Keeping chickens is a wonderful way to supplement your food storage, and it seems like a great idea, but what does it actually take to raise chickens? What do you need, and what will it cost? This depends on several factors, but we will discuss them here, to give you an idea.
If you get chicks – $2-5 each, depending on the breed you choose, and whether you get all girls (“pullets”) or a mix.
If you buy young hens – $10-30 each (or more), depending on what breed they are, how old they are, and if they are already laying eggs or not.
Chicken coop – free – as much as you want to spend. (More about this later.) If you just buy a coop at the store, expect to spend about $400, but you really don’t need to spend this much. We spent $200 on ours, brand new, plus money to paint it. If you have an old shed or playhouse, you can almost certainly convert it to a chicken coop for very little money. Chickens are picky about their coops. On the other hand, if you want a special construction team to come build you a chicken coop that looks like a miniature version of your house (people really have done this before), you can spend thousands.
A feeder – $2-35 for something from the store. For chicks especially, you can get a cheap plastic or metal feeder for a couple dollars. If you want something fancy that is made of galvanized steel (not necessary for chicks, but nicer when you have chickens) it will be $25-35, depending on what size you buy. If you are handy and have materials, you can also build something that will work just fine.
A waterer– $3-30 for something from the store. For chicks you can buy a waterer for a few dollars; this is basically a jar type thing that you fill with water, and then you screw on a bottom piece and flip it over and it fills itself. Once you have adult chickens, you will want something bigger, but what you spend is up to you. During the winter, you may want to buy a heated waterer to keep your birds’ water from freezing (and heat up the coop), or if you live somewhere that stays pretty warm, this is totally unnecessary. Right now we give our chickens water in an old plastic shoebox-type container that we just had around. It works just fine.
Chicken feed – about $11-35 per 50 pound bag. How much of this you need and how fast you go through it will depend on how many birds you have and how old they are. If you just by regular chicken feed it will be about $11 per bag. If you buy name brand chicken feed, it will be more. We’re switching our birds over to organic chicken feed, and that costs about $35 per bag. (We will discuss chicken feed in greater detail later.)
Shavings or wood pellets – about $10 per package – You will want to put pine shavings at the bottom of your chickens’ coop.
Those are the main things you’ll need if you want to start raising chickens. Next, we’ll look at some different types of chickens, and we’ll talk about how to choose your birds!