|

The Cost of Raising Chickens In the USA [Meat and Egg Chickens!]

Welcome! This article contains affiliate links, meaning I get a commission if you decide to make a purchase through my links, at no extra cost to you.

This article is part of our Raising Meat on the Homestead series.

Whether you want fresh eggs or to be more self-sufficient, you may have wondered about the cost of raising chickensUnlike other livestock like pigs or cows, chickens need relatively little space. So many homesteaders are starting to farm them in their backyards.

But becoming a chicken farmer is more complicated than just buying chicks and giving them chicken feed. Not only do the costs add up, but you have to weigh the pros and cons of raising these animals, especially if doing so for their meat, not just eggs. 

(In other words – we have loads of experience raising poultry. And we know the real-world cost of raising chickens – short-term and long-term. We want to share our insights with you.)

Lovely and healthy flock of backyard chickens.

So, with that in mind, here’s everything you need to know about the cost of raising chickens.

Sound good?

Then let us continue!

How Much Does It Cost to Raise Chickens?

farmer feeding hungry backyard chickens from a bucket

Raising chickens costs about $100 per year per chicken. But when pricing out the various expenses for raising backyard chickens, you must consider the upfront, ongoing, and surprise costs. While each situation is different, the main elements include the cost of chickens themselves (or baby chicks, if you prefer), feed costs, and the equipment necessary to raise them. 

While raising chickens costs approximately $100 per year per bird, we also break it down further.

1. One-Time Expenses:

  • Chicken Coop: The upfront cost for a good-quality coop is typically around $250. You can even build your own to save money.
  • Feeders and Waterers: Plan to spend between $20 and $30 for these essential items.
  • Incubator and Brooder: If you’re starting with chicks, an incubator (around $100) and a brooder (about $60) are necessary.
  • Chicks: Expect to pay around $4 to $30 for each chick.
  • Toys: Optional, but they can enhance your chickens’ well-being (budget around $30).

2. Monthly Expenses For a Flock Of 8-10 Chickens:

  • Bedding: Roughly $15 per month for new materials and fresh changes.
  • Food: Feed costs vary based on the number of chickens and your price. If you source locally at Tractor Supply or Lowes, you might pay around $30 to $50 per month to feed eight chickens, paying around $20 per 50-pound bag.
  • Grit: About $5 per month.

3. Vet Bills:

  • Vet visits can cost $25 to $100 occasionally, depending on the health of your chickens.

4. Total One-Time And Annual Cost

  • One-time expenses: $500 (approximately)
  • Annual expense per bird: $100 (approximately)

Remember that these chicken cost estimates vary based on factors like the size of your flock, the feed quality, and any additional accessories you choose. But overall, expect an outlay of $500 upfront and a recurring cost of around $100 per year per bird.

There’s also a ton more to know about how much chickens cost.

Let’s analyze the ideas in more detail.

Shall we?

How Much Do Chickens Cost?

farmyard chickens grazing and foraging on an organic farm

One way to get your backyard farm up and running sooner is to buy adult chickens instead of chicks. This way, you can produce eggs faster or reduce the time necessary before slaughter. Adult chicken prices can vary from $10 to $50 per bird, depending on factors like: 

  • Sex – Females are worth more than males because of their egg-laying abilities. 
  • Breed of Chicken – Rarer chicken breeds cost more because they are in short supply. 
  • Breeder – Buying from a hatchery will cost less than meeting with a home or small breeder. 
  • Pullet – A pullet is a female chicken that has already started to lay eggs. These birds are automatically more expensive, costing between $15 and $30 each. 

Read More – 17 Black and White Chicken Breeds – Our Chanel Poultry List!

How Much Do Baby Chicks Cost?

Mother chickens foraging with her baby chicks.

Baby chicks cost between $3 and $6, depending on the breed, supplier, and whether it’s sexed or not. Day-old chicks are the cheapest, while sexed chicks (meaning you know if it’s a male or female) are more expensive, and rarer breeds will also inflate the price.

We check our local Tractor Supply when our friends ask how much it costs to raise chickens. They sell backyard hens for cheap. As of spring 2024, Tractor Supply sells ten female ISA Brown chicks for approximately $41. That means each chick only costs about $4! Some of their fancy chicken breeds are a tad more expensive.

Their female Americana chickens cost roughly $46 per ten-count. We also saw some breathtaking Sapphire gem chickens. But they cost $54 for ten female hens.

(We should note that these prices are for female hens. You can also buy baby chicks cheaper if you buy them un-sexed – meaning you may have some male chickens in your flock. Not bad if you want broiler chickens!)

Many new homesteaders stress about the expense of raising chickens in the USA. But we tell them to look on the bright side! Chickens can help you save money if you prefer eating fresh, organic, natural eggs. The cost of eggs doesn’t seem to be getting any lower! And chickens also give you loads of chicken poop! Chicken poop makes the perfect (and 100% natural) fertilizer for your vegetable crop, fruit trees, and herb garden. (Saving money on egg cost is enough for us to raise chickens happily! Any fertilizer and chicken meat are merely a fun bonus.)

Cost Of Feeding Chickens

Backyard chicken foraging in the late afternoon pasture.

We always say that chicken feed is the primary cost of raising chickens. But how much do hens eat? And how much does chicken feed cost?

In our experience, and according to most reliable sources, adult hen chickens eat approximately one-quarter of a pound of feed daily. Your hen could eat more or less depending upon breed, weight, health, season, and activity level. 

The Purina website also states that a 50-pound bag of chicken feed will last one chicken for about 33 weeks. (You can find a 50-pound bag of chicken feed at your local Tractor Supply for around twenty bucks. Prices online are usually higher, about $40 to $50 for 50 pounds. But either way – it’s dirt cheap.)

How Much Does It Cost to Feed Chickens?

When breaking down the total cost of feeding chickens, you must multiply the feed cost by the number of birds. For example, if you feed a single chicken 1/4 pound of food daily, you’d need two pounds for eight birds

Organic feed is also more expensive than standard chicken feed, so you have to decide whether it’s vital for your chickens to eat higher-quality ingredients. That’s not to say a regular chicken feed is poor. But it’s not as nutritionally balanced.

On average, you can expect to pay about $0.17 to $0.20 for feed per day for each chicken. So, if you have a small backyard flock, your overall feeding costs will be pretty low. 

How Much Does Chicken Raising Equipment Cost?

As most backyard chicken keepers will tell you, the cost of raising these birds is not the animal itself. Or the feed. Instead, the initial cost of all the equipment and ongoing maintenance costs are the hidden expenditures that add up. Even if you only have two or three chickens (chickens enjoy companionship – so we advise against only having one), you still need a suitable setup, including the following.

Fencing

Fences help keep your chickens inside and predators out. Even if you don’t live in an area with natural predators (i.e., coyotes), you may still have to worry about dogs and cats. Chicken fences should be at least six feet high, and you must bury them six inches below the surface. 

If you live near determined predators like foxes and coyotes, you should invest in electric fencing, which is more expensive than standard poultry wire. Chain-link fences can also be suitable. But chain-link won’t keep out a hungry predator – especially raccoons. Here’s a quick breakdown of the costs of different fencing options.

Electric fences are the most expensive because the materials are pricier, and you may have to pay for installation. Poultry wire is the cheapest option. But it won’t keep out predators very well. 

11 Chickens That Lay Colored Eggs! [Olive, Blue, and Pink Hen Eggs?!]

Read More – 11 Best Chicken Coop Floor Materials! Cement vs. Straw vs. Woodchips!

Chicken Coop

two beautiful red and yellow chicken coops in the backyard garden

The cost of chicken coops varies widely. Part of the price variance is because some homesteaders build chicken coops from scratch – and other chicken proprietors prefer purchasing pre-built poultry housing.

Numerous elements go into building a chicken coop, but a cheap DIY version (for a handful of chickens) can cost as little as $100. For a more spacious or high-end chicken coop, you can expect to require up to $1,700 for materials. Or more, depending on the size and design.

Some homesteaders may also choose to buy a pre-made chicken coop for convenience. A ready-made chicken coup from Amazon or Tractor Supply can cost anywhere from $250 to $2,000 – or more.

(There’s nothing wrong with retail chicken coops. However, we prefer building ours from scratch! Check out our massive list of DIY chicken coop plans for inspiration.)

The essential elements of a chicken coop include: 

Nesting Box

You’ll need nesting boxes if you want eggs from your chickens. One nesting box could work for two chickens, provided the hens have privacy and are not cramped! Line the poultry boxes with a substrate like pine shavings. (Or any wood shavings will work). Nesting boxes should be about four to six square feet.

Roofing

Chickens need an enclosed structure and roof over their heads to stay warm at night, protect them from the weather, and keep predators at bay. (Remember that a fence won’t stop owls. Or hawks!)

Many chicken owners choose an A-frame roof design for their coops. But any solid roof design can work if it keeps your hens safe from rain, winds, and predators. (A-frames and sloped chicken coop roofs help keep rainwater from pooling atop your coop. Food for thought.)

Roaming Area 

Your birds need room to spread their wings, explore, walk, and forage for bugs and feed. Pecking for food also seems to keep the birds occupied and mentally engaged.

Most credible chicken farmers say you need at least eight feet of run space per bird unless they’re free-range chickens. (If possible – offer more than eight feet. The more chicken space? The better. Don’t cramp your birds!)

Water

hens gathering around water bowl for a drink on a hot summer day

The most expensive upfront cost when watering your chickens is building or buying a drinking trough or watering station. We also like to have a few on hand and put them in several locations. That way, our birds can always get a drink whenever (and wherever) they need it.

Ideally, you can empty and refill your waterers without fuss since chickens need fresh water daily. Also, it’s easy for substrate and other debris to get into the drinking trough. So you must monitor your chicken’s water regularly.

Several chicken waterer options are cheap on Amazon and Tractor supply – anywhere from $30 to $50. So, the sunken cost isn’t bad.

The ongoing cost of hydrating your birds shouldn’t be that significant, either. (Unless you have a massive farm and high water bill rates.)

Never forget the cost of watering your chickens! They’re surprisingly thirsty birds. And they require access to clean and fresh drinking water at all times. Expect your chickens to consume approximately twice as much water as food in weight. So if your mature hen eats half a pound of food each day, she will likely drink around one pound of water daily. (You may expect each chicken to consume one pound of water daily or approximately 16 fluid ounces. But remember that your chicken may need more. Always offer plenty of fresh water, regardless of their apparent thirst!)

Maintenance

Chicken coops and fencing require diligence and upkeep to stay in good condition. Weather conditions, predators, and pecking chickens can damage these elements over time. Ongoing maintenance costs can vary based on variables like the following.

  • Bedding – You need to swap chicken bedding out at least once per month. Depending on the chicken bedding you’re using, it might cost about $20 to $30 monthly. 
  • Repairs – If you’re handy, you can take care of minor repairs to the fencing or the coop. However, repair prices can quickly get out of hand if you rely on contractors to help.
  • Cleaning – Chickens are relatively dirty! So they can attract pests, critters, and other nuisances. You should clean their roaming area weekly or at least once a month if possible. 
  • Vet Care – Each chicken needs primary vet visits and ongoing care, depending on their overall health. You can bring your chickens to a farm vet regularly or have the vet do site visits, which can cost more. 

What Is the Emotional Cost of Raising Chickens?

So far, we’ve been discussing the financial cost of raising chickens, but what happens if you get emotionally attached?

If you’re just trying to save money on eggs, you shouldn’t have to worry about killing or burying any of your flock. However, if you’re raising chickens for meat, you need to be as objective as possible. 

Chickens are naturally social creatures. So they hang around other birds and people. You may also notice some of your birds developing personalities, making it harder to see them as food. That’s why many commercial farmers don’t spend much time with their flocks. 

Another issue can arise if you raise chickens from day-old chicks to healthy adults. The longer you spend with the animals, the easier it is to get attached. If you have children helping out, they’ll likely form bonds, making it harder to slaughter the birds.

Read More – 15 Largest Chicken Breeds In the World [and the Biggest Eggs!]

Cost Breakdown of Raising Meat Chickens

You likely won’t have to spend more money to raise chickens for meat than you would for egg production. Realistically, you can maintain a coop for both purposes, assuming you’re okay with slaughtering them regularly. 

That said, here are some factors to consider when trying to use your flock of chickens for meat. 

(Breeding, laying, and broiler chickens have slightly different dietary requirements. However, the feed cost delta is arguably negligible.)

Average Time From Chick to Slaughter

According to the USDA, set guidelines exist for when chickens can get slaughtered for food, depending on your preferred cooking method.

  • Broiling/Frying Chickens – 10 weeks old or less and should weigh between 2.5 to 4.5 pounds. 
  • Roaster – Between eight and 12 weeks old and weighing around five pounds after processing the carcass. 
  • Stewing or Baking Hen – Between 10 to 18 months old. These hens are bigger. And they require stewing to make the meat more tender and to reduce food waste. 

What Equipment Do You Need to Slaughter Chickens?

When raising a flock of backyard chickens for meat, you need various supplies to slaughter and process the carcass. Here’s a rundown of everything it takes: 

  • Hatchet and Chopping Block – The fastest way to kill a chicken is to chop its head off. For best results, cleave the chicken’s head in a single, swift motion. 
  • Poultry Cone – This device holds the chicken upside down. The upside-down funnel position is so the blood can drain. It’s also helpful for containing the bird, so they don’t move after beheading. 
  • Plucker – You should use a motorized plucker instead of trying to remove all the feathers by hand. 
  • Pinning Knife – There will still be a few feathers left after the plucker finishes, so this knife makes it easy to remove them. 
  • Ice Bin – Put the fresh carcass on ice. That way, the meat doesn’t spoil. 
  • Handwash Station – You need at least a water bin, a hose or faucet, and antibacterial hand soap. We also advise a separate container bin for cleaning blades and other equipment. 
  • Plastic Bags – Once you’ve finished with the carcass, put it in a sealed plastic bag and freeze or refrigerate it until you’re ready to cook it. 

Profit Margin of Raising Chicken for Meat

woman in plaid shirt holding a baby chick and fresh backyard eggs

Because chickens mature surprisingly fast, you can breed and raise them for meat and sell the excess for profit. The money you can make with chicken meat depends on the market, who you’re selling to, and local demand. Ideally, your roosters and hens mate with each other. That way, you don’t have to buy chicks. Either way, newborn chickens are cheap, so the cost isn’t prohibitive.

You can probably earn around $10 to $20 for each bird. And you can slaughter both males and females, allowing you more flexibility in what you can raise. Based on a per-bird cost of feed and other materials, your profit margin will likely be about 40 to 50 percent, depending on the size of the chicken. 

Overall, you won’t make thousands of dollars from selling chicken meat, but if you’re already using chickens for eggs, it doesn’t take much else to raise them for food.

How much does it cost to raise chickens in the real world? The price breaks down into two categories – fixed costs and ongoing costs. One-time commitments include chicken housing, feeders, heat lamps, brooders, and fencing. Ongoing costs include buying 50 and 100 pounds of feed, vet bills, electric bills, fresh water, and bedding litter. Also, consider unforeseen expenditures like random trips to grocery stores for chicken treats. And don’t forget the time investment! Raising chickens is more work than many would have believed. You must feed your chooks, entertain them, clean the chicken coop floor, keep them from wandering off, and double-check the wood chip nesting bed now and then!

Rread More – What Can Chickens Eat? Ultimate List of 134 Foods Hens Can and Can’t Eat!

Cost Differences Between Raising Chickens for Eggs and Meat

The main cost difference is the equipment needed to slaughter chickens for meat. Otherwise, other expenses like food and the chicken coop are in the same ballpark whether you use them for eggs or meat.

(We also think selling eggs is more profitable. The local demand and cost of farm-fresh eggs have skyrocketed lately!)

How to Save Money When Raising Chickens

Since raising backyard chickens can cost hundreds of dollars upfront and over the long term, here are some ways to trim your expenses. 

Buy Food In Bulk

Getting a 50-pound bag of feed allows you to save money on the per-chicken cost of feeding them. You can also use table scraps or alternative food sources if you run out of chicken feed. (But – your chicken’s diet should never exceed 10% treats and snacks. They need a fully-balanced chicken feed to ensure they get their daily nutrients.)

Use Recycled Materials

Instead of building a coop from scratch, you can find lumber and used fencing for cheap online. Recycled materials are also perfect for reducing bedding costs. (Extra straw and wood shavings work perfectly.)

Breed Your Chickens

Instead of buying chicks from a breeder, you can let a rooster mate with some of your hens. This way, you get all the chicks you need. However, this option is best for raising meat chickens, not egg layers. 

Cost of Raising Chickens – FAQs

Many homesteaders are adding more hens to their backyard flocks these days! But how much are these chickens going to cost, exactly? We penned a few answers to popular chicken-cost-related questions to help give you a real-world estimate.

Is It Cheaper to Buy or Raise Chickens From Chicks?

Typically, the cost to raise a chick to a full-grown adult chicken is comparable to buying the bird outright. Baby chicks at Tractor Supply cost as low as $4 per bird! You can also get baby chickens cheaper than that if you buy them unsexed.

What is the Average Cost Per Chicken Per Year?

Once you have the initial infrastructure to raise chickens, budget around $100 per year per chicken to raise them. The cost might increase if they need veterinary care, specialized diets, winterized heating, climate control, or if you maintain fancy poultry housing.

How Much Space Do I Need to Raise Chickens?

On average, a chicken needs about eight square feet of roaming space if you’re not raising free-range birds. So, having ten chickens in your backyard means you need at least 80 square feet of space. (We always recommend much more. But eight square feet per chicken is the minimum.)

Will I Get Rats if I Raise Chickens?

Yes! You can get rats if you raise chickens and don’t clean up after them. Rats love chicken feed. And they’re not averse to stealing and eating fresh eggs. (A messy, disorganized coop can attract other pests, too. Keep your chicken coop clean.)

How Many Chickens Should You Start With When Raising Them?

You should start with at least two chickens since they’re social animals. We advise against raising one chicken by itself. It will get depressed quickly.

What is the Breeding Process Like for Making More Chickens?

If you’re trying to breed chickens for meat, you should keep one rooster for every four to five hens, and they should stay together in the coop. When the hens lay eggs, check a few of them for a small white splotch in the yolk – that’s the best sign of a fertilized egg. From there, you’ll have to move eggs into an incubator to help them hatch into chicks. Typically, one hen can raise 12 chicks, but it depends on the bird.

Conclusion

So – how much does it cost to raise chickens?

Not much at all! You can buy a baby chick for around $4 and feed your chicken for $100 per year – or less. Remember that the chicken feed is likely to be your highest ongoing expense. So – figure out how much chicken feed costs in your local area. (We find the best prices at our local Tractor Supply.)

Let us know if you have more questions about the real-world cost of raising chickens.

We have team members raising chickens from all over the world. And we love chatting with like-minded chicken enthusiasts and homesteaders.

Thanks again for reading.

And have a great day!

Read More – 25 Fluffy Chicken Breeds for Your Flock – Cuddly and Poofy Feathers!

farmer holding a backyard chicken and offering a handful of dried corn
Raising chickens is probably cheaper than you think! Food is likely the heftiest ongoing cost of living for your chickens. The good news is that even adult laying hens will only eat about a quarter-pound of chicken feed daily. Since 50 pounds of chicken feed costs anywhere from $15 to $50, we estimate yearly adult chicken food costs from $75 to $100. (Maybe slightly more for expensive chicken feed.) Otherwise, maintaining chicken health and paying potential vet bills will likely be the costliest expenses when raising chickens. Thanks again for reading!

Similar Posts

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *