There is a popular misconception that raising chickens is notably cheaper than buying eggs. Here in Hawai’i, most folks purchase fresh, organic eggs from local farmers for much cheaper (and better-tasting!) than a grocery store.
So, the question is, will you really save money getting eggs from your own chickens rather than buying from a local farmer?
Raising chickens is usually more expensive than buying eggs in the first year. The initial purchase of the laying hens and cost for the coop will set you back during the first year, but raising chickens for eggs should be cheaper than buying them in the following years.
If you build your own coop and allow your chickens to forage, you might just about break even on the cost the first year, and in the years after you should be able to save a little money. But even if you don’t see significant financial savings in the first few years, I still think there is something to raising your own chickens and being in complete control of your food supply.
Related: Want to save money raising chickens? Let them free range. I know thatʻs not always feasible for everyone though, but the job can be made a lot easier with some mobile electric poultry netting that can help you get your birds access to pasture.
Cost Of Eggs At Market
Here in Hawai’i, it is significantly cheaper to buy a dozen eggs from the farmers markets or local producers than to buy eggs from a grocery store that have been flown in and could hardly be considered ‘fresh’.
Buying these eggs supports local farmers, the eggs taste great and are much better than expensive ones in the grocery stores, anyway.
In my area, the price of eggs averages about $0.40-$0.50 per egg for organic, brown eggs from free-range chickens.
In other areas, locally-grown eggs are a farmer’s market niche and come with a higher price than the grocery store. Looking at prices in other locations like California or Oahu even, locally grown eggs from a small-scale farm can sell for more than $8 a dozen!
I don’t like to compare free-range eggs to store bought, because the quality just isn’t the same with store bought, but thatʻs what people do. Ultimately itʻs about price and homegrown eggs better compete.
Based on these price estimates, if your household consumes a dozen eggs a week, you probably spend around $250 – $400 a year on eggs alone (the cheaper amount is if you live in Hawai’i).
Starting Off With Chicks vs Chickens
I’d suggest starting off with adult chickens, not chicks. Choose mature hens over newly hatched chicks, especially if you’re looking to reduce your budget.
While the chicks themselves might be cheaper to purchase compared to the mature hens, you will have to invest in things like warming lights and special brooder pen (you’re looking at $100 minimum) that will only be used while your chicks are little. And, then you have to wait several months for the chicks to grow up and begin laying eggs.
(Now, if you’re interested in chickens for the long-haul, then you may want lights and brooders, anyway, but that’s for another post).
The extra cost of items for baby chicks will certainly outweigh whatever you saved by purchasing chicks instead of hens.
If you start with mature hens, you can move them right into the coop and expect to collect eggs within a few days, so if saving money upfront is what you’re after, definitely start with adult chickens.
How many of these chickens will we need for a dozen eggs? This post dives into that topic so you donʻt have to figure it all out yourself. Be sure to give it a read.
What Chicken Breeds Are The Best Egg Layers?
You’re looking for eggs, not meat, so you’ve got to buy a chicken breed which has good egg production. This type of chicken is known as a laying hen.
For the tropics, I recommend the following laying hens:
- Rhode Island Reds
- Black Australorps
I have a whole post about the best chicken breeds for Hawai’i, looking at their heat tolerance, heartiness and egg production.
You can expect 3 – 4 eggs a week from each adult hen, even more from Leghorns. If you’re starting with chicks, you will of course have to wait for them to mature (3 – 6 months for most breeds).
It costs roughly $30.00 – $60.00 for five adult laying hens, depending on the breed. Many hatcheries have a minimum order number and will not sell individual chicks or hens. Searching FB groups local to your area is also a good way to find hens looking for a home.
The Chicken Coop
Yes, you will probably need a chicken coop. Even if your aim is to have your chickens be cage-free during the day you still need to provide them with a coop for their own safety.
Oppossums, mongoose, racoons, rats, foxes and hawks love to eat chickens, so it’s essential that, at least at night, your brood is kept inside a secure place.
Except where I live in Hawaii, we donʻt really have many night time predators. In fact, my chickens roost in a tree, so no coop necessary. But where I live is the rare exception.
Chickens are some of the most vulnerable of all poultry, with almost no natural defense mechanisms or means to protect themselves: most breeds, especially laying hens, need a coop.
A Coop Is Good For Egg Collection
The coop not only gives your brood of chickens a secure place to spend the night, it also doubles as a safe place for hens to lay eggs, and that, friends, will help you out a lot when you want to collect those delicious eggs.
If you don’t have a coop, you will have to look in every nook and cranny and corner of your yard looking for eggs. If instead, the chickens have a location where they feel safe (like a coop) they will naturally lay their eggs there, and you’ll save yourself a lot of hassle.
You can either buy a prefabricated coop (expensive!) or make your own. I’d advise making your own. You can get inspiration online, there are plenty of cool coop designs available, some with complete building instructions or step-by-step videos to help you create the perfect coop for your chickens.
When deciding what type of coop you want to build, keep in mind how many chickens you would like to have in 2 year’s time (not how many you’re starting out with), and if you want the option of a mobile coop, or a chicken run.
I love the idea of a coop on wheels that I can move around my yard and make their wonderful manure easily accessible for use in my garden. Also, consider if you want a walk-in coop or doors/drawers that open from outside for easy egg collection.
Doing it yourself gives you many more options to make your chickens work for your homestead. If you buy a pre-made chicken coop, expect to pay closer to $350 or up.
You’ll most likely save money if you build your own coop, but it won’t be entirely free. You can probably make a decent coop with mostly recycled materials. If you have some extra wood and nails laying around, you might only need to buy a few items and chicken wire. In this case, you could possibly make a coop for $100 or less.
Buying chicken feed is not necessary. You can allow your chickens to free-range in your yard and eat scraps from your kitchen. If you start with mature hens, this category can be entirely free. If you start off with chicks, you should give them some starter food or mash, though.
However, if your goal is to get plenty of eggs from your laying hens, then you should regularly supply them with a specific type of food called layers. Since my birds are mostly free range, I like to put that food into a good waterproof feeder.
At Most feed stores you’ll probably find three types of chicken feed: one for chicks, one for meat chickens, and this feed called layers, specifically for laying hens. This feed helps promote healthy egg production by providing the essential nutrients chickens need.
A healthy hen means healthy eggs. A bag of layers feed costs about $20 in Hawai’i. You can expect to spend an average of $120.00 for feed over a year, if you give it to your adult hens 3-4 times a week.
Let’s look at the estimated cost of raising 5 adult hens for eggs, versus purchasing local eggs, at a dozen per week.
|Buy Eggs||Raise Chickens|
|$5.00 – 7.50 (per wk)||5 laying hens||$30 – $60|
|$250 – 400 (per yr)||Coop||$100 – 350|
|Feed||$0 – $120|
|Total||$250 – 400 (per yr)||Total||$130 – 530 (per yr)|
Now, best-case scenario, you can break even raising chickens over buying eggs. That’s if you’re DIY-savvy and have materials on hand to build your own coop and don’t purchase layers feed for your brood. However, if the original cost of your laying hens is more than $6 per bird, you’re already going to be out a bit of cash, compared to buying eggs.
For most people, raising chickens won’t be cheaper than buying fresh eggs in the first year. But, every consecutive year, you could see a return on your initial investment of a coop and adult chickens.
If you want to expand your chicken brood, consider getting a rooster. If you have a rooster and let your hens hatch a few eggs, you can keep your home egg production going for a long time.
All these numbers are leading me to wonder what farm animal is the most profitable. Well, wonder no more. We dove deep into the numbers to bring to you what we came up to be the most profitable farm animal you can raise. Be sure to check out that post here.
Advantages of Raising Chickens
But, is it really all about the money? While it’s not necessarily cheaper at the beginning to raise your own chickens than to buy eggs, raising chickens has plenty of advantages, especially for homesteaders. Here’s some of the top benefits of having your own chickens:
- Chickens eat bugs and can be a natural pest-control solution for your garden.
- Chicken poop is great manure for your garden! A mobile coop or chicken run is a great, effortless way for you to fertilize a small area.
- Chickens are useful for meat and grow quickly.
- Chickens require minimal attention and are an ideal for beginning homesteaders. If you are looking to ‘get your feet wet’, try getting some chickens!
No, raising chickens usually isn’t cheaper than buying eggs in the beginning, but raising chickens is a reward in and of itself. Learn more about raising chickens in the tropics.
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