Are you thinking about getting some chickens?
This article will help you to estimate the actual costs of keeping a few chickens in your yard.
Usually folks who get chickens wildly underestimate the true costs.
We are going to break down the cost for you so that you have a more reasonable idea of what it is going to cost to have those fresh eggs on the table.
Costs associated with keeping poultry can be roughly broken down into four parts:
- Housing: Building or buying a coop and run.
- Accessories: Feeders, drinkers, nesting boxes, etc.
- Livestock: – Cost of buying your chickens.
- Maintenance: – Ongoing expenses such as feed, electricity and supplements.
Let’s start with the exciting costs – buying your chickens!
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How Much Do Chickens Cost?
You have four choices to start with. You can buy hatching eggs, chicks, started pullets or get some rescue hens.
This is something I would not recommend for a beginner for a few reasons. Whilst it is slightly cheaper, it is far harder and riskier for novices.
Hatching eggs from a reputable hatchery will cost you around $52 for six standard breed eggs. You will also need to consider the cost of an incubator (typically ~$100).
Chicks are usually available at farm stores in the early spring.
The stores usually carry a limited selection so if you want a specific breed you may have to shop around.
Chicks of the more common breeds (such as Rhode Island Reds and Wyandottes) are less than $5 each.
Whereas more exotic breeds can set you back up to $100 per bird!
If you buy chicks you will require a brooding box, warming plate, special chick feed, feeder and waterer among other things. All of these things can be bought at a local feed store for less than $100.
Pullets are hens that are just coming up to the point-of-lay. Meaning they will start to lay eggs fairly soon.
They will cost more than chicks but are much easier to care for than chicks. The only real drawback to pullets is that they won’t be quite so friendly as chicks that have bonded with you.
Barred Rock or sex link pullets will cost around $25 per hen from a good hatchery.
Getting some rescue hens is a good choice. They are hens that are spent according to the poultry industry and they will be killed. Most of these hens are around eighteen months old and have a decent laying life ahead of them.
They may take some nursing back to health, but they will reward you with a good amount of eggs.
How Much Do Coops Cost?
Without a doubt your biggest expense will be housing.
If you are buying a coop you need to do your due diligence in your research.
First you need to decide whether you want a wooden or plastic coop. Then check that it has everything you want and need – always read the reviews. Wooden coops can range from $160 to upwards of $6,000 (depending on how big it is and whether or not it is custom built).
Plastic coops seem to range right around the $700 mark and are limited to smaller coop sizes.
Building your own coop can be very rewarding – you also do not have to be a master carpenter!
If you are thinking about building, remember that you can use recycled wood or pallet wood as long as it is not toxic to the birds. This is a great way to minimize cost and recycle at the same time.
I would caution against buying a second hand coop since you do not know what diseases (if any) were housed there and you may be expected to clean it out yourself – not a happy prospect!
In addition to the coop, you need to decide whether your flock needs a run.
Closed in runs help to keep your birds safe from predators when you are not able to keep a watchful eye on them.
Several coop kits have a run extension available with them.
You can build your own run from $1 per meter, whilst kits start at $150.
The next thing you should think about is accessories.
Accessories are things such as feeders, waterers, nest boxes and perches.
Feeders And Waterers
These items are not very expensive, but again you have choices to make. Both feeders and waterers are manufactured in plastic, metal or wood (feeders only).
You should plan on one feeder/waterer for every eight hens.
Most farm stores carry these items year round and you can find them online too. Plastic and metal are both reliable, easy to use and will last for several years. Waterers range from $6 for smaller ones up to $30 for larger metal ones.
Feeders are also inexpensive but the price will vary depending on the type you choose (trough, hanging, wall mount or treadle).
- Wall mounted ones are great for small coops and cost anywhere from $3-70.
- Hanging feeders come in metal and plastic and can cost around $7.00.
- Trough feeders are probably best for chicks, game birds or bantams. They are quite cheap at around $15.
- Treadle feeders are automatic which makes feeding times easy, but they are the most expensive. They start from $99.00.
Remember if you decide to get chicks, you are going to need chick sized equipment as well.
A simple ready made nesting box will cost around $10. More expensive types can cost a lot more (up to $200).
If you have a few standard sized hens for your yard, the simple boxes should work just fine. In fact if you have bought a coop the nest boxes will usually be provided.
Plan nest boxes at the ratio of one nest for every three hens.
Perches will need to be large enough for the hens to settle comfortably for the night. Each hen will take about eight to ten inches of space on the bar.
All you need is a 2×4 inch piece of wood to make your own perches. This will cost less than $5.
What do we mean by maintenance?
This is anything that your chickens will consume.
Think of feed, water, supplements, electricity and bedding.
When you look at chicken feed you will be amazed at how many different types there are:
- Chick starter/grower (24%, 20%, 15%)
- Layer feed
- Meat feed
- Game feed
- Scratch grains
- Corn (cracked and whole)
Most flocks will need a simple layer feed.
The average 50lb bag layer feed will cost between $13-25. If you choose to go organic your feed is going to cost significantly more.
You will find certain enhanced feeds that have additives such as marigold petals to add color to yolks. There is nothing wrong with these feeds but you are likely to pay much more for them.
Always check the ingredient and weight tag on the bottom of the bag. Unless you are strictly vegetarian do not be fooled into paying more for a ‘vegetarian’ bag of food. Most chicken feed has protein supplemented from animal or fish products.
There are many different types of bedding out there. Folks usually have a preferred type of bedding for their hens and will stick with it.
Pine shavings are perfect for chicks but start to become expensive when the chicks grow up as you need a lot more. Some of the free materials you can use are: shredded leaves, shredded newspapers, pine needles, mulch and sawdust.
If you have to buy bedding there are quite a few choices: hemp, straw, hay and sand.
My personal preference is wheat straw. I can buy a bale for $5 and it lasts a good long time. The hens love because they can kick it up and find a few tasty morsels in the mix.
You will need to do your research and compare price with durability on each type of bedding.
You do not need a lot of supplements but there are some you should always have on hand.
Oyster shell is vitally important to give to your birds. It helps them to produce good strong egg shells and maintain healthy bones. You can pick this up for around $3.
Your birds will also need insoluble grit. This helps them to grind up and digest their food. If they are allowed to free range they should be able to find enough outside, but offer it anyway just in case. Expect to pay around $15 a bag.
Vitamin supplements are also good to have on hand. I give my flock a boost once a month during summer and a bit more frequently in winter. These supplements cost around $10 for a container.
Ideas To Save A Little Money
If this sounds expensive to you there are a few things you can do.
The easiest thing is to use salvaged parts to build your coop – this can save you a few hundred dollars.
You could also consider getting rescue hens as well.
In terms of reducing the ongoing expenses such as feed you will struggle.
However if you have good egg layers that give you an excess of eggs, you can always sell or barter them. They also make great bribes for grumpy neighbors.
While there is always a market for fresh eggs do not expect to make a fortune from them. How much you will be able to charge will depend upon where you are located and how much competition you have.
Starting up with poultry does not need to cost a small fortune.
If you are prepared to scavenge a few items or make your own you can cut down on the overheads.
Take your time to think and plan your foray into chickens. The more time you spend preparing, the less trouble you will have along the way.
Unfortunately not much can be done about the maintenance costs – your flock will always need food, water and shelter. The costs of maintaining a flock are not exorbitant and are well rewarded by watching their antics and enjoying fresh eggs.
They are the cheapest psychotherapists on the planet!
Let us know how much it costs to keep your chickens in the comments section below…