Is raising chickens worth it?

chick
Abstract:

If you don’t include time costs, raising chickens might be barely profitable, depending on a whole host of factors.  Include time costs on the other hand, and it is waaay better to to just get your eggs at the store… better to the tune of about $1,000 per year.

Intro:

My friend asked me to post the ROI for raising egg chickens in the backyard, so here’s what I found out.  An informal google search shows that most people have a hard time-saving money by raising their own chickens, and this is even before time costs are included.  There are some people that claim to save money by raising their own egg chickens, but they seem to be the exception to the rule.

The numbers:

There are so many different little costs that go into raising chickens.  To get a sense of what those costs include, check out The Poultry Guide’s ROI Calculator.  Knowing that raising chickens on a small-scale was almost sure to be a losing proposition, especially when including time costs, I wasn’t too concerned with every little nitty-gritty detail.

Most of my numbers come from a Bargain Babe blog post.  I like her numbers because they come from people who have actually been doing this for a while and because they stay pretty high-level as well.  Their expenses look something like this:

  • Start-up costs: $500
  • Yearly food / maintenance: $180
  • New chicks every 3 years: $20 for 4 chicks

chickens

Compared to some of the other numbers I saw around the interweb, their expenses are pretty conservative.  They keep 4 laying birds around at a time, which produce almost 80 eggs per month.

Plugging their costs into my ROI model, I get the following:

  • 10-Year NPV: $9,756
  • 10-Year ROI: 417%
  • 10-Year Payback: 0.1 years
roi - chickens vs eggs

click for link to live spreadsheet

chart - chickens

Wow… $10,000 over 10 years or almost an average of $1,000 per year!  Not bad for a lot less bird shit in the back yard 😉

So regular readers know that I’ve included some time costs.  Specifically, I’m assuming $10 per hour and an average of 15 minutes of work per day with chickens in the back yard.  I’m also assuming about 10 hours of start-up work as well.  I’m not factoring in any additional gas expense nor time for grocery trips to buy eggs in the alternative scenario because I assume you’ll be going to the grocery store either way and paying about $3.00 per dozen free-range eggs.

Excluding time costs, looking only at the hard value with growth line, you can see that raising chickens is barely profitable with about $17 of profit each year.

Non-financial considerations:

Chickens can supposedly be fun to have around in their own right, although I’ve heard that roosters can be downright nasty.  Some people truly enjoy having a brood of hens around (chicken-heads).  On top of that, home raised eggs can actually be a lot better to eat as well.

Homegrown eggs taste better, have more vitamins, better fats, and lower contamination risk.  They also sort of get you out of the whole factory farming complicity thing.  Not to mention that having egg protein around all the time probably reduces other meat consumption leading to a lower carbon footprint.

Conclusion:

Egg-laying chickens are a bad investment on purely financial terms, particularly when counting time costs.  You’re better off getting your eggs at the store if you aren’t bothered by the ethical considerations of factory farming (apparently even for “free range”?)… it’s just hard to beat these kinds of economies of scale:

Free-range-hens

“Free-range-hens” by Xcx – Own work. Licensed under Public domain via Wikimedia Commons – http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Free-range-hens.jpg#mediaviewer/File:Free-range-hens.jpg

I lost my wedding band, and I don't care.
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Comments

  1. I absolutely agree. On a small scale, raising chickens for eggs is certainly not profitable. The food costs are the primary problem. However, most people’s time is not worth $10/hr. Doesn’t that assume that you would otherwise be doing something that paid you $10/hr. I know that I have plenty of time I’m not working and not generating income.

    I chose to raise backyard ducks instead. I get a lot of eggs, but not as many as I would from laying breed chickens. However, I get more than I need. With ducks, I can keep a male, raise my own ducklings, and raise them for meat. Let’s say a whole duck costs about $20 at $4/lb. I typically raise about 12 ducks for meat yearly, so that’s about $240 of duck per year, plus eggs. Of course, my food costs are much higher than if I fed only 4 chickens. Over the year, I probably come out ahead, but not by that much.
    Also, ducks suffer much less from infections and are generally healthier. Much easier to keep alive (except from racoons).
    Scott

    • The time cost thing is sort of subjective. I’ve got a recent post about where I get my time cost estimates here: http://www.flannelguyroi.com/how-much-is-your-free-time-worth/ . Like you said, even without time costs, it doesn’t seem especially worthwhile from a profitability perspective.

      On another note, that is really cool about ducks! I’ve never heard of anyone doing that, but seems like a more intuitive system, particularly because you can use them for meat too (plus the breeding and health factors). Thanks for sharing. Cheers-

  2. Sean Altman says:

    Dude you are so lost haha. $5 for a chick? Are you high city slicker?! Good quality pullets are 79¢ to $2.79 and straight runs are $2.49 more or less. I feed my flock of 100+ with $9.33 a month I shit you not. I make a profit of $9,722 yearly off 100 hens and save $1,800+ with hens that we cull instead of buying chicken meat and I save hundreds in manure because I use their manure to fertilize my crops and throw into my compost. Don’t write about things you have no experience with and scare newbies away .

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