So, you're thinking about backyard chickens. Congratulations! Sure, it's getting late in the season and the pickings will be slim at your local farm supply stores but, you can always order online through a hatchery or check with your local FFA group. (I'll talk more about this in a minute.) Even if you're still not completely sold on keeping chickens and/or still in the research phase, I would like to share a rough cost breakdown of raising chickens with you today to give you an idea of what you're getting yourself into!
Let's start with the numbers and we'll expand upon some items after.
- Cost Per Chick: $2.99-$4.99 (in general)
- Chick Starter/Grower Crumble Feed: $12.99
- Pellets for Layers feed: $10.49
- Meat Bird Crumble Feed: $14.49
- Organic, non-GMO Feed: $27-Meat Bird: $31
- Pine Shaving Bedding: $5/30lb bag
- Chick Feeder & Waterer (respectively): $2.79, $1.69
- Adult Feeder & Waterer: $5, $20-DIY Waterer (Nipples & Bucket w/Lid): $5, $4.40
- Heat Lamp: $2.50 (bulb), $20 (base)-Eco Glow-$80+
- Building material for coop: Variable
Are you still with me? I hope I haven't scared you off! Let's talk some more about the items listed above. For starters, if you are purchasing your chicks from a farm supply store, they are, in general, going to cost less than ordering them online. Most breeds are between $2.99 and $4.99 per chick. Ordering online from a hatchery tends to cost more due to shipping costs (because they are live animals and need to be expedited for obvious reasons. Also, I've read the post office doesn't really like having to deal with them.) Plus hatcheries will have “fancier” breeds available. I've also heard that you can order chicks through your local FFA, but honestly, I don't know much about it as we've never done so.
Ah, the food costs. Looks kind of scary, right? Think of it this way: It's like feeding a cat or two...except these are chickens and will be a “productive” member of your farm, homestead, backyard, whatever. Also, the prices above are all for 50lb bags. That's a lot of feed! Plus, depending on how many chickens you wind up with, you won't have to buy it too often if you are letting your chickens free-range. For instance, we have 11 chickens eating from the 50lb bag of layer pellets. We go through a bag about every 3 weeks, probably a little longer than that, actually. So, each of our 11 big chickens is only eating 5 cents worth of feed a day!
Also, a little side note on feed: You will see that the meat bird feed cost more. However, from what I've gathered, you usually cull most meat birds around 8 weeks, so you're feeding them for MUCH less time!
To be honest, the bedding situation is going to vary from person to person. We use pine shavings and are going for the deep litter method. (You can read a bit more on that on The Prairie Homestead HERE.) We have a big coop and are still trying to build our “fluff” layer up, so we'll usually puchase a thing of pine shavings every time we buy feed, so every 3 weeks. If you're just starting out, you will need MUCH less than this, or, even better, none at all if you build/buy a coop that has a removable screen for where they poop at the most.
Chicken feeders and waterers are cheap as chips. The adult waterers can be a bit pricy though, in my opinion. A much cheaper method is to make your own from a 5 gallon bucket with a lid and some inexpensive water/chicken nipples. I actually have a post on how to make these with old 2 liter bottles HERE.
If you get your chickies when it's still cool out, you'll probably want to get some sort of outside heat source for them. Heat lamps are actually not really recommended any more because of the fire hazards they post, but I felt compelled to include them anyways since that's what we used. You can check out these nifty EcoGlow warmers HERE. I don't know much about them other than they're a lot safer!
It would take a whole other post to cover all of the variables on chicken coop building/buying costs and, as usual, this post is already long. You could build a super cheap one like we did with our first chickens in Arkansas or go all out and buy one of the fancy “pre-fab” models from a farm supply store. If you're lucky enough, maybe your place already has one like ours did!
From my experience, it seems like there is no in-between when it comes to what people expect it will cost to raise chickens: They either overestimate or grossly underestimate. With that being said, I hope this post has given you a realistic idea of what to expect. As you can see, after the intial costs, they're basically like having even lesser maintenance cats running around your yard and pooping everywhere. Ha ha Their food is actually cheaper than cat food and, depending on how many you have, of course, you will have to buy chicken food about as often if you are letting them free-range.
*I am not an expert on chickens by any means. As I mentioned, the costs above are a rough estimate and will vary depending on your area, where you buy, time of year, etc. With that being said, I LOVE talking about chickens (in case you haven't noticed. Check out my Instagram account for more chicken shenanigans from Wild Onion Farm.), so please let me know if you have any questions or if you have anything you would add or change on this post. Until next time...