Sssssooooo how much does it cost to raise chickens for eggs? Let’s figure that out…
With the rise in the cost of literally everything, people are looking for alternatives and ways to save money. And looking into producing your own food is no exception.
It doesn’t make sense to do all the extra work raising chickens if it ends up costing you more than buying it in the store.
It sounds great to be waking up to the sounds of clucking hens, stepping outside to collect fresh eggs, and enjoying a sustainable and self-sufficient lifestyle right in your backyard. But before heading on this exciting journey of raising chickens for eggs, it’s really important and wise to understand the financial investment involved.
While chickens are not a terrible expense they can add up quicker than you think. Especially if you follow the thought process of “chicken math” and get any chicken that looks cute to you.
This post is all about figuring out how much it costs to raise chickens for eggs AND how to figure out if it is cost-effective to do so.
Expenses Of Raising Chickens For Eggs
⚡There is really one main daily expense for keeping chickens and that is feed.⚡
Like anything you can make it as cheap or as expensive as you want. If you are getting started. Start ugly and use what you’ve got.
I see people talk about vet expenses but for a chicken?!
Come on. No, I am not taking a chicken to the vet. Sorry, not sorry. That is life on a real farm. You have to have limitations somewhere.
Like it or not chickens are at the bottom of the food chain and they are going to be a popular target for predators. Read this post about keeping hawks away from your chickens.
Most chickens don’t make it to old age unless you can become a master at animal-proofing your coop. So they rarely have treatable health issues unless you have too many for the space you have which can cause all kinds of health issues.
Ok this is where we are going to agree to disagree or you may hate me and say “Thanks but no thanks, I’m gone”…
I take the Chickens are just chickens and if you can’t do it yourself put it out of its mystery approach. I know I know that might sound terrible to some but that is just facts of farm life and the facts of nature for that matter.
Yes you should steward them well and do preventative care but taking a chicken to the vet for bumble foot or to be patched up after a predator attack or something like that is not logical.
Consider having about $50 set aside for pest preventative each year and maybe some deworming but besides that you need to decide what your limits are when it comes to expenses. Make this choice for you and what you are comfortable with but don’t go into debt or pay crazy amounts of money for an animal that will not earn its keep after the fact.
Bedding and Litter
Keeping the coop clean is definitely important for your chickens but doesn’t need to be done as often as you might think. But the main cost is simply going to be switching out the entire load of bedding. If it’s just a regular clean up you can turn the poo under and let it compost down some in order to have the benefits of the deep litter method.
However keep in mind that this depends on the size of your chicken coop, how many chickens you have, and how long they get to free range every day to spread the droppings elsewhere instead if in the coop.
We have a good size coop that is only at about half the chicken capacity and I change the bedding every 6 months. Once in the spring and the second right before winter.
It could also get messier during the winter because chickens are babies and will stay inside the coop more often than not if the weather is bad or there is snow on the ground.
As far as cost goes it takes two pine shavings bails to cover our coop floor which are about $6 each. So twice a year is a total of about $27 ish dollars after tax. Not bad at all.
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Honestly, this will go back to the veterinary care that you would be able to do yourself. All chicken owners should set aside a certain amount of money for their flock so that if there is something needed that is outside of the average cost of keeping chickens it doesn’t cause a single worry.
How To Figure Out How Much Feed You Go Through
This is key to knowing how much it costs to raise chickens for eggs.
Figuring out how much feed you go through is tough to do when you have a lot of chickens. But the average standard-size chicken will eat about 1/4th pound of feed a day.
That means that a chicken will go through about one 50-pound bag of feed every 200 days or about two bags of feed a year. That doesn’t sound like much but hold on until I show you the math for having a good size flock.
If you have chickens already and you want to see how much you are going through here are your options.
#1 Is Mesure It
- Take the amount you are feeding them for one day.
- Weight it and divide a 50-pound bag of feed by the weight of one day’s feed amount.
(That will give you a ballpark of how many days you get per bag.)
#2 Track It
Your second option is to write down the day you buy chicken feed in your planner or put it in your phone calendar to track how often you buy feed.
Do this for about 3 months or three times of buying feed. So you can start to see a pattern and be able to do the math of how much feed you go through for the full year.
One-Time Startup Costs
Getting started with any animal is not going to be cheap if you don’t already have the supplies needed.
Backyard chickens are no exception.
I will cover the supplies and housing you will need to raise chickens for eggs. As well as how much you can expect to pay to buy baby chicks or grown chickens from other chicken owners.
The chicken coop is going to be your biggest expense if you don’t have one already.
Providing a secure home for your flock is vital. The coop should offer adequate space for the chickens to roost, nest, and move around freely. But more importantly than that it needs to keep out any predators looking for a midnight snack.
Mainly raccoons, skunks, weasels, and possums. If you live where coyotes and bears are an issues they will cause problems too.
Constructing or buying a coop can range from DIY budget options to more elaborate designs. Ranging from a few hundred dollars to as much ask $7,000.
If you are getting scrappy and use what you have on hand and only buy what you need to make a secure box for your chickens you can keep it pretty affordable.
Ours isn’t all that pretty but it does the job just fine.
Your best option is to build one yourself using recycled materials and other wood you have around the farm.
Instead of paying several hundred to even thousands for a chicken coop. Here are a few good building plans for chicken coops on Etsy if you are able to build one yourself. But if you don’t have the skill set to build on you can save up the cash and go the rout o buying a chicken coop if you need too.
Chicken Coop Options
Chicken coops building plans for 6-12 chickens.
This coop is perfect if you when a smaller backyard or do not want to spend too much on building materials but still want a cute chicken coop.
Here is a cute western-style coop building plans.
This coop is so fun and you could tweak the sign to be a general store if a saloon isn’t your thing.
Small Chicken Coop
This coop is small but it has amazing raitings for ease of use on the building plans.
Those little coops you see on Amazon or at Tractor Supply are not going to withstand a raccoon or weasel trying to get in. Just an FIY.
Buying Day-Old Chicks Vs Started Hens
Depending on the breed you can expect to pay $3-$5 dollars per baby chick. If you buy from a hatchery you will also have about $30 in shipping per 15 birds.
A juvenile (started chick) that is about 12-18 weeks old will cost about the same as a full-grown hen. Anywhere from $15 – $30
Do not pay more than that because if you are paying $40+ you are probably paying for a fancy breed, not a chicken that is intended for laying eggs.
Here is a list of supplies you will need if you are raising chicks.
- Heat lamp – Find On Amazon
- Heat lamp bulb – View On Amazon
- Electrolights – Get On Amazon
- Chick feeder/waterer – Get On Amazon
- Pine Shavings for Bedding in the Brooder
- Plastic Tub – Get at Walmart – We get these tubs because they are the longest and are still tall enough to last the chickens a little longer than the ones most people buy for clothing storage.
Total = $82
Here is a list of supplies you will need to keep adult chickens
- My favorite bowls that I use for both water and feed. – Find At Walmart (about $5 each – they last well through the winter and you can flip them over and easily pound the ice out like and ice cube tray)
- Pine bedding for the bottom of the coop.
The latest on Youtube:
How To Figure Out If Is Cost-Effective To Raise Chickens For Eggs
Ok, let’s get to the good stuff. When figuring out anything. Never overestimate how much produce you will get. And on the expense never underestimate. If you are in the green on both GREAT but you never want to put yourself in the red on purpose.
Is it worth raising chickens?
#1 -You have to know what price you are trying to beat.
If you would normally buy the cheapest dozen of eggs that is what you are trying to beat.
They are about 2.60 BUT if you would buy the brown free-range eggs. Those are ON SALE for $4.99 at Kroger at full price they are $6.99
So here are the numbers we are going to try to beat. Either $4.99 or $2.60
#2 – Cost per chicken per year
Remember how I said one chicken will go through about two bags of feed per year? Let’s assume you are paying $18 (including tax) for a 50-pound bag of chicken feed.
It costs $36 dollars a year to feed one chicken.
#3 – How many eggs you will get per year
Assuming you bought a good laying breed like an Astrolorp, leghorn, or barred rock you should be able to get about 280 eggs per year per chicken.
We are going to take 280 and divide it by 12 and that will give you how many dozen one hen will lay.
280/12 = 23 dozen
#4 – Produce times the cost at the store
If you had to buy 23 dozen eggs of the cheapest eggs it would cost you about $60. If you were buying 23 dozen eggs at $4.99 each (for the free range) that would cost you about $115.
23 x $2.60 = $59.80
23 x $4.99 = $114.77
59.80 – 36 = $23.80 <– Total savings even if you bought the cheapest eggs you can find at the store.
You save about $80 a year if you are buying brown, free-range, cage-free eggs.
So currently with feed at $18 a bag yes it is cost-effective to keep chickens.
To answer the question straight out.
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Is it cheaper to raise chickens for eggs or buy eggs?
Right now as of 2023 it is cheaper to raise chickens for eggs than buy them.
BUT, you will have the start-up cost of a coop and supplies. So if you are ok with that and you plan to stick with raising chickens for the long hull then go ahead and do it.
But have a plan for what you will do if eggs become cheaper again and your chickens end up costing you more than buying eggs. Will you keep them, sell out, or lower the number of hens you have.
Currently, you would have to pay about $30 a bag of feed for it to cost more than buying the cheap eggs from the store.
Tips To Save Money Getting Started Raising Chickens For Eggs
To keep raising chickens for less than you can buy eggs at the grocery store you have to keep costs as low as possible.
Here are some key things you need to do in order to keep your flock producing well and not a money suck.
🌥Make sure that your birds get 14 hours of daylight all the time even in the winter. If you let the light go out. Your chickens will stop laying for most of the winter.
Get birds that can withstand your cold temps better.
🐔If you have thin birds like Leghorns your birds are putting energy into staying warm and not laying as frequently. Either get a larger breed like a Wyandotte or cochin that still lay well but are a bit thicker.
Or you will have to heat your coop in the really cold month which is another expense.
Cull birds that are not laying anymore.
🍳Hens are born with as many eggs as they are going to lay in their lifetime. Some hens may stop laying around 3 years old. If you have a hen that has stopped laying you may want to consider giving them away or adding them to your freezer. A hen that is not laying eggs eats just as much as the ones that do lay.
Only keep one (or none) rooster.
You don’t need a rooster to get eggs. The rooster’s main job is to warn the hens if danger is nearby. But not all roosters are good at their job. So if you are keeping your hens in a good enclosure anyway there really is no point in keeping a rooster.
Give Your Flock Kitchen Scraps
The reason I did not have you count the savings in your feed expense calculation is because you can not guarantee you will always have food to send to the chickens. When budgeting you never want to assume something that is variable.
Sending food to the chickens has to become a habit. When you are busy cooking it’s hard to want to go outside and drop the extras outside to the birds while you are busy. With that said you can give your chickens pretty much anything. If you are cleaning out the refrigerator take the food out to the chickens. Take pealings or leftovers to the chickens if you are not the type to eat them yourself.
New To Raising Chickens?
You Need This SIMPLE & Easy Guide To Raising Backyard Chickens.
🐔If you are completely new to raising chickens make sure to check out this complete guide eBook to raising Backyard chickens. 🐔
How to keep the dogs from eating what you give the chickens. I have four house dogs and this is a common battle. Here are a few things you can do.
- Give the kitchen scraps to the chickens BEFORE you give them their pellets because you know they are far more likely to clean up all the food.
- Only put the food where the dogs can’t get to like in the chicken run.
- And or put the food in a bowl so if there is food the chickens did not eat you can pick it up and throw it away to keep the dogs off of it