Is It Cheaper To Raise Your Own Chickens For Meat (Simple Math Explained)

If you are considering dipping your toe into the world of backyard farming and want to know if you will save money by raising your own meat chickens I’ve got you covered.

One question that frequently arises when it comes to raising chickens is whether it’s more economical (ie saves you money) to raise your own chickens for meat.

This blog post is now about tips and tricks to raise meat chicken but I will tell you ahead of time that you HAVE TO be very calculated and intentional about raising meat chickens so they will get as large as possible within the shortest amount of time. 

This means getting as high of protein as you can, raising them during the late spring to early summer so its not too hot but not so cold that they need to have supplemental heat to keep them from getting a chill. Because if they do that energy will go to keeping warm not growing. Intern wasting any feed they consumed.

Ok so moving on.

In this blog post, I’m going to walk you through the costs and help you do the math to figure out if raising chickens for meat is truly cheaper than purchasing chicken from the store. Let’s crunch the numbers and find out if raising your own chickens for meat is a cost-effective option.

What number do you have to beat?

Before you even bother to figure out what the expenses are for this homestead project, you need to look at what the number is that you are trying to beat.

What is the actual cost of chicken per pound if you buy it at your grocery store?

But here’s the catch if you would not normally buy organic chicken that is free-range, farm-raised, high-quality brand from the grocery store that is not the number or price tag you get to for this math problem.

Because you are ultimately not saving yourself anything if you are giving yourself more wiggle room. It’s kind of like giving yourself more calories on a diet you’re ultimately cheating.

Any better quality meat you get as a result of raising your own animals is a bonus. 

So if you would buy the chicken that is $2.99 a pound for chicken breast and that is the cheapest brand you can get. Then that is the price that you have to beat when you are calculating the cost of raising meat chickens.

meat chicken

But if you would normally buy the high quality chicken then you can use that higher price per pound as your number to beat. Because that is the price you would normally pay for x amount of pounds of food.

Just don’t cheat because you really want to raise your own meat chickens and you’re trying to justify it…

The Formula For Finding Out The Expences Of Raising Meat Birds

You can use this for anything you want to raise on your homestead.

The math problem you have to run is this: Total cost / Divided by the total pounds of meat produced = your price per pound.

Let’s say that the price you are trying to beat is $2.99 per pound of chicken. 

Each bird will weigh about 9-10 pounds BEFORE butcher and you will lose about 1/3rd of the live weight after butcher. 

Let’s assume you get 6-pound carcasses per cornish cross chicken you raise.

$2.99 x 6 = 17.94 ( so you have a budget of basically $18 to raise each meat bird in order for it to break even.

Do You Really Want To Invest That Much Up Front

Before we go any deeper you need to ask yourself are you willing to invest potentially $18 per bird before you see any reward for your effort? For every 10 meat chickens, you are going to have to pay $180 upfront.

Ready to keep going? Ok let’s look into how much raising your own meat chickens could cost you.

Initial Investment

When figuring the cost of raising chickens for meat, you should factor in the initial investment IF you are starting your homestead on a budget. You may already have the usual supplies to raise chickens. If that is the case then you can skip this section

The start-up costs include setting up a shelter, and a brooder, buying feeders and waterers, and getting a heat lamp and pine bedding.

While the upfront costs may seem daunting, it’s important to remember that many of these items are reusable and can be used for future flocks.

meat chicken

Feed Costs

One of the most significant ongoing expenses in raising chickens for meat is the cost of feed. Commercial feed is readily available and specifically formulated to meet the nutritional needs of meat chickens. However, it’s crucial to compare the cost of buying feed versus the cost of processed chicken from the store.

On average, a meat chicken consumes approximately 12-15 pounds of feed to reach market weight. 

This is not a post about how to raise meat birds. You can read more here about that. BUT I need to warn you, this is not the area you want to skimp. Meat birds need HIGH protein feed and if you try to do things to “save on feed costs” it will come to bite you in the butt and the chickens will not meet the weight you had hopped at the usual 9-10 weeks of age for butcher weight. 

Make sure to start researching local feed prices so you can determine whether raising your own chickens is cost-effective.

For us the local tractor supply has a 30% protein game bird feed for $24 for 40 pounds. 

meat chicken

Ready To See How Much The Chicken Feed Will Cost To Raise Cornish Cross?

  • $24 + 7% for tax is = 25.68
  • 25.68 / 40 = 0.642 per mound of feed.
  • 0.642 x 15 pounds of feed = $9.63

Just in feed, it is going to cost you just under $10 a bird to feed one cornish cross chicken.

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Processing Costs

This is an area of homesteading you have to be willing to ask yourself if are you able to do the butchering yourself. If not that’s ok but then that is an average of $3-$5 extra per bird that you are going to have to pay a butcher. 

If you plan to do it yourself, this is an area where you could go hole hog and spend multiple hundreds or even thousands of dollars on equipment. Boot strap it your for your first batch of meat chicks and see if you even like raising these messy little critters. 

If you like the taste of the fresh chicken then you can invest in equipment such as a chicken plucker, good knives, and other processing tools to help speed up the process.

Cost of Purchasing Day-Old Chicks

First, let me be clear. You DO NOT want to get dual purpose breeds for raising chickens for meat. They take 6-9 months before they are even close to being worth eating. 

Whereas broiler chickens can be ready to harvest in 9 weeks or less. 

This is the one time that buying poultry meat birds from farm stores is worth it. They tend to be $2-$3 which is going to be cheaper than buying them from a hatchery. 

day old chicks

Time and Effort

While monetary expenses are a crucial consideration, it’s equally important to account for the time and effort required to raise chickens for meat. Caring for the birds, ensuring their well-being, cleaning the coop, and providing food and water demands consistent attention.

However, many people find great satisfaction in raising their own food, appreciating the transparency, quality, and control over the process. If you enjoy the hands-on experience and view it as a hobby, the time and effort may be a rewarding investment.

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Calculating The Final Cost

  • 0.642 x 15 pounds of feed = $9.63
  • Butchering – $0 – $5
  • Cost of the broiler chick – $3

If you butcher the chickens the final cost per bird is $17.63 which leaves no wiggle room at all. If you choose to process them yourself that will be the only real way raising chickens for meat would save you money.

meat chicken

Tips To Save Money, What Not Worth The Money Saved

There a few things you need to keep in mind when it comes to raising animals for meat. There are some areas you can cut corners and other areas that come back to bite you in the butt. 

Get scrappy with the housing and supplies to save money:

  • You can feed and water chicks from large bowls and containers you have lying around. You don’t need to buy chick waterers and feeders. 
  • A coffee can or large jar can work for a feed scoop. You don’t need to by feed scoops.
  • Use the fetch app to scan your rechips and get points towards things like Amazon gift cards. (get bonus points with this link.)
  • Be intentional about the time of year you raise meat chickens. The temperature is everything. If the chicks are slightly cold the food they consume will go to keeping them warm instead of growing. If they are too hot they won’t eat as much causing them to slow down growing as well. 
5 meat chickens

Giving kitchen scraps and low-protein foods to save on feed is not worth it. Here’s why. 

After 9 weeks the chicks feed to meat conversion starts to dip. So it is in your best interest to get them to weight before 9 weeks. If they eat scraps you give them or you are trying to do the whole “pasture-raised” thing without knowing the level of protein in your grass you are letting your birds fill up on low-protein food.

That causes them to fill up on lower protein food and not eat what will help them grow. 

If they weigh less at butcher time that causes your price per pound to go up just as much as if you had fed them full protein feed. Make sense?

fresh chicken meat

Is It Worth Raising Meat Chickens

After considering the various factors involved in raising chickens for meat, it’s clear that the cost-effectiveness depends on a few things.

While raising your own chickens can provide fresh, high-quality meat and maybe even a rewarding experience (depending on your tolerance for chicken poop), it requires an initial investment, feed expenses, and dedicated time and effort.

Ultimately, the answer to whether it is cheaper to raise your own chickens for meat depends on your specific circumstances, priorities and how calculated you want to be.

But if you want a straight answer from me yes or no. I would have to say if you are looking to SAVE money raising chickens for meat. No its not going to save you money. IF you are like us and buy the lower end chicken from the store.

Cause hey we’ve got life goals that are more important than paying twice the amount for higher-priced chicken. I am all about sacrificing short-term pleasure for long-term gain.

Make sure you make the choice based on data, not a heart-led decision. That is what will cause your homestead to take way more out of your family’s operating budget than you ever planned.

Whether you choose to head down the path of backyard chicken farming or opt for store-bought chicken, the goal of enjoying delicious and nutritious meals is within reach. 

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