What is the cost of keeping chickens?

What is the cost of keeping chickens?
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Chickens, they call them the entry point to homesteading and for good reason! They are by far the easiest livestock to raise and can be done almost anywhere (yes even in town). But are you saving money by raising your own chickens? Either for eggs or meat really? This goes for any poultry, chickens, ducks, guineas, turkeys, geese, or any other feathered livestock. 
In general, you want to evaluate your costs vs potential profits. Yes, I say potential, because you’re probably eating the eggs or meat that comes from your birds. There is this economic term called opportunity cost. Basically, it’s the cost of what else could be done with that item. Take eggs for example. You eat a dozen eggs. The opportunity cost is what you could have sold those eggs for. 
When evaluating your cost also consider the useful life of those purchases. For instance, a waterer will last 3-5 years, but you will assume that the cost is up front. 
Typical expenses that you will use for several years, include waterers, feeders, coop, and birds. Laying hens will peak their production in year two, and average living 2-4 years. Some sources say they can live up to 10 years.
Reoccurring expenses are expenses you must continue to buy no matter what. These include feed, water if you must pay for it, and bedding. On average a hen will eat ¼ pound per day. 
Now the fun and slightly harder part, income. For laying hens, the easy one is eggs. You can google how many eggs your specific breed will lay in a year. High producing hens will lay up to 250 eggs a year. 
Then you have the salvage value of the hen when she is done laying. As brutal as it sounds, a hen’s final value she can give is her meat to nourish your family with a delightful chicken soup. 
The harder income points to nail down include the fertilizer they produce (make sure you compost for at least 6 months to not burn your garden plants). Another potential income is chicks if you have roosters and a broody hen. You could credit the cost of an incubator and chicks to her. Keep in mind, not all hens will go broody and raise chicks. 
Tillage labor is another hard one to pin down. I let my flock turn my compost pile for me. Factoring in the labor time you would/should spend turning the pile and crediting it to your hens. 
Bug control is an excellent benefit for free ranging hens or hens in a portable coop. But again, it is hard to put a price on. It might be best to look at the opportunity cost of what you would have to spend to control the bugs chemically. 
Here’s an outline for you to fill in.
One time
Life span
Per Year cost
Cleaning supplies
Eggs (per dozen)
Additional w/growth
Bug Control

For a free downloadable chicken log, click here

Now, don’t get me wrong, now that you’ve run the numbers and know if your chickens are making you money or eating it, I will always take a farm fresh egg over a store-bought egg any day. They taste so much better!
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