How Much Does It Cost To Keep Chickens?
Short answer: probably more than you think!
There are two main factors in the cost of keeping chickens: feed and housing. The cost to actually buy the chickens is very low. Most baby chicks cost between $2 and $5 each, depending on where you buy them. (Incidentally, don’t buy “straight run” chicks to save money. Pre-sexed chicks are a better value, because you don’t have to get rid of the roosters.)
When you first get the chicks, you will need to construct a brooder in which to rear them. There are many ways to brood chicks, but I advise you to use the cheapest method, with whatever materials you have on hand. Most people brood chicks in a large cardboard box, a hard plastic child’s swimming pool, or one of those giant plastic storage tubs.
Let’s assume that in order to raise chicks all you need to buy is a clamp lamp to keep them warm, a chick feeder, and a chick waterer. These costs will be the same regardless of how many chicks you buy.
Total cost of materials: $30
Chicks have to be fed a special feed called “chick starter.” Don’t make the mistake of buying the small 5lb bags of chick starter. Buy a big 50lb bag. It may seem like a ridiculous amount of food for such small animals, but trust me, your chicks will eat a lot!
From purchase date until they were old enough to be switched to “big chicken food,” my four chicks went through about 70lbs of chick feed.
Cost of feed: approximately $8 per chick
When they are ready to go outside, they will need to have somewhere to go. If you are fortunate enough to already have a structure on your property they can use as a hen house, count yourself lucky!
If you plan to free-range your hens, you will need to build a hen house (chicken coop) for them to sleep at night. If they will not be free-range during the day, then you will also need to construct a fenced outdoor run.
You can literally spend any amount of money on constructing a home for your chickens, from “free” to “several thousand dollars.” In talking to chicken owners over the years, I would guess that the average amount spent is between about $1,000 and $2,000. (With luck, you will only have to spend money to build a coop once.)
Cost of housing: $1,000-$2,000
During the laying season, hens will eat about half a pound of feed per bird per day. When they are not laying, their consumption will fall to about a quarter pound per bird per day. (These costs are lower if you free-range your chickens. Although you will have to replace more lost chickens that way, so the costs tend to even out.)
Let’s say your birds are laying for 10 months out of the year, and molting/seasonal resting for 2 months. 10 months at half a pound of feed per day = 150lbs of feed. 2 months at a quarter pound of feed per day = 15lbs of feed. Therefore on average, each hen will consume about 165lbs of feed per year.
Feed costs vary, depending on the type of feed you buy, and where you are buying it. Sacks of certified organic feed cost about $30 per 50lb bag (.60 per pound). I buy Layena, which costs me about $15 per 50lb bag (.30 per pound).
165lbs of feed per year X .30 per pound = $49.50 in feed per year.
165lbs of feed per year X .60 per pound = $99 in feed per year.
Cost of feed: between $50 and $100 per hen per year, depending on the feed you use.
The “incidental charges” for keeping chickens are very low. In the last year I have purchased:
$35 - 3lb feeder to replace the chick feeders I had been using
$12 – bottle of piperazine wormer
$20 – 2 bags of scratch as a supplemental feed in cold weather
$3 – plastic litter box scooper, for scooping poop from the coop
$25 – replacement bungee cords and additional carabiners
I would say on average, the incidental charges for a flock of chickens will run between $50 and $100 per year.
Total Average Cost Of Owning Chickens
Raising them from chicks
Feed: Approx. $8 per chick
As adult birds
Housing: $1,000-$2,000 (extremely variable)
Feed: $50-$100 per hen per year
Incidental charges: $50-$100 per flock per year
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