Does Having Chickens Save Money?

Filed under: Money — Savvy Housekeeper at 11:42 am on Thursday, January 28, 2010

We have decided to get chickens. I have three reasons for wanting to get chickens. They are:

1. Fresh eggs—Obviously, chickens lay eggs.
2. Free manure for the garden—Chicken manure is the richest in nutrients of the animal manures and is a great fertilizer.

However, I will not be eating my chicken. My chickens will be pets.

There are tons of varieties of chickens. So far, I’m leaning toward having two chickens, a Rhode Island Red:

savvyhousekeeping rhode island red owning chickens
(Courtesy Wikipedia)

And a Silver Laced Wyandotte:

savvyhousekeeping silver laced owning chickens
(Image Courtesy Fowl Visions)

So, does having chickens save money? I eat a lot of eggs and I love the idea of having a source of protein in my own backyard, but is it worth all the trouble from a financial point of view? Let’s do a cost analysis.

The Cost of Owning Chickens:

Upfront Costs:

Coop: It depends on the coop—they come in all different sizes and price range. But let’s assume we get this one for $550.
Chicks: $10 for two chickens.

Ongoing Costs:

Food: A 50 lbs bag of chicken scratch costs $10. A chicken eats about 2 pound a week if you don’t supplement its diet with table scraps. (And why wouldn’t you do that?) However, assuming no extra food, that’s about one bag of chicken scratch every three months, or four bags a year.

At $10 a bag, that is $40 a year in food. Assuming both chickens live a full 7 years, that’s $280 total for food, $40 a year.

Water, nesting supplies, etc. are free to cheap, so we’ll ignore them for now.

Total Cost Of Owning Chickens (with fancy coop): $550 + $10 + $280 = $840 total for seven years, or $120 a year.

That is, if you buy a coop. If you make a coop, the cost drops significantly. Let’s say you build a coop for $100 in supplies (a nice round number). That’s $100 for the coop, $280 for food, and $10 for the chickens.

Total Cost of Keeping Chickens (with DIY coop):
$390 total for seven years or $56 a year.

Now, let’s look at the cost of things if I don’t get chickens:

Eggs: If you buy organic, local, hormone-free eggs at some place like Whole Foods, they cost $4.50 a carton. My husband and I go through about 10 eggs a week, or 43 cartons a year. That is $193.5 a year. Multiply that by seven years, and we’re talking $1354.5 for eggs, $193.5 a year.

(Of course, I don’t really spend $4.50 eggs. We buy local eggs for $3 a carton, or $129 a year. But since the chickens would be producing something akin to the Whole Food eggs, I am comparing apples to apples.)

Manure: Chicken manure is one of the best fertilizers for your garden. It costs $4 for a bag, which seems to weigh about 25 lbs. The University of Georgia College of Agricultural & Environmental Sciences estimates that each laying hen produces about 20-30 pounds of litter per year. So let’s say the chickens produce 50 pounds of poop, 25 lbs per chicken. That’s a savings of $8.

That’s $56 total for seven years, or $8 a year.

Pesticide: I use insecticide soap. It doesn’t work very well but I am hesitant to try anything stronger. I buy about two bottles a year, so about $16 for pesticides.

That is $112 total for 7 years, or $16 a year.

Totals Cost Without Chickens: $1522.50 total cost for 7 years, or $217.50 a year

Okay, so now it is time for the cost analysis. I will look at the cost of owning chickens compared to the cost of not owning them.

Total Savings Of Owning Chickens:

With Fancy Coop:

Cost Without Chickens: $1522.50 total for 7 years, or $217.50 a year
MINUS the Cost of Owning Chickens: $840 total for seven years, or $120 a year.
Total Savings: $682.50 or $97.50 a year

With DIY Coop:

Cost Without Chickens: $1522.50 total for 7 years, or $217.50 a year
MINUS the Cost of Owning Chickens: $390 total for seven years or $56 a year.
Total Savings: $1132.50 or $162 a year.

But! There are also insubstantial factors to weigh. For example, if chickens eat as many bugs as I hear they do, then their being in my yard means fewer pests without my having to do anything. This is an organic, chemical-free, and efficient form of pest control. Or–another example–fresh eggs apparently taste better than grocery store eggs, plus they have lower cholesterol and a higher nutritional value. That is another huge benefit of having chickens.

On the other hand, you have to care for chickens by feeding them, cleaning their cages, and worrying about their safety. But really I don’t mind, except for the cleaning poop part.

And I can deal with that.

All in all, it looks like you come out on top.

8 Comments »

Comment by Rob

January 28, 2010 @ 11:59 am

Yes but there are a bunch of variables-
What if your hen quits laying?
What if you neighborhood dog attacks the hen?
What if your chicken turns mean and pecks the other hens?
Enough of the negatives- you get some fun pets out of the deal. And if you have kids they learn where their food comes from. And oening chickens is cool!
Of course, for me the advantage would be I could name them after two of my aunts, LaVerne and Shirley (really)- LaVerne owned chickens and cows and pigs, which she wasn’t too shy about naming a pig after me.. and one named after a blogger- Crunchy. Yep the hen would be known as Crunchy Chicken

Comment by Stephanie

January 28, 2010 @ 9:47 pm

Bwok bwok bwok, how exciting! I could totally see you do that. Will they be there this weekend? Wait, maybe you have to build the coop first… gosh darn it. Oh oh oh… maybe we can trade cheese for eggs!?

Comment by Savvy Housekeeper

January 29, 2010 @ 9:15 am

Rob, that’s funny–Crunchy Chicken…

Stephanie, I thought you guys would be interested. Yes, let’s trade cheese for eggs!

Comment by Ginny

January 29, 2010 @ 12:35 pm

It is completely doable to not buy any feed at all for your chickens. Back in the old days, people didn’t feed their chickens. People kept a rather large flock and the chickens free ranged and fended for themselves. I don’t know that you would want them to free range, but you can have a moveable chicken tractor and grow them some winter feed in your vegetable garden. They don’t need lots of grains, they will thrive on mangels, sugar beets, rutabagas, cabbages, carrots, etc. Of course, you cannot expect them to be laying machines without hyped up feed, but you will get enough eggs and your chickens will be healthier, because they are not turned into egg-laying machines.

Just a thought from a homesteader with chickens who are not machines. :-D

Comment by Justin

January 29, 2010 @ 7:35 pm

Nice, I hope the chickens come with a copy of Farm City.

Comment by Savvy Housekeeper

February 1, 2010 @ 8:50 am

Ginny, thanks for the tip. I plan to give them a lot of scraps and let them roam around. I agree, chickens should not be machines.

Comment by More Waves

May 9, 2012 @ 6:29 pm

I love chickens!

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