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Chicken Economics

The other night my wife and I were discussing the family calendar. We were looking at upcoming road trips and weekend getaways we have scheduled through the first half of the year. Why? Because we have an order of chicks coming in March! Which brings me to the first part of this chicken economics story, chicken math.

You may have heard of this phenomenon on social media at some point in the last year or so. It became a popular discussion point after the great “egg-flation” of 2021/2022. In simple terms, chicken math is how we backyard farmers calculate the number of chickens we have and why. Let me break it down for you. In February of 2023 my third child and second daughter, Mollie, was born (this concept of children's math is for a different blog). A day after getting her home, my two older children and I went to the post office to pick up our shipment of chicks. I thought it was a great idea to have a new baby at home and eight chicks, all at once. As the story continues, I ordered eight more chicks to be delivered in May. Why? We wanted 15 chickens.

Now you are thinking, “Hey Quentin, I don’t mean to be rude, but aren’t you in finance? Eight plus eight is 16.” See, with chicken math, you order more than you need, just in case one doesn't make it. But guess what? The company I ordered the birds from sent me nine. I already had eight healthy happy ladies clucking away in my yard, and nine new ones getting ready to join them. At the end of the day, they all made it and one turned out to be a rooster. So, I gave two birds to my sister who also has chickens; I kept the rooster and now I have 14 laying hens and Frank.

The chicken math saga continues in December of 2023. My wife and I decided that we needed a couple of white egg layers and a few more colored egg layers. That loops us back into the March delivery date and why we were checking calendars for trips! We have five, maybe six, birds coming which means someone needs to be home every day for eight weeks to check on those little ladies.

If you are keeping track of it, by March, I should have 20 to 21 chickens. I promised you the economics of it all, so here we go!

Acquisition and Initial Setup Fee

When starting your backyard chicken farm, you have few options for getting birds. You can order them online, go to the feed store, or Tractor Supply. We chose the online ordering option to get the colored egg layers we wanted. The costs can run from $4 a bird to upwards of $25 depending on the breed. After acquiring my birds, I had a few months to get set up before their arrival.

This is the time to get your brooder situation and future permanent home setup. I MacGyvered my own brooder setup, costing me nothing, since I used resources lying around my home. However, with the feeder, waterer, and some shavings, you are looking at $50 or so to get going. I like hemp bedding while the chicks are in my garage, it's more expensive than pine shavings but causes less dust. Chicks are dirty and make lots of dust with their bedding!

When it comes to a coop and chicken run, you can get pretty extravagant. My setup is pretty minimal compared to some you can find on social media. You can spend $200 at Tractor Supply and upwards of a few grand on a home depending on your chicken math and your style. After the coop, you need a run for them to be outside; this can cost very little depending on your setup or several grand depending on your budget and style. As a side note, chicken wire, while cheaper than other options, is meant to keep chickens out of the garden, it is not meant to keep bears out of your chickens!


You have to feed them so they can feed you! Now I am a Millennial, so my ladies eat organic food. A 35-pound bag cost $38. I have read in books and magazines (an additional cost to raising chickens) that they eat about seven pounds of food a month. I have 15 birds so I go through three bags a month (we also have a rat I have yet to catch that is eating the food, so we may be going through more.) Alright, so the economics on the food comes out to about $115 a month. I want my ladies to have some fun as well, so I also buy them hay to eat and pluck; they really enjoy it. One bale lasts a month and costs around $20.

The cool thing about chickens though, is that they can basically eat all your food scraps. This cuts down on the waste going to the landfill and on the flip side, you can use the chicken poop to fertilize your yard and garden. I have definitely noticed a reduction in trash over the last year.


I don’t know about you, but I don’t work for free! One of the things I hear occasionally is that it must be great getting free eggs all year. If you just started paying attention, go back to the beginning. That vitamin-packed, calcium-enclosed, pack of nutrition (eggs) is anything but free! I am all about efficiency though, so I have set up a deep layering protocol in my hen home. This means that cleanup takes me about 15 minutes every week with one longer cleanup every four weeks. On top of that it takes a few minutes here and there to feed them and check their water. I am a solid financial planner and a mediocre rancher, so at minimum wage you are looking at $32 in labor every month.

Economics of It All

I am not going to get to the breakeven point of raising chickens, partially because that’s a lot of math and because I am nervous to know the answer. But right now, my 14 ladies are yielding an average of five eggs a day (they lay less in winter; come summer I will be swimming in those nutritious eggs!) In a month that is roughly 150 eggs. Between food and labor, they cost me $167 a month. That averages $1.12 an egg. That comes out to $13.45 a dozen, about twice as much as what it costs to buy a dozen organic eggs from Stater Bros. During the summer though I expect production to double and the cost to be cut in half.

The moral of my story is that eggs raised at home are not cheaper than buying them at the store. However, that doesn't mean you shouldn’t have backyard chickens!

My kids love chickens. My daughter likes to pet them, and my son helps clean up after them. They both enjoy daily egg collection. The cost is outweighed by the experience that my family has in taking care of the birds and enjoying the fresh eggs we have on our counter every day. I joke about the cost and complexity of it all, but in the end it’s a lot of fun and a great development opportunity for my kids. The financial advisor in me says just buy your eggs at the store, but the Millennial parent in me, says what are you waiting for? Get some chickens and annoy your neighbors!

~ Quentin Bubb