This year is an exception. This is our third year of raising our own meat chickens and I was DILIGENT to keep track of EVERYTHING so that you can benefit from knowing the exact cost breakdown of raising your own meat chickens too. Whether you are living off the grid or just beginning into the realm of homesteading this is invaluable information to have.
Lets start with some quick starting points first.
We are a family of 7 people who really like to eat chicken. We eat chicken at least twice a week so when we have run the numbers we have figured that to produce enough chicken for our family to enjoy and to make the amount of work involved worthwhile, we buy 25 meat chickens at a time.
Less than that and it is too time consuming, more than that and we are taxing our freezer space as well as our resources. 25 meat chickens for a family eating chicken 2 times a week equals roughly 12 weeks of chicken dinners or 3 months worth. That means we should actually be raising chickens 4 times a year but we typically do it 2-3 times over the summer months as it is easier that way.
We order our chicks from a Hatchery called Mt. Healthy out of Cincinnati, Ohio. They ship nationwide and have been great to work with. Our chicks cost us $1.68 a piece this year so the package of peeps set me back $42.00.
Without a brooder in place (we have one since we do this regularly) you need a place for your chickens. We did have to purchase new heat lamps this year and at our local feed store those ran us $5.50 a piece.
Suggestions for brooders:
A large metal or rubber feed or wash tub
A makeshift pallet construction
A chicken tractor with access to electricity for heat
It need not be fancy and don't be intimidated by the heat instructions for your birds. I use the redneck way of measuring temperature satisfaction in chicks...no thermometer required. IF THE CHICKS ARE ALL HUDDLED UNDER THE LAMP THEY ARE TOO COLD, IF THE CHICKS ARE AT THE FAR CORNERS OF THE BROODER AND AWAY FROM THE HEAT SOURCE THEY ARE TOO HOT. Very scientific right?
NOTE: As soon as the outdoor temps are warm consistently during the day and not dipping below 70 at night we try to transition 4-5 week old chicks outside to the chicken tractor. This helps with the copious amounts of poo as well as providing fresh air, fresh forage and insects for the chickens to eat.
The only thing left now is feed. I purchase our feed from a local feed store for $12.99 per 50lb bag. I spend a little more because I order all natural medication free feed. (why it costs more to get your chicken feed without medication I will never understand!)
350# of feed set me back a total of $77.94 for 6 bags (50# per bag)
We butcher our own chickens so I also added the cost of vacuum pack bags for our food saver. ($20.00)
If you are keeping track here is the cost thus far...
The cheapest I have EVER seen chicken that is free range (raised on forage and insects as well as feed such as in a moveable chicken tractor) and antibiotic free is $5.99 lb. I'd say for all of the effort we did VERY well!
Don't get me wrong, it is A LOT of work but to know what my family is eating and to have a freezer stocked with delicious meat is worth it!
How to order chicks
How to care for new chicks
Want to learn to butcher your own chicken?
Read my post here complete with a video!