The cost of eggs is skyrocketing these days… and that’s if you can even find eggs in the store!
It’s no surprise that many people are considering raising chickens so they can have their own fresh eggs from their own hens.
Are you thinking about it too?
I’ve been raising chickens for close to a decade now. My family currently has about 50 chickens of various breeds, sizes, and egg-laying abilities.
Today I’m going to break down whether it’s actually going to save you money to raise your own backyard chickens…or not.
Should you get chickens to save costs?
First we have to look at how much getting chickens will cost you.
Chickens might seem inexpensive but unless you’ve been given a whole coop setup with supplies and laying hens, there’s a lot more to raising chickens than free eggs.
There are two main expenses with keeping chickens:
- start-up costs – including the coop, run, chicks/chickens, supplies, food, etc.
- daily costs – this is mainly chicken feed, but also includes things like bedding, medicine, etc.
Before we dig into this anymore, you should stop and check on one important thing:
Are you allowed to keep chickens where you live?
Check with your town or city to find out if chickens are permitted on your property. It can be frustrating to be told what you can/can’t do on your own land, but you’d be surprised at how many towns/cities have regulations.
Even if you are allowed to keep chickens, there are often rules such as: you can only keep 3-5 hens, no roosters, your chicken coop must be 20 feet from the property line, etc.
I live in a small rural farming community in New Hampshire with no regulations towards chickens. But in a town right near me, the residents aren’t allowed any chickens in the ‘downtown’ area while those who live on the outskirts of town can keep a limited number of chickens but only if they have permission.
Just make sure you’re covered.
You don’t want to run into a situation where you have a lovely backyard flock then a neighbor reports you to the town and you have to get rid of your girls after your family has become attached to them. I’ve seen it happen to others and it’s awful.
Okay so now that that’s out of the way, let’s look at start-up costs.
Start-Up Costs for Raising Chickens
The biggest start-up expense with chickens is the chicken coop.
Chicken Coop Do’s and Don’ts
I’ll start by saying that I’m a huge proponent of housing chickens well. If your flock is happy, well taken care of, and has a nice place to live, they will reward you with more eggs, fewer health issues, and less expense in the long run.
Don’t worry; you do not need a fancy coop with curtains, window boxes, flowers, and other do-dads. I adore my chickens yet none of my coops have ever reached that level of finery because it’s just not worth it to me.
Please do NOT purchase one of those small, seemingly cute coops from the pet store or Amazon etc for $100 or so. Like this. Why?
- those coops are too small for 99% of chicken breeds. Your girls will be crowded and unhappy.
- they are made with cheap materials and won’t last long. If you’re really lucky, you’ll maybe get a year out of it before it falls apart.
- they are not sturdy – predators can easily tip over, dig under, or break apart the coop and kill your chickens.
- they are extremely difficult to clean. Seriously, they are a pain in the butt! This reason alone makes them not worth it.
- They are just NOT WORTH IT.
What kind of chicken coop should you buy?
My favorite type of chicken coop is a shed.
There’s more room for your flock, you can customize it, and it’s easy to clean. Plus your chickens will be happy!
The least expensive option is to find someone who is getting rid of an old shed, find a way to get it to your house, and repurpose it. Talk with friends, look on Facebook marketplace and Craigslist. You never know what will come up. Just make sure you clean/sanitize well before you welcome your chickens home.
We’ve set up 2 chicken coops like this while my husband has built the rest of our sheds/coops himself. Take a tour of our chicken coop shed here. This was our first coop at our last house (we’ve since moved, but our coops are still quite similar because it works well.)
If you or your spouse is handy, or you have a friend or family member willing to help you, building a new shed to be used as a coop is a great option.
Another option – if you have the funds – is to buy a brand new coop from someplace like a feed store (Blue Seal, Agway, etc.) as they tend to sell bigger, better-quality coops. You can also look for local businesses or even shed-building companies for solutions. But expect those to cost a lot more.
How many chickens do you want?
The other thing to keep in mind as you research chicken coops is how many chickens will you be getting.
Most people who raise chickens end up with more than they planned.
We “chicken people” have a saying – chickens are like potato chips; you can’t have just one!
If you are anything like me, you will quickly fall in love with your chickens’ quirky, unique personalities and want more. Especially once you discover just how many fascinating chicken breeds there are!
Unless you are limited by town/city regulations, it’s best to plan for more room to grow as you buy/build/figure out your coop.
My family planned on starting with 10 chickens but we came home with 14 chicks from the feed store for our first little flock. It was a good thing my husband had built a large 8×12 foot shed because by the end of our first year, we were up to a good 30 chickens! It doesn’t take much!
Bottom line – just the cost of the chicken coop can be quite expensive (or require a lot of patience as you hope for a decent coop to come up on Facebook for sale.)
There are other start-up costs, including the chicken run (the outdoor ‘pen’ for your backyard flock to run around in),
More Start-Up Expenses for Backyard Chickens:
You’ll also need to consider other start-up costs too, such as the chicken run.
This doesn’t have to be fancy or expensive. You can use tall stakes and chicken wire staked into the ground. It should be a good 6′ tall because the vast majority of chickens can and will fly over shorter fences.
If you want to get started with chicks, there are a few more things to consider. Read my post here on making your DIY chick brooder at home.
You’ll also need a feeder, water bowl, a shovel for scooping chicken poop, a brush for scrubbing bowls, some basic first aid supplies, etc. But those are relatively inexpensive.
The Daily Cost of Raising Chickens
The biggest ongoing expense for raising chickens is feeding them.
Your chickens will primarily eat chicken feed which you can buy at your local feed-store.
Some pet stores are beginning to sell chicken feed now, but be aware that they are often lower-quality and not as good for your girls.
Just like your dog or cat, you can buy any range of chicken feed from poor quality to the best organic quality and you’ll pay accordingly.
We buy a mid-quality local chicken feed that has herbs and essential oils added to boost egg quality along with added protein to help the hens. It’s more than basic, but not top-of-the-line organic so it works for us.
Chicken feed costs, like everything else, has shot up the last year or so.
We used to pay around $13-15 for a 50 lb bag and now it’s $21-22 a bag.
During the winter months, when chickens eat more feed, we go through 5-6 bags of feed a month. That’s approximately $100-120 a month just for chicken feed.
You’re probably not going to have 50 chickens like my family so your feed bill will be a lot more reasonable. But chicken feed is still expensive.
Our chickens eat less chicken feed during the summer months because we let most of them free-range and they love eating other insects, including ticks.
There are other ways to cut costs, such as fermenting your chicken feed, but that requires more time. (Something I don’t have.)
You’ll also need things like bedding and maybe vitamins/supplements/first aid supplies from time to time. Those are usually minimal expenses at least.
Will Raising Your Own Chickens Save You Money?
The truth is even if my family was to sell most or all of our eggs – we wouldn’t even break even on the costs of keeping chickens. Our chickens cost us way more money than it would be to just go to the store and buy eggs, even higher quality organic eggs.
We have chickens because we love them.
They are amazing pets, our kids have learned responsibility from taking care of them, and they are a lot of fun too. Our chickens laying fresh eggs are just another lovely benefit to us.
But my family does not save money on eggs by having our own chickens.
Bottom Line – Will raising your own chickens save you money?
If you want chickens just to save money on eggs, the answer is: no, you’re probably not going to save money. In fact, it will probably cost you more money in the short and long run than just buying eggs from the store, even if they are extremely expensive right now.
But if you are looking for a way to start your family with a bit of farm life, teach your kids responsibility, bring some daily fun and entertainment through a fascinating animal, and enjoy fresh eggs, then raising chickens can be a great value for your money.
If you do want fresh eggs from your brood, be sure to know the difference between hens and roosters to ensure you’ve got plenty of egg layers.
And they are entertaining. So entertaining…
For example, one of our chickens – “T-Bird” – insists on coming INSIDE our home every single morning to lay her egg in our mudroom. Seriously, EVER SINGLE DAY. This girl has not missed one day in three weeks!
But not before she nibbles a quick snack of dog kibble…
Then T-Bird celebrates with her happy “egg song” before returning outside to the rest of the flock.
Keeping your own backyard chickens can be well worth it when you consider all the amazing benefits.
However, chances are, if you are a busy mom like me and so many others, you’ll actually spend a lot more money – and time – by raising your own chickens than if you just fork over the money for eggs at the grocery store.
Although there really is nothing like the taste of freshly laid eggs. You’ll never want to go back to store bought eggs again!
So what will you do?!
Thanks for reading! I hope this helped give you some insight into keeping chickens and made your decision a little more clear!
Read my post here for info on getting started with backyard chickens.