Want to Raise Backyard Chickens? Here’s What’s Involved — and What It Costs

This video is a beginner's guide to having backyard chickens. Chris Zuppa/The Penny Hoarder

Egg prices are climbing again after falling from the record high of $4.82 per dozen in January 2023. Egg costs jumped 4.6% last month, according to the consumer price index. With egg prices steadily rising, you might be considering raising your own chickens to save money. But how much does it cost to raise chickens?

According to the American Pet Products Association’s National Pet Owners Survey, 13% of households in the U.S. are raising chickens, which is around 16.1 million Americans. If you’re tempted to follow in their footsteps and build a chicken coop in your backyard, you’ll want to first think about whether it’ll actually save you money.

Here’s everything you need to know about raising egg-laying chickens and how much it costs.

This graphic shows how many chickens are raising chickens.

How Much Does it Cost to Raise Chickens in the Start-Up Stage?

The one-time start-up cost of raising chickens is at least $162, assuming you’re raising four egg-laying chickens. Some jurisdictions require getting a license or paying a fee to raise them, but we left out that cost because not every area requires it.

Here are some costs you’ll need to factor in at the beginning.

  • The coop: To keep coyotes and other animals away from your chickens, they’ll need a coop. Building or purchasing a chicken coop can set you back at least $100, though that’s typically on the lower end. According to HomeAdvisor, a professionally built chicken coop costs $650 on average. Most homeowners pay between $300 and $2,000. So, depending on your chicken coop size and design, type of materials, and the amount of prep work needed, you may have to shell out a few hundred bucks or more. 
  • Baby chicks: The cost of chickens varies, but on average, you can expect to pay around $3 to $5 per chick. But remember, you’ll need at least two chickens for proper socialization and egg production. So, if you buy four chicks, it’ll cost you around $12 to $20 in total.
  • Egg-laying chickens: Egg-laying hens are much more expensive than baby chicks and can cost between $20 and $50. And if you want a fancier breed of chicken, you can expect to pay even more.
  • Collection supplies: Egg collection supplies like egg baskets or crates, egg cartons, cleaning supplies, storage containers, labels, and markers can cost $50 or more in total.

These two graphics show the cost of chickens.How Much Does it Cost to Raise Chickens in the Maintenance Stage?

Assuming you’re raising four chickens, the average cost a year of raising egg-laying hens after the start-up phase is around $602. That’s approximately $50 per month. Here’s a breakdown of the expenses.

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  • Feed: Chicken feed, at least in the U.S., is typically made of grain, protein supplements like soybean oil meal, mineral supplements and vitamin supplements. The cost can vary depending on local access, but usually, the price is around $36 to $50 monthly to feed about four chickens.
  • Maintenance of coop: You can’t just build a chicken coop and leave it be — regular care is needed to keep your chickens healthy. This means you’ll need to get in there and give it a good clean out around once a week or whenever it starts to smell funky. Budget-wise, you’re looking at about $10 to $15 a month to keep things tidy.
  • Medical expenses: Like any animal, chickens may also require medical care at some point. That could include deworming, vaccinations and treatment for common illnesses. You can expect to shell out at least $50 a year for these medical expenses.

Ways to Keep Your Costs Down When Raising Chickens

So how much does it cost to raise chickens? You’ll need to budget at least $764 in the first year to kickstart your chicken farming journey — not exactly pocket change. Here are a few ways to keep your costs under control.

  • Buy feed In bulk. When it comes to feeding your feathered flock, buying in bulk can save you a good chunk of change because you’ll usually get a better price per pound. Plus, you won’t have to make as many trips to the store, saving you time and gas money. Just make sure you have proper storage to keep the feed fresh and critter-free.
  • DIY coop-building. If you have basic woodworking skills and some time on your hands, building a chicken coop from scratch is very much possible. DIY coop-building also lets you customize the coop to fit your space and needs perfectly. The Home Depot has a detailed step-by-step guide to help you get started.
  • Turn your leftovers into chicken feed. Instead of tossing your kitchen scraps in the trash, you can turn them into nutrient-rich compost for your garden and chicken feed. It’s a win-win-win situation: you reduce waste, enrich your soil and provide your chickens with healthy food.
  • Join local chicken-raising communities. By joining local chicken-raising communities or Facebook groups, you gain access to a support system full of shared resources and knowledge. Some of these groups even hold in-person meetings or social events like picnics and potlucks where you can get to know other members and share your experiences as a chicken farmer.

What You Should Know Before Bringing Baby Chicks Home

Farming livestock is typically regulated at the local, state or federal levels. So, before setting up a chicken coop in your backyard, you’ll want to first check your local regulations to see if your area permits it. Depending on whether your property is zoned as “residential” or “agricultural,” you may or may not be able to raise backyard chickens legally.

To be extra sure you’re not violating any laws, contact your local zoning board or zoning office, which most cities have some version of. For example, in Michigan, it’s called the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development.

This bar graph shows the differences between raising chickens for eggs or buying eggs at the grocery store. Raising Eggs vs. Buying Eggs

So, what’s the verdict? Should you raise egg-laying chickens or simply buy eggs from the supermarket? Well, according to Statista, consumers in the United States spent an average of about $107 on eggs over the course of the year in 2021. Now, compare that to the initial investment required to set up and care for four egg-laying chickens — a hefty $764 in the first year alone. So, becoming a chicken farmer for the sole purpose of saving money on breakfast is probably not worth it.

But that’s not to say you should completely rule it out. If the idea of raising baby chicks to full-grown egg-laying chickens brings you genuine joy and fulfillment, or if you’re passionate about animal welfare and seeking an alternative to the factory farming system, then it’s more than just a financial decision. However, as a small-scale producer in your backyard, it’s pretty unlikely that you’ll produce eggs cheaper than the industry can. So, in most cases, it’ll make more financial sense to head to your local Trader Joe’s for a dozen cage-free eggs.

Jamela Adam is a personal finance writer covering topics such as savings, investing, mortgages, student loans, and more. Her work has appeared in Forbes Advisor, Chime, U.S. News & World Report, RateGenius and GOBankingRates, among other publications.

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