Whether you want fresh eggs or to be more self-sufficient, you may have wondered about the cost of
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
So, with that in mind, here’s everything you need to know about the cost of
Then let us continue!
- How Much Does It Cost to Raise Chickens?
- How Much Does Chicken Raising Equipment Cost?
- What Is the Emotional Cost of Raising Chickens?
- Cost Breakdown of Raising Meat Chickens
- Cost Differences Between Raising Chickens for Eggs and Meat
- How to Save Money When Raising Chickens
- Cost of Raising Chickens – FAQs
How Much Does It Cost to Raise Chickens?
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.
Here’s a breakdown of each component and how much it may set you back.
How Much Do Chickens Cost?
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.
How Much Do Baby Chicks Cost?
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.
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.
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.
- Poultry Wire – $20 to $30 per 50 feet of galvanized steel wire
- Chain Link Fencing – $75 to $100 per 100-foot roll
- Electric Fencing – $0.35 to $2 per linear foot
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.
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:
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.
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.)
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!)
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.)
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
So far, we’ve been discussing the financial cost of
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
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.
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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
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.)
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.)
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.
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.
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
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