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Are Chickens Expensive to Feed and Raise: A Complete Cost Analysis

Are Chickens Expensive to Feed and Raise:  A Complete Cost Analysis

Before purchasing those cute baby chicks at your local farm supply store, you maybe wondering are chickens expensive to feed and raise?  I’ve wondered the same thing myself.

One egg laying chicken costs an average of $42 to feed and house for 1 year.  One meat chicken will cost an average of $15 to feed and house for 12 weeks. 

Below we break down a complete cost analysis on how much you’ll need to invest to raise your own chickens.  Plus 5 ways to reduce this cost.

Are Chickens Expensive to Feed and Raise?

Yes, chickens are expensive to feed and raise.  As we show below, it costs an average of $2538 to feed and raise 12 egg laying chickens for 5 years.  That’s around $42 per bird in 1 year.  You have to take into account the cost of housing, feed/water containers, and other accessories.  We also show that 25 meat birds cost $370 to raise to 12 weeks old.  That’s around $15 a bird.

These numbers may seem high to you and they are but there are ways to reduce this cost.  This includes building your own housing, growing your own chicken feed, selling eggs for profit, hatching your own eggs and letting your birds free range.

are chickens expensive to feed and raise

Cost to Raise Chickens for Eggs

My homestead usually keeps around 12 birds for eggs.  We like Wyandotte chickens because they are mild mannered and lay 200 eggs a year.  The cost will vary based on the type of birds you have and how many eggs they lay per year.

We buy 2 bags of feed a month. According to the University of Kentucky, 3-4 bags per 25 birds is the average cost.  Our birds do free range most of the time.  When it’s daylight they are roaming the homestead.  So it looks like our birds are still consuming the average amount of feed even though they free range.

Here’s an estimate of the cost to raise chickens for eggs (amazon/greengardenchicken links):

Say you have those chickens for 5 years.  Honestly, if you let them free range, 5 years is a generous number.  Predators usually get our birds before the 5 year mark.  However, the average lifespan of a chicken is 5-10 years.   If your chickens lives for 5 years, the total investment would average $2538 (see table).


5 Year Cost

12 Baby Chicks $48
Feed $1800
Water Dish $10
Feeder $10
Coop $500
Heat Lamp $10
Chick Bedding $10
Deep Litter $150
Total $2538


How Many Eggs Does a Chicken Lay a Year?

Your average egg layer will lay about 200 eggs per year.  Let’s calculate the profit of eggs in a 5 year span.  Remember, in the 1st year, a chicken doesn’t lay eggs until about 6 months old.  So that’s around 100 eggs the first year.  According to the University of Florida, chickens start declining in egg production by 20% after the first 12 months of laying eggs.

690 eggs = 57.5 doz eggs per chicken in 5 years

Profit 1st yr 2nd yr 3rd yr 4th yr 5th yr Total
#Eggs 100 200 160 128 102 690


Cost to Raise Chickens for Meat

The cost is a little different to raise chickens for meat.  You don’t need a coop or nesting boxes since they won’t be laying any eggs.  Most people like to use chicken tractors because meat birds are messy.  They grow quickly, eat alot and go to the bathroom alot.  To keep them cleaner and keep the stench down, a chicken tractor is the best option.

Here’s an estimate of the cost to raise chickens for meat:

  • Baby Chicks – $100 (25 birds times $4 each)
  • Feed 25 birds for 12 weeks – $180 (1 bag per week, $15 per bag)
  • Water Dish – $10
  • Feeder – $10
  • Chicken Tractor – $50
  • Heat Lamp – $10
  • Chick Bedding – $10

Total cost of 25 birds = $370

These birds cost around $15 each to raise.  This number may seem high to you but most people raise their own meat so they know what they are eating.  If you’d like to raise your own meat birds in an organic way, check out our homemade chicken broiler feed recipe. 

Raising meat birds does take more work but it’s only for 12 weeks or so.  You’ll spend 20-30 minutes per day moving the chicken tractor and feeding them.  Once they are ready to process, it takes my husband and I about 4 hours to process 20 birds.  This includes vacuum sealing them for the freezer.

How to Save Money Raising Chickens

Here’s 5 ways to save money raising chickens:

1. Build your own coop or chicken tractor (DIY designs)  It’s pretty easy to build a chicken tractor.  There’s lots of DIY tractors on the net.  Here’s a few examples from

We built our coop out of pallets and scrap wood.  We only had money in the metal roof, small window, chicken wire and a few 4×4’s.  See our coop here. 

2. Sell extra eggs for profit.  According to the table above, 1 chicken lays 57.5 doz eggs in a 5 year period.

12 chickens lay 690 doz eggs

Now figure out how many eggs your family buys in 5 years.  My family of 4 eats about 6 dozen a month so this is 360 dozen in 5 years.

690-360 = 330

So you have 330 doz eggs to sell in those 5 years.  If you sell them for $3/dozen you’ll recoop $990 of your investment.

3. Grow your own feed or chicken garden. You can cut the cost of feed or eliminate it all together by growing your own chicken feed.   See our post on “What Do Chickens Eat?”

4.  Hatch your own eggs.  Purchase an incubator and hatch your own chickens instead of buying them.

5.  Let your chickens free range.  They will eat bugs, worms and other insects plus fertilize your yard.

are chickens expensive to feed and raise

Are Chickens Worth the Cost?

Chickens are more expensive to raise yourself than purchase from the store.  However, if you implement the 5 ways to save money raising chickens this greatly reduces your cost.  You can reduce it enough to make chickens worth the cost to raise yourself.  Plus you have the added benefit of knowing where your food comes from, you’ll get free fertilizer, bug control and entertainment.  Chickens are very curious creatures and entertaining for the family.  Overall, I recommend everyone try their hand at raising their own chickens.