As I forked over $15 for small organic chicken at the grocery store a few years ago I had this absolutely brilliant idea. We should raise our own meat chickens to save money! After all, doing it yourself is always cheaper, right? Right? And when your choices are sad factory farmed chickens or a big chunk of the grocery budget the logical thing is to want to find a middle ground.
We trotted down to the feed store to pick up some chicks, red broilers, to be precise. Well I trotted. I think my husband was dragging his feet a bit. I already knew the basics of chick care from raising our first laying hens. Once we got home with the cute fluffy things I started them out in a rubbermaid bin and spent a lot of time ooh and ahhing over how cute they they were.
They soon graduated in size to a large cardboard box, and then to an even larger homemade chicken tractor in the garage, which required a substantial amount of straw to not be stinky. I didn’t include upfront costs of feeders, housing, or bedding, because I already had those on hand. The chicks were $2.00 each. I spent about $5.00 per bird in feed, and this is going to be the number that varies the most for people depending on their area. It’s been a while since I’ve purchased bagged feed (I mix my own), but I bet it’s more expensive now. If you raise a heritage breed they will forage more efficiently, but they also take longer to grow out, so you don’t really save much money there.
If you process them yourself you will save money, even with the costs of supplies and tools to do the job (hatchet or sharp knife, large stock pot, gloves, plastic bags, etc.). At the time we paid someone else $3.00 a bird, but now it’s $4.00-$6.00 depending on the size of the bird. By that point I was done oohing and ahhing and ready for some fried chicken.
So by the time you get to the dinner table the absolute LEAST amount of money you could pull out of your hat for the cost of the bird and feed is $7.00, but that’s not counting either the cost of processing, or the cost of your time to do it yourself OR any start up costs for equipment or housing.
So are you going to get the cheapest chicken EVER by raising it yourself? Probably not. But the important thing to remember is the chicken in the grocery store has been raised on corn and soy crops that were subsidized by government farm assistance, and were raised for efficiency regardless of how humane their conditions were. It’s going to be tough to beat that unless you are completely self sufficient on your own land. But can you raise humane, healthy, high quality, environmentally friendlier meat for a fair price? You bet.
Thinking About Getting Chickens?
Get ready with the free email course, Intro to Backyard Chickens. The course also includes a free, printable checklist to walk you through step by step!