With the rising cost of living right around the globe, many people are turning to produce more of their own food at home in any way that they can. This often includes a backyard veggie patch, perhaps some fruit trees, a potted herb garden, and even investing in some backyard chickens.
After all, eggs are a staple in many people’s diets, and they’re also highly versatile. But, before you race out and buy some chickens and invest in a state-of-the-art chicken coop, you need to consider the true cost of raising chickens and whether this will actually save you money.
Budget Breakdown Of Raising Chickens
To give you a rough budget breakdown of the true cost of raising chickens, here’s a handy chart with all the approximate costs.
|Chicken coop||$100 to $1000 or more|
|Hens||$2 to $40 per chicken|
|Chicken pellets||$0.25 to $1.50 per pound|
|Bedding straw||$5 per bale|
|Feeders||$20 to $70 each|
|Vet visits||Around $75 per visit|
|Incidentals like wormers and shell grit||Around $20 per year|
Breaking Down The Cost Of Raising Chickens For One Year
Let’s say you want to start small and only acquire 4 hens for the first year. Plus, you’re going to build the chicken coop yourself using recycled materials to save on costs.
Here’s what you can expect to spend in the first year of keeping your chickens:
|4 chickens at an average cost of $20 each||$80|
|DIY chicken coop made with recycled materials||$200|
|Miscellaneous supplies such as feeders, waterers, and bedding||$100|
|Total Cost for the first year||$508|
In the second year, you won’t have the initial expense of the chicken coop or the feeders and waterers if you purchased reasonable quality ones to start with.
|Straw and other miscellaneous supplies||$40|
|Vet visit x 1||$75|
|Total Cost for the second year||$193|
How does this compare to buying eggs from the grocery store for a family for a whole year? Let’s assume that you buy just one dozen eggs each and every week, and this costs you $4 per dozen for free-range eggs.
Therefore, 52 dozen eggs at $4 per dozen equal $208. This means keeping your own chickens and having fresh eggs always on hand is going to save you only a little money.
But, on the plus side, you’ll have farm-fresh eggs each and every day, and you can add to your flock if you want a greater supply or want to share the eggs with your family, friends, or neighbors.
And, to top it off, chickens are quite entertaining and make excellent outdoor pets for children as they love to interact and will greet you happily when you go to collect the eggs or fill up their feed.
Costs Will Vary
Bear in mind that the costs will vary depending on where you live and what types of chickens you intend to purchase. They will also vary depending on whether there’s already a coop in your backyard, whether you have the skills and materials to build your own, or whether you need to purchase a ready-made coop.
The Most Expensive Item Is The Chicken Coop
Before you even purchase a few hens, you’ll need to invest in a chicken coop. This is likely to be the most expensive upfront cost that you’ll need to budget for.
You can either build your own coop or purchase a ready-made one either online or from a farm supply store. A ready-made coop can cost you anywhere from a few hundred dollars to a few thousand dollars, depending on how large you want it to be and how elaborate.
Even if you plan to build the coop yourself, you’re still going to need to purchase the materials unless you have easy access to some materials either at home or through an online marketplace.
You could also consider using recycled materials in order to keep the costs down. However, you’ll need to be fairly handy with the tools to ensure that you can fashion materials such as sheet metal, fencing timbers, or other items into a useful and purposeful chicken coop.
If you’re going to be using recycled materials, ensure that they don’t contain any toxic chemicals or other harmful things like rusty nails or loose wires.
However, if you’re not very good at building things, you might find it better and more economical to just purchase a ready-made coop. You might even be lucky enough to find one that is secondhand from one of the many online marketplaces.
Start With A Quality Coop That Won’t Need To Be Replaced
What you want to ensure is that the chicken coop you end up with is going to last for the long term so that you don’t have to end up repairing it constantly, or worse still, replacing it altogether.
For this, you want to ensure that the coop is predator-proof and will keep out rodents as well. You might also want to consider investing in a larger coop than what you need initially because your flock may grow.
It’s also important that your chicken coop is made from materials that are going to weather well. Stay away from pre-made coops that seem a little cheap. These are normally made from softwoods that will deteriorate within a year.
Some Ideas For Building Your Own Chicken Coop
To keep your initial costs as low as possible, there are some clever ways that you can build your own chicken coop if you’re good at DIY projects or you have a friend or neighbor who can help you.
One of the best ways to save some money is to repurpose something like a dog kennel, a cubby house that your kids have grown out of, a disused garden shed, or even an old aviary that is not being used.
All of these items are ideal for remaking into a chicken coop with a little imagination and know-how. If you don’t happen to have any of these lying around, check local online marketplaces, as there’s bound to be someone in your neighborhood that wants to get rid of theirs.
Another thing you can use to build a chicken coop is old wooden pallets. You might be able to find these for free at your local hardware store, or if you live near some factories or warehouses, check to see if they have old pallets that they want to get rid of. In fact, building things from old pallets has become a bit of an art form in recent years.
Expert Tip: If you do happen to find a second-hand chicken coop that you can purchase for a cheap price, make sure that you disinfect it after you get it home to ensure that you won’t be spreading any diseases to your new hens.
The Cost Of Purchasing Laying Chickens
Once you have your coop ready and it’s all fitted out, you’ll want to go out and purchase the hens. Although this is an upfront cost, you may need to replace hens down the track once they stop laying consistently after around 3 to 5 years.
If you’re on a budget and you don’t mind waiting a couple of months or so for them to start laying, you can usually purchase day-old chicks for around $2 to $5 each. But these will need to be kept in a special warm environment called a brooder. One of these units will set you back a few hundred dollars.
For older hens that are ready to start laying (commonly referred to as point-of-lay hens), you’re going to pay around $10 to $40 each.
You could try to incubate your own eggs to hatch, but this will mean that you’ll have to purchase an incubator unless you can hire one or borrow one from a friend or neighbor. An incubator will usually cost you around $60 for a reasonable one. On top of that, you’re also going to have to buy fertilized eggs.
Once you have your own flock, you also have the option of allowing one of your hens to hatch further eggs. But for this, you’ll need a rooster to fertilize the eggs or buy fertilized ones and encourage one of your hens to sit on them so that they can be hatched.
Feeding The Chickens
Your most consistent and ongoing expense will be your chicken feed or layer pellets. You can estimate that young hens up to 10 weeks old will consume around one pound of pellets per week, while mature hens will consume around 1.5 pounds of pellets per week.
If you only feed your chickens pellets and they don’t have access to other types of food or are not able to forage around your garden, this means that if you have 4 hens, you’re going to need to provide around 6 pounds of pellets each and every week.
However, it is possible to supplement this feed with quality kitchen scraps or to let your chickens forage around your garden. This can be quite handy if you have a large vegetable patch because chickens are very good at controlling insects and other pests, such as snails and slugs.
When purchasing chicken pellets, you also have the option of buying organic pellets, which will set you back around $0.75 to $1.50 per pound, or just regular pellets, which can cost around $0.25 to $0.50 per pound.
So, if we go with the example of 4 hens, you can expect to pay from $1.50 to $9.00 per week for your chicken pellets. That is if you don’t intend to let them forage around the garden or provide them with kitchen scraps.
However, you need to always keep in mind that chicken pellets provide the perfect diet for your chickens with all the essential nutrients. So, although it’s fine to supplement some of the pellets with food scraps from your kitchen, their main diet should still consist of layer pellets.
Incidental Costs Of Keeping Chickens Healthy
You also want to supply your laying hens with shell grit as this helps to produce eggs with hard shells. This is generally an incidental cost because a 5-pound bag of shell grit is around $22 and this should last you an entire year.
Additionally, your chickens will need deworming around twice a year, and you might also want to treat them for parasites. Poultry Dewormers are not that expensive, and a bottle containing 50 capsules will set you back around $23. This is enough for 25 chickens for a whole year.
On the other hand, common poultry dust for controlling lice and other parasites is also fairly inexpensive at around $20. Some people who keep chickens prefer to use Diatomaceous Earth which costs around $20 for 2 pounds.
Providing Bedding Material For The Chickens
You’ll need bedding materials for inside the nesting boxes and also for the floor of the chicken coop. The bedding material inside the nesting boxes provides a comfortable base for your hens to sit while they lay their eggs.
On the other hand, the bedding material that you spread over the floor of the coop provides an easy-to-clean base that you can easily remove and replenish once it becomes soiled. This is essential to keep your chickens healthy and disease free.
The best type of bedding for your chicken coop is straw and this will need to be replaced on a regular basis. Other types of bedding that you can use include wood shavings, shredded paper, or hay.
If you’re going to use straw as your bedding material, you can cut down on the cost a little by utilizing the deep litter method. With this method, you just place new bedding material over the old bedding without removing it first.
Of course, eventually, you’re going to have to pull out all the bedding and replace it totally with new materials. This is necessary to prevent disease in your chickens and to keep them healthy and happy.
However, the old material that you pull out is ideal for adding to your compost, so it doesn’t go to waste. Luckily, a bale of straw will only set you back around $5, so this is relatively inexpensive.
Depending on the size of your coop and how many hens you have, you should only need around 4 bales of straw per year if you use the deep litter method.
Feeders And Waterers
While you’ll be purchasing feeders and waterers to furnish your chicken coop initially, it’s most likely that these will need to be replaced if you intend to keep chickens for a number of years.
You can purchase feeders from a farm supply store for around $20 to $70 and a waterer for around $35. However, if you’re very handy, you might be able to make these yourself from materials you have at home.
Bear in mind that purchasing cheap feeders or waterers may end up costing you more in the long run if you have to replace them every year. Some of these will also waste valuable feed which is something that you want to avoid.
Just using large dishes is also not a good idea because the chickens will easily scratch the feed and the water onto the floor of the coop. This not only wastes good feed, but it will also mean that you’ll have to clean out the coop more frequently.
Therefore, it makes more sense to purchase quality feeders and waterers at the start so that they will last well for a number of years and you won’t end up wasting feed.
In some areas, you also need to apply for a permit to keep chickens in your backyard. Of course, this comes with an associated cost which could be around $50.
From time to time, you might need to take one or more of your hens to the vet if they develop a disease or sustain an injury. You’ll find that an average visit to the vet will set you back around $75.