Once you have the chickens & the coop set up, you will see maintaining your flock is relatively inexpensive.
One time costs:
Coop & Run: $ – $$$$$$ it all depends on how handy & resourceful you are and how many bells & whistles you want. You can salvage scrap wood & wire and build a coop for next to nothing or spend thousands on a custom build
Wire Dog Crate: $25-$50 -find one used on Craigslist or at a yard sale, buy the biggest one you can afford and try to find one that folds flat when you aren’t using it. Trust me, you will be happy to have it on hand when you need it. You will use it when introducing new chickens to the flock, as a quarantine cage for sick or injured birds, a broody pen if you have a hen hatching chicks and her flock mates are bothering her, transporting chickens, or as a time out cage if you have a bully who needs to be put in her place. Click here to see how I built a mini coop for $2 perfect for this use!
Chickens: $2-$50++ each – There are a couple factors here. Chicks will always cost less than full grown hens, hens usually cost more than roosters, and rare breeds can make costs skyrocket (I’m not exaggerating to say some people will pay hundreds of dollars per chicken for quality stock, rare breed chickens). If you buy them as chicks you can expect to pay a $2-$10 per chick for most breeds, adult hens about $25-$50 per hen for most breeds.
Feed: about $1.75-$2.00 per hen per month (they each will eat about 7.5 pounds feed per month), less if you supplement their feed with kitchen scraps or free ranging. Add in another dollar or so for crushed oyster shells. Optional-treats & scratch grains are not required, but your hens will love you for it! Obviously if you opt for organic or specialty feed, the costs will be quite a bit higher than this.
Litter: about $5 month – pine shavings or straw are two of the most popular options for coop litter
Sand: we spend about $60 a year for sand in our run (so to stick with the monthly budget numbers, $5 month). This gets us about twenty 50 pound bags of sand at the home improvement store to replenish the sand in the run area. Even if you don’t use it to cover your run the chickens will still need some sand to eat for grit.
Health Costs: minimal – we try to raise our chickens as naturally as possibly, but we occasionally have to buy medications (occasional deworming, mite treatment, respiratory medicine, treatment for wounds). Once you have a good chicken first aid kit stocked you just need to replace things as they are used or expire. Click here to see what’s in my chicken first aid kit
So altogether, a flock of 12 hens would cost about $20-$25 a month in feed plus another $10 in other expenses
Monetary Benefits of Chickens
Eggs: Farm Raised eggs generally sell for about $4-$5 dozen depending on where you live. Chicken laying habits vary widely according to their age, breed & amount of sunlight (they need about 14 hours of light to lay an egg). In the spring & summer, with the longer days, those 12 hens will average 7-10 eggs a day, so about 17-25 dozen per month. If you were to sell all those eggs it would bring in $68-$125 per month in egg income. Of course, that is in the summer. In the winter with shorter days you might only get 4-5 eggs a day. You can “trick” them with daylight lamps, but many chicken keepers let them have the winter “off”. Click here to read more about the pros & cons of supplemental lighting in winter. Click here to read about reasons that healthy hen might not be laying eggs
Just to play with the numbers, let’s make up some super general numbers and see how this scenario plays out. Let’s say you have a flock of 12 mixed age, mixed breed hens. For half the year you get 8 eggs per day, and for the other half of the year you get 4 eggs per day. That adds up to 2,190 eggs over the course of the year (or 182 dozen). If you sell those eggs for $4 per dozen, that is $728 and you will have spent about $420 on feed & litter. Even if you keep one dozen eggs a week for your family to eat, you still end up with an extra $100 a year and don’t have to buy eggs.
Compost: Chicken manure is some of the most prized fertilizer around for it’s high nitrogen content. Every couple years I used to have 5 yards of compost delivered to replenish my garden beds for about $150, and that was just composted leaves, not the rich, complex compost my chickens give me! The chickens give me plenty of compost for free now, so that is money saved right there. If you aren’t a gardener, you can still use it to fertilize your lawn or bushes organically (just remember chicken manure needs to “age” for 6-12 months first)
Chicks: If you have a rooster, you can have the added benefit of breeding. It’s not something I do because all of my chickens are different breeds. I’d likely only net $1 or so a chick for barnyard mix chicks and that is not worth the headache for me. But if you were to keep a flock of a single breed you could make significantly more than that, especially if you are raising a rare, desirable breed. You also could sell fertilized, hatching eggs for people to hatch on their own. There are some potential costs involved with breeding, like getting your flock health tested regularly and an incubator if you don’t plan to let a hen hatch the eggs out for you. You also need to make sure there will be a local market for your chicks/fertilized eggs or make plans for safely shipping them.