Cost of Keeping Chickens

I saw this graphic pop up on Facebook this morning, and thought I’d share it here:

Graphic showing the difference in egg laying hens conditions.

Credit to Lindsay Coulter, Queen of Green @ David Suzuki Foundation. The original graphic was shared by the folks behind Organic Week. (https://www.facebook.com/organicweek)

 

We get asked all the time if it is worth it for us to keep backyard chickens. Noodle and Giblet live the life of the organic egg producers as outlined in the graphic, but their cost per dozen is harder to calculate. That doesn’t mean I won’t try, though!

Production:

Noodle and Giblet are Silver Laced Wyandottes. So, although we got Noodle and Giblet over a year ago, they have been laying for about 1 year now. They took a few weeks off to molt, and a few weeks (combined) to be broody. So let’s say we’ve been getting a dozen eggs per week for 40 weeks. (That’s 480 eggs!) According to the Wikipedia article I linked, that is “exceptional laying”.

Food, Supplements, and Treats:

We buy fancy pants organic feed at a cost of about $20 per bag. It’s a bit less but we’ll factor in the gas to go pick it up from our local pet store that brings it in for us. Each bag of feed lasts about 2 months. So, we’ve bought 6 bags at a total cost of $120. We also buy oyster shell, grit, and treats (scratch) at  a total approximate cost of about $40 for 1 year. We feed them kitchen scraps and weeds and grass clippings but occasionally I’ve bought greens from the grocery store, and so we’ll say I’ve spent an additional $50 on green treats.

The Poulet Chalet:

The coop and outfitting the coop cost us about $300 in materials, but Ross built it so it cost nothing in labour. We could have also cheaped that out significantly but went a bit high end and bought high quality lumber and finishings. Not all chicken coops need cedar shake roofs, but we did want it to look nice. I estimate the coop will last us at least 5 years, so we will say the cost of the coop for one year is about $60. Hay, which we use as bedding, is about $20 a year.

Cost of Hens:

Noodle and Giblet themselves cost $60. You can buy hens for way less. I bought a fancy heritage breed from a tiny charity based producer, but I’ve seen pullets (what Noodle and Gibs were when we got them) for as low as $5 on Craiglist. But we’ll say Noodle and Giblet’s cost is $12 a year (combined) if we expect them to live 5 years.

Totals:

So, total annual costs of backyard chickens are:

$120 (food)
$40 (grit/shell/scratch)
$20 (hay)
$60 (annual cost of coop)
$12 (annual cost of chickens)
$50 (green treats)

Total: $302.

Cost per egg: divided by approximate # of eggs and it’s 63 cents per egg, or $7.55 per dozen.

Is It Worth It?

Now, I can’t calculate for things such as satisfaction with having them, or entertainment value, or delight in being able to eat eggs from your yard, but the truth is that Noodle and Gibs are pretty priceless and keeping hens has been fun, educational, and completely worth it. if you live in a community that allows backyard hens, I totally recommend it.

4 Comments
  1. I was sitting in my backyard on Saturday night enjoying the warm weather and unfortunatley notice multiple rats scuring over the power lines and into bushes. I love the thought of having my own little organic egg farm but I don’t want to attract any more rats to my back yard. I believe you live in the heights as well so I’m sure you can relate to the rodent issue.

    • Hey Nick, that’s a good point. When we got the chickens, I called bylaws to clarify a few points about having the chickens, and they told me their two big concerns were rats and roosters crowing. They suggested we bring in the food every night and store the extra food in the basement in a sealed Rubbermaid tote, which we do and we’ve never seen a rat in or near the coop. The bylaw folks told me that a compost was more likely to attract rats than the chickens because it is more kinds of smellier food and generally goes undisturbed for long periods of time (and pre-chickens, I met more than one when I opened the lid to add more compost in!) One of my neighbours is a binner and collects cans and bottles and I guarantee she is more likely attracting rats than us with her stored bags and bags. We also designed the coop so that there aren’t hiding places for critters, and we regularly clean and tidy it up. The chickens go bonkers when anything enters our yard (dogs, cats, etc) and act a bit like guard chickens – it is quite funny. As for the roosters crowing, we don’t need a rooster so we just don’t have one. Noodle and Giblet cluck softly and make other louder noises throughout the day but are actually quite quiet in general.

  2. So with cheaper construction supplies, cheaper food, cheeper poulets, as well as cutting out unnecessary “green treat” (scraps provide quite a few good treats for them that would otherwise be considered waste), would the price fall below that on store shelves? Also, only 5 years for the coop Many of these costs seem due to loving and enjoying a hobby as opposed to purely the cost of food production.

    My brother keeps chickens in New West as well. He actually petitioned city hall to have by-laws amended – you may recall seeing his kids in the media a few years back holding their chickens. His chickens also have cedar shingles :) He ran into the rat issue in years past, but swiftly dealt with them. By keeping the coop clean, they don’t seem to attracted to it.

    • I think so. I’ve estimated rather generously as I was trying to be realistic, so I don’t think that’s out of line.

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