Raising chickens is a favorite hobby of families across America as it is a great way to teach kids responsibility through learning how to feed and take care of an animal. Despite this great advantage, many people will shy away from such a project because they aren’t sure what the cost will be.
The average initial cost for starting a chicken coop will be around $500-$700. This number comes out high due to the cost of the building materials needed for the chicken coop, feed, and the chickens themselves. Over time this number will deflate and cost will then only come from food and bedding.
A lot goes into raising chickens and maintaining their health and wellbeing, so taking the time to know all that goes into a project like this will better help you know what to expect. Maybe knowing what to expect will convince you to start your own backyard chicken coop and start enjoying fresh eggs every day.
The Costs of Raising Chickens
When initially reading the numbers of between $500-$700, you might have cringed a little and began to close off the idea of raising your own chickens. Before completely shutting down your plans for raising chickens, know that there are ways to cut down the cost. Some people spend more where others would spend less, and that can attribute to the high average numbers you see (Source). You will need to pay some upfront costs either way though, so make sure you have a budget for your new project.
By reusing items around the house, receiving advice from someone else in the area that raises chickens, and using alternatives to the traditional feed you find at the store, this article can save you a lot of money as you embark on this adventure! Also, keep in mind that the number of chickens you keep and the size of your coop can also play into the amount of money you’ll need to spend.
Different Breeds of Chickens and their Cost Differences
Your cost in chickens can be dependent on the type of breed you choose, as well as the sex and age they are. The lowest cost you can spend is by getting baby chicks which on average are around $5. Know that females are more expensive than males. From there you can get already started pullets (a young hen) that you get at four weeks, which will cost you somewhere around $15-$25. After that, all that’s left are laying hens which, depending on breed, will cost you $10-$100.
|Breed||Meat or Egg Producing||Avg. Cost||Life span|
|White Leghorn Hybrids||Egg (white)||$3.86||5+ years|
|Plymouth Barred Rocks||Egg (brown)||$3.41||6 years|
|Cornish Cross||Meat||$2.27||8-9 weeks (when they are butchered)|
|New Hampshire||Both||$2.56||7 years|
Chicken Coop and Run Materials
The chicken coop is where your chicken’s home will be. This is where they should be most secure and safe from outside environments that could potentially harm them. In your chicken coop, the most important thing you will need are nesting boxes and perches, which we will talk about later.
As for the chicken run, this is an enclosed structure attached to the coop that will act as the “outdoors” for your chickens. Here they will be able to roam around but with restraints. It prevents free-roaming and therefore doesn’t require you to keep a close eye on them. This fenced-in structure is typically enclosed with chicken wire all along the sides and occasionally on the roof.
There is a wide variety of options for how you can set up your chicken coop and run. Some people who are more handy and creative often end up putting together a bunch of odds and ends to create theirs. I’ve seen chicken coops and chicken runs made from just pallets to some people going so far as to utilize a child’s old plastic house set.
If you are more creative, junkyards are often an optimal place to get the materials you need to make a homemade coop and run. Crafty people can pick up whatever they feel can be useful to act as a shelter for their chicks. If you can do this, you are saving a lot of money and cutting the initial cost down. If your budget is pretty tight and you are looking to spend next to no money on your chicken coop, then random odds and ends will be the perfect materials for you.
Now, should you decide that you would rather cut the time that you spend on this project down instead, then you will want to look into buying your chicken coop and chicken run. There are a good number of stores that you can go to for your selection, and the costs will range depending upon how many chickens you are expecting. The best number to shoot for is 8-10 chickens. This will not be too many chickens for beginners to handle, but it still offers a good number with room for growth.
The bill for pre-made and hand-delivered coops can be as high as $2,799 or as low as $159. The average price is around $650. Although these prices do seem high, this does eliminate the time factor, thereby making your chicken project a lot easier. The cost to order a DIY chicken coop kit will be around the same price, but instead of a pre-assembled structure, you will have to put in your own time and effort (Source).
Keep in mind that two or three chickens often turn into ten or fifteen. So the most common advice you will hear from other backyard chicken farmers is to build a coop a little larger than what you are expecting! They will tell you that when you only plan on getting a few chickens, that plan will soon change as you find out how much fun this project is, and soon enough you will want to start expanding.
If you are looking to build your own chicken coop and want to know how, the video below is a fantastic place to start.
Nesting Boxes and Perches for Chickens
Now typically, should you order your chicken coop, the coop will come with nesting boxes and perch areas. If it doesn’t, or you’re building the coop yourself, here are some unique ways to create those boxes and perches!
Nesting boxes aren’t necessarily a must for your chicken coop, as a chicken will find any quiet and secluded place to lay its egg, but the nesting box’s purpose is to prevent those eggs from getting trampled and make it easier for us to find them! Your box doesn’t need to be necessarily square, but just a roomy and comfy place for your chicken to nest in. If you are raising chickens for their meat rather than their eggs, a nesting box is not important.
Cheap options could be plastic storage bins, milk crates, 5-gallon buckets, and even cut in half tires. You just want a place that is comfortable and provides a little more privacy for your hen. Using these inexpensive and functional options will eliminate a lot of costs. Most of these options can be even free! (Source)
Put your nesting boxes in places that are less trafficked to prevent disturbances. To keep predators away put the box at the most three feet up. After finding the nesting box that will work for you, you will need to line it with bedding. This can mean sawdust or straw and most of these bedding materials can be found for the price of $5-15. Straw will usually be your cheapest option.
As for perches, if you want to spend absolutely no money, a sturdy branch will work. Chickens like perches to sleep on. This is an instinctive thing, and it keeps them safe from predators as well as lice and mites. Other options are pieces of lumber and rubberized poles.
The Cost of Feed
Chickens are known for being not at all picky about what they eat. They are omnivores, so they will be open to trying just about anything. In fact, they will even have a go at snakes, toads, and mice. They are usually successful with mice, and therefore finding a different way to kill your mice and rats besides rat poison will be important, otherwise, your chicken could end up dying from ingested rat poison.
Should you be allowing your chickens free ranges in your backyard, they will easily find their own nutrients in insects and other grub. Despite this, you should always provide a layer feed. This will ensure that your chicks are receiving the minerals and vitamins needed. Having high-quality feed will give your chickens the protein and nutrients to provide goods eggs and provide them regularly.
The cost for layer feed will be dependent on whether you choose to feed your chicken regular chicken feed or organic feed, with the latter being the more expensive option. A 50-pound bag of regular feed will cost you around $12-15, and a 50-pound bag of organic feed will cost around $30 (Source).
On average, an adult laying hen will eat 1.75 pounds of feed per week, so a 50-pound bag should last you about 3 weeks if you have 10 chickens. They will also eat even less feed if you are feeding them scraps or allowing them to eat free-range, therefore making the bag last even longer (Source).
Chickens can also eat any vegetable or fruit, but avoid giving them raw peels that are green as well as citric fruits. Citric fruits and green potatoes or onions can be poisonous to your chicken. Some people, to cut down on the cost of feed, will pass off scraps from the kitchen, as hens will eat just about anything. This prevents food waste at the same time as it fills your chicken’s empty stomach, making it a double win! Avoid giving foods high in fat and sugar though.
Where Chickens Can Get Their Water
For an inexpensive option, consider just using open systems for water such as troughs, buckets, and or cups. Just remember that systems such as these will get dirty very quickly and if you want your hens to stay healthy you will need to clean them more often.
Others suggest using nipples. The advantage to this system is that hens can still have access to water at all times but the water can be better protected from contamination. It also prevents the water from getting stagnant. The disadvantage to such an option is that nipples can allow for constant dripping, thereby creating puddles and getting the surrounding area wet.
They are also temperamental to the weather. In the winter they freeze, and in the summer they will need to be closely monitored. Otherwise, the water can get too warm (Source).
Water nipples can be around $5-50. The lower cost will get you a water nipple but you will need to install it on a PVC pipe yourself. The higher prices will be for water nipples that are already placed in a waterer.
Maintaining a Chicken’s Health
The most important thing you can do to keep diseases at bay for your chickens is to have good sanitation techniques. This means cleaning out your coop and run regularly as well as the nesting boxes, perches, and waterers. Buy a disinfectant that will do a good job of getting rid of bad bacteria but is also safe for your chickens.
Two other good cleaners that are commonly recommended are a mixture of 10% bleach and 90% water or a mixture of equal parts vinegar and water. Be careful with the bleach cleaner, as bleach can be dangerous for your poultry. Dilute it heavily (Source)
The most common problem with chickens are eye problems, and you will usually notice cloudy eyes in your birds as they develop. Eye problems are usually caused by lice or mites. If you want to get rid of this, you can put antibiotics in their water. Know that once you do this, you cannot eat their eggs for about a week or more.
Mites and lice can be detrimental to your bird’s health, so acting fast to rid your coop of them is important. To get mites off your chickens, use the dusting called Pestene which is usually around $15-20. Then thoroughly clean the coop and sprinkle around diatomaceous earth which will cost you $10-20. For lice, make sure you have a dust bath area for your poultry. This will be an area where sand or dirt will be in supply and is a chicken’s way of staying clean. It also helps keep lice off their feathers when they clean themselves (Source).
Backyard chickens are a fantastic project to take on that will reward you with eggs or meat, as well as great pets. A fun project for the kids that can last for as long as you want it to. Although the initial price may seem like a lot, over time the price of keeping chickens is affordable and not time-consuming as some would think. Don’t be afraid to engage in chicken raising!