If you’re interested in starting your own backyard flock, you’re probably wondering about the cost to raise chickens. In this article, we’ll cover how much you can expect to spend on brooding supplies, a chicken coop, daily feed, & so much more.
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If you ask most chicken parents, they’ll agree that the expense of a backyard flock vs buying eggs from the store is a bit of a wash. Raising your own chickens won’t necessarily save you money & it will be an upfront investment. However, I would argue that the flavor, health, happiness, & long-term returns that come with raising your own chickens makes it totally worth it!
How Many Chickens in Your Flock
In order to add some context to these numbers, let’s quickly go through a few points that may help you determine how big you want your chicken flock to be (because that will determine coop size, daily feed numbers, etc)
- Chickens are social birds – you can’t raise just one. It’s generally recommended to have three chickens per two members of your household. So that would be six chickens for a family of four.
- The chicken run needs to have at least 10 sq feet for each bird, but more space is always better. This is the bare minimum needed if they’re spending all their time in the coop, instead of free-ranging.
- Inside the coop, each bird needs two to four square feet of space. Small Breeds = 2 sq ft, Medium Breeds = 3 sq ft, Large Breeds = 4 sq ft
- You’ll only need a couple of nest boxes unless you’re getting A LOT of chickens. They all end up using the same one anyways and they’ll just lay all over the coop if they want to
- Each chicken will also need 10-12 inches of space on a roost at night
That’s a lot of numbers, I know, but don’t worry. You can always add more chickens later. It’s better to undershoot than overshoot. We’ve heard too many stories of people starting off with like a hundred birds and being incredibly overwhelmed. We want to avoid that!
For what’s it worth, our family of two started with 12 birds & we didn’t regret it one bit
Moving through this article, we’ll break costs down to the per-bird level where applicable/possible, but there will also be static costs like the brooder & coop that won’t vary much depending on how many birds you get.
Now let’s get into it…
Cost of Ordering Chicks
The most common way of acquiring your first chicks is to order them by mail. Some of the top sites to do that through are CackleHatchery.com and MyPetChicken.com. We’ve used both & had fine experiences each time.
When you go to order your chicks, keep in mind that one or two may die in shipping or within the first few days of life. It’s just part of the process because being shipped is so stressful. You can contact the company about it, plus most people pad their orders slightly, anticipating a few losses. Chickens are $5+ each, depending on the rarity of the breeds you select. Shipping averages roughly $25.
Keep in mind that some breeders have a minimum quantity for orders. If you don’t hit it, you may have to pay a $20 small order fee. Also, when you place your order, you’ll need to decide if you want a Marek’s vaccine for your chicks. If so, that’s usually another $10.
Cost of Chicken Brooding Supplies
You’ll want to start your chickens off on chick starter feed. There are all kinds of poultry feed out there – grower, layer, all flock – but the starter feed has everything growing chicks need. They’ll eat this for the first eight weeks of their life & it’s $2.75 per bird for feed for that whole timeframe.
A brooder plate is the recommended heat source for baby chicks because it’s safer than a heat lamp & provides more direct heat as if sitting under momma – so that’s what we’re gonna talk about. Each plate is typically rated for how many chicks it can hold. This Brinsea brooder plate is the one we use & we love it. It’s suitable for up to 20 chicks and it’s $79.99.
Wood shavings are the preferred type of chick bedding because it’s absorbent, low-dust, and easy to clean. We use pine shavings, and you can choose whatever you’d like just avoid cedar because the scent is damaging to the chickens’ respiratory system. You’ll need to change the bedding out as it becomes too soiled and you’ll need the soft “shavings” bedding until the birds are ready to be transferred outside at five to six weeks. That equals roughly $5.75 per bird.
Feeder & Waterer
You’ll need a small-size feeder & waterer for your baby chicks. If you’re getting a lot of birds, you may need more than one set, but I would say this would work for up to 20 chicks. The bigger they get though, the faster they empty it. The set we bought is $14.99.
Once you start feeding your chicks anything other than starter crumbles, they’ll need grit in their diet. Usually folks start introducing the babies to soil & grasses after the first four weeks or so. Chick grit is stored in the chicken’s crop & helps them digest complex food. Once outside, they can forage for small rocks, but for the first little bit, they need grit provided. This will be roughly $3 per chick.
You’ll need something to house your baby chicks before they’re ready to move outside to the coop. This can be a large plastic tub, a small pet pen, a watermelon box, or something homemade – so the cost can vary. The first year, Jerry built a beautiful brooder out of wood and though it was lovely, I must admit that it’s a pain to store in the off season. Plastic tubs are great because they can be repurposed. Most recently, we used a small pet pet (made for rabbits) with straw bales around it. Worked like a charm and it even folds up when not in use! We’ll estimate an average of $50 – $75 for a brooder.
There are a few items that aren’t required, but some folks recommend them. When your chicks first arrive, they may benefit from an electrolyte boost ($6.99). Vetericyn ($21.39) is nice to have on hand, though I found we didn’t need it until the chickens were much older. Corid ($24.99) is a medicine used to treat coccidiosis. We also didn’t have issues with this until the chickens were older, but you’ll likely need it at some point.
The above costs will cover the first 6-8 weeks of your chick’s life, until they’re fully feathered & ready to go outside. It breaks down to roughly $200 – $225 in static costs for the brooder, heat place, electrolytes, vetericyn, and corid. Plus an additional $12 per bird for feed, bedding, and chick grit.
Cost of Adult Chicken Supplies
I would say that this is going to be your biggest expense when it comes to chickens. Keeping in mind the space requirements we covered above, you’ll want to have a decent amount of space for your chickens to roam. You can buy decent prefab chicken coops online starting at $170, but they’re only big enough to accomodate a couple birds. We recommend giving your chickens as much space as you can afford. For our example of six chickens it looks like the average is $350 for a bare-minimum chicken coop.
Feeder & Waterer
As the chickens get larger, they’ll need full-sized feeders and waterers. Again, there’s a lot of room for options. Some folks get free rain barrels, add a few nipples, and you have a practically free waterer. Some folks save money by designing feed troughs using PVC pipe. But in terms of store-bought waterers, most people pick from the classic waterer, cup waterer, or nipple waterer – averaging $48. For feeders, you’ve got the classic feeder, port feeder, or automatic feeder – averaging $36.
As your chickens grow in size, they’ll start to eat more food. You’ll want to transition them from starter, to grower, to layer feed – though the prices don’t vary much. Once they’re full-grown, you can expect to pay roughly $7 per bird, per month on food.
In your coop, an potentially in your run, you’ll have to use some sort of bedding. Whether it’s pine chips, straw, or sand, you’ll need something soft for you hens to nest & lay eggs. The coop gets cleaned our periodically and this bedding will need to be replaced, but on average the cost should be around $2 per bird per month.
We’re adding $1 per bird per month to cover on-going incidentals. This may go towards snacks, which your bird will especially need for high protein during the winter. This could also cover medical supplies, although if you purchased the indicendtals noted under the brooding supplies, you’ll likely be well covered. But either way, we’re adding it for the just in case scenario.
The above costs will cover the remainder of the life of your bird. The average static costs are $350 to $500 for a coop, $80 for a feeder and waterer, and on-going expenses totaling $10 per month, per chicken.
Total Cost to Raise Chickens
Let’s add up all these numbers to get you a rough estimate of the total cost to raise chickens – continuing our six-chicken scenario. If you want specific per-chicken numbers, please check each section above.
- Ordering Chickens ~ $5 per bird plus $25+ shipping ($10 Marek’s vaccine)
- Static Brooding Costs ~ $200 – $225
- Variable Brooding Supplies ~ $12 per bird
- Coop ~ $350 – $500
- Feeder & Waterer ~ $80
- On-Going Supplies ~ $10 per bird per month
That means that if you intend to start with a recommended flock size of 6 chickens, you will invest roughly $1500 into the first year of their life.
I know that seems like a lot and it is an investment, but the long-term returns make it totally worth it. Most of these chickens lay like 275 eggs a year, so that’s a lot of food back in your kitchen. Plus add in the entertaiment value, the self-sufficency, and the flavor of homegrown eggs and it really can’t be beat!
So, what do you think? Are you ready to raise your own chickens? Do they seem worth the cost? Send us an email or leave a comment below! You can also let us know on our Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, Twitter, or Pinterest pages.
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For more chicken tips check out these articles…
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