You might think that owning chickens is going to save you money. After all, you will never have to buy eggs again. Any time you need an egg for breakfast, all you need to do is raid the coop. Or you could raise broilers to fill the freezer every summer. But does owning chickens save me money?
Average Cost Of Eggs And Meat
To see if raising chickens saves you money, you first need to look at the average buying cost. When you go to the store, you likely buy regular large white eggs. These eggs cost about $0.97-$3 a dozen. But when you compare farm fresh eggs to store-bought, you want to compare organic eggs’ price. Organic free-range eggs can cost anywhere from $4-$7 per dozen, depending on your location.
On the other hand, a whole chicken is reasonably cheap. The current average whole hens cost $1.28 per pound. And when you figure the average chicken weighs anywhere from 5-8 pounds, that makes the cost $6.40-$10.24.
For the sake of this article, we will err on the lower end of all cost scales. To make our chickens save us money, they need to cost less than $4 for eggs and $6.40 for broilers. Let’s break down the costs.
How Much Does It Cost To Raise Chickens For Eggs?
We are going to break up the cost of raising chickens between start-up, monthly, and yearly costs.
Does owning chickens save me money? The first thing we will calculate is the start-up costs of owning a flock of 5 chickens. This list will include everything you need to get started and hopefully won’t have to replace it for many years. And for the first hens in your flock.
- $25 for five standard chicks or $125 for pullets
- $600 for the coop and run
- $100 for the brooder (if starting with chicks)
- And $100 for feeders
Not including the bedding, food, and supplements, your start-up costs will be about $825. For a small flock of five, that’s not bad.
Monthly Costs Of Owning Chickens
Your main expenses of taking care of chickens are feed and bedding. How much does it cost to feed chickens? The average chicken keeper spends anywhere from $30-$150 a month for five hens, depending on the type of feed they use. Organic feeds are more expensive and come in smaller bags.
These brands are lovely for giving your chickens a variety of vitamins and nutrients. But they aren’t necessary as long as your hens can forage, so $30 feeds will suffice. This brings your yearly food cost to $360.
Bedding can vary depending on the type you use and how often you change it out. You can expect to spend about $20 a month to top off your bedding and $60 on months that you clean it all out. If you are deep cleaning your coop only twice a year, your yearly bedding cost comes to $320.
And let’s not forget your yearly costs. Every year, you will encounter miscellaneous costs and medical bills. The average new chicken owner spends at least $500 in their first year of keeping hens. This $500 includes experimenting with feeders, plants, treats, or other things that aren’t necessities. And you can expect about $200 a year in medical bills for medications and vaccines.
So Does This All Mean?
Your first year of owning chickens is going to cost you about $2,200. It could be more if you have a larger flock or buy an expensive coop. So in your first year of keeping chickens, you might find that they aren’t saving you any money at all.
Let’s put this in perspective by comparing your fresh eggs to store-bought organic eggs. Fantastic egg producers will lay about 300 eggs a year. But don’t forget that in this scenario, you are getting eggs from five chickens. So you are actually getting 1,500 eggs, or 125 dozen.
That means your net spending is $1,700 in the first year of chicken keeping for fresh eggs. How do we get this number? Store-bought organic eggs cost $4 a dozen on the lower end mentioned at the beginning. So if you were to put a price tag on your 125 dozen eggs, it only comes to $500. Subtracting $500 from the original $2,200 means that your chickens aren’t at all profitable in the first year.
When Do Chickens Start Saving Money?
If you are using your chickens just for eggs, the truth is that they will never save you any money. Even without your start-up costs, you will average about $1,380 a year in food, supplies, and medical expenses. And chickens drastically reduce their egg production at three years; you will have to factor in new chickens.
So does owning chickens save me money? Not exactly. At least, not if you are raising them only for eggs.
Cost Of Raising Chickens For Meat
Now there are two ways of raising chickens for meat. You can raise dual-purpose chickens for eggs, and when they stop producing, butcher them. Or you can raise broilers that grow fast and fat and butcher them as early as eight months old.
In the first situation, you will still have the same costs mentioned before. So your yearly net spending will come to $1,380. But instead of minimal savings in eggs, you can also butcher your hens after years when they no longer lay. Each hen will save you $6.40-$12.80, which still isn’t much.
But the other option is to raising chickens strictly for meat. How much does it cost to keep chickens for meat? For the eight months that it takes to grow your chickens, it will cost about $400 in feed and bedding. And that’s not including the start-up fees and the cost of the chicks to raise. So as you can see, a small backyard flock won’t make you a profit or save you money.
How Many Chickens Do I Need To Make A Profit?
In some businesses, the more you produce, the more money you make. So how much would it cost to raise 100 chickens? You will lose even more money if you go the route we talked about in this situation. But if you cut some corners to save on your overhead cost, you could still save or earn money.
Saving Money On A Coop
The highest cost when starting up is for the chicken coop and run. But you can build your own coop for the price of nails if you play your cards right. People are always giving away free materials and plans online.
Scrap wood, plywood, chicken wire, and even old sheds are frequently up for free online. Checking Facebook Marketplace, Craigslist, and local Buy Nothing Project groups are all great places to start. It might take a while to get all the supplies needed. But it is worth it in the end.
And there is always the option of buying used. People upgrade from their smaller coops all the time and sell the old ones for cheap. You might even score a cheap brooder from people who have given up on raising chickens.
Saving On Feed
Saving on feed is another easy way to cut back on overhead. If you live in a suburban area, you likely have a small yard with no room to forage. But if you can let your chickens free roam in the pastures, it saves you a ton on food.
Your hens will gladly forage for everything they need. You might even find that your chickens only use half a bag of food a month. So that stretches your $30 monthly fee to every other month.
Saving On Bedding
$20 a month isn’t much to spend on bedding. But saving money everywhere you can help you make the most out of your flock. When you use bedding like sand, you never have to top off the bedding. All you need is to scoop it like cat litter to keep it clean. And once a year, you can change it all out to keep it smelling fresh.
Another option is to use the deep litter method to compost the bedding. Owners who use the deep litter method add about $6 worth of bedding a month to keep the compost going. And with all this compost, you can sell it locally to farmers and gardeners. People pay as much as $5 for a five-gallon bucket. Which pretty much pays for the bedding itself.
Can You Save On Medical Expenses?
Vets don’t have the habit of giving their clients a discount. And while diseases aren’t entirely avoidable, there are a few ways to prevent them. Daily checks will catch anything wrong with your flock before it becomes severe. And if you start to notice issues, you can typically diagnose and treat them at home. There is some risk going this route, but if you can save a little on minor illnesses, it is worth it.
How Much Does All Of This Save You?
If you eliminate most of these overhead costs, your flock will be more profitable. You could make your overhead costs as little as $250 a year for five chickens with frugal spending. But if you double your flock size, you will have the maximum profit.
But That’s Not All There Is…
Does owning chickens save me money? If done right, they will. But the companionship a pet chicken gives you is priceless. Though it helps if they can give you a little back to help pay for their food.
Below is a Pinterest friendly photo…. so you can pin it to your Backyard Chicken Board!!