HOW MUCH DOES CHICKEN KEEPING COST?
New or experienced with chicken keeping, you could probably guess that the actual cost of chickens is going to be highly variable, depending on a few different factors. I tried to break it down into kind of a very basic general case. Very similar to ours.
Here are the factors that I chose for this backyard chicken keeping example. Obviously, if you have more or fewer chickens, that’s going to make a difference. If you’re going to have a bigger fancier or a less fancy coop, that’s going to make a difference. But here’s what I use to break down this budget cost in this backyard chicken keeping scenario, we are assuming there are 10 bullets.
We’re assuming that they were purchased as chicks from a local feed store, probably somewhere around five days of age or so. We’re assuming a backyard poultry location. So not necessarily on a huge farm and not necessarily in an urban setting with like two square feet of yard space.
We’re looking for kind of an average in-between suburban setting for this breakdown. We’re assuming kind of average chicken care. So not anything really extravagant and not chickens that are neglected. They’re having their basic needs filled maybe a little bit more here or there, but it’s just kind of average care.
We’re assuming the deep litter method is being used. I will talk about that a little bit more in a second. I’m basing it off of a Midwestern kind of climate. Cause that’s what we have, but that means it’s warm in the summer and it is really cold in the winter. And finally, we’re assuming they get daily time to free range a little bit, but not all day. And that they are fed plenty of kitchen scraps from the kitchen. That’ll make a big difference.
I broke down how each of these factors affects everything more in the blog, but I’m just going to dive straight into the cost breakdown from there.
So obviously when you buy chickens, there are one-time expenses that you need to start up. The chicken keeping. This is going to be the most expensive part of the cost of backyard chickens. So just prepare yourself first.
How mach chicken coop?
And one of the most important expenses for keeping back your chickens is a chicken coop. And for this price breakdown, I price it out at $500 and that might sound crazy. It might sound less expensive than you think, but that’s kind of a good midline area for 10 chickens, for something that is going to be safe in the winter, say from predators and obviously is going to function well.
We built our first chicken coop from scraps from other construction projects. And because of that, it really wasn’t the most efficient. It definitely wasn’t the prettiest, but it did the job for about three years.
We actually are just finishing up the brand new chicken coop, which is beautiful and a lot more expensive than the last one, but it is going to function so much better. We’ll be able to leave them for a few days. If we need to, it’s got an automatic chicken door. There’s a lot more that’s automated. So the new chicken coop that we built, it was more than $500.
We will do a cost breakdown, but that being said kind of for average run of the mill chicken coop, let’s say about $500. Give or take. Now, if you want to save money, it’s a really good place to save money. You can build it on your own. I’m going to try and go through this a little quicker.
How mach chicken RUN?
The next startup expense that is going to be really big is going to be the chicken run. So if you’re new to chicken, keeping this as kind of a safe fenced in area that is going to protect them from predators and keep them from straying too far for the chicken run, I calculated out $200.
How mach chicken feeder and waterer?
Next startup expenses are the feeder and the water. You can get waters and feeders that are cheaper than this, but I calculated out $60 for the water and $55 for the feeder because that’s what we have.
These are bigger. They can sustain them for a few days if we need to leave. And one of the biggest things is that the water is heated, middling everything for you guys below if you want it. But we do love our heated water. It’s the only heated water we have found that works, and it’s a little more expensive 60 bucks, but in exchange for not having to go out and refill the water every single day in the winter, that is huge.
How mach raising chicks?
We did assume that we are getting baby chicks, which means we need a baby chick brooder. The first time I got chicks, I used a heat lamp. I will never use a heat lamp. Again, there are so many reasons not to use a heat lamp, especially for chicks. Yes, you can do it. And most of them will survive, but there are huge reasons not to, I will probably write about that more, but for now you guys can just Google it. What is really best is to get a chick.
The brooder is so much safer. The chicks really prefer it. So don’t make the same mistakes I did skip by in the heat lamps, go for the brooder. And for that, I’m going to say $55. Believe me well worth the cost and the peace of mind that heat lamps do not provide you are most likely going to want a chick feeder and chick water as well because the bigger ones are just gonna be too big and the chicks can actually drown with the wrong kind of water.
So I’m adding in a chick feeder for $7 and HVAC water for 10 bucks.
Another thing that you may or may not want is electrolytes. If you buy one pack of electrolytes, they usually last a really, really long time. David chick electrolytes are what I use. They really do help. The chicks chicks are coming from a pretty rough journey, a lot of the time.
So these electrolytes do help prevent the chicks from dying. It helps their systems get strong again because these poor little babies have already gone through a lot. So I’m adding another 11 bucks for save a chick electrolytes.
Another thing you’re probably gonna want is chick grit, though, if your chicks are not out free ranging, which they probably shouldn’t be at the beginning, you’re gonna want some chick grit. We get ours from our local feed store for five bucks, you can order it online for a little more than that.
If you’re getting a chick’s mail order, but I just added $5 for that chick food is going to be about 20 bucks a bag, give or take again. If you can buy from a local feed store or feed mill, you’re going to save a lot of money here.
The chick food sold at most like tractor supply and other similar farm and fleet stores. It’s quite a bit more expensive than if you just get it from a local feed store. So I took collated out $20 for that, which is what we get a really big bag of chick feed for. But if you’re buying it in smaller bags, you might pay closer to 40.
How mach baby chicks?
And finally, the most exciting part is the baby chicks themselves. And I calculated for 10 chicks. I calculated about $35, say roughly three 50 a chick. Usually you can get them cheaper than that, but if you’re anything like me, you’re going to see really fun breeds that are a little more expensive and you’re going to splurge a few extra cents on those ones too.
So that brings the total startup expenses to $958, which probably sounds like a lot more than you were expecting. If you are somebody who is coming here after seeing chicks at the local feed store for two bucks, a little fluff.
Now, if, say for example, you’re only getting three chicks, you’re going only going to have three chickens. You’re going to be able to cut down on the cost of the coop and the run quite a bit. That being said, if you’re an experienced chicken keeper, you know, it is so much fun and you are going to want more chickens when next year rolls around or even maybe before that first season is over.
So in my opinion, it’s really worth investing in the right infrastructure in the first place to allow yourself room to expand and then not having to replace coops over and over completely, which is going to be a lot more expensive in the long run.
Next, what we’re going to talk about are there recurrent expenses? So these are the expenses that you’re paying for over and over with chicken. Keeping really there are not too many of them, especially if you go for more of a permaculture. I know people hate that phrase, but permaculture way of keeping chickens.
After you have the infrastructure in place. First recurrent expense is obviously food. So food, I calculated out to be about $9 a month. And that’s because in my experience with 10 chickens, I ended up going through about one 50 ish pound bag a month. And those bags are roughly
Nine bucks. You can get them for a little bit less. If You opt for say less fancy food without as many nutrients, especially if you purchase it from the local feed mill yourself, or you can opt for a lot more than that.
If you want to get really fancy food, I kind of end up somewhere in between. So I get my chickens, calcium fortified layer feed. So I actually have never needed to feed my chickens, oyster shells. Their eggs have always been nice and strong. And a lot of that is because of the calcium four to five layer feed itself.
If you go for more of like a cracked corn approach, that’s going to have a lot of cards, a lot of sugar. It’s not going to have as much of the calcium and the extra additives you’re going to save money there, but you’re probably going to have to make up the difference in oyster shells and maybe in chickens that don’t lay as many eggs or that don’t have as long of a lifespan.
So my estimation is kind of somewhere in the middle years, differ by a few bucks. Okay. The next recurrent expense that I want to talk about is betting. So for betting, I actually only calculated $20 a year for us that equates to about four bags of $5 bedding. We get ours from tractor supply. I do prefer the finer flake and not the thick flakes because I find it works better for the deep litter betting method. I won’t go into it too much here.
I recommended because it is going to save you so much money on more betting than you actually need. It’s going to save you so much time on scooping every single day. I only cleaned my chicken coop twice a year. But if you haven’t looked into the deep litter betting method, definitely something I recommend and to pay for the deep litter betting method. It’s about 20 bucks a year.
Next I’m going to talk about treats. Treats might sound like a luxury, but they’re actually more important than you might think. Especially the ones that I give my chickens, which are insects. My favorite kind of treat. I use our black soldier fly larva. We use the black soldier fly larva formula from a company called grub. But the reason they’re so important is because being able to ingest the proteins and all the micronutrients in insects during the summer is what really gives free range, chicken, eggs, those bright orange eggs to have so many more micronutrients.
They mean the chickens are really healthy. They’re better for you too. And there’s so much better tasting. So again, we do that with grub Tara’s black soldier fly larva, and we find they really help give our chickens, that extra boost of nutrients. They were kind enough to send us a couple bags and ever since they did, we’ve been hooked. And obviously our chickens have been hooked as well. So we add in those treats for about $13 a month for roughly four months out of the year, which only adds on $52 to the yearly expenses. But we find that it’s really worth it. They’re also really good to use during the summer too. If you’re training your chickens to come when called, which is really important, we always just shake the bag and then they come running.
All right, the next recurrent chicken expense that you need to consider is chicken sitting. If you have a neighbor that can just help out by popping over a few times, when you’re on vacation, you’re going to save money. That way we prefer to just pay someone to do it. So we don’t have to worry about it. We know she’s good with chickens. She has her own, and we wouldn’t ask her to do it without compensating her. So we calculated about 120 bucks a year. Say we go away twice and we have her come like two or three times while we’re gone, ends up adding about 120 bucks a year.
That being said, we did just install the chicken guard door on our new coop, which we are so excited about. It’s an automatic chicken door. So opens at a certain time each day, lowers at a certain time each day, even though the door is more expensive than just using a traditional wood door, it’s actually going to save us money in the long run because we won’t have to hire chicken sitter nearly as much.
Two more things you’re going to want to consider for recurrent expenses.
One is medical care, and I can only go off of my experience here. A lot of medical chicken care you’re going to have to learn to do yourself. There’s a lot of internet advice out there that I won’t give you, but I will say I usually end up spending maybe 60 bucks a year just having to buy one or two remedies. We haven’t had any major chicken medical expenses, but you’re probably going to find that you need to buy some selves or bombs or powders, whatever to keep them healthy.
Finally, the last thing I added in is damaged repairs. So chickens are incredibly destructive there, so worth it, but they’re so destructive and they’re going to destroy your garden beds. They’re going to destroy your lawn. They’re going to probably find your house and Peck it, that whatever they can destroy, you’re going to have to replace. They’re going to have to replace mulch. You’re gonna have to replace plants. If you’re somebody who keeps your chickens in the run and in the coop only, you’re probably going to save on destructive repair there, but you’re going to be paying more for food. So kind of averaging it out. I added in about 10 bucks a month for damage repair because the inevitably they get some of my plans and I have to buy nursery starts to replace them. So it’s just kind of a, trade-off adding all these expenses together.
The total comes to roughly $370 a year or somewhere around $31 a month. Some months are gonna be a little more expensive than others, but that’s kind of a general estimation.
One of the big questions with chicken keeping is, is it worth it? You chickens pay for themselves when it comes to saving money on eggs. And I would add in fertilizer is the biggest money saver.
One question you might be asking is if you live in a freezing climate, what about heat in the winter? Do they need supplemental heat in the winter? That is a super controversial question. You can Google all you want about it. I will tell you, we do not add heat to our chicken coops in the winter. There’s a lot of evidence to suggest that in many climates, not all, but in many climates, it’s actually more dangerous to add heat than it is to let the chickens acclimate themselves. I will say we did get a super cold spell where it was negative 25 degrees for like a week straight.
We actually brought our chickens in a tent in the basement for a few days when it happened. And I’m glad we did because people who didn’t actually lost a lot of chickens, ours made it through just fine.
Finally, my last biggest tip for saving money on keeping backyard chickens is to use the deep litter method. As I mentioned, I’m not going to go too much into it here, but it’s basically a self-composting system within the chicken coop. And it actually removes any smell, all the bad-smelling chicken coops I’ve ever smelled or ones where people kept cleaning them out every week, the deep litter method, if it’s done correctly, if there’s a crack balance between the number of tickets and the amount of bedding, there should be no smell.