Sticker Shock for the Home Flock: Costs and Rewards Raising Chickens


Feeding & watering in the chicken run 

Chickens have been on the agenda for some time and with the pandemic posing risk to our food supply, it seemed the perfect opportunity to venture into animal husbandry. With factory farms producing most of our meat supply, we’ve long been interested in raising our own chicken while investigating what it would take to become a small, local meat producer and/or develop farm-to-table relationships with a sustainable number of restaurants.

High Costs Raising Backyard Chickens

To that end, our foray into chicken-raising had an eye toward commercial production. This approach factored into our cost and admittedly there are corner-cutting and budget saving options we did not explore and economies of scale that would help but our finding was this: It turns out you don’t save money raising your own chickens! In fact, our costs calculated out to be a shock: almost $5/pound. With an average bird at 5 pounds and our per-pound cost at $4.89, that put our birds at around $25/each. An important note is that figure doesn’t include our labor. It does underscore the value of what you pay for chicken at the grocery store!

Which Breeds Did We Raise?

Research indicated that the Cornish Cross chicken is the meat bird, hands down. They are bred to grow at an astonishing rate and to yield large breasts. Since the 1950s, these birds have been singled out as our national meat source in commercial production. We were interested in investigating heritage breeds as well and opted for the Silver Laced Wyandotte, which is touted as a dual-purpose egg layer and meat bird. They also had the added characteristics of being strikingly handsome and good-natured.

Coop set-up at 2 weeks

Living in Missouri, we opted to patronize Cackle Hatchery and hoped to be able to pick up our chicks in person, but Covid-19 had other ideas. Instead, we received the most amazing package in the mail: a cardboard crate of 51 day-old chicks. It was unseasonably cold that mid-April day so we’d set up our brooder inside the (somewhat) climate-controlled shop. In hindsight, this wasn’t necessary, as heat lamps and huddling suffice to maintain their body heat.

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