Your Chicken Questions Answered by a Veterinarian. Honest and Practical Advice

Is Keeping Chickens Cost Effective?

On the surface, most farming activities seem to make financial sense, and great profits can be made. Farming chickens is one such venture that seems easy to manage and save money by ultimately becoming food self-sufficient. As with all proposals you may hear, it is important first to weigh up the possible downsides.

While keeping chickens is a very rewarding activity, and there is some money to be made, if you are farming on a small scale, it is impossible to make massive profits. There are ways to reduce the costs which will produce some income; however, there are so many unknown events that can affect the outcome.

Is Keeping Chickens Cost Effective?

Keeping chickens can be cost-effective. There are various money-making uses for chickens, including:

  • Selling eggs
  • Breeding chickens for profit
  • Selling hatched chicks
  • Selling chickens for breeding
  • Selling chicken meat
  • Selling feathers
  • Selling chicken compost

While some people keep chickens as family pets, this article assumes the following assumptions.

  1. The chickens are kept for eggs, and when the hens become spent, they are slaughtered.
  2. Only hens are kept
  3. The chickens are purchased at four weeks.

There are two primary ways to keep chickens:

  1. Free range (at night, called back to a coop for food, so there are fewer food costs).
  2. Fully enclosed in a coop.

Most people who keep chickens supplement the food with greens from their garden or kitchen waste or from a produce market, which reduces food costs.

Income Earned (Or Costs Saved  By Farming Chickens)

If the chicken owner is farming the chickens to save costs by not buying chickens and eggs from the local store, the earnings made are essentially the income saved by producing the chickens and eggs at home.

To calculate the saving, which is achieved, we have made the following assumptions.

The Chicken Meat

American chickens are sold in four sizes.

  1. Small 2.5 pounds
  2. Medium 3.00 pounds
  3. Large 4.00 pounds
  4. Extra Large +4.5 pounds

The June 2022 Retail price for whole chickens in America was $1.66 per pound.

These figures result in the following retail whole chicken meat prices.


Size of chickenWeight of chickenPrice of chicken meat
Small2.50 lbs.$4.15
Medium3.00 lbs.$4.98
Large4.00 lbs.$6.64
Extra Large+ 4.50 lbs.$7.20

is it cost effective to raise chickens for eggs?

The average egg price in America increased by 44% between June 2021 and June 2022.

The assumptions which have been made are.

  1. The chickens only lay after 12 – 20 weeks(breed dependent)
  2. On average, layers will stop producing eggs after 65 weeks, at which time they will be slaughtered for meat.
  3. Layers produce approximately 300 eggs per year. (This is possible, but only if nothing goes wrong)
  4. The June 2022 average retail egg price was $2.95 per dozen eggs.
Size of chickenWeight of chickenSaved Price of chicken meatNumber of eggs produced in a chicken’s lifetimeSaved price of eggsTotal saved price  
Small2.50 lbs.$4.15300$73.75$77.90
Medium3.00 lbs.$4.98300$73.75$78.73
Large4.00 lbs.$6.64300$73.75$80.39
Extra Large+4.50 lbs.$7.20300$73.75$80.95
Is Keeping Chickens Cost Effective

Chicken Farming Input Costs

The costs of rearing chicken need to be considered when assessing whether the exercise is cost-effective.

The costs incurred include.

  1. Cost of chicken
  2. Coop
  3. Food

Cost Of Chicken

The cost of a one-week-old chick is between $3.00 to $5.00

The cost of a four-week-old female chicken is between $15.00 to $25.00

An adult chicken costs between $10.00 for a mixed breed and $100.00 for a special breed.

For this exercise, it is assumed that young female chickens will be purchased and will cost on average $20.00 each.

Cost Of The Coop

A chicken coop is not always necessary if you raise the chickens in free range. However, a secure chicken coop is essential if the chickens need protection from bad weather or predators.

The rule of thumb is that ten mature chickens will need a 60 to 70-square-foot chicken coop. The average price of commercially available chicken coops ranges between $150.00 to $400.00.

Assuming an average of $225.00, the first-year cost of the coop per chicken is $22.50.

Cost Of Food

Food is one of the areas where you have the most flexibility, as you can supplement the chicken food with greens from your garden and leftover scraps from the kitchen.

Generally, feed accounts for about 70% of the total outlay in farming chickens.

As we are doing this cost analysis on layer chickens, the recommended food is layer pellets.

The chickens need a different (starter) mix for baby chicks up until six weeks. Choosing the optimal food mix can be a complex decision and I have a whole article dedicated to what chickens eat,  and it is recommended that you always read the starter mix label and consult someone who has experience in the poultry industry if you have any questions.

Between six and twenty weeks, the chickens will need a change of diet onto grower feed. The grower feed has a protein content of between 16-18% but has less calcium than regular layer feed.

After twenty weeks, the chickens can graduate onto layer feed with a balance of protein, calcium, and other vitamins and minerals. The layer food has a similar protein content as the grower food.

The average consumption of the different feed types per chicken is.

  1. Starter   per chicken         –                2.2lbs. (   1.0kg) over six weeks
  2. Grower per chicken         –                3.3lbs. (   1.5kg) over fourteen weeks
  3. Layer per chicken             –              50.0lbs. (22.0kg) over thirty-two weeks

The typical cost of the different feeds is:

  1. Starter $7.48 for 3lbs.
  2. Grower $6.48 for 5lbs.
  3. Layer food $15.12 for 40lbs

The food costs per chicken are:

Starter food        –              Not needed because four-week-old chicks are being purchased

Grower food      –              $  4.27

Layer Food          –              $18.90

The total cost of feed for each chicken over 52 weeks is $23.17   

Bedding (Optional)

If a simple bedding material is used, such as pine shaving, it costs approximately $0.40 per lbs. and will cost approximately $1.00 per month per chicken ($12.00 per year)

Feeders & Waterers

An amount of $5 should be allocated for feeders and waterers.

Assuming ten chickens, the cost per chicken will be $0.50.

Other Items

Add roughly $10.00 per month for miscellaneous extras, such as medicine, pest control, egg boxes, etc.

Assuming ten chickens, the cost per chicken will be $1.00

The total per chicken cost in the first year will therefore be

Cost of Coop$22.50
Costs of feed$23.17
Feeders & Waterers$0.5

Inserting the costs into the projected income table results in the following first-year results

Size of chickenTotal saved priceTotal first-year costsFirst-year results
Extra Large$80.95$79.65$1.30

The second-year results are more promising because some startup costs have been paid and do not need to be repeated.

Cost of Coop$0
Costs of feed$23.17
Feeders & Waterers$0

Total costs per chicken per year are $51.17, which results in the following profits.

Size of chickenTotal saved priceTotal second-year costsSecond-year results
Extra Large$80.95$51.17$29.78

So do you save money?

It depends on the scale at which you produce eggs and whether or not you sell them.

If you were to mass produce eggs, then you would make substantial profits by benefiting from economies of scale. However, this isn’t the case for most people. Initially keeping hens won’t save you money, but over the long term, you’ll eventually break even and even begin to save some money if you eat a substantial amount of eggs.

We can assure you chickens are great pets, the costs are fairly low when compared to other animals such as cats or dogs. Not to mention hens actually give you something in return; those delicious healthy eggs. They’re housed outdoors which makes them easy to look after, the birds are also great around children and will provide them with hours of fun.

This isn’t a fair comparison though, there are too many variables, for instance, the number of chickens that get sick. Or intangible advantages such as the character and life chickens bring to your garden.

We personally think that chickens have a good return on investment and although it’s probably not much, we do think we’ve saved money over the years. This will vary from person to person depending on what you value, to make this clearer, here are some of the main cost-related advantages and disadvantages that chickens bring.




It is possible to make small-scale chicken farming cost-effective; however, you need to remain single-minded in how you save costs because the small margins are easily wiped out with increased expenses.

It is very satisfying to grow your food and become self-sustainable.

So, if you’re wondering whether keeping hens will be financially beneficial you have come to the right place, in this article we will explore the initial and maintenance cost of keeping hens as well as how much savings you would make from eating or even selling your own eggs, hopefully giving you a clearer understanding of all costs.

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