes cats are so lazy that they wouldnt catch a mouse if it bit them on the nose. My chickens debug my yard, eat small snakes, keep the grass trimmed, fertilize the yard, rake leaves from alongside the house, eat leftover food, jump up in my lap when i'm sitting out in the yard, take their own bath,get up on their own in the mornings and go to bed on their own at night. To me,chickens are very economical. It's just a matter of perspective.


11 Years
May 23, 2008
Peterborough, ON
but what I do know is that my hens do lay over the winter, and we live through some pretty bitter and gloomy winters in Ontario.

I'm happy if a few dozen eggs in a week can pay for half a bag or a full bag of feed


11 Years
Dec 3, 2008
They can be....

My grandma lived in a rural area where chickens were a substinence (sp), not pets. I don't remember all the details, as I was a child back then, just visiting, but I can tell you for certain, that she would not have had any chickens if they cost more than they produced, in eggs and meat.

Chickens were fed mostly some cheap grain, not wheat, but probably mixture of corn and rye, and home-made "mash" from the garden. Boiled up kitchen leftovers, potatoes, squash, carrots, bread, etc. The rest they foraged.

The coops were build from scraps, no heating or AC in them coops
. And every bit of chicken was used: feathers for pillows, feet and heads for soup, intestines for cat food and bones for the compost pile.

If my grandma saw how much money I spent on the chickens, she would've flipped!


Flock Mistress
12 Years
Apr 20, 2007
Ontario, Canada
Economical compared to what?

No, seriously.

Do you mean "why isn't it cheaper to raise chicken/eggs at home than to buy them from the store?"

Well, sometimes it is, if a person has already-built housing and can supply a significant proportion of their feed from 'free' sources.

But generally speaking, the reason is this:

Suppose that the cheapest way to raise chickens was to do the kind of stuff you do at home. Then what would the big industrial-sized chicken farms do? They would do it THAT way. Only it would be cheaper for them b/c they can buy their feed and bedding hundreds of tons at a time and thus get much better prices than you can; and they use very high-performance lines of chickens that are killed when laying performance starts to drop off, so they are only ever feeding the very most productive chickens. Unlike a typical backyarder.

These two factors are WAY larger than the fairly trivial cost of shipping and labor.

This is why anything you do at home that requires buying a large amount of supplies, and hinges on efficiencies that the average individual will be unable or unwilling to take advantage of, will tend to be cheaper to buy in the stores. Same thing with clothing -- garment factories are NOT paying Joanne's or Michaels' chain store prices for their fabric...


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