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Is raising chickens cheaper than buying eggs?

When it comes to food budget savings, what comes first -- the chicken or the egg?

By Apr 21, 2014 12:51PM
This post comes from Josue Ledesma at partner site on MSN MoneyWith sustainability gaining a foothold in the popular imagination, raising chickens in the backyard holds a certain appeal. There's the steady supply of fresh eggs from a flock of hens, for one, the natural grooming of the landscape when the brood roams free, and the general thrill that comes with money-saving self-sufficiency.
A chicken rest in a backyard coop in La Porte, Colo. © Joe Amon/The Denver Post via Getty Images
But a word to the wise: Before forging ahead, check local zoning regulations and health codes. The raising of livestock, which may or may not include chickens, is subject to local control in many communities.

Why raise chickens at home?
For some folks, food awareness is the motivator. Elizabeth Austin, who just started raising chickens behind her home in central Ohio, wanted to be more conscious about the food she and her daughter were eating. She knew that controlling the diet of chickens, by feeding them healthy grains, vegetables, and insects rather than soy-based, GMO, and hormone/antibiotic-laden feed, would yield more nutritious and tastier eggs.

Then there's the economic incentive. Our research found that most people with chickens out back are interested in the eggs, not the meat. Posts at Backyard Chickens note that it's far cheaper to raise chickens for their eggs than to buy them at the supermarket: 90 cents to produce a dozen eggs, one commenter crows, and $1.44 on feed per dozen eggs, reports another.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average price of a dozen large, grade A eggs hit $2 in February, 2014. And that figure does not reflect the higher cost of premium eggs, such as organic, free-range, or GMO-free -- all of which you can enjoy by raising chickens in your backyard.

Other benefits accrue to maintaining your own henhouse. A post on Art of Manliness points out that chickens left to roam free in the yard are excellent compost facilitators, landscapers, and insect-control experts. They also make fun, low-maintenance pets that will eat from your hand and trail behind you.  

Startup expenses
You'll have to be patient (and eat a lot of eggs) until the payoff arrives, however. Setup costs can put a large dent in your wallet before any savings trickle in; Ms. Austin figures about four years. Moreover, if you start out with baby chicks, you'll have freeloaders on your hands for a while: Hens begin laying eggs at four to six months, on average, and in the meantime you've been providing food and housing.

The largest expense is the chicken coop, which houses mature chickens. Prices vary depending on locale, vendor, and specifications. You could build your own or buy a used or new one. Backyard Chickens estimates the price range for coops (from built to used and new) is $50 to $600.

A brooder for raising chicks until they're ready to start laying eggs costs $75 to $100 to buy, but less with the DIY approach. Heat lamps, feeders, and waterers add another $50 or so to your start-up expenses. Ms. Austin says she spent about $750 for the brooder, supplies, first aid kit, coop, and aviary/large run.
Experts generally recommend buying chicks and raising them to maturity rather than buying adult chickens. The going price for baby chicks ranges from $3 to $5 each (up to $50 for rare breeds) while pullets (young hens) cost $20 to $50. Roosters are cheaper -- figure on $5 to $15, and some are offered free -- but they don't lay eggs. Unless you like having lots of chickens around, don't bother with the males. And be sure to keep the chickens protected from predators.

Ongoing costs of raising chickens
Feed is a recurring expense. For the best price, buy feed in bulk 50- or 100-pound bags. (Find a local supplier, as shipping costs from online vendors boosts the cost significantly.) There are three types of feed: starter feed for chicks, pullet (young hen) grower feed, and layer feed. If space allows, farmers recommend letting the brood roam freely, which saves money by reducing feed costs. Doing so also ensures a more varied diet that could lead to healthier chickens and more nutritious eggs. 
Ms. Austin is budgeting $28 for a 50-pound bag of starter feed, which is enough for four chicks until it's time for pullet grower feed, which costs about $5 for 10 pounds. That should last until the birds are ready for adult feed -- $38 for a 50-pound bag of organic, non-GMO, non-soy feed that should last about two months for Ms. Austin's four birds.

Is raising chickens worth it?
For the most part, yes. On average, you'll get two eggs a day from every three hens. Many raisers calculate their profit (or savings) in terms of how much a dozen eggs cost to produce versus the cost of buying them in the market.

And while start-up costs are far higher than for most other pets, once things are set up, the time spent caring for chickens is minimal. Chicks need a quick check about once an hour, but after they move to the coop, you're relatively home free save for food and water deliveries and a weekly coop cleaning.  Chickens also tend to live quite a while and continue laying eggs into their teen years. Now think about all that goodness on your plate.

More from
Apr 21, 2014 4:06PM

How do you raise bacon and hashbrowns?


Apr 21, 2014 4:47PM

Once you have fresh eggs that are laid by local hens that are not fed the CRAP the hens whose eggs are sold in the stores, you will NEVER eat store bought eggs again!

Store eggs taste like garbage.

Apr 21, 2014 4:51PM

I bought 9 baby RIR (Road Island Reds) for $1.25 each. The waterer I bought for them was about $35 and it is made of metal. DON'T BUY PLASTIC!! I spend about $30 for the metal feeder. Plasic you will have to replace....Winter months are easy too. Just one light bulb and a big ole scoop of corn a day is good for them. Whatever you do though do NOT get a coop that lays on the ground.

Here is what I spend monthly on my 9 darling hens.


$35 bedding (I have a VERY large homemade coop which is probably too large)

$30 layer feed (I only need two bags a month. My girls free range.)

$20 oyster shells every three months or so


So I spend 65 a month or so on my girls not including the start ups needed like containers/coop/bulbs etc. I get around 252 eggs a month. Farm fresh eggs are much tastier than store bought eggs. To me store bought has zero flavor.


That being said chickens are very awesome and humorous creatures. They all have unique personalities and are very rewarding when you finally get to taste your chickens eggs. My first egg from came from a hen trying to fly downwards and out popped an egg! Poor girl didn't know what was going on.They can be very loving if you raise them right. Mine adore me and run up to me when I call them. Love my chicks <3

Apr 21, 2014 5:05PM

I live in a nice suburban neighborhood. My neighbor had a fenced in yard with a chicken coop.  She would sell a dozen eggs for 3 bucks.  She had a line out the door of neighbors wanting to buy eggs.  We quickly switched to her eggs from store bought eggs. 

Two years later, she moved away to start a real farm.  We had to switch back to store bought eggs.

We don't eat eggs that much any more.

Apr 21, 2014 5:20PM

We have chickens and we sell the extra eggs to the neighbors. Unless you are a commercial grower, raising chickens

for eggs is a hobby and if you break even after 5 years your lucky. So enjoy your chickens and stop clucking!  


Apr 21, 2014 4:10PM
I have 5 chickens and there is no way the eggs are cheaper unless you amortize the cost of the coop over about 50 years.  That also doesn't include the few hundred in fencing spent to keep them out of the garden...

However when you include the value of their poop then they actually can pay for themselves if you make compost...

Also properly raised, chickens don't stink and aren't dirty.  (chickens don't lick their brown eye then lick your face like dogs do...)
Apr 21, 2014 1:52PM
Seems like a lot of work and money for something that usually takes a very small portion of most peoples overall food budget and doesn't break even for years. Stuff like brewing your own coffee or preparing more food at home can have far more of a cost saving effects and does not takes years to pay off.
Apr 21, 2014 8:03PM
I've been raising my own chickens for eggs and meat for years- it saves a little money, guarantees the chickens are raised free of bad chemicals (though I DO use antibiotics when needed), and my chickens are free-ranged the correct way- they roam the property (30 acres) freely, but return to their coop at night and to lay. They get table scraps, a little bit of feed, and a LOT of bugs and weed/grass seeds. I also raise meat chickens, turkeys, and pigs.
Buy your eggs from the farmer or neighbor who already is set up to supply them.  They will still be cheaper than the store.  Make sure the seller knows to candle them for fertilized eggs (fresh without blood spots).  Nothing worse than making a cake and mixing in an egg that is half a chicken.
Apr 22, 2014 6:08AM
Who writes this stuff? I can't believe any research went into this article. I raise chickens, from incubating the eggs, raising the chicks to ending up on the table. There is no way it is less expensive than store bought but they are better. The prices quoted for the housing and equipment in this article are some wild swag from some moron sitting behind a desk in the city somewhere that got on an equipment website and threw some prices out there. Average housing is probably close to 100.00 for the city folks. Brooding equipment, waters and feeders maybe 50 bucks. Starter feed is 14.00. Buying corn, even organic is around 20.00 for 50lbs. Contact a local farmer or livestock extension if you want the truth, don't follow the poor advice in this article.
Apr 21, 2014 5:23PM
The only way raising chickens can end up costing less than buying eggs is if you use a ton of eggs.  So unless you own a restaurant or a bakery it's not a worthwhile investment.  Most people who raise chickens to lay eggs for their own consumption regard them more as pets than as a source of eggs.
Apr 21, 2014 4:58PM

Just returned from Costco where there is no INFLATION.

That is if you care to eat a flat screen television for dinner.

Apr 21, 2014 4:50PM
Growing up we raised chickens. They are really easy to feed and maintain and fresh eggs are the best. You just throw 'em some seeds everyday, make sure they have water and they are happy. Just be careful if you have any dogs.
Apr 21, 2014 4:57PM
Buy a couple of layer hens and have some fried chicken too. Tie their legs together, chop off their head, let them flop around to drain the blood. Have some boiling water handy to dip the chickens in to make it easier to pluck the them. Then gut them, wash them, then fry them. It's not all about eggs.
It has always been cheaper to rise your own eggs than store brought eggs.

That said how certain are you that the food you buy is really organic that you are feeding your chicken.

The FDA did a study of human organic foods and found about 25 percent of them were not organic.

and nobody is checking chicken feed. Sounds like a way a feed supplier can double his money by having the printer print organic on his bags.

Apr 21, 2014 5:20PM

Chickens do have a lot of predators....

Dogs, some cats, to Coyotes, foxes, etc..canines.

Raccoons, sometimes possums.

Hawks and other flying predators.

They have to be locked up secure or cooped at night.

Chickens require little Vet care, cheaper to buy another chick then go to Vet, unless it's your buddy.

Decent food and water, maybe a little wormer occasionally..

Free range is fine within reason, you don't want them in flower beds or mature gardens.

Good laying for maybe 3-7 years, then put them in the stew pot...Or Chicken and dumplings

Apr 21, 2014 4:52PM

Raising chickens can be done about anywhere, if it is allowed...City or town might have Regs..?

Country or rural usually never a problem.

If you or family eat/use a lot if eggs, maybe worthwhile...(4 people,etc.)

For two people using a dozen a week, only a labor of love; Saves nothing.

By them from friend or neighbor, help support their habit...Eggs normally much better then store.

Consider cost of coop, nest, feeders and watering apps...Then a fenced yarding area, if you don't want to "free range" them? But you still need coop and nests...Heat lamp when young.

Happy chickens need maybe 8-10 sq. feet per chicken 2'x4'=8 sft.

1-2 nests for every 3-5 chickens....About 4-5 for 10 chicks.

Might as well have 10 chickens as 3-5, because you can sell eggs to neighbors, friends, or co-workers to defray feed cost..

Good layers, probably average 1-1.5 eggs per two days; Good laying season, egg a day.

Winter time they lay less, have to have enhanced feed or use red pepper.

Believe you can save money on the feed costs, compared to above...

But good luck to all you Future Farmers of America...Fresh eggs, yummy !!

Apr 21, 2014 6:00PM
My cats would love it if I raised chickens. Used to buy eggs from a guy who had some chickens in his yard. They taste so much better than store bought. He also fed his chickens greens, which made the yolks more yellow and richer tasting.
Apr 22, 2014 9:04AM

Listen to the long time farmers with regards to chickens.  I live a village that got hit with the raising chicken craze a few years back.  Most people who wanted them had no idea how to raise them; they just wanted their way.   Now a few years later, it is all coming to roost on how unpractical it is, unless you are a full time chicken farm in the country with intent to sell hundreds of eggs per day.  They are work, like any other pet, they have to have coops with heat in the winter, cost more money than you think, you need to protect them from all kinds of predators and most of all, they live to be about 18 yrs. old, but only lay eggs for about 1/3 of their lives if you are lucky.   Lastly, but most important, animal shelters are full of chickens they can’t get rid of, because people did not do their homework and got fed up with little eggs and a lot of work.  No doubt, farm fresh eggs are the best, but my advice is to go to the country and get your eggs from a farmer who has made a living raising them, not some suburbanite who jumped on the organic craze.

Apr 21, 2014 4:33PM

On the outset raising chickens seems like a way to save money but I can assure you that any savings are going to be negligible if any at all.  Laying hens only lay for a few years and as they taper off most farm families would harvest their poor layers for Sunday diner.  So you have a certain amount of attrition due to that.  Then you have to worry about predators like foxes, coyotes, and even some neighborhood dogs who can prey upon your stock and even steal eggs from the nest.  Finally you have to grade and candle your eggs for quality and suitable size and make sure you  won't be treated with a surprise in your frying pan when a fetal chick pops out.

Like most things involved with food production whether it is raising meat (beef, pork, poultry, etc.) or growing a garden there is a lot more work involved than meets the eye.  People who have grown up in an urban environment generally have no idea of what is involved in food production from scratch.  It is usually pretty comical to watch a city slicker try to raise a garden or even collect eggs from the nest of a sitting hen who will defend her brood. 

I usually advise those who have the sudden urge to try and become more agrarian and self sufficient in food production to first buy an old fashioned hand cranked ice cream maker and try making home made ice cream or perhaps get a churn and try making butter assuming they can find a source for whole milk that hasn't been homogenized.  That usually is sufficient to discourage them.  LOL

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