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Does keeping chickens actually save money?

 
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Just curious, does keeping chickens actually save you money? Or do you just break even? I've heard someone make the argument that you are actually losing money,because it will always be cheaper to buy eggs in store,and the money it costs to keep them fed and such is more than the money you're saving on raising your own meat and eggs.
 
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Keeping chickens doesn't often get you the cheapest eggs. What it does do is give you control over what the chickens eat and how their care/quality of life is handled. For me, that has resulted in free fertilizer, pest control, comic relief, and far better eggs, with higher nutrition (reflected in the obvious visible, textural, and flavor differences between my hens' and those from the stores), and something few people go into it understanding, is the joy they bring to your life. Our layers have become pets, as much as, maybe more so, than livestock. They're funny, interesting, affectionate, social, and have added a unique, joyful quality to our lives that we never expected. At least for us, it ain't just about the money.
 
pollinator
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You pose a very important question.  As is so often the case in permaculture, I'm forced to respond with "it depends."  And I'm not just punting, though the truth is I don't have a quick and easy answer for you.  In order to calculate an answer, though, there would be several base conditions that you first need to define.

Are home-grown eggs and chicken meat cheaper than store-bought alternatives?

Well, do you mean regular store-bought eggs and chicken meat, or organic?  And would you be satisfied even with organic store-bought eggs and chicken meat, given that permaculture methods are capable of producing both at even higher levels of quality?  And do you define quality only in terms of the food's nutritional content, or are you also concerned with the ecological footprint that raising that food entails?  What dollar value would you place on the smaller-footprint entailed by home-grown chickens raised in a regenerative ag setting?  You see that some of these questions are very personal in nature; only you can answer them for yourself.

And how do you propose raising your own chickens, anyway?  Free-ranged?  And if so, on pasture or in a more diverse forested or garden setting?  Rotated in chicken tractors?  In a conventional coop-and-run?  Do you propose feeding them on grains, as in traditional chicken feed, or mostly letting them scavenge?  If so, what proportion of their diet will you provide, and are you using commercial feed or mixing your own organic grains?

If, for example, you are free ranging chickens in your garden, or rotating them through paddocks following other livestock, they can provide additional services for you, fertilizing and eating pests and, by eating pests, helping to keep your other livestock healthier and your garden happier.  What dollar value would you place on such services?

Are you talking about feeder chickens that you buy as chicks each season, or maintaining your own breeding flock?

Note that many of these questions are interdependent.  Without identifying how you plan to raise and feed your chickens, you can't assess what the nutritional value, or ecological impact, or cost of the home-grown option would be.

Why don't you provide more details as to how you would consider raising chickens at home.  Then, someone with more experience than myself might actually be able to help you crunch some numbers and get you closer to answering your question : )

And if you aren't familiar with some of the less conventional ways to raise chickens to which I've alluded, there is tons of info here in these forums!  The following article would be a great place to start.  Paul Wheaton, who runs permies.com, breaks down the virtues and limitations of all the different ways to raise chickens in detail.  At least according to his own opinions, with which you may or may not agree.  I don't know that I agree with him entirely, but he does know a whole hell of a lot more about raising chickens than I do!  Given the theoretical nature of your question, I'm guess you could say the same, so you will likely appreciate this info:

https://richsoil.com/raising-chickens.jsp
 
Katie Turner
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Haha,yes,I've watched my grandmother's chickens and they're just a joy to watch:) I guess that the quality of the eggs is worth the extra expense, and of course the chickens themselves
 
Katie Turner
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Thanks for your thoughtful response, honestly the idea I'm getting is that it's not economic,but the extra expense is worth the better quality and health overall. Does that sound accurate?
 
pollinator
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$15 for 50lbs bag of feed
50lbs of feed = 25lbs of eggs (with a Feed conversation ratio of 2)
25lbs of egg = 19 dozen eggs
so $15 of feed = 19 dozen eggs or 80 cent for each dozen of egg.

Maybe some folks buy their feed for twice the price of $30 vs $15.
Maybe some folks make their layers "waste" some calorie/feed by walking around and enjoying life and the feed conversion ration is halved.

But alot of folks here spend even less on feed, by growing their own "feed". They encourage the chickens to eat the bugs in the grass, the grubs in the woodchip, the slugs that pop up. The fruits that drop, the mouse that harass them, the greens that grow, and the mushroom that pops up, the leftover food from the house.

Some folks can tap into place outside of the homestead: getting fish waste, leftover bread/etc. Which they then feed to BSF/mealworm/etc which then feed the chicken, or maybe they feed it directly to the chicken.
 
Katie Turner
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Thanks!
 
gardener
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The reference to the cost of chickens I’ve heard is that they ‘die in debt’. A young chicken from a lying breed will lay an egg almost every day, conditions allowing. As they get older they lay fewer, larger eggs so at some point you will be keeping them predominately as pets. This needs to be considered before you take on the care of any animal. Where there is livestock, there is dead stock. Are you prepared to take the financial hit, or cull them? This is why there are many older ex-commercial egg laying hens available, they have gone beyond their economic life for that egg outfit and are surplus. Another hidden ‘cost’ of store bought eggs perhaps. You can be sure that your hens live a happy, useful life at least.
 
S Bengi
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Alot of folks turn their layer into soup after two years of production.

 
pollinator
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As well as relative savings on not buying eggs, the saving on pesticides, and fertiliser production, in the main are cost neutral to making savings. Plus you know what your chooks have eaten and where the eggs came from.
Chooks, like a lot of animals also have a highly positive impact on one's mental health. They are individuals and each has its own personality.

A number of years ago I was in such a severe depression that I could see no reason to actually get off the chair - not to eat or go to bed to sleep.
I remembered somewhere in my dim past, I remembered reading that the Chooks needed me for their survival and shelter.  So - "I have to get up and look after the chooks" I told myself.
Having built a house  - too easy: wrong.  Basic calculations were beyond me but never the less, the chooks needed a home.  Eventually completed it after a couple of weeks and by then the pills had kicked in.

Keeping chooks probably a saving.  Caring for chooks priceless!!! And 13 years later, no matter the day, no matter the weather,caring for chooks is a fabulous reason to get out of bed, face the day and the rest is a bonus.
So Katie, irrespective of the finances, the positive effect on mental health, priceless. 🐓✔🤸‍♂️
 
Carla Burke
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Ok, on a more practical note, my non-gmo feed runs about $16/50lb bag. But, the cost is *greatly* offset by their foraging, which is also where the benefit of pest control comes in. We let them free range as much as possible, which means the vast majority of the time, they're out turning and aerating my compost, scarfing down ticks, slugs, flies, grasshoppers, cicadas, many insects I have no names for that bite, and anything else they can catch or dig up. Mine really only stay locked in during the day, IF the winds are so strong I'm afraid they'll be blown around like fluffy little tumbleweeds. Yup - I learned that lesson the hard way. (No chickens were harmed in the learning of this lesson - but a few were definitely NOT happy girls!) A 50lb bag lasts my 17 nearly a month, for all seasons, except winter. When the little critters they forage on are dormant, and the ground is harder to dig up, they dig more in the compost, but it still doesn't offer them enough, so that same bag only lasts about 2 weeks.

An added cost, for me, is that because of my own physical issues, if I can, I'll delegate! So, I pay the neighbor's (8 & 10yr old) daughters $5@/day, once a week, to come clean my goat barn &/or my run, fill the critters' water tanks, and do other odds & ends type chores. They're worth far more than that piddly amount, but it's all their parents will allow me to pay them, and they're always happy and cheerful to come down, and actually seem to enjoy the work.
 
pollinator
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I haven't run the numbers, but compared to the cheap eggs and meat at the store, no I don't save a thin dime keeping chickens.  Between buying chicks (or the expense of keeping breeding birds, which includes reduced egg production), feed (forage helps, but not as much as a lot of people think), losses to predators/disease, and then all the infrastructure to keep them happy, healthy and protected from weather/predators/etc and there's not a chance I'm saving money.  It's kind of like trying to justify hunting or fishing by the meat you bring home.  You're best off admitting you're doing it as a hobby and just be grateful you get something tangible back, vs something like golf that only gives you a score card.

That said, there are also a lot of benefits, like the fertilizer for your property, the chicken's ability to clear land if you want that, their ability to turn kitchen and garden scraps into eggs/meat, and so on that can mitigate the expenses a bit.  I went ahead and got a second round of meat chickens (arrived today) for this year as much for the work they will do for me as the meat.

But, really, you don't want to compare home raised eggs/meat to the cheap industrially raised crap at the store.  The flavors and nutritional profile will be better than even the high end eggs/meat from specialty stores.
 
pollinator
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It may be possible to save money keeping chickens, but not for me, not in this climate.  As others have said, there are other benefits that make it worthwhile for me.  In addition to the fact that I get healthier eggs and free fertilizer, I also get the satisfaction of knowing my chickens have good lives, they are happy, well cared for, get to roam and be free much of the time, and just get to be chickens.  They have good lives, and I'm glad to give that to them in exchange for what they give me.  Another factor for me is the comfort of knowing they make me a little more self sufficient.  In trying and uncertain times like these, knowing I have a ready source of healthy food with lots of calories, protein, and fat like eggs provide is just another notch in the belt of knowing I'm okay if times get tougher.  A person could live a long time, and be healthy doing it, living on eggs and garden and tree fruits, nuts, and produce.  That means my chickens are providing me with a sense of well being on top of being just plain fun.  Chickens are nice animals and I like having them around.  My chickens die of old age, not being butchered.  That is one more reason I lose some money raising them, but gain other less tangible rewards.
 
pollinator
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I'm going to give an opinion from a different country. "layers feed" here costs $13 per 33lb bag I used a concentrated feed and mixed it with direct bought grains which made a feed costing $10 per 50lb
Either way the cheapest eggs you can buy are $3.70 for 15 or 25c per egg
We found that our hens produced each egg for half that price so they "made" us money, IF you don't count the cost of the hens, enclosure, fencing, lighting in winter and other random items. The feed I made up was organic and organic eggs cost $7 for 12 (58c each)  meaning our eggs were 1/4 of the price of equivalent eggs.

We found that production chickens last about 18 months before the quality of the eggs falls off a cliff, but old breeds last at least 3 years I think it's because they take a break when moulting and in winter, we never had any last longer than 3 years due to them being free range and various other critters eating them.
 
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Great post and thread. Chickens are somewhere in my future. Early on in my PDC I came across the ‘industrial egg’ diagram which Geoff Lawton explained in great detail. (If you image search Industrial Egg Permaculture you will find what I’m talking about - it’s also on page 24 of ‘Permaculture, A designer’s manual by Bill Mollison - The Book). It showed the true ‘cost’ of a shop bought egg, or the egg that’s in processed food or used in a restaurant . . . I think it was a real light bulb moment for me. The word ‘holistic’ is used a lot in permaculture. So cost isn’t just financial.

Later on, on the course, I learnt about Products and Behaviour. The chicken was used as an example, looking at it’s needs, what it produces, it’s behaviour and intrinsic needs. In summary (from The Book and course) :

Needs:
Shelter
Grit
Dust
Water
Air
Food
Other Chickens

Produces:
Eggs
Meat
Feathers
Manure
Methane
CO2

Behaviour:
Scratching
Foraging
Flying
Fighting

Intrinsic Characteristics:
Breed
Colour
Climate Tolerance
Breed Specific behaviour

You can also add noise, warmth, companionship, mental health benefits . . .  Clearly lots more from the previous comments.

As you can see there’s a lot to The Holistic Chicken . . .

I like the idea of using chicken warmth in the winter to keep a greenhouse frost free . . . How do you put a cost on that?
 
steward
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My hens don't pay for their food with eggs.  But when they eventually turn into soup they break even.  And the compost/fertilizer they make for my garden puts them well in the black.  I figure in 5 years, mine have paid for their coop and infrastructure and are starting to make me a tiny bit of money.  If I had to pay for fertile compost.
 
steward
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I think chickens can save a person money, and even make a few bucks. Here's my chicken numbers so far for the year. I have a small farm and keep a spreadsheet of all expenses and income for tax purposes. I currently have something like 22 or 24 28 layers, plus 3 roosters. I had more layers earlier in the year but culled some old ones and lost two to an owl.

So far year to date I have:

Spent on layer feed: $1024
Eggs sold: $957
Dozens I have eaten for breakfast: ~80 which could have been another $480 in gain.

While I may be upside down $67 on the spreadsheet, I haven't had to buy a single grocery store egg. So my four eggs a day with breakfast isn't free, it costs me $2 technically. Had I sold every dozen I collected from the nesting boxes I'd currently be at $1437 gross sales with a net gain of $413.

Those old hens are in the freezer and some of which are already chicken stock. I also clean out the chicken coop once a month which becomes compost, and the chickens are on rotation in cow pasture fertilizing the soil. It's difficult to place a dollar amount on those added value benefits. And, as mentioned earlier by others above, they bring me joy and are fun to watch.

Edit: I just collected todays eggs and took a chicken count and although they're hard to count walking around, I came up with 31 total and corrected the number above.

I also want to add, for economics sake, the cost of raising a chicken from baby chick to egg laying. I have no idea how much it costs to feed a growing laying chicken to the point that they start gifting eggs.
 
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I really liked so many of the posts here, but so many of them started with the assumption that the money was related to egg production. This may have been the intention of the question, but I would like to turn it around a little and ask compared to what?

Most people here would agree that the eggs produced in a permaculture setting are so nutritionally, visually, and texturally different that they are not the same as the products you buy in the store by the same name. So comparing them to store bought eggs is not a valid comparison in my eyes.

Does keeping chickens save you money compared to what? Does driving a car save you money? A car is a tool that we accept the cost of because we appreciate what we get back (comfortable and speed transport). In the same way, if you just look at the average egg production, then selling eggs almost never covers the cost of labor and infrastructure when done at the scale most people can do. However, as has been mentioned, you have to look at the entertainment value, the fertilizer value, the pest control value, the egg and meat production value, and so many more things. It all depends on why you are keeping chickens. If you are keeping chickens to make money... it can be done, but is very difficult unless you are at a certain scale. But if we look at it as a cost we accept because we appreciate what we get in return... well maybe the question should be "Are chickens worth the money?"
 
Edward Norton
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Big scale profitable chicken production done the right way?

 
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Trace Oswald wrote:

My chickens die of old age, not being butchered.

Many of our layers also die of old age. However, I then wrap them well in paper and when available I add a little biochar around them. Then I bury them in one of my composts. I keep multiple composts meandering along partly to meet the need of temporary burial grounds. Eventually the compost gets used to fill pots, raised beds, or top dress around plants or trees. The goodness of all the parts of the chicken then enters my soil. The paper adds "browns" to the compost to balance the nitrogen in the chicken, and I rarely get bad smells from doing this.

When I go to  use the compost, the bones are normally still obvious. I have a couple of options at that point:
1. I can simply ignore them and they land where they land.
2. I can collect them up and put them at the bottom of the pot or bed where they will continue to add their nutrient value very slowly to the bed.
3. If there are a lot, I often separate them, make sure they dry in the sun, and put them in our wood stove.
4. Occasionally I do something creative with them - that's harder as some people may take offense to me using bones as row-markers in my garden!

I know that some people crush them for homemade "bone meal" but bone  can be *really* bad for people's lungs, so please be cautious if you're thinking of doing so.

When we got our first chickens, I told a teen from my son's school that, "I got into chickens for a really shitty reason - it is for the manure they produce."  I've expanded my expectations since then!
 
Matthew Nistico
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Katie Turner wrote:Thanks for your thoughtful response, honestly the idea I'm getting is that it's not economic, but the extra expense is worth the better quality and health overall. Does that sound accurate?



I don't know, I'd say the jury was still out.  Some people here have experienced a loss, and some have experienced a net profit.  I note that most of the examples given with specific figures to back them up are on the "profit" side, whereas more people who have asserted backyard chickens are a money-loser have spoken only in generalities.

I still say "it depends" on how you setup your own chickens.  That will affect your costs enormously.  And it depends just as much on your own values - how much is the better quality and health worth to you?  Both your health, and that of your chickens?  Only you can put a dollar value on those.

Also, Trace Oswald's post touched on a theme that is very important.  I can't believe I forgot to include this in my prior post.  That theme is self-sufficiency.  Producing your own fats and proteins is a vital service that cuts one more dependency on the larger economy.  Which leads logically to another question: we are attempting to compare the costs of home-grown vs store-bought meat and eggs, but are we assuming that tomorrow's store-bought meat and eggs will be as cheap as today's?

I think that would generally be an unwise assumption!  In the USA, for example, we are currently in a period of marked increases in food prices.

Whereas, the more "permaculture" your home-grown set up is - which in this case is to say the less dependent it is on outside inputs - I think it is reasonable to assume that your costs would be fairly stable over time.  If all of your physical infrastructure is built and set, your birds reproduce on their own, and only a small portion of their feed is purchased, then the impact of outside economic disruptions on your reliable supply of eggs/meat at predictable costs should be minimal.
 
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will money be saved?  im not sure, but I would hope so and feed can be grown for them in all the great suggestions others offered as to what to plant and I guess even in making a work casing spot out back somewhere. and y'all are inspiring me to take a leap of faith and try. there is nothing quite like just going outside in the yard and gathering your nutrition and knowing exactly what has gone into it rather than the mystery foods that are offered in the stores.  and I guess if I end up moving I can gift them to someone or have a bar b due and make chicken soup.

Joel salatan is quite the inspiration. guy has a great can-do attitude and has been a role model to many.
 
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I kept chickens for years in ways that cost me way more than it should have for the eggs I got in return. Even trying to sell them I was running a deficit.

Now I organic grain screenings which is a byproduct but has enough diversity in the screenings that the chickens do great on them. So now I keep a small flock of 10 or less chickens and able to feed them for free.

Now meat chickens I could always raise them for slightly less than they are in the store and now with the grain screenings plus garden extras I can get the cost about 2.50 a chicken less than store chicken.
 
gardener
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I don't keep chickens so take my opinion with an oceans worth of salt.

A cousin does, they mostly free range in the forest and eat scraps, she feeds very little chicken feed, and she says she definitely saves money. A friend of the family also does, she and her husband own a hobby farm in some of Canada's most expensive real estate... She definitely doesn't save money on her chickens because she gets someone to come to take care of them for many weeks every year while she vacations - but the egg quality and enjoyment of chickens makes it worth it to her - she's the sort of person who I think would only  be happy with her fingers in the dirt, a garden, and a bunch of animals.  

When I have ran the costs, the pay back period seems to be the challenge more than feed costs.

I eat about a dozen eggs a week. At $3/dozen, that's about $152/year. At $5/dozen (going rate for farm fresh eggs) that's $260/year. I can't build a chicken coop for Canadian winters for $260.

If I built a co-op for $500, for my current egg consumption, it would be two years to pay back the cost is the coop, let alone the costs of feed, chicks, etc. Maybe it would be 5 years before I break even.

However - if egg consumption increased or I planned to sell, maybe my larger coop would cost $1000, but I could have 15 chickens and produce 5x as many eggs, and the payback period on my initial investment would be shorter. If I had an existing building I could revamp into a chicken coop and  could maybe spend $200 or less, again, break even point would come sooner. As this hypothetical chicken coop gets bigger, more predator proof, and fancier this payback period gets longer and longer and longer...

It looks to me, from the numbers I have seen, that if you already have a coop, or especially if you have 10+ chickens (exact number will vary) you can probably save money/make money on chickens. If you have one or two pets in an expensive coop - probably not going to save money. But that's okay, if that's not the priority.
 
Paul Fookes
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Catie George wrote:I don't keep chickens so take my opinion with an oceans worth of salt.
When I have ran the costs, the pay back period seems to be the challenge more than feed costs.
I eat about a dozen eggs a week. At $3/dozen, that's about $152/year. At $5/dozen (going rate for farm fresh eggs) that's $260/year. I can't build a chicken coop for Canadian winters for $260.
If I built a co-op for $500, for my current egg consumption, it would be two years to pay back the cost is the coop, let alone the costs of feed, chicks, etc. Maybe it would be 5 years before I break even.
However - if egg consumption increased or I planned to sell, maybe my larger coop would cost $1000, but I could have 15 chickens and produce 5x as many eggs, and the payback period on my initial investment would be shorter. If I had an existing building I could revamp into a chicken coop and  could maybe spend $200 or less, again, break even point would come sooner. As this hypothetical chicken coop gets bigger, more predator proof, and fancier this payback period gets longer and longer and longer...
It looks to me, from the numbers I have seen, that if you already have a coop, or especially if you have 10+ chickens (exact number will vary) you can probably save money/make money on chickens. If you have one or two pets in an expensive coop - probably not going to save money. But that's okay, if that's not the priority.



No matter the animal, it is about the long term, plus the serendipity.  Edward Norton elucidates this extremely well (above).  Add into your shopping the cost of fuel, time, waste and over packaging.  The other biggy is how many hours do you have to work to pay for the eggs?  What else could you be doing with that time? Once you have built your coop, you can amortise  the cost over the planned life of the coop - say 20 years?  $1000.00 / ((20* 365) +5[leap years]) = approx 14 cents per day, plus using it during winter to keep plants warm and start seedlings: priceless.

Ask what rubbish was the producer feeding the chooks considering they are looking to maximise profits and how were the chooks kept?  You have every facet of that within your control.  When we lived in inner city, we had 3 chooks and the best eggs in the street.  Now our girls are out and about.  It is more than straight economics.  For my money, a pet chook is far more fabulous than a pet anything else in a cage and they do not always need to be caged.  Your own composter there with you.
 
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I enjoy my chickens very much, and feel if you have the time, space, and money, you should go for it.  I don't know what kind of coop people are making, but a 1000.00 for a coop?  There chickens, they don't need fancy.  I was lucky my original coop my father-in-law built the frame out of old pipe.  The nesting boxes I built out of repurposed wood. The door was an old house door. The only thing I bought was chicken wire, and bailing wire.  That was 17 years ago. And the only thing I've had to do is replace the wire that attached the chicken wire to the frame.  You don't have to spend a lot to make a great coop.  ( I did rebuild the nesting boxes, because I wanted a different design, and wanted to be able to clean them easier, but the original ones were still functional)
The food cost is a personal thing.  There are people who only free range and have 0 cost, all the way to people who spend a ton on feed, and treats.   Different places have different feed cost.  It's all relative.  You can buy inexpensive chicks at a local feed store, or order rare bread that are quite expensive.
If you want chickens I would recommend you do your homework, figure out if you want meat birds, egg layers, or both.  Then find chickens that fit the bill, and will do well in your area ( I need chickens that can handle a very hot summer) figure out how many you need. Most chickens lay 2 eggs every 3 days. Some more, some less, but this give you a guideline.  If you have never had chickens, I would start small. You can always get more, but don't want to be overwhelmed in the beginning.  In the very beginning the answer to your question is no.   You have to provide a feeder, waterer, coop, or shelter of some kind. Again all of this can be very simple and cheap to quit expensive. You have to buy the chicks unless you know someone who will give you some.  You have to feed the chicks/ chickens.  They won't lay eggs for 6 to 8 months depending on the breed.
I wonder what the numbers above would be if you factor 6 months of food with 0 eggs into the mix.  Plus many breeds stop laying in the winter, or at least slow down.  
I guess if you're very frugal, and smart about what you feed your chickens it may be cheaper than buying store bought eggs. I suspect it's closer to breaking even, at least in the beginning.  
I think many of us have chickens for quality fresh eggs, with many happy side benefits that others have mentioned. I only have laying hens, and I'm another who doesn't eat my hens when they die, they are pets with great benefits.  I happen to be lucky right now. My sister-in-law is a vegetarian who was paying 7.00 a dozen. Now she buys 3 dozen eggs a week and gives me 20.00. I use this to pay for organic chicken feed.  (And organic grains I ferment for them) All the eggs we eat are free, and there's money left over.  This is new for me. In all the years I have had chickens I've never profited from them.  I love it, but it isn't why I keep chickens.  
Sorry this is just one of those questions that doesn't have a yes or no answer.  It just depends.  Good luck to you.
 
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Eggs are just a by product for me. I use retired hens for cultivating. Given to me free. As mentioned when thy die they become fertilizer plus all the fertilizer thy produced while doing there work. I feed them some whole grain and if they happen to bury some of it with their scratching it produces more food for them with little work on my part just pull it and toss it in for them to thresh.
 
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On our homestead, the chickens are part of the waste recycling stream "system" we utilize ... they take a first cut at food wastes from our kitchen, and turn those scraps into eggs for us. Anything left over is further composted, and ultimately gets into the gardening, where it all starts over.

Whatever, we eat, they will eat (mostly) ...

We supplement their diet with grains, seeds, and such, purchased in quantity. I'd say the eggs are 10 times better than any artificially bleached stuff purchased at the store, and the dollars saved get redirected to things we haven't yet become self-sufficient in. Grocery bills are reduced in every area where you achieve self-sufficiency.

Nothing beats having egg drawer stuffed full of nice brown eggs from these guys ... we use them in almost everything we cook, and we still manage to give some away.

Our homestead is full of such systems, and we save much money on garbage bills, to the point where we only take a few bags to the dump ourselves, for a garbage cost of $10 every few months. Most folks I know are paying huge sums each week or month ...

Just can't get these birds to wear the little t-shirts saying "we recycle too"!
 
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OFF TOPIC - Chickens vs ducks: is one less expensive to keep, easier to keep or produces higher value (size/nutrition) eggs?  I get ducks don't scratch, but that is the only "downside" I can think of as both eat pests/bugs.
 
Hans Quistorff
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Keeping ducks over winter in a wet climate has its advantages. If you get the timing right they lay during the season when chickens slow down.  During the summer they can provide fertilized irrigation water. Plus the not scratching is an advantage. Place a large pan of water between planting beds an release the ducks in the pathway; they work their way down the beds sticking their bills in the mulch feeling for bugs and grubs then bathe in and fertilize the water which can then be used for irrigation.
 
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Lorinne Anderson wrote:OFF TOPIC - Chickens vs ducks: is one less expensive to keep, easier to keep or produces higher value (size/nutrition) eggs?  I get ducks don't scratch, but that is the only "downside" I can think of as both eat pests/bugs.



This is another one of those "it depends on how you utilize it" answers.

Ducks not scratching is a big positive if you have a use for that inaction.  For example, in Western coastal range mountainous Oregon where I'm from, about 60" rain a year, the most destructive pests are slugs and pill bugs.  And I mean incredible destruction.  Deer had nothing on them.  

I tried chickens for years, and they helped a little... but they also were wet and miserable all winter, got sick from moisture-related issues and required so much attention, and could not be left in the garden unsupervised because they could cause as much damage as they could prevent.

Some years later, chickens gone, we decided to get ducks.  What a difference!  An animal that LIKES the water. That LOVES slugs.  That we could leave in the garden all day without much damage most times. The painted rock trick still worked on them to keep them from eating the strawberries, like it does chickens.  Slug and pillbug problem solved.  Garden at least doubled in production.  We had no more illness issues with the birds.

Our garden started producing way more food for us.  The pillbug and slug problem became a useful production - food for ducks.  The ducks produced awesome eggs, ate other bugs in the garden as well, dropped nitrogen packets around the garden, and were incredibly amusing.  A perfect example of the problem leading to the solution!

Back to the thread... as for cost of raising chickens/ducks just for eggs, I think a lot of people have pointed out that a single result approach like that may be the core issue as to the expense.  If it's only eggs you are going for, scale and cheaper feed is required to keep the cost down.  But for a home flock, where all the actions and productions of a chicken can be used towards improving overall human food production, they can be cost effective (as many have noted in different ways above).

There is a good thread on growing your own chicken feed here: Chicken fodder-forage success stories

This is a great thread, it's produced a lot of good input and insights.





 
Jay Angler
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Kim Goodwin wrote:

An animal that LIKES the water. That LOVES slugs.

An acquaintance of mine who farmed in her younger years told me that even though they didn't let the ducks in the garden, but just around the edges, their slug issues evaporated - well more likely got enthusiastically consumed! Yes, Mallard domesticated ducks (like Khaki Campbells or Indian Runners) are happy to eat our ginormous West Coast slugs and tolerate our wet winters within reason.

I like Kim's approach of putting their bathtubs where the water will be useful and I'm hoping I can get the necessary fencing up in my garden area to do so next spring. However, if you're in a really drought-prone area, don't under-estimate how much more water ducks require to be happy and healthy than chickens do. Their left-over water is a muddy mess as well, which doesn't bother most plants, but that means it is more or less "direct application" grey water!

Other than controlling bugs and slugs, I think it's a bit harder to "grow their feed" than it is for chickens. They do like the softer kales, and if you grow wheat and are prepared to soak the whole grains over night for them, it provides important B-vitamins for them. A popular feed is Lemna "duckweed" which I have growing in a pond our former owners built. Again, my issue is that the pond is not duck suitable and is too far from where the ducks are currently kept or might move to . I have grown some in half barrels, but you'd need a bunch to provide more than a supplement to their diet. I need to think about that for their new run area - a series of barrels with mesh lids so they can only direct access the one I want them to eat so the other barrels get a chance to re-grow!

Their eggs are higher in fat, are great for baking, and some people who are allergic to chicken eggs, can eat duck eggs. I wish more people liked them - they're much harder to sell than chicken eggs, if that's going to be part of your plan.
 
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My chickens paid for themselves in 2021, based on how many eggs they produced (1200) versus the cost of their feed, scratch, and this year’s chicks. This doesn’t take into account my 2020 startup cost, when I built their coop and run and bought my first chicks. When I have to buy eggs, they are $4/dozen (for local eggs from happy hens like mine). So a hundred dozen = $400. I spent way less than that on feed, scratch, and chicks.

On the other hand, my household hasn’t eaten all those eggs, and we didn’t sell any. When we had excess, we gave them away to family and close friends, often by the half dozen, but also by the dozen during the heyday of getting nine eggs a day from my (at that time) nine hens. But this is of value - the good will created when we shared is worth more than $2-$4 a pop. And people share back, whatever they have in abundance that we do not.

I will be interested to see how 2022 shakes out. I will have five hens in their second season and three new girls. In total I’ve lost six hens to predators in the past year, five of those in June, so I’ve kept them mostly in their run since then. Last winter, they kept the mouse population down in our dirt floor garage, where they liked to spend their days dust bathing and sun bathing with the door open, so I think I will let them start free ranging again soon. They’re an awful lot of fun and very little work.
 
Marisa Lee
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Oh, I meant to add, I will put up some eggs next year, now that I have a better sense of how many eggs they’ll produce *and* the fact they’re going on hiatus soon. In spring to early summer I’ll glass a bunch, and in late summer I’ll just start a hoard in the back of the fridge. We can use the refrigerator eggs when they stop laying (early fall? some are starting to molt but all are still laying) and move on to the glassed eggs to get through til January. This year they actually started laying December 27 but I won’t count on that, and it was a slow start, one or two a day for a while. But by putting up, I will keep more of their value, while still having plenty to share.
 
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I've always had the goal of raising my own fodder for whatever I keep on the homestead. The underlying reason for this is will there be feed available if TSHTF. Raise OP sunflowers and corn for starters, perhaps mangel beets, pumpkins, squash etc. This line of fodder would also be applicable to goats.
 
Jen Fulkerson
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This is kinda sorta on topic.  I wanted to plant those cute little pumpkins a few years ago, but couldn't find any seeds ( to late in the season). I got a packet of mixed seed of gourds and pumpkins.  No baby pumpkins grew, but a baking pumpkin, and several kinds of gourds grew.  What the heck am I going to do with all these gourds? My daughter started to feed them to the chickens. It might be because they were planted in my hugelkultur, but I have had gourds for 2 years with no water or effort on my part at all. ( probably longer if the chickens hadn't dismantled my hugelkultur). Anyway I wouldn't use pumpkins and gourdes as a primary feed, but it makes an awesome addition to help keep food cost down.
 
Trace Oswald
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Jen Fulkerson wrote: I don't know what kind of coop people are making, but a 1000.00 for a coop?  



Jen, this made me literally laugh out loud.  I wish my coop cost $1000.  I'll be lucky to get it done for double that, and that is with a lot of salvaged lumber for the framing, salvaged windows, building my own door, and doing all the labor myself.
 
Marisa Lee
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My coop was around $1000. It is infrastructure and an improvement to the land. I guess I don't really consider it part of the cost of keeping chickens but a set-up cost not unlike buying the property or putting in garden beds. I wanted it to be cute, and I needed it to withstand our winters. Our average low temperature is below freezing for literally half the year. Our average HIGH is below freezing for a quarter of the year. We have many nights that are well below zero, to -30 not factoring in windchill. Gotta keep those gals cozy.

Admittedly, I am doing all of this somewhat for pleasure, not for survival. If the hens don't lay, we will still have eggs. If frost kills my plants, we will still have fresh tomatoes. But I appreciate that I'm learning skills, spending active time outdoors, feeding my family good food, and maybe lightening my carbon footprint the teeniest bit.
 
Matthew Nistico
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Trace Oswald wrote:

Jen Fulkerson wrote: I don't know what kind of coop people are making, but a 1000.00 for a coop?  



Jen, this made me literally laugh out loud.  I wish my coop cost $1000.  I'll be lucky to get it done for double that, and that is with a lot of salvaged lumber for the framing, salvaged windows, building my own door, and doing all the labor myself.



@Trace Oswald - Please explain: if your materials are largely salvaged, and you are supplying your own labor, what constitutes $2000 in expenses for your coop project?  If you were paying for someone's labor, I could easily see that type of expense.  As it is, I'm struggling to understand...
 
Marisa Lee
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Matthew Nistico wrote:

Trace Oswald wrote:

Jen Fulkerson wrote: I don't know what kind of coop people are making, but a 1000.00 for a coop?  



Jen, this made me literally laugh out loud.  I wish my coop cost $1000.  I'll be lucky to get it done for double that, and that is with a lot of salvaged lumber for the framing, salvaged windows, building my own door, and doing all the labor myself.



@Trace Oswald - Please explain: if your materials are largely salvaged, and you are supplying your own labor, what constitutes $2000 in expenses for your coop project?  If you were paying for someone's labor, I could easily see that type of expense.  As it is, I'm struggling to understand...



I'm not Trace, but the other costs for mine were siding which was very expensive, trim, the roof, the floor, materials for their run (that part was inexpensive but it all adds up) and even renting a post hole digger, the manual kind, for a week for about $20. I don't have things like a table saw or a nail gun, but luckily for me, my stepdad brought those and all kinds of other tools when he came to help me build the coop. And can't forget the paint ;)
 
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