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The price of eggs is borderline outrageous, which may have you thinking it’s time to just raise your own chickens. My husband and I set out to do this in 2020 when the pandemic set in and we wanted a family activity to do with our two children (we live in rural Connecticut, so we also had the space to try!). Today, searches for low cost DIY chicken coops are on the rise, and I see memes daily about the need for your own chickens to compete with rising egg costs at the grocery store. But when thinking about a DIY chicken coop versus the cost of eggs — and what’s ultimately cheaper — there’s a lot to consider.
Raising chickens can be a rewarding and educational experience, but it also requires a level of investment and responsibility. Building a DIY chicken coop may help reduce costs, but materials, tools, and equipment are still needed and can add up. There are also regulations and laws that must be followed, such as obtaining a permit, ensuring the coop complies with local zoning and housing regulations, and providing food, water, and medical care for the birds. So while the idea of raising chickens may seem appealing, it’s important to understand the expenses and obligations involved, including the construction of a coop that meets all necessary requirements.
There are many things to consider when trying to decide whether to build a DIY chicken coop in your backyard. To help, we put together an informative guide to help set you on the right track in understanding the work and cost involved.
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First Step: Consider local laws and regulations.
Before you start building that coop, look into whether or not your neighborhood has legal regulations or HOA ordinances preventing you from raising chickens in your backyard. You may be surprised to learn that your city or community has restrictions involving livestock. If you violate these rules, you might be susceptible to fines and removal of your chickens. So be sure to do your research before taking the next steps.
Related: Best Egg Substitutions
Second Step: Buy chicks.
If there aren’t legal regulations stopping you from housing chickens, then it’s time to purchase some chicks. Most places will require you to purchase several chickens at a time because they are social animals and thrive in groups. Typically you need to start with six to eight chicks.
The cost of a chick can vary on the type you want. Some are better for their meat, others for their eggs. And there are chickens known for their ability to withstand colder temperatures, which is important depending on where you live. The cost of the chickens is relatively cheap compared to the supplies you will need to care for them. On average, they cost $2 – $6 each.
Third Step: Purchase supplies.
When you get your chicks, you’ll need several things specific to help them in their young stage. These include:
- Chicken feeder/waterer
- Protein-rich chick feed (for their development)
- Pine shavings
For prices, see estimated costs in our chart.
You can get a chicken feeder and waterer for around $20, or there are stainless steel versions that let you use mason jars. These hold up very well and can be used for years to come.
A warming light costs between $10 – $20, depending on the version you want. Meanwhile, a brooder will be more expensive, ranging from $40 – $80. You can also use a large plastic tote, and as the chicks become bigger, the cardboard crates from grocery stores that hold watermelons and pumpkins are a great option. Most of the time they’re available for free.
When it comes to finding the right food option for your chicks, there is a huge variety. You can get a 5-pound bag for $6 – $17. For six to eight chickens, that five pounds will last you around two weeks. Pine shavings are also a must for layering the brooder. Typically that runs $15 for four cubic feet, which lasts about a month.
Fourth Step: Buy or build a coop.
After 12 – 16 weeks, the chicks will be ready to move outdoors to their own coop. When it’s time to select a coop, it’s important to keep a few things in mind:
- How easy will it be to clean?
- Do you want to be able to heat it?
- How easy will it be to collect eggs?
- More importantly, how safe will it be from predators?
You can choose to build your own coop, or you can find several options to buy. Prices range from $100 – $300. The cost can be even more expensive if you’re looking for something larger. Some people allow their chickens to free range right out of the coop, while others prefer a fenced in area. If you’d prefer the latter, a fenced cage goes for $200 – $300.
We decided to build our own coop. And yes, it required a lot of research to ensure we made the coop easy to clean. This involves lining the coop with vinyl so we can simply use a squeegee to clean it. We also made the nesting box easy for the kids to navigate while being protective for predators.
TIP: Building the coop ourselves wasn’t necessarily the most cost-effective option, but it allowed us make the coop based on our specific preferences.
Fifth Step: Calculate the cost of maintaining happy, healthy chickens.
When you move the chickens to the coop, you’ll need to change the feeder and waterer for the more mature chickens. There is a wide variety of options when it comes to feeders. Most of it comes down to personal preference and durability. For a feeder and waterer, you can spend anywhere between $40 and $120 for both. The chicken food goes for roughly $50 for a 50-pound bag at local feed store, which lasts between three and four weeks.
Tip: KCL staffer Chelsea says she free ranges her chickens and primarily feeds them table scraps, which helps to offset feed costs. However, this isn’t recommended, as feed generally helps maintain your chickens with all the necessary nutrients they need. This helps them produce the best eggs. So table scraps shouldn’t be given as a substitute for their feed. It’s just in addition to, or supplementing, their feed.
Maintaining the coop will require pine shavings. You can use the same ones you used for the chicks, which should last a month. But you will also need hay for the nesting boxes. A 2.5-pound bag of that stuff should last a month and cost about $12. Chickens will start laying eggs when they’re six months old and typically will stop producing at three years old.
I will admit, as the price of eggs have recently sky rocketed, it’s been months since I have received eggs. My older chickens have stopped laying eggs, and my chicks are just getting old enough to lay. I have six chicks, and when they are laying regularly, I hope to get around 18 eggs a week. My family usually eats at least a dozen eggs a week, right now costing us about $7 – $8.
Will a chicken coop save you money overall? Probably not.
We’ve now had chickens for several years and learned a few lessons. For example, a few chickens were taken by predators, which is terrible. You feel a tremendous amount of guilt for not keeping them safer.
Also, when we first got chickens and whenever we get chicks, they are my kids’ favorite thing. But the coolness factor quickly wears off. Getting the eggs is a chore my kids complain about. They still do it, but they do complain.
Fortunately, taking care of the chickens really doesn’t require a lot of time, cleaning the coop usually takes less than 10 minutes twice a month, and fresh eggs just taste better — I can’t describe it, but they do. Chickens are also good for reducing ticks and mosquitos in your yard, which has been really helpful.
It’s real talk time.
The reality is that for most households, having a chicken coop just isn’t worth it unless you consume a ton of eggs every month. This is because the overall costs in maintaining a chicken coop greatly outweigh the cost of purchasing your own eggs. Yep, even during this expensive egg era. Another option you may want to consider is selling your eggs to help offset the monthly expenses of having chickens. Just be aware of local ordinances that may require you to obtain a permit to sell your eggs. I contacted someone in Massachusetts who sells her chicken’s eggs for $6 a dozen, but she said she hardly makes any profit due to the expensive organic feed she buys for her chickens. For reference, she feeds 100% organic, and her chickens are partially free range.
If you’re interested in getting chickens, budget for large start-up costs for the chicks and even more expenses for when they move to a coop. If you’re not sure whether you are prepared for the long term commitment associated with chickens, you maybe able to rent them. Some sites allow you to rent the chickens and all the necessary equipment for a season. This can be a great way for you to consider whether you are ready to set up a coop permanently.