Friday, January 21, 2011

The Costs of Chicken Ownership

As you can see from the list below, which was put together by CLUCK, the cost of chicken ownership is highly variable.   Many costs can be reduced significantly if you are handy with recycled and reclaimed materials.  Or you can choose the upmarket route and buy everything new.  It's up to you.

One time Costs:

Chicken Coop ($0 to $700)
:  A chicken coop could be built from salvaged items from your home, recycling centers or donations. You can buy pre-made coops or plans and then make your own. An existing shed can be converted into a spacious coop.


Chicken Feeder ($0 to $6)
:  This could be a repurposed dog dish or a galvanized poultry feeder tray from a feed store.


Waterer ($0 to $100)
:  This could be an upside down bucket style fount or an upside down umbrella style hanging watering bowl. In the winter, it is necessary to keep the water from freezing so you need a heated fount, a heater to place the fount on, or a heater to place in the water. A heated dog water dish is available at pet store. 


Hi-Low Temperature Gauge (optional $35)
:  Proper temperature is necessary for the chicken coop to ensure healthy growth and well-being. Some chicken keepers feel more comfortable when they can see a temperature reading and a high-low thermometer can tell you how cold it gets in the middle of a cold night or a hot day. Feathers are naturally insulating so combined with a well insulated coop, you may only need to add a heat source during extreme cold or simple ventilation on a hot day.

Heating Sources ($0-$75)
An infrared bulb, caged socket, extension cord and outdoor timer should be sufficient for heating a coop in very cold weather. An electricity providing solar panel hooked up to a bulb would offset electricity charges. A homemade convection air solar heating system could be created to heat the coop with an electric backup. A very small wind turbine could be used to supply heat to a coop.


Light Source ($0-$55):  
Layers need approximately 15 hours of light a day in order to keep laying and an artificial light source may be needed in the darker winter months depending on your chickens. If the weather is mild, solar garden lamps could be used around the coop. If weather is cold and the chickens need to be put in the coop when the sun goes down, then a light bulb with a timer could be used on the closed in portion of the coop. 



Chicken Tractor ($0 to $200)
:  It is optional to use a temporary shelter like a play pen for your chickens to roam the yard and condition the grass. Some owners ensure that their yard is fenced and let their chickens roam freely whereas others prefer to enclose their chickens in a portable enclosure so that they can leave the chickens unsupervised yet protected from land and air predators. Tractors can be built for yourself or ordered or you can put up chicken wire around any gaps in your fencing.


Continual Costs:

Chickens ($0 to $15 each)
:  Costs vary with chickens being more expensive depending on how old they are and if they have been sexed. Different breeds cost different amounts. Shipping costs vary depending on how far away you are from your chosen hatchery. Costs are ongoing if you replenish you older layers with new pullets.


Feed ($0 to $1/week/chicken):   
A no-cost method to feeding chickens would include kitchen leavings, insects, weeds, and home grown grains made into homemade feed. Ask at your local restaurant, cafeteria or grocery store for scraps or ask for lunch leftovers at your place of work.
Feed from a farming supply store would cost approximately $1/week per chicken. Different kinds of feed are available for starter chicks, growing pullets and laying hens. Chickens vary the amount they eat according to age and the outside temperature.


Grit ($0 to $10/lifetime):  
Chickens need grit to grind their food because they have no teeth. Grit can come from a dirt floor, lawn access when in a chicken tractor, a chunk of sod placed in the coop or purchased grit which is small pieces of sharp gravel the size of cracked peppercorns.


Bedding ($0 to $3/week)
:  Organic material used to absorb urine, feces and spilled water will help keep the chicken’s feet dry. Bedding can be wood shavings, shredded newspaper, dried corn husks, hemp, straw or hay, dried leaves or a combination of them. Bedding needs to be cleaned out regularly or fresh bedding placed on old for a deep pile of bedding. Hay is preferred by chickens because it is the leavings of grain fields and has some remaining grains to eat. Make sure your bedding does not get wet and moldy.

Water (varies)
:  Tap water can be given to chickens although clean rain water could be collected off the roof of your coop.


Cleaning Supplies
:  A good hosing off of the coop once a year with a spray of a vinegar or environmentally friendly cleaning solution is required.

Egg Cartons ($0-$10)
Save a few of your foam or plastic egg cartons for you and wash after emptied each time; ask your family and friends to save them for you in case yours become damaged. Camping supply stores sell durable hard plastic egg holders.


Veterinary Care:  
Costs could include vaccinations, medication for injuries or being put down ($55). Costs could also include postmortem testing to detect Avian Flu if required in the future by government agencies. 


License
:  Just like with dog ownership, a license may be required in the future for legal ownership.


Identification
:  Some people use leg bands which are about $0.12 each although they can cause the chicken to get caught and injured. The SPCA recommends that chickens get a microchip installed to ensure a lost chicken is returned to the owner (~$60). Some owners take detailed photographs of their chickens to ensure they can identify them and contact the CLUCK club or the SPCA to try to locate their chicken. Some owners consider the cost of replacing the chicken vs. identifying one and consider a lost chicken as gone forever. 


Vacation ($0 to $30/day)
Asking a neighbor to look after your chickens (in exchange for the eggs they produce) or getting a house sitter to care for your chickens while you are on holidays would be necessary as the chickens need daily care. 


Slaughter ($3/each)
Once your layer is past production, you may want to slaughter it and eat the meat. Humane killing of the chicken and safe processing of the meat is a task that can be done well by an abattoir.

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