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How Much Does it Cost to Get Started Raising Backyard Chickens?

Thinking about getting started with a small flock of backyard chickens? Here's how much you can expect to spend.

You might be considering getting started with backyard chickens and wonder exactly how much it will cost you to get started. 

In the past, I've talked about whether raising your own chickens for eggs is economical or not, but today I thought I would outline the typical start-up costs for a small backyard flock of 5 or 6 chickens.

The initial investment in a backyard flock will be considerably more than your ongoing costs once you're all set up, so it's a valid consideration before diving into the wonderful world of chicken keeping.  

I'll try and break down the costs of getting started with chicks, then the costs once they're adults.

Keep in mind that prices are always rising (especially since Covid and the whole chick-mania that produced!), they can vary depending on what part of the country you live in, and vary whether you are buying local or online. 

(I'm sharing affiliate and sponsored links to some online products here so you can get a visual and see the products I'm recommending, but by all means shop around locally first.)

There are also generally many choices for the items you'll need at various price points, so it can be difficult to put an exact price on things, but this should give you a pretty good idea - or at least a range to work with. 

It doesn't make a lot of sense to sink a ton of money into it until you're sure it's something you are going to stick with and enjoy. 

built our first coop, which was only 4x6, and housed our first 6 chickens. It wasn't until years later that I finally splurged on a large, walk-in coop. So not shelling out a ton of money right from the start is definitely what I would recommend.

So, how much does it cost to get started raising backyard chickens?

How Much Does it Cost to Get Started Raising Backyard Chickens?

Let's assume that you are going to start your backyard flock with a couple of baby chicks. 

That means that you will need to set them up in the house in a brooder (or nursery) before they're ready to go outside to live in a chicken coop.

If you only plan to raise baby chicks once, then I would definitely suggest going with the more moderately priced supplies. 

But if you are thinking that you will continue raising countless batches of chicks in the future, then investing in some of the higher priced items might save you money in the long run.

How Much Does it Cost to Get Started with Baby Chicks?

  • Day-old chicks (5 or 6 is a good starter flock size) | $4 to $25 each

You can check your local feed store or an online hatchery like Meyer Hatchery which will have a much wider selection of breeds to choose from and ships nationwide. 

More common breeds can be found on the less expensive end of the scale, while the more rare breeds will cost more.

  • Brooder box | $0 to $165

You'll need a sturdy container for your chickens to spend their first 6 or 8 weeks in. You can use a cardboard box or large plastic tote, build a wooden box yourself, or you can splurge for something like this pre-made wooden brooder box.

  • Bedding | $0 to $25

Baby chicks need absorbent, textured bedding in their brooder to stand, sleep and walk on. I like to use newspapers covered with rubber shelf liner and some hemp bedding. 

This makes a nice, inexpensive bedding option for them that can be cleaned and switched out as needed.

  • Heat lamp clamp and red light bulb plus spare bulb or heating plate | $38 to $70 

Baby chicks need to be kept warm until they grow in their feathers. That means a heat lamp (a red bulb is best) with a secure clamp or an Ecoglow heating plate.

  • Chick-sized feeder and waterer | $0 to $38

Baby chicks need small shallow containers to eat and drink out of. You can use takeout containers or other small dishes or spring for this feeder/waterer set that adjusts as the chicks grow.

  • Chick feed | $15 to $52

Baby chicks need to eat chick feed as their sole diet for the first 8 weeks. A baby chick will only eat an ounce or two of feed each day.

Feed options range from a less expensive conventional feed to a more expensive organic chick feed for a 20 or 25 pound bag which should last for at least a month for just a few chicks.

Total to Get Started Raising Baby Chicks = $75 to $500.

When you add up all these costs, you're looking at somewhere in the range of between $75 and $500 to get started with 5 or 6 chicks. 

I would say a reasonable ballpark estimate would be somewhere between $150 and $200, especially if you build or re-purpose some supplies and don't go overboard with super rare breeds of chicks! 

Now that you have your baby chicks settled, you've got a couple of weeks until they go outside to their forever home. Now let's look at the costs of raising a flock of 5 or 6 adult chickens.

How Much Does it Cost to Get Started Raising Backyard Chickens?

  • Chicken Coop | $200 to $7,500

By far, your chicken coop will be your largest expense. 

For a small flock, you don't need a large coop - something that measures 4 feet x 6 feet will suffice, but you do want to be sure it's secure enough for the elements and to keep predators out. 

If you are handy, you can build a coop for a few hundred dollars or convert a shed or playhouse into a chicken coop. Otherwise, there are many options online and locally. 

Something like this won't be terribly long-lived, but it will get you started with the chickens outside and at least provides them a decent amount of space. Or something like this has slightly less space (but also a lower price tag!). Or this is another option for a small flock. Or this coop pictured above.

It's also worth checking around to see if there are any local coop builders in your area who can build you something more sturdy and longer lasting. After all, it only takes one predator to wipe out your flock and you'll be heartbroken - and starting all over again.

  • Coop Bedding | $5-10/bale of straw or $26 for a bag of hemp

There are several choices for bedding for the coop floor. It needs to be soft to provide some cushioning as well as insulation on the ground for your chickens. 

Straw bales will likely be available from your local feed store. You can also use pine shavings or hemp which is sold in bags. I use hemp in the summer and straw in the winter.

  • Attached pen or run | $190

If the chicken coop you choose doesn't have an attached pen (and even if it does and you aren't home all day to watch your chickens), you are going to want to attach a pen to your chicken coop for your chickens to roam around during the day. 

Something like this is large enough that you can set your small coop right inside of it, giving your chickens another layer of protection at night as well.

  • Nesting boxes | $0 to $63 each

Your chickens will need boxes to lay their eggs in. If the coop you choose doesn't have them already built in, you will need to provide one box for every 3 hens. So two boxes will be just fine for 5 or 6 chickens. 

  • Nesting box bedding | $0 to $35
You'll need something soft in the boxes where your hens lay to keep the eggs from breaking. You can use some of the straw or hemp coop bedding, or splurge for these aspen nesting pads (my choice!).

Adding some aromatic dried herbs to the nests to help calm and relax your laying hens is also a nice touch.
  • Egg Basket | $17

Of course you'll need a sturdy basket to collect all those delicious, fresh eggs your chickens will be laying! 

  • Feeder and Waterer | $0 to $70

There are many different styles and sizes of feeders and waterers for a chicken flock. 

You can keep it simple and just use large metal tubs or pans like I do, or invest in gravity feeders and waterers that can be filled to last for several days. 

  • Chicken Feed | $20 to $80 for a 40 to 50 lb. bag

Your chickens will now need a different feed than they ate when they were chicks. You'll want to feed them layer feed instead of a chick feed. An adult hen will eat about 1/4lb. (1/2 cup) of feed a day, give or take.

A conventional layer feed will cost you between $15 and $20 for a 40 or 50 lb. bag, while a whole grain, organic or non-GMO feed could run closer to $80 for the same size bag. 

  • Chicken Supplements | Varies
Chickens also require a few supplements like calcium and grit, the former to provide them adequate calcium to make nice strong shells on their eggs and the latter to help them digest their food since they don't have teeth

You can purchase crushed oyster shell (or just feed your chickens their eggshells back to them!) and commercial grit (or just make sure they have plenty of access to dirt, coarse stones, etc. in the yard so they can find their own!).

Other optional supplements to provide them with strong respiratory, immune and digestive systems include probiotics, brewers yeast with garlic, flax and sea kelp. 

Total to Get Started Raising Backyard Chickens = $250 to $7,500.

As you can see from the above ranges, because there are so many different choices and decisions to make when it comes to your chickens, it's hard to put a definitive price tag on the cost to get started raising backyard chickens.

But I would say a reasonable estimate including a mid-priced chicken coop might be in the $1,500 range.

Again, it's really hard to even try to estimate the total cost of getting started raising chickens, since there are so many options at so many price points, all of which will work just fine. It all comes down to your personal budget and how much time and effort you want to spend. 

But if you have an extra $1650 or so, you can set your chickens up pretty nicely for their first year. After that, the ongoing feed costs are about all you'll have to worry about, and there are even a couple of ways you can reduce your feed bill!

And when you factor in not only the current price of a dozen eggs, but also the valuable lessons raising chickens can teach kids, plus the utter enjoyment and sense of calm you get watching a flock frolicking in the grass, can you really put a price on all of that? 

There's a reason why chickens are not only called the "gateway drug to homesteading" but also the pet that makes you breakfast!

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