Chickens are such a joy to have around the yard, whether you live in a city or in a rural area. As pets, chickens are much more affordable than other animals, and unlike dogs and cats, they give you back more than just affection. Let’s look at what it costs to set up a small backyard chicken coop.
Generally, chicks cost about $3, started pullets cost $15, and a laying hen costs around $35.
A coop costs between $100 and $500, including feeders, waterers, and nest boxes. There are also running costs – feed, bedding, water, and electricity. It costs $30-$150 per month to feed 5 birds.
These numbers are just an estimation. The cost in reality will depend on many factors—where you live, how many chickens you keep, whether you buy a coop or build your own.
Backyard chickens are as expensive or inexpensive as you keep them. There are many ways to reduce the initial outlay and running costs of keeping chickens.
Factors that Determine the Cost of Buying and Keeping Chickens
- The age you buy the chickens. The younger the bird, the lower the cost – a hatchling chick is much cheaper than a laying hen. However, if you buy young chicks, your set-up cost will be higher as you will need to buy or build a brooder and run heating lamps.
- Where you live—in a rural or urban area. Buying chicken feed and accessories is generally more expensive in cities than in farming areas, where you can buy things in bulk.
- The climate in your area. If you live in a place with sub-zero winters, you may need to invest in heated waterers and run a heat lamp in the coop at night. This will increase your set-up and running costs.
- How many chickens you keep. The more chickens you keep, the higher your feed and bedding costs will be.
- The breed of chicken. Mixed breeds or common heritage breeds cost much less than purebred pedigree chickens. Certain hybrid breeds, like Easter Eggers, that lay rare green or blue eggs, are also more expensive.
- Whether the chickens free-range. Allowing your chickens to free-range will significantly lower the cost of feeding them.
What Is the Cost of Buying Chickens?
How much chickens cost to buy is largely dependent on their age. It costs more to raise a 4-week-old bird than a day-old chick. When you buy a slightly older chicken or a hen that is already laying eggs, you are paying for their running costs up until the point of sale.
The average cost of buying chickens of various ages are as follows:
- Fertile eggs cost around $1 per egg.
- Day-old hatchlings cost between $1 and $5. Mixed breeds cost $1 or $2, while pedigree chicks can cost around $7 to $10.
- Started pullets (4 to 6 weeks old) cost between $15 and $25.
- Hens that have started laying eggs (older than 22 weeks) cost $10 to $100. Some rare, prized breeds can cost up to $5000 for an individual chicken!
Initial Outlay Cost for Backyard Chickens
You need to be prepared for when your new chickens arrive home! You will need the basics: a secure coop and run, nest boxes, feeders, and waterers.
This is where things can get as expensive or as cheap as you like.
If you buy fertile eggs or day-old chicks, you will need to build or buy a brooder to keep them in for the first while. It is easy to build a brood box from scrap wood for free, but the heat lamps and bulbs will set you back around $50.
Prefabricated coops cost between $200 and $2000, depending on their size and quality. It is always better to see the coop first before buying it, even though there are many chicken coops available online. Generally, coops that cost between $100 and $300 are flimsy and will not last long.
It costs around $500 for a good-quality 6-bird coop. To reduce this initial outlay cost, you can build your own coop for around $100. Pallet wood is often free, and you can recycle lots of materials. All you may need to buy is nails/screws.
Feeders cost between $5 and $15, and waterers cost $6. Budget around $25 for all your chickens’ coop accessories.
The Running Costs of Keeping Chickens
Aside from the initial set-up cost, there are also monthly running costs to consider for the chickens’ feed, bedding, water, and electricity.
- It costs around $0.15 per day to feed a chicken. Non-GMO, organic feed is much more expensive than regular chicken feed. To feed a flock of 5 laying hens, it costs around $30 per month on regular layer pellets or $150 per month on certified organic feed.
- Bedding for your chickens costs around $20 per month for a small bale of hay. However, if you collect dried pine needles or use dried grass clippings, this cost is free.
- Consider the cost of electricity if you run a brooder or use a heated watering system during winter.
- Also, consider the cost of water, especially if you live in an urban area.
How to Reduce the Cost of Keeping Chickens
If these numbers look a little out of your budget, do not worry! There are many ways to cut the cost of keeping chickens:
- Build your own coop. By using scrap materials, you will save a huge amount.
- Reuse and recycle things you have around the house for feeders, waterers, and nesting boxes. Milk crates are fantastically versatile objects.
- Allow your chickens to free-range. This reduces their feed costs.
- Sell eggs and feathers to recuperate some of the costs.
Chickens are affordable, rewarding pets to keep. To buy a laying hen will cost you $10 to $100, depending on the breed. It is much cheaper to buy started pullets—they cost between $15 and $25—or newly hatched chicks, which cost only about $1 to $5 each.
Building a coop or buying a ready-made one costs between $100 and $500, including feeders, waterers, and nest boxes. There are also running costs to consider – feed, bedding, water, and electricity. It costs between $30 and $150 per month to feed 5 birds, depending on the type of feed. Organic, non-GMO feed is much pricier than regular feed.
You can use various types of bedding for your chickens – some of them free, while others will cost a little. It costs around $20 per month for a small bale of hay. To eliminate this cost, use dried grass clippings or dried pine needles.