Starting the process of raising a flock of chickens can seem complicated and maybe a little costly at first. There are many financial factors that need to be considered when you are preparing yourself for your first flock of hens, like the coop, food and bedding. But then there is the question of how much does it cost to just buy the chickens?
Chicks usually cost between $1 and $5 each, where pullets, which are chickens that will start laying soon, cost between $15 and $25 each. The cost of buying a chicken is dependent on the area and age of the birds.
For those of us that are brand new to the chicken raising game, I have some helpful information regarding how and where to purchase your chooks and which age is the best. Continue reading to learn more and become informed on which chickens you should be buying for your first flock of feathered friends.
Eggs cost the least, with chicks being a little more and then pullets or adult chickens are the most expensive. Whether or not you should be buying eggs, chicks or pullets is a great question when looking to start your first flock. You really need to choose what works best for you and your situation, plus the level of work you are willing to go through.
You can’t go wrong with either choice, but there is certainly a difference in how much effort you will have to put in. Eggs require an incubator and constant turning, while chicks die easily and pullets are the most expensive. They all have their pros and cons.
From all of my research, I have found that fertilized chicken eggs vary pretty significantly in price. It seems to depend a lot on the breed of chicken, and it’s rarity. If you are going for a pretty common breed that produces lots of eggs like the Rhode Island Red or the Orpington, you can expect their fertilized eggs to be cheaper next to a Speckled Sussex or a French Bresse.
Some fertilized eggs can cost as little as 20$ per dozen and others are as expensive as 100$ or more for a dozen.
Another factor that needs to be considered before purchasing eggs is that you will have to have an incubator or a live, broody hen to keep them warm and turned often.
Starting With Chicks
Chicks seem to be a popular way of raising chickens from young. This is how I have always done it. I much prefer to purchase a bunch of fluffy little chicks. That way I know exactly how many I have (maybe one will die if I’m unlucky). Plus they are so cute and a brooder box is pretty easy to set up and a little less maintenance than constantly turning eggs or checking on the incubator.
Baby chickens usually cost about 1$ – 5$ per chick.
It does seem like a big range but like I’ve mentioned it depends on your area and the breed of bird that you are purchasing. Raising them from chicks is the typical recommendation I give to friends and family when they are thinking about starting their own flock.
Pullets are certainly the more expensive way to purchase and raise chickens, but they are almost ready for laying and are more independent than your eggs and chicks. Pullets don’t need to be placed inside a brooder box and can have free range of their coop and run.
Pullets usually cost around 15$ – 30$ per chicken.
But at least most of the work has been done for you.
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If you can help it, purchasing your chickens from a local source is definitely the way to go. You have a better guarantee of what you are getting, especially when buying eggs.
Even in the best conditions, you should not expect a 100% hatch rate. If you purchased your eggs from a local source then their hatch rate is usually around 80%, but if you bought online and had them delivered your hatch rate will drop to about 50%. Shipping is risky, even when there is a bunch of padding or styrofoam to protect them.
While it is the sellers responsibility to package them properly, they don’t necessarily have a guarantee over how many eggs will hatch either. However, they should be only sending you eggs that are of a good quality and not dirty, soft or porous.
From egg to mature hen, you can purchase chickens at any age. It really depends on the level of work you want to deal with. If you want your chickens for the purpose of eggs and don’t want too much hassle with raising chicks then you should purchase pullets.
Pullets are hens that are about 15 – 22 weeks of age and almost ready to lay. You have much less work with these young ladies than you would eggs or chicks. Buying chicks means you have to deal with the brooder and feed them for about 3 or 4 months before they will start laying, which isn’t free.
If you are wanting the experience of raising eggs or baby chickens because you have children or just want to for fun, then purchasing them at their fragile infancy is totally fine. You will need several things to keep them alive and healthy.
Unless being kept by a live hen, eggs require an incubator and the job of being frequently turned. You can find one that has an automatic turning (this one for example), otherwise you will have to manually turn the eggs every few hours for about 21 days.
Chicks require a brooder box (like this one on Amazon) unless they have a hen to watch after them. The chicks must be kept at a warm temperature for about 6 weeks, or until they start growing adult feathers. This is because they must be kept warm and their fluffy down feathers don’t do a great job at that.
The answer to this can be somewhat subjective, so I am going to base this on the overall cost effectiveness of certain breeds of chickens. In my opinion, it is about which chickens cost the least to purchase and maintain and also produce the most eggs.
Rhode Island Red
The Rhode Island Red is a hen that is hardy and produces an abundance of eggs. These ladies can produce up to 250 eggs a year and are an easy breed to keep. They tend to be healthy overall and are great winter layers as well.
This breed usually is cheap to purchase as eggs and chicks and can be found in many farms and markets. Hopefully making it easy to find them from a local source, no matter your area.
Egg Cost: approximately $1.50 per hatching egg
Chick Cost: $2.75 – $3.25 a chick
This is a hybrid breed that is known for its egg laying numbers. It was specifically bred to eat less food yet continue to lay almost daily, even in the wintertime. You can expect a Golden Comet to lay about 280 eggs a year or more. This breed is also relatively cheap to purchase as eggs or chicks.
Unfortunately, their selective breeding for high egg production does sometimes mean that they can be prone to soft-shelled eggs and will require a little more calcium in their diet. This is a good reason to do your research and purchase your Golden Comet chickens from a reputable breeder so that they will have fewer inbreeding issues.
Egg Cost: approximately $1.25 per hatching egg
Chick Cost: $3.00 a chick
I absolutely adore this breed of chicken. They are so cute and have wonderful and sweet personalities. They are also somewhat common so they are easier to find in many local markets and farms at a decent price.
This breed is one that will lay around 230 eggs a year, has minimal health problems and is quite hardy, especially in the winter months. They don’t eat an excessive amount of food, make great mothers and lay nice, large eggs.
Egg Cost: approximately $1.50 per hatching egg
Chick Cost: $3.50 a chick
While the cost of chickens varies depending on the breed and age of the birds, it is still something that is a worthwhile investment. When starting a flock of your own, most breeds that are great egg-layers or dual-purpose chickens are inexpensive and can be found at many local markets or farms. You need only have your incubator, brooder or coop set up and ready to go to start the journey of being a flock raiser.
If you are interested in this venture, you’ll find some useful tips in these articles:
- Is It Cheaper To Have Chickens Or Buy Eggs? (Cost comparison)
- Do Baby Chickens Need A Heat Lamp?
- What Are The Most Common Breeds Of Chickens And Their Uses?
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