Are Chickens Expensive To Keep?

Free Ranging and Training Chickens...

“I’m thinking about getting some chickens for my backyard, but I’m worried about the costs. Are chickens expensive to keep? I’d love to hear about all the expenses involved and if it’s worth it in the long run.” Thanks, Jessica, Portland, Oregon, USA.

Are Chickens Expensive To Keep? A Comprehensive Cost Breakdown

Hey Jessica! It’s great to hear you’re considering raising chickens in Portland. Backyard chickens can be a rewarding experience, but it’s smart to consider the costs before diving in. Let’s break down the expenses involved in keeping chickens and help you decide if it’s a worthwhile investment for you.

Initial Setup Costs

The first thing to consider is the upfront costs of getting started with chickens. These can vary widely depending on your choices, but here’s a general overview:

  • Coop: $200 – $2,000+
  • Fencing/Run: $100 – $500
  • Feeders and Waterers: $20 – $100
  • Bedding: $20 – $50
  • Initial Feed Supply: $30 – $50
  • Chicks or Adult Hens: $3 – $30 per bird

As you can see, Jessica, the range is quite broad. You could potentially get started for as little as $500 if you’re handy and can build your own coop, or you might spend several thousand for a premium setup. The good news is that many of these are one-time costs.

Ongoing Expenses

Once you’ve got your coop and chickens, there are regular expenses to consider:

1. Feed

This is typically the biggest ongoing expense. A laying hen eats about 1/4 pound of feed per day. Organic feed costs more than conventional.

  • Conventional Feed: $15 – $30 per 50lb bag
  • Organic Feed: $30 – $60 per 50lb bag

For a flock of 4-6 chickens, you might spend $15-$30 per month on feed, or up to $60 if you go organic.

2. Bedding

You’ll need to replace bedding regularly to keep the coop clean. Pine shavings are a popular choice.

  • Cost: $5 – $20 per month, depending on flock size and coop design

3. Healthcare

Chickens are generally hardy, but you should budget for potential vet visits and preventative care.

  • Routine Care (deworming, etc.): $20 – $50 per year
  • Emergency Vet Visit: $50 – $200+ per visit

4. Treats and Supplements

While not strictly necessary, many chicken keepers enjoy providing treats and supplements.

  • Cost: $10 – $30 per month

5. Utilities

If you use heat lamps in winter or automatic coop doors, factor in a small increase in your electricity bill.

  • Estimated Cost: $5 – $15 per month

Cost-Saving Strategies

Jessica, while these costs can add up, there are ways to keep expenses down:

  1. DIY Coop: Building your own coop can save hundreds of dollars.
  2. Free-Range: Allowing chickens to forage reduces feed costs.
  3. Grow Your Own Treats: Plant chicken-friendly herbs and vegetables.
  4. Composting: Use chicken manure to enrich your garden soil, saving on fertilizer.
  5. Buy in Bulk: Purchase feed in larger quantities for better prices.

The Egg Economy: Do Chickens Pay for Themselves?

Now, let’s talk about the potential return on your investment, Jessica. A good laying hen can produce 200-300 eggs per year. Let’s do some math:

  • 4 hens producing 250 eggs each = 1,000 eggs per year
  • Organic, free-range eggs in Portland might cost $5-$7 per dozen
  • 1,000 eggs = 83 dozen
  • Potential value: $415 – $581 per year

Comparing this to your costs, it’s possible for chickens to “pay for themselves” over time, especially if you’re replacing store-bought organic eggs. However, it’s important to note that the real value often lies in the quality of the eggs and the joy of raising chickens, rather than strict economic returns.

Hidden Costs to Consider

Before you make your decision, Jessica, there are a few other potential costs to keep in mind:

  • Time: Chickens require daily care and attention.
  • Property Damage: Free-range chickens can damage gardens and landscaping.
  • Predator Protection: You may need to invest in additional security measures.
  • Vacation Care: If you travel, you’ll need someone to look after your flock.
  • Local Regulations: Check Portland’s laws regarding backyard chickens; there may be permit fees.

The Intangible Benefits

While we’ve focused on the financial aspects, it’s worth mentioning the non-monetary benefits of keeping chickens:

  • Fresh, high-quality eggs
  • Natural pest control in your garden
  • Educational opportunities for children
  • Stress relief and connection with nature
  • Potential for community building with other chicken keepers

Many chicken owners, including some here in Portland, find that these benefits far outweigh the costs involved.

Long-Term Considerations

As you plan for the long term, Jessica, keep in mind that chickens typically lay well for 2-3 years, though they can live much longer. You’ll need to decide whether to keep older, less productive hens or replace them. Also, consider the potential for expanding your flock over time, which could increase costs but also rewards.

Environmental Impact

Raising backyard chickens can be an environmentally friendly choice, especially in a city like Portland that values sustainability. By producing eggs locally, you’re reducing transportation emissions and packaging waste. Chickens can also help with composting, turning kitchen scraps into nutrient-rich fertilizer for your garden.

Community Resources in Portland

Portland has a thriving urban farming community that could be a great resource for you, Jessica. Look into local chicken-keeping classes, join online forums for Portland chicken keepers, and consider connecting with experienced owners who might offer advice or even share resources.

Final Thoughts…

Jessica, thank you for bringing up this excellent question about the costs of keeping chickens. As you can see, while there are definite expenses involved, many chicken keepers find the benefits outweigh the costs. The initial setup is the biggest hurdle, but ongoing expenses can be managed with smart choices. Remember, the joy of collecting fresh eggs and the satisfaction of raising your own food are priceless experiences for many.

If you decide to take the plunge, start small and scale up as you get more comfortable. Portland’s climate is generally chicken-friendly, and you’ll likely find a supportive community of fellow urban farmers. Whatever you decide, I hope this information helps you make the best choice for your situation. Good luck with your potential chicken-keeping adventure!

Whether you're a complete beginner and don't know where to start, or you're a seasoned chicken keeping professional and just want practical "how to" advice on tap our guide to keeping chickens has got you covered...

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