How Much Do Chickens Cost?

Do You Save Money Keeping Chickens for Eggs?

how-much-do-chickens-cost

Everyone is looking for a bargain, and raising chickens for eggs is the second rung on the homesteading ladder. The first is growing your own veggies. But how much do chickens cost, and does having your own backyard chickens actually save you any money? Let’s do some chicken math and find out.

DISCLAIMER: Before everyone gets all up in arms about the numbers, let us be clear. I live 45 minutes outside of Cleveland. These are the prices in my area. I will give you the math and you can do the research for how much do chickens cost in your area, and then enter your own numbers into the formulas.

ASSUMPTIONS: When figuring costs to determine how much do chickens cost, you need to make assumptions. I will show you the math for one chicken, even though no one actually raises one chicken. (I don’t think you can even buy just one chicken). That way you can add up how many birds you need to get how many eggs you want. For my bird I selected a heritage variety that will commence laying at 22 weeks. You can get hybrids that start laying at 17 weeks so you can adjust your numbers for them if you’d like. I also rounded my numbers to the nearest 1/10th of a cent.

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FURTHER ASSUMPTIONS WHEN DETERMINING HOW MUCH DO CHICKENS COST

  • You’re going to take the path of least resistance and get your feed at the most convenient location, which is probably not the grain elevator.
  • You do not live on a farm and will not be buying feed or chicks in bulk, forgoing those types of discounts.
  • I am using recommendations based on my experience. This is probably not your experience. Neither you nor I are wrong about our experiences.


1. What are you currently spending on eggs?

This varies WIDELY across the country by the current dozen eggs price. If I go to my local grocery store or farmers market and select brown, free-range eggs I will pay about $5/dozen. I realize this might not be what you pay for eggs but we want to compare apples to apples. If you’re going to raise cage free or free range chickens we need to compare prices of eggs with the same credentials.

$0.41 per egg

Keeping Chickens for Eggs

2. How much does it cost to raise a chicken?
Cost of a heritage breed chick purchased online and shipped to my local post office.

$3.60

Feed for the first 10 weeks while chick is eating high protein, high cost, chick feed. Consumption for 10 weeks is about 10 pounds. A 50-pound bag of feed at my local feed store is $17.02 including 6.5 percent tax. That’s $0.34 per pound. Multiply by 10.

$3.40

Feed for the next 12 weeks before the bird starts to lay. At 11 weeks the birds start eating 1.5 pounds per week at the same price per bag. $0.34 per pound times 18 pounds of feed.

$6.12

Pause: Before my bird starts laying, I have spent $13.12 to procure the chick and feed it for 22 weeks.

Resume: We have eggs!

Cost of feed for the next 30 weeks of the year. Layer feed is less. $13.83 including tax for a 50-pound bag or $0.28 per pound. Layers eat about 1.5 pounds of feed per week. And 1.5 pounds times $0.28 per pound times 30 equals …

$12.60

On average, a heritage bird will lay five eggs per week. In 30 weeks, that’s 150 eggs, assuming you light the coop to keep up winter production. You’ve spent $25.72 to get and feed your bird for a year. You have charged her an additional $11.82 in birdie rent based on fixed costs (see below).

You’ve officially spent $37.54 on your bird for the year. She’s given you 12.5 dozen eggs. At $0.41 per egg, she has saved you $61.50. A net savings of (drumroll please) … $23.96 annually. 

how much do chickens cost
A NOTE ABOUT FIXED COSTS

There is an initial infrastructure investment when calculating how much do chickens cost. You need a brooder with lights for the chicks, a coop with perches and nest boxes, waterer (including the possibility of needing a heated chicken waterer if you live in a colder climate), feeder and bedding. These are based on the chicken keeper. You can make a brooder out of a salvaged cardboard box and duct tape and can use a free five-gallon bucket to make a waterer. You can learn how to build a chicken coop from scrap lumber off Craigslist or build the Taj Mahal. I have estimated those costs here because they need to be amortized over the life of the items (how long your coop will last) and the number of all the birds who will ever live inside of it (like birdie rent payments).

Here’s an example so you can figure it out based on your own numbers.

• Cost of 6×6 coop: $500

• 3 brooder lamps and bulbs: $50

• Brooder: Free if you use scrap.

• Bedding: Free if you make your own.

• Waterer: $6 if you use the 5-gallon bucket hack.

• Feeder: $15

• Total cost: $591

Assuming your items will last for 5 years and you do 10 birds a year, the total comes to $591/50 birds = $11.82 per bird in fixed costs (bird rent). You also need to consider how long do chickens live when thinking about a long-term cost benefit to raising your own backyard chickens.

To figure out your own costs, just change out the numbers I have entered and put in your own. I’m interested to hear what other people come up with in other parts of the country! How much do chickens cost where you live?

Originally published in 2013 and regularly vetted for accuracy.

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Comments
  • The pleasure of eating our own farm fresh eggs, and the relaxation of watching our chickens scratch and peck around the farm is worth any amount their eggs might cost us. I LOVE chickens!

    Reply
  • I have also found that the cost is worth what you get from just having the chickens – they are so fun! Their eggs are delicious too. We also lucked out and had an old building we could convert to a coop, but otherwise the costs outlined here are about similar to ours.

    Reply
  • I started with 6 hens, enough to provide eggs for a family of 5. We have progressed to 25 hens and 2 roosters. They now provide all of our eggs and half the neighborhood buys eggs from us. We also now have a steady supply for meat chickens. It has been well worth the initial start up expense.!

    Reply
  • I’ve been doing chickens and ducks since 2008, due to a recent predator problem I’m down to 16 chickens and 10 ducks. I free range both. I cannot sell the extra eggs for the same price they go for in the stores, people here won’t pay the price, None of the other small producers in the area can come close to matching the store price either. We all sell for the same price, If one of us goes up a quarter sales fall. I have outright been accused of making all sorts of profits at 2 bucks a dozen, If we charge more than that they’ll just go to Walmart..It’s amazing. I have had people pull up the driveway, and say 2 Dollars a Dozen? Why so much? Walmart is a 1.19. My answer is , buy them at Walmart then. I get surprised looks from people when I tell them that I have yet to turn one single penny profit for the eggs..
    I started out to make one suggestion on the cost formula in this article.. Don’t forget to pay yourself for your time. It takes time to care for the birds, feed them and water them daily, Pick up eggs.. Do you spend an hour a day?? or two, caring for them? Cost of bedding and the time it takes to clean the coop.. don’t forget to also include the time it takes to run to the store and buy feed and bedding.. ALL the time you spend to care for your birds is all part of the formula, when you could just grab a dozen or two on your next trip into the grocery store. A rule of thumb is to pay yourself no less than minimum wage, then look and see how much you are saving.. or spending.. But we still do it for the Uber-healthy eggs just outside our door. Being able to sell some, HELPS pay their room and board, but don’t expect much in savings, or profits….if you are fortunate to have any of either. This is one of those times when the correct answer is “YES, I am doing it for my health.”

    Reply
  • It was never about the cost, it has always been about having the flock, watching the behaviors, and listening to all the flock sounds, humms, clucks, crows. And watching Momma chicken set on those eggs, and bring those oh so cute baby chicks out to see the world for the first time. The fact that we get eggs everyday is just a bonus.

    Reply
  • Unfortunately in many states and counties in the U.S.have begun the slow but tremendous banning of poultry out in the country due to the influx of city people moving out to the country. This is not necessarily through direct chicken prohibition but through building and code technicalities such as structures in a property of a certain size of property. Noise is the issue in my case, but my property is zoned agriculture. Unless we begin to rely on other counties for the hatching of chicken eggs or egg fertilization, banning chickens will eventually also harm the U.S. If I cannot have a rooster service specific breed of hens, we will pay the price for both. If i cannot have a building for my hens, should i see them freeze during the winter months? We will import chicken from china and export our beef in return, as the last agreement with china according to Pres. Trump. There goes our poultry farmers. We are killing each other slowly, economically and in a self sustaining way. Who would you rather grow and sell you your chicken,meat or eggs, some big company in china or a homegrown farmer in the U.S. that is from the outskirts of your city?

    Reply
  • You also need to figure in the savings: free-ranging chickens keep the grass short and eat the bugs so we save on mowing and pest treatment. Chickens are relaxing to watch so there might be some savings on Zoloft 🙂

    Reply
    • Friend O.

      Amen!
      People ask me why I have so many critters. My answer!?
      “It’s cheaper then a psychiatrist!”

      Reply
  • I just love the fresh eggs. I think I might feed our chickens to much or the birds eat it. We have 10 chickens and it seems like I go Thur 3 bags 40/50 pounds of feed every three months. We buy from a ranch store and i buy three bags to hit. $50.00 so I can use the coupon $10.00 off. Does this sound about right? I also feed snacks from the kitchen.

    Reply
  • Let’s not forget about the fertilizer they provide. We compost their dropping. Our vegetable garden production has never been better.

    Reply
  • Friend O.

    We go through 10 dozen eggs ever month maybe even more some times so roughly 20 dozen of eggs a month which if i go to Winco I can get it a 5 dozen medium eggs for 5.00 may have gone up again but i spend about 20 a month on eggs.

    Reply
  • Friend O.

    We are hopefully moving here real soon before summer to a 10 to 20 acre property that we will be turned in to a farm where we will have chickens ducks turkeys goats cow’s and rabbit’s Oh and Heritage PIGS which we already have on are farm now. 🙂

    but before we move I am hoping to have each hen have babies all but 2 hatched out babies last year each hen sat on almost 20 eggs 18 hatched out of the 3 hens so i am hoping that all 5 hens give me 18 babies next year which will give me 90 chicks walking around with there mothers. Of course i will keep them in there runs until the babies are old enough to free roam but we are more meat eaters then egg’s but we will be doing both once we move on to are own property we will have a spot for moms who want to be moms and hens who just lay eggs. I can’t wait I love farming and i want to so bad right now more then i am.

    as of now I own 2 adult Standard rex does 1 3 month old doe 1 buck and 3 8 day old kits, 5 hens 1 rooster 1 boar Kune kune pig and 1 gilt kune kune pig.

    Reply

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