Raising chickens does not necessarily have to be an expensive endeavor. In fact, you can still do this very effectively if you’re on a tight budget as long as you’re willing to build your own chicken coop instead of buying one off the market. Here, we’ll estimate the costs of starting up a coop that consists of 4 chickens, which is what you should really start off with if you’re new to this). It’ll be really difficult to handle any more than that without any prior experience.
A decent coop for 4-8 chickens can be purchased for about $500 but if you were to build your own, it will cost you a mere $50. This is assuming you do your homework and compare the lowest prices around before you purchase any of your coop materials.
Plenty of wannabe coop owners have asked this of me: Should I invest in a second-hand coop instead of building one from scratch? I wouldn’t recommend it at all unless you know for certain that the seller is very trustworthy and you’ve dealt with him before in the past. More likely than not, there will be a problem with the coop itself, one way or another and that could precisely be the reason why he’s willing to let it go in the first place. Rearing chickens can be fairly profitable if you do it right and if someone’s selling his off, there must be a problem somewhere. Perhaps his coop is infested with termites or perhaps his chickens aren’t doing very well in it.
If there’s a perfectly legitimate reason for his wanting to sell his chicken coop away (for instance, he’s moving and he isn’t allowed to rear chickens at his new place), then you could consider it. If you’re lucky, you might be able to snag a good coop for as little as $50, which is basically what it would cost to build a brand new coop from scratch anyway.
Total cost for chicken coop: $500 for brand-new unit if purchased on the market, $50 if it’s a second-hand purchase. $50 if built by yourself.
Again, another question that arises here would be whether to buy adult chickens that are ready to breed and lay eggs or to start off with chicks and raise them slowly. Raising a chick until it becomes mature enough to lay eggs could take as long as half a year so if you want to see quick results, you really shouldn’t use this route.On the other hand, if this is merely a hobby that you and your kids want to take up, raising chicks from ground up can be an extremely fun thing to do! Plus, it’ll save you a lot more since a chick (1 day old) only costs about $3 each while a fully-grown hen can cost anywhere from $30-$50.
The upside of starting off with mature chickens is that you can start collecting eggs from the first few days of keeping them or try hatching them for even more chicks that you can then raise. We recommend buying mature chickens directly since they’re a lot easier to keep healthy and you can also start seeing results quickly (this is vital for newbies!).
Find out how long it takes for an egg to hatch here.
Cost of 4 adult chickens: 4 x $40 (average) = $160.
Feed and bedding
An entire bag of regular feed will cost about $15-20 and it can last you about a month with 4 chickens. Organic or medicated feed will cost a lot more (up to $40) but you don’t really need those for now unless you’re looking to produce grade A or AA eggs as per the USDA standards. That should be a topic for much later once you’ve gained some experience of raising chickens.
As for the bedding, straw is easily your cheapest option. It costs about $5 for a bale (again the cost can vary based on the quality and brand of the straw) and should last you a month. Pine shavings usually cost a little more (approx. $7 for the same amount). If you have pest problems or if your chickens start to fall sick, you will need medication too. These miscellaneous costs add up to about $10.
Total cost for feed, bedding, miscellaneous items: $20 (feed) + $7 (bedding) + $10 (miscellaneous) = $37/month.
Total cost of rearing 4 chickens comfortably in a chicken coop, assuming you build a chicken coop from scratch or purchase a second-hand coop: One time cost of $210 and a monthly maintenance cost of $37.
Investing in coop plans or adding incubators to hatch the eggs might kick up the initial start-up cost to $300 but you could probably recoup the costs in half a year or so if you do it right.