What to know about raising backyard chickens for eggs.
If you buy eggs, you may be frustrated by the recent high prices and low inventory at grocery stores. Have you ever thought about joining the growing number of households who raise backyard chickens? These days, it’s easier than ever to wake up to fresh, organic eggs. But there are a few things to consider before you decide to raise your own flock.
How much does it cost to raise chickens?
Raising your own chickens for eggs includes both one-time costs — like chickens and housing — as well as the ongoing monthly expense of feeding and caring for your brood. Here’s a look at what you can expect to spend on average for a flock of six chickens.
Eggs from owning chickens
|Average price per dozen2 $4||Monthly cost (after initial expenses) $40|
|x 2 dozen eggs per week||x 12 months|
|x 52 weeks per year|
|Estimated annual cost $416||Estimated annual cost $480|
Initial one-time costs1
- Chickens. $10 – $30 per chicken, depending on breed and age. Baby chicks usually cost less than older hens but may require additional care and supplies, like a heat lamp and brooder box, and won’t start laying eggs for at least a few months.
- Chicken coop and fenced run. $250 – $1,000 or more. A coop can be the largest of your initial expenses. Coop options range from basic to fancy to high-tech. You can build your own, purchase a coop kit, purchase a ready-made coop or even rent one.
- Feeder and waterer. $30
- Perches. About $5 for a 2 x 4 piece of wood.
- Nesting boxes. $15 each
Ongoing monthly costs1,2
- Feed. $20
- Supplements. $5
- Bedding. $15
The initial cost of supplies and chickens can vary widely, and ongoing costs can fluctuate based on the number of chickens you own and where you purchase supplies. It’s a good idea to review your budget and plan for the initial and ongoing costs of raising backyard chickens before you buy your first hen.
To help reduce costs, consider building your own coop, perch, feeder and waterer, and use grass clippings for bedding. Check local farms and feed stores for chickens, supplies and additional resources.
Thinking about raising backyard chickens? Consider these factors first.
Many people enjoy raising backyard chickens for eggs in urban areas, even if it may cost more than buying eggs from the store. If you’re leaning toward this option, here’s what you need to know before you dive in.
- Research permits, local ordinances and restrictions. Your town might require a permit to own chickens, limit the number of chickens you’re allowed to keep, limit the distance of a coop from your property line — or may not allow backyard chickens at all. Be sure to check with your landlord or HOA, if applicable, for any restrictions.
- Determine the amount of space required. A chicken coop should have about three to five square feet of floor space per chicken.3 You’ll also need space for a chicken pen or run, which is an outdoor fenced area for your chickens to roam that’s attached to the coop.
- Account for daily chore time. Plan on spending up to 30 minutes in the morning and evening feeding chickens and cleaning the coop. While chickens can be messy, an added benefit is that they help with pest control, and chicken droppings provide a natural fertilizer for your garden.1
- Consider breeds and flock numbers. There are many varieties of chickens, with some breeds prone to laying more eggs than others. They also vary in size, personality and looks — from basic white chickens to fancy feathered birds. Chickens are social creatures, so it’s recommended to have a flock of at least three to six chickens.3
- Consider egg production. Egg production can vary by breed and age. Hens begin to lay eggs when they’re around five months old, and you can expect about five eggs a week per chicken. However, some chickens may not lay eggs year-round, and egg production usually starts to decline after four years — although the average chicken lifespan is 10 years.3
- Protection from outdoor pets and predators. If you have pets that spend time outdoors, you’ll need to train them or have a plan to keep them from harming your flock. You’ll also need to ensure that your coop is sturdy enough to keep your chickens safe from other roaming pets, and wild predators like foxes and raccoons.
Backyard chickens or store-bought eggs: Deciding which option makes sense for you.
Consider the costs and time commitment to help determine if raising backyard chickens makes sense for your lifestyle. While store-bought eggs may be cheaper, most people find it rewarding and well worth the extra cost and effort to raise their own chickens and have fresh eggs readily available every day. Plus, raising and caring for backyard chickens can be a fun family activity!
Simple ways to save money.
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Unusual items you can rent versus buy.
Consider whether renting versus buying might make more sense for you and for your finances.
1 “Raising Chickens in Your Backyard. Pros, Cons, Costs” Chickenpets.com, posted Feb. 24, 2023, https://chickenpets.com/raising/raising-chickens-backyard-pros-cons
2 “Cost of Raising Chickens for Eggs: Store Bought vs. Owning Chickens,” The Money Pit, https://www.moneypit.com/cost-of-raising-chickens-for-eggs-store-bought-vs-owning-chickens/
3 “Raising Backyard Chickens for Beginners,” Farmers’ Almanac, updated Feb. 8, 2021, https://www.farmersalmanac.com/backyard-chickens-23988