Approximate cost of keeping chickens?

ilazria(6a)March 7, 2011

I've been debating getting chickens for a few years now. I'm a mostly self-taught, trial-and-error home gardener. A neighbor informed me recently that her Aunt has a small coop and run (2-4 chickens) that I could possibly have. Cost is a big decision factor for my family. A free coop would take care one of the biggest obstacles. My other concern is the monthly cost of feeding/caring for chickens.

Could anyone give me a rough estimate of how much I could expect to spend on 2-4 chickens, per month? I'm talking food, grit, bedding, and anything outside of those 3. Research can only tell me what "should" work. I'd like to know what real people's experience has been. I need to know if this can work within our budget or not.

Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
zootjs(zone 5 MA)

Not including real estate, I think my 22 birds (12 chickens and 10 ducks) cost me about $12 a week. Feed is by far the biggest regular expense.

    Bookmark   March 7, 2011 at 7:58AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Zootsjs has the cost about right, but that would vary based on location, your local feed costs, and supplementation.

Eggs here go for about $2.75/$3.00 a dozen. Organic is much higher. That should be a factor to take into consideration when looking at the costs.

You don't say if you have the resources available to supplement the chickens? You may be able to supplement in a variety of ways including using a chicken tractor, maintaining a worm bin, household scraps and/or garden scraps. Extra garden space can allow for beets and/or mangels to be planted for winter feed if your climate allows.

If you have good sized lawn, build a chicken tractor & save on bedding and feed; move it daily. Heck bedding here costs $4.75 for a bale of shavings and it's going up again.


    Bookmark   March 7, 2011 at 8:25PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Would 2-4 chickens produce more eggs than my family would use up? From what I've read, I chickens lay eggs on average of 1-3 days? I think me, 2 kids, and my husband when he's home, could use that up easy. If there's much extra, I think I could build up extra brownie points with the neighbors by sharing :)

I'm definitely looking at supplementing with scraps and such. My yard is in no way a grassy manicured haven. In fact, I don't think there is much in the way of traditional grass. Lots of crab grass, dandilions, purslane, clover, wild chives, wild strawberries, and all sorts of other unidentified green things. Thankfully, there is a feed mill not far from my house, so I should be able to buy things at a decent cost. I also have a bad habit of planting way too many giant sunflowers, lol. Then I never get around to roasting them. I could probably plow up my whole yard and turn it into a sunflower field if my husband would let me.

My yard is currently a major tourist destination for grubs, squash beetles, Japanese beetles, slugs, snails, pillbugs and more. That's one of my main reasons for wanting chickens. I don't want to use chemicals, but it's getting harder and harder every year to get a crop when the bugs get them first. My cats are a big help with the moles, voles and mice, but they're a bit spoiled. If the chickens want to eat what the cats kill, it's no skin off my nose. Otherwise they get chucked back into the woods behind the house.

I'm also hoping I can work the deep bedding method. My yard isn't fenced, and I do live in a sub-rural neighborhood, so I can't let them free range. I still have to check the local laws, but I do live in the country, and our neighborhood is right next to a bunch of farm fields, a double wide a few streets over has multiple wildlife, a cow farm around the corner... I'm pretty sure I should be good to go, but I will be checking to be sure. My thought is to have the permanent coop, and then have a kind of home made "playpen" I could set them in during the day. Shaded and sheltered of course.

ok, gotta stop rambling and get to bed. Still open for more advice if anyone has it. And major thanks to brendasue and zootjs for the help so far.

    Bookmark   March 8, 2011 at 1:00AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
jonas302(central mn 4)

Get the chickens it will be fun
I have 2 hens and a rooster I get 10-12 eggs a week

on Jan 1 I bought 50 pounds feed-$12
50 pounds corn $8.00
50 pounds oats 9.00

3 months later I still have 10-15 pounds of the feed and at least 25 pounds grain once summer comes they will get less grain The last few weeks it has warmed up a little and they have come outside which really cuts the feed use the ground is still frozen and there is 3 feet of snow in most spots they seem to find quite a bit of food under a cedar tree where there is some bare ground

oyster shells are about $12 for a big bag and should last 2 years by the looks of it also they get a lot of calcium from bugs and stuff outside

Grit was $8 for a 50 pound bag that will last several years and they only use it when stuck inside from the cold otherwise there is plenty to pick up

bedding I use my own loose hay but I think 2 small squares of straw would go a year so about $8

seriously consider a portable coop or fencing in a large area and they will be pretty trouble free Chickens will gladly kill the mice for you they are pretty much like dogs with beaks will eat most anything

    Bookmark   March 13, 2011 at 6:14PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

In answer to your question regarding the number of eggs:

Look up the breed of chicken you are getting on one of the hatchery websites.

Egg layers (like Rhode Island Reds) can lay an egg a day for almost the entire year, meat birds do not lay as many eggs, and dual-purpose lay somewhere in between.

The amount of eggs can differ too, depending on if you offer supplemental lighting during the winter months when the daylight hours are less.

    Bookmark   March 13, 2011 at 7:13PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

The first thing I thought of was how old are these chickens somebody will 'give' you. It's common around here for farmers to offer a flock of layers for free towards fall because they're getting a little old in the tooth and the older a hen becomes, the less productive she is. So, they don't want to feed them through the winter. I run a flock for about three years before the amount they lay doesn't justify the amount of feed I buy. But, I sold eggs and had to look at the bottom line of the profit margin. I suppose some people will accept an old flock with butchering in mind, but you'd be surprised at the calls from folks wanting to start up a little back-yard laying flock. Those folks would be better off getting hatchlings, really.

As for productivity..............some dual purpose birds are also great layers. I have had numerous different breeds over the years and the best meat and the greatest number of eggs were from my flocks of Golden Comets. They're not a big bird but you can't tell it from the size of their eggs, and their meat is really nicer than the supposed 'meat birds' were to my way of thinking. Must lighter and more delicate.

A couple of hens won't break you up, feed-wise and you'll really enjoy them. Especially if you get a roo too. The early morning crowing is music to my ears and their antics crack me up.

    Bookmark   March 14, 2011 at 7:24PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I think there are a lot of variables to consider. Feed cost for 2 - 4 chickens will be relatively small since a 50 lb bag will last quite a while. I use pine shavings, and I use about 1 50 lb bag/month. There's the upfront cost for waterers and feeders, and if you electrify the coop, there's costs for installation and energy usage.

Vet bills, if any, can be in the hundreds. Other than that, I'd say $12 - 15/ week is accurate and a good round number. Of course, you will be saving quite a bit on the coop and run.

For me, the cost is mostly my time and effort. I'd say I spend at least 20 minutes/day taking care of their needs. Chickens in general are very self-reliant, and I think they would do fine if you left them alone every other day or so, but they do seem to crave your attention.

    Bookmark   March 15, 2011 at 8:55AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Thanks everyone, this has all been really helpful! It seems like, personally, I could handle this. Now the issue is figuring out the city codes :( I called to find out what the laws are, and was just told that it's not legal in city limits. However, from what I have read in the codes, as listed online, they aren't completely prohibited. Also, the way our city limits are outlined are SO convoluted. I'm hoping some there's some loophole or wiggle room. It would take me less than 5 minutes to walk out of our neighborhood, to the big farm fields behind out subdivision, and there is a house with a decent amount of land and horses that is definitely in city limits, just to the other side of our subdivision. I'm keeping my fingers crossed.

As for the age of chickens, I would be fine with taking in older chickens, past their laying prime. Eggs and meat aren't my main priority. Compost and bug control are top on my list. Roosters are definitely out. My neighbors are far too close, and my kids get me up early enough as it is, lol.

    Bookmark   March 15, 2011 at 9:51AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I just wanted to add a few thoughts:

If money is tight enough for you to scrunch the feed 2 or 3 birds will eat, you will probably be disappointed in the return on investment if you go with older birds, if they are indeed older. Older birds will need replacement within a year or so, but on the other side of the coin you can learn about chickens on them before having to buy birds.

When dealing with small animal laws such as chickens & city limits, it's probably best to practice the don't ask/don't tell scenario. Don't keep a rooster and work to change the silly laws they made regarding the ability to raise your own food. Keep the pen clean and tidy so noone complains.

As far as the farms in your suburban backyard, they probably either have the minimum acreage for their animals, it's zoned agricultural, or those farms were grandfathered in.

    Bookmark   March 15, 2011 at 3:54PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

As long as they are not getting sick keeping the chicken won't be much on your budget, if I were you I would keep the chicken you have to make sure that the breeds of the chicken are good when it comes to laying eggs

Here is a link that might be useful: Chicken Farm

    Bookmark   February 8, 2012 at 7:02PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Pretty good advice so far.

We live in the suburbs and have 4 chickens. We are chicken outlaws (I ain't paying no $75 inspection fee and $25 a year permit).

Our neighbors are super cool and their kids love to "play" with the chickens.

Ours free range in the yard, so our feed costs aren't all that high (they'd rather hunt for bugs).

Having chickens has been a real joy. Who'da thunk?

    Bookmark   February 12, 2012 at 4:11PM
Sign Up to comment
More Discussions
Ivermectin for doggies
First, DO NOT USE IVOMEC PLUS for heartworm control...
Turkeys: how do you know if you have a female turkey?
We have one "pet" turkey, most likely a Broad...
Raw Milk
Where Can I find Raw milk in western washington?
Ivermec & heartworms
My Lab was diagnosed with heartworms last week. She...
Rat proof chicken feeder
Been having a few problems with rats (no doubt the...
People viewed this after searching for:
© 2015 Houzz Inc. Houzz® The new way to design your home™