My son might have the power to see the future. Last year, he kept begging me to let him raise some chicks so he could sell their eggs. Had I immediately helped him along in this venture, he would now be making customers very happy and healthy.

Alas, I could not foresee that 2023 would be a year of empty shelves in the egg coolers at grocery stores.

The low stock and high prices that I saw at the grocery store last week.

So I was in no rush. I tried to be a responsible father by first making my son care for the hens we already had. If he did that on his own for a couple weeks, then I would let him buy chicks.

Miles did the couple weeks’ of chicken chores so we bought 18 chicks that arrived at the post office on October 14, 2022. Here in February, these birds are now a few weeks away from laying their first eggs.

Lately, we have been going through some numbers: How much does it cost to feed them? How much did we spend building their coop? How much should he charge for their eggs?

I thought I’d parlay that discussion into a post that might help you get a sense of what the costs and benefits would be of keeping chickens in your yard. Just remember that these are rough numbers that pertain to our conditions. I’m just laying them down in order to gain an overall impression of the economics.


The 18 chicks cost $72 from Murray McMurray Hatchery. That’s $4 per chick.

Days after they arrived. There’s nothing softer or cuter.

For their early days, we bought a tub to use as a brooder, and a lamp and pine shavings and grit. We already had a waterer and feeder. All together, those cost about $110.

I built a simple shelter that cost about $200 in materials. (To build the same shelter cost me only $100 in materials back in 2016!)

We’ll get a lot of future use out of the equipment and shelter so I’m going to knock 50% off of the $310 total for those. Let’s call it $150. Split among the 18 chicks makes it about $8 per bird.

The cost of feeding the chicks ramps up as they get older and eat more. We feed them kitchen scraps and garden scraps, and I also let them roam to forage on weeds and worms and bugs here and there. We supplement with purchased feed.

I estimate that the cost of feeding from day one to laying age (about six months old) is $15, per bird. Now that they are full size, they are going through purchased feed at the rate of about $0.77 per bird per week. That is a feed cost of about $40 per mature bird per year.


Once the hens start laying, you reap the rewards of eggs. Most egg-laying breeds produce four or five eggs per week for their first two years of laying, or about 200-250 eggs per year, including time off while they’re molting and during the less productive season of winter.

How much are eggs worth? Yesterday, I found a carton of organic pastured eggs at our local grocery store selling for $0.64 per egg ($11.50 for 18).

I mentioned this to Miles and he replied, “Our chickens are healthier so their eggs are healthier. I’m thinking of charging ten cents more.”

homegrown egg compared to store egg
Store-bought egg on left, homegrown on right. The deeper color of yolk is due to our chicken’s richer diet.

Costs and benefits weighed

But let’s say he just charges $0.64 per egg. What then is the rough balance between what our chickens cost compared to their egg value?

Over the course of 2.5 years, the cost of the chicken is $95 and the earnings from eggs is $256. That is $161 in the black.

Costs: At $8 per bird for brooder equipment and shelter plus $15 for feed up until laying age (about six months old), we have $23. From there it is $40 in feed per year. So for the first 2.5 years of a single chicken’s life, the cost is $95.

Egg earnings: If a hen makes 200 eggs per year, and each egg is valued at $0.64, then it earns $128 per year or $256 over two years.

backyard chicken eggs
Valuable backyard chicken eggs.

Not everything is included in this equation. But will approximately $161 in profit from the eggs of one hen per year be worth a seven-year old’s time? I’m guessing it will. I’ll keep you posted.

Would chickens be worth your time? How about if, in addition to the eggs, the chickens provided other valuable services in your yard, such as making compost and performing pest control?

A couple other chicken posts:

“My mobile chicken pen”

“Should you get chickens?”

All of my Yard Posts are listed HERE

I make these Yard Posts for you, and I appreciate your support.

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