We’ve got a saying around our house: Chickens are pets, not poultry. And so, Goldie, Blackie, Barred Rock, Little Gray, Buff, Easter, Princess, and Blu -– our eight chickens — lead quite the charmed life, free-ranging when we’re working in our garden, and enjoying their varmint-proof run when we’re not. Let’s explore how much does it cost to raise chickens?
Needless to say, we’ve learned a lot about raising them since this adventure began about three years ago. We treat them with great care and kindness – just like you would a dog or a cat — and have been richly rewarded.
Some folks may not believe it, but when we call them by name, they react, and even sometimes follow direction, such as going where we want, when we want. And, of course, they’re quick to respond to treats, such as fresh dandelion greens.
But, frankly, not everyone can afford to baby them like we do. So when you’re trying to determine how much it costs to raise chickens, the best answer is: It depends.
What Are You Raising Them For!
Raising Chickens For Meat
If you’re planning to raise chickens for meat, we can get you started, since many of things we’ll explore do apply to the first couple of months. But the topic is really best covered in detail in another blog post, since harvest time takes you down an entirely different road.
However, if you’re going to go the meat route, you’re better off buying breeds known for their taste, such as Cornish Cross and Red Rangers. The good news: If you take care of them, in just 8-12 weeks, you’ll have fresh chicken good enough to eat.
Raising Chickens For Eggs
The same can be said of egg layers: Some breeds are simply more prolific, such as Rhode Island Reds and Buff Orpingtons. We’ve got two Buffs now and not only are they great layers, but they also have wonderful personalities.
Before we take out a sharp pencil to see whether this is right or even affordable for you, imagine a pet that consistently gives – as in fresh, delicious eggs — as well as it receives.
And maybe the reliability, convenience and enjoyment of such a mutually beneficial arrangement outweighs the initial expense.
Let’s take a look.
Stage One – Baby Chicks
Sure, bringing these little fluff balls home from the store doesn’t cost a lot. For example, you can get 10 Barred Rock chicks at Rural King for $12.99. That’s just $1.29 each!
Actually, priceless — especially if you have kids or a soft heart ‘cause, really, they’re super cute. Especially when they snuggle up together at night-night time. But forget about that warm and fuzzy stuff for the moment and let your inner, all-business, accountant re-emerge.
That’s just the beginning of your expenses when raising chickens.
An Approximate Breakdown of the Initial Costs:
|10 Barred Rock chicks||$12.99|
|Chicken wire to cover tub/extra for outside||$69.99|
|Heat lamp with bulb||$8.99|
|Pine shavings bedding||$4.69|
|Scratch and Peck Organic Starter (25 lbs.)||$38.49|
|Quality grit (5 lbs.)||$6.99|
Where Do Your Chicks Live
These little girls are going to need somewhere to live for the next six to eight weeks until you move them outside. Most recently, we used a large, plastic storage tub to make a comfy home for four. Cost: About $4.99.
You won’t need it right away, but before you know it, they’ll want to fly out of that tub and see the sights, so it would be good to have some, what else, chicken wire on hand to fashion a top for their residence. Plus, you’ll need chicken wire later for their outside home, so you’ve got two ways to go: Super budget-conscious will cost you about $11 with not much wire to work with later.
Or, you, ahem, can bite the “pullet,” and spend $69.99 for a four foot-by-150 foot roll of chicken wire that will get you started on their outdoor living accommodations.
More about that later.
Supplies You’ll Need For Your Baby Chicks
Without their momma, they need a heat lamp running 24/7 for about a month to keep their bodies at the right temperature, so add another $8.99, bulb included. (Electricity isn’t free, either, so there’s that.)
And, unless you own a sawmill, you’re going to need to buy some pine shavings for bedding inside the tub. A 19 pound bag will run you $4.69. Of course, now you’ve got tiny mouths to feed – so here’s another fork in the road.
You can give them a non-medicated organic chick starter – our preferred approach – $11.99 for a five-pound bag and quality grit, which helps them digest their food, at $6.99 for a five-pound bag. Scratch and Peck Feeds, our favorite brand, sells a 25-pound bag of organic starter for $38.49.
But if you go the less expensive route, you can get (shudder) medicated, non-organic, gmo food for just $12.99 for a 50 pound bag. It’s your choice, but remember: You are what they eat, if you plan on eating their eggs or meat.
Money Saving Tip: Chances are good you have two small plastic or glass containers that will hold food and water in the tub, so congrats, there’s a tiny savings there.
Total Baby Chick Startup Cost – $150
Stage Two – Building a Coop
Are you broke yet? I hope not – since we have some major expenses potentially looming on the horizon. As mentioned, the girls will outgrow their tub soon, and then it’s time to move them outside.
But to keep them safe from predators, such as the neighbor’s dog, foxes, raccoons or even hawks – a real threat — you want to spend some time and effort constructing a secure area.
It’s not as hard as it sounds – and if you have a decently ventilated shed, that could serve as their sleeping and laying area after you cover the floor with pine shavings and install poles high enough off the ground for roosting. (We used leftover 2x4s for one roost and an old mop handle for another.)
Or, if you’re really handy, you can build your own coop and save a few bucks – but probably not a lot of time.
Since we have older chickens and babies now and you can’t just throw them in together and expect them to get along, my son and I recently built a small sleeping/roosting area for the little girls.
An Approximate Breakdown of the Coop Costs
|Large Barn Chicken Coop||$299|
|EZEE Shed subfloor||$100|
How I Built My “Chicken Condo”
We inherited a decent chicken coop when we moved into our northern Indiana home, but when we relocated not long ago, we had to start from scratch. I didn’t have time to build one for the big girls, so I bought one that was ready to assemble from, you guessed it, Rural King.
It was called a Large Barn Chicken Coop that was made in China and cost, wait for it, $299.
Overall, the unit wasn’t hard to assemble and isn’t half bad, but lacks protection from blowing rain and snow, so their feed would get wet, among other problems. This necessitated the addition of another form of shelter.
I was walking through the parking lot of our local Lowe’s one Saturday morning when I spotted something called an EZEE Shed.
With A Name Like That, What Could Go Wrong?
For just $259 plus tax, I brought it home, and by the end of the day my son and I put it together to serve as our ladies’ sleeping and nesting area – conveniently located right next to the so-called Large Barn Chicken Coop.
As a final touch, I reluctantly got out my Sawzall and ripped a small hole in the side of the shed so the girls could walk from the coop into the EZEE shed without going into the weather.
Then we covered the sharp metal edges with genuine Duck Tape. True story.
What I Learned/Unplanned Costs
But then we noticed that water was seeping into a portion of the shed after it rained.
Since, as my wife reminds me, a dry coop is a healthy coop, my son and I went back to work, building a subfloor for the EZEE shed/sleeping/laying area. Made of 2x6s, deck screws and a hardwood panel – it had to be sturdy enough for us to walk on — the project took another afternoon and cost about $100.
Not that I’m bragging or anything, but sitting on its base, the EZEE Shed now kinda looks like a Chicken Condominium.
And cost about as much.
Stage 3: Security
An Approximate Breakdown of Coop Security Costs
|Utility fencing (100 feet )||$112.99|
|T-post fasteners (100 per bag)||$7.99|
|Bird netting 30 x 30 feet||$56.39|
|PVC Pipe (4 inch 10 foot length)||$13.19|
|12 T-Posts (8 to 12 feet apart)||$39.48|
|Zip ties (100 pack)||$7.99|
|12 foot 2×4||$3.73|
|Hanging chicken feeder||$5.99|
These costs are for a small, 10 x 10 foot run. (Our run is about 30 x 40 because we wanted to give them plenty of room to roam. It’s healthier.)
Between the so-called Large Barn Chicken Coop and the EZEE Shed, we definitely have the feeding, sleeping and nesting areas covered. But without some type of perimeter fencing, predators are bound to get them.
For example, I was sitting in my truck in our driveway talking to our two sons one sunny afternoon when we spotted a large red fox with a long, beautiful tail racing towards the coop.
The fox nearly scared the chickens half to death, but because we carefully fenced in their run and coop, the best it could do was scramble around the outside until we gave chase. Then it bounded away in the tall grass on the edge of our property.
Bottom line: You need a fence surrounding their coop and run.
What to do About a Fence
You might think this is overkill, but we actually use two types of fencing:
Five foot tall utility fence at $112.99 for 100 feet and chicken wire down below – all held up by steel T-posts at $3.29 a pop. T-post fasteners are $7.99 for a bag of 100. Hopefully, you already have a pair of pliers and/or needle nose pliers handy to bend the fasteners. Rip a 12 foot 2×4 and use some deck screws to fashion a frame for your door. Then staple some utility fencing and chicken wire to it. Zip ties will make decent hinges and a few pieces of rope or bungee cords will lock them in.
After you erect your utility fence and cover the lower part with chicken wire, we believe you need something to ward off birds of prey from above. That’s where bird netting comes in. Buy it depending on the size of your run – the place where they will hunt for bugs and such when you’re not letting them roam your property.
We used zip ties to connect the bird netting to the fence and two pieces of 10-foot PVC pipe like tent poles to hold the netting up. You can get PVC at just about any plumbing store.
So there you have it: A secure coop and a run.
Money Saving Tip: Remember the tub you raised them in? Cut an opening in one side, fill it with pine shavings and you’ve got a free nesting box. Add a water container for $34.99 and a hanging chicken feeder for $5.99 and you and the girls are good to go.
Other Semi Monthly Costs
If you were doing the math, we’ve got over a $1,000 — $1,097.86 to be exact — into this project so far, not to mention the on-going expense of premium organic layer food, grit, diatomaceous earth to help kill nasty little bugs called mites and chicken treats.
(Did I mention something called “Coop Confetti?” You can find it at Scratch and Peck Feeds, also.)
An Approximate Breakdown of Your Monthly Costs
|Organic layer feed (25 lbs. bag)||$25.99|
|Diatomaceous Earth (10 lbs bag)||$19.99|
|Layer grit (10 lbs bag)||$16.49|
|Treat — Organic 3-Grain Scratch||$31.99|
It’s a little tricky nailing down the exact monthly food and treat expenses, because as long as the weather’s good, we let them free range, which reduces our food and treat costs.
But if you added all our expenses to this point , we could have bought 203 dozen organic eggs at $5.99 a piece instead.
That’s the downside – and well worth considering if you’re trying to decide whether you’d like to raise chickens for eggs.
The Benefits of Owning Chickens
Now put your calculator away and consider the benefits.
Each week we not only get nearly two dozen of our own organic eggs, soon we’ll have twice that, since our four youngest chicks are now just a few months away from laying themselves. (It’s about six months from the day they break out of their shells to motherhood.)
And there’s nothing quite like your own farm fresh eggs for breakfast. Then, if we rented or bought a rooster, we could quickly double our brood, which would allow us to sell or give away a few dozen eggs a week.
Chickens Take Care of Bugs (Like Ticks)
But there are other benefits. For example, chickens love to eat bugs – good bugs such as earthworms, but also bad bugs such as grasshoppers, centipedes and ticks. Our Goldie and Blackie in particular enjoy plump, succulent grubs, and have been known to briefly delay gardening projects when they believe one of the fat, squirmy insects can be had. (In fact, truth be told, any of the girls would be glad to partake.)
And because we allow our chickens to free-range, they’re able to remove bugs from all over the property, as well as making the chickens healthier and helping reduce the amount of feed we have to buy.
Chickens Provide Great Compost
If you don’t have a compost pile yet, your new brood will fix that in a jiffy. The pine shavings you’ll use for their coop and the accompanying droppings make great material.
And speaking of compost: We recently “discovered” a new benefit provided by our fine feathered friends. They will quickly shred a pile of leaves searching for bugs, creating even more rich material for our compost pile.
And then there’s the fun. Pet lovers know how enjoyable the antics of their animals can be – and chickens aren’t any different.
As curious as cats, the slightest movement sends them investigating. If one finds a frog, mouse or some other juicy tidbit, the show begins as they grab it from each other and run all around the yard in an attempt to make it their own.
So, how much does it cost to raise chickens? For us, more than we thought. But since they’re now part of our family, we wouldn’t have it any other way.
Below is a Pinterest friendly photo…. so you can pin it to your Chicken Board!!