How to raise chickens cheaply

Lots of people get chickens for eggs and then realize how much money they spent on those precious eggs! It's not uncommon to be over $1,000 dollars in before the first egg, especially if you raise your hens from chicks! I've made it my mission to find as many ways to save money on chickens as possible. 

cheap chicken keeping tips

I  have various ways to cut money off my chicken keeping expenses. I grow some of my own feed, I find cheaper alternatives to use for coop bedding, we've built our own coops and bought others off craigslist and I try to do everything pretty much myself. While I still have some chickens expenses, I've managed to cut my costs an incredible amount saving half off my feed bill alone, in just one year!

Here are my top 20 ways to save money raising backyard chickens.

How to raise chickens on a budget


You can save money on everything from coops to feed and equipment. Here are some of my favorite ways to cut costs on chicken supplies.

Shop the cheap stores

Many chicken keeping items can be bought at the dollar store, especially if you're just getting started with chicks! Even if you're getting started with adult chickens, things like baby bottle brushes to wash out poultry drinkers and a few big dog bowls to hold treats or feed are much cheaper at the dollar store than at the feed store! They also have lots of supplies to stock your chicken first aid kit cheaply!

Make a first aid salve

I'm way into herbal healthcare for us human and sometimes I use certain things I make for us, on the chickens as well. This herbal first aid salve for chickens is super easy to make and you probably have the herb needed growing wild in your backyard right now! You can also make your own saline wound wash if one of your chickens gets injured.

Skip the chicken supplements

Unless you have a reason to believe your chickens are vastly unhealthy (like they live on a diet of cracked corn and white bread) then you can skip the chicken feed supplements. They shouldn't need them and you're just wasting your money if your giving them vitamins they don't need. Grit is another thing chickens don't need. As long as they free range or have access to dirt (like in their run) they will pick up tiny pieces of stone to help digest their food. You can also dry and crush used eggshells for the chickens instead of buying oyster shell at the feed store. If you make your own kombucha, you can feed your chickens a scoby when you have an extra one on hand and it will give them a dose of probiotics.

tips to raise chickens on a budget

Cheap chicken coop bedding

Deciding which bedding to use in your chicken coop can be difficult. There are lots of options from the expensive to the super cheap. I have experimented with using shredded newspaper and it turned out much better than I expected! I have also sourced truckloads of wood shavings from the sawmill for just a few dollars. Another free option is to use dried leaves as coop bedding. After writing about it I heard from a man that saves them in giant bags and uses them year round, never buying coop litter! Now that's saving money!

Build or buy coops secondhand

Coops come from all types of places from buying to building. By far my most expensive coop is the mini barn that we had dropped off from one of those 'buy a shed' places. The cheapest were the ones we built ourselves, though we once searched craigslist and found a playhouse and converted it to a coop. That wasn't very expensive at all, especially considering the size! I'm currently building a small chicken coop from pallets and it's going to be practically free!

Skip the incubator and brooder

You can use a broody hen to hatch chicks every year and save money on the expense of an incubator and a brooder plus it's upkeep! I have silkies and they will hatch anything. There are other breeds that are very broody too and if you wait a few weeks after they go broody, you can slip chicks from the feed store under them in you don't have a rooster.

Saving money on chicken keeping, tips

Save money buying chicks

Stalk the feed stores towards the end of chick buying season. They often discount chicks when shipments are coming in faster than buyers. You could also ask them when their next shipment is coming in and stop by the store that day. They're most likely to mark the prices down when they need the space for new chicks. I've seen chicks as low as .25¢ and bought some ducklings for $1!

Join email lists

Feed stores and animal supply websites usually have email lists you can join. They will send you an email during sales or when special coupons are available. This is a great way to get chicken supplies as a reduced price.

Cheap chicken feed

Saving  money on chicken feed kind of deserves its own section since this is the one daily, year round expense that all chickens have. It's also the easiest place to save money on the cost of backyard chickens!

Grow fodder

Fodder is sprouted grains. I usually grow winter wheat though some people like rye or barley. It grows easily in small containers in the house and only takes 7 days to be ready to feed to the chickens. I have a cheap fodder system that turns pennies worth on seed into pounds worth of feed in just a week. Since it's easy to grow in the house most people grow it in winter when fresh grasses are harder to come by for foraging chickens. Of course you can always grow it any time of year for your chickens if they don't get to free range much.

Fodder to cut chicken keeping expenses

Feeding chickens leftovers

I always feed them kitchen scraps, leftovers and pretty much anything that's not getting eaten on time. Chickens can eat almost anything from your kitchen with just a few things you'll want to toss in the garbage instead. They love people food and I feel a whole lot better about kitchen waste when my flock is turning it into eggs! Many people feed chickens extra eggs when they have them. In the summer when egg production is on high volume this is a good way to use up eggs before they go bad and cut the feed bill a bit too.

Grow some of your chickens feed

I have planted a feed garden for my chickens for years now! It definitely saves a lot of money off the chickens feed bill since a few cents worth of seeds can produce hundreds of pounds of food for the chickens. If you don't have the space in your garden for extra plants just for the chickens, you can give them any produce you grow that isn't fit for human consumption. Anything damaged by bugs, local wildlife or when you just grow way too much of something. The chickens are glad to take that stuff off your hands! You can also plant sunflowers for chicken feed as they take up very little ground space.

Pull weeds for the chickens

If you garden then you definitely spend some time pulling weeds. Luckily chickens like to eat several different types of weeds and since you're pulling them anyway, you might as well dump them in the run for the chickens to pick through! This is especially helpful if you don't free range. Which brings me to my next point...

Tips to raise backyard chickens cheaply

Free range your chickens

Chickens love to run around outside. If you can give them free range time then they will spend that time eating pieces of grass and searching for bugs to eat. They won't even want their feed! Of course free ranging is not for every flock. Should you free range your flock? Well, that depends on how safe they will be. If you have predator problems then no, unless you can be outside with them...which I often am in summer.

Raise mealworms

Growing fruits and veggies for chicken feed is great but they need protein too! In the summer they can forage for that themselves, but in the winter supplementing with mealworms really helps to boost their protein levels. Raising mealworms is easy and only takes a few small bins. They don't smell and they don't crawl out, so many people are comfortable raising them in the house.

Make your own chicken treats

Don't buy expensive treats for chickens when you can make your own flock block for a fraction of the price. I'm going to guess you probably have almost all the ingredients in your pantry and feed shed anyway. In the winter I like to make suet treats with things I already have on hand like scratch and mealworms. In summer I like to make frozen treats for the chickens to help them cool down. Both recipes can be customized with whatever you have on hand.

Ferment chicken feed

If you're worried about the nutritional value of your chickens diet, instead of supplements ferment some chicken feed instead. The fermenting process makes the vitamins, minerals and proteins in the feed more bioavailable to digest. It also creates probiotics and when fermented feed is added to their diet, chickens seem to eat less feed.

Harvest rainwater for chickens

I know it doesn't seem like a big expense, but a large flock of chickens can drink a lot of water! If you're paying the water company, or even using a water system to clean well water it's an added expense. Chickens can drink rainwater and it's super easy to set up a water collection system (like buckets under downspouts) to harvest water for them.

Ask for free feed and discounts

I have fed my chickens free salad mixed sourced from a local restaurant. I have a friend that feeds her goat herd free 'expired' produce from the local grocery store. Many places will give away food for animal feed if you just ask. All you need is one local restaurant or store that provides you with free feed a few times a week and you'll cut your chickens expenses by a lot! Just make sure to cut away any moldy spots (though bruised spots are ok) before you feed the fruit or veggies to your flock. Also, don't be afraid to ask for discounts on bags of feed that have been resealed, bags of shavings that have a rip in them, straw bales that are falling apart etc. 

At this point my chickens aren't very expensive to keep at all. I've reached a point where the eggs are practically free. Though it's take really long to get here! lol How do you cut costs on chicken expenses?

~L

Want to know more about raising chickens? Check out my most read chicken keeping articles!

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