Cost Of Raising Chickens: Meat Vs. Egg Chickens

Raising chickens is more than just a hobby for many; it’s a way of producing food on the homestead and increasing our level of self-sufficiency. Whether you’re interested in raising chickens for succulent meat or fresh eggs, understanding the costs involved for both options are essential. What are the costs involved in raising each type?

Housing costs for meat chickens is a one-off cost of between $100 to $600. Raising the birds will cost about $10.50 per bird to slaughter weight. Add processing fees if outsourcing this part. Egg chickens housing costs are $200 to $1000, and raising costs of $0.6 – $1.05  per bird per week.

There are many factors to consider when opting to raise chickens on the homestead that contribute to the cost-effectiveness of the operation. From the breeds best suited for each purpose to the cost of feeding, housing, and providing proper care for the chickens. We break down these costs so you can establish which option best suits your budget and your needs on your homestead.

Which Chickens Are More Costly To Raise: Meat Or Egg Chickens?

When choosing chickens to raise on the homestead, the cost of raising the chickens must factor into your planning to get the best value from the birds compared to the money spent to raise them.

However, most homesteaders raise both meat and egg chickens because of the high cost-to-benefit ratio of the protein supplied by both options for homesteaders and their families. The cost of protein from either eggs or chicken meat is considerably more cost-effective than those from most other livestock animals.

Types of Chickens Raised For Meat And Eggs

Raising chickens is a multifaceted endeavor, and the first step in this journey is understanding the different types of chickens commonly raised for meat and eggs. Here, we’ll explore the characteristics, breeds, and specific needs of meat and egg chickens.

To maximize the production of eggs or meat, selecting the right chicken breed to raise is crucial to minimizing costs.

Choosing Meat Chickens To Raise

Meat chickens, also known as broilers, are bred specifically for their meat production. They are known for their rapid growth and substantial muscle development, making them an ideal choice for homesteaders looking to raise chickens for meat.

Popular chicken breeds for meat include the following.

  • Cornish Cross. This is a fast-growing breed known for its large breast meat. It reaches butcher weight in just 7-8 weeks.
  • Freedom Ranger. A slower-growing breed that takes 11-12 weeks to reach weight, known for its rich flavor and excellent foraging abilities.
Comparison Table: Cornish Cross Vs. Freedom Rangers
BreedGrowth TimeAverage WeightFlavorForaging Ability
Cornish Cross7-8 weeks6-7 lbsMildLow
Freedom Rangers11-12 weeks5-6 lbsRich & RobustHigh

Meat chickens require a specific diet rich in protein, especially during their early weeks. The feed’s protein content typically starts at 22% and then reduces to around 18% as they grow. The choice between Cornish Cross and Freedom Rangers often depends on individual preferences for growth time, flavor, and ethical considerations.

Choosing Egg-Laying Chickens To Raise

Egg chickens, or layers, are raised primarily for their egg production. Unlike meat chickens, layers are bred for their ability to lay eggs consistently over a more extended period.

Popular chicken breeds for egg-laying include the following.

  • White Leghorn. Known for its high egg production, laying up to 280 eggs per year.
  • Rhode Island Red. A versatile breed that lays around 200-300 brown eggs annually.
  • Plymouth Rock. A dual-purpose breed suitable for both meat and eggs, laying about 200 eggs per year.
Egg Production Table
BreedEgg ColorEggs Per YearOther Characteristics
White LeghornWhite280Active and Hardy
Rhode Island RedBrown250Friendly and Robust
Plymouth RockBrown200Dual-Purpose

Egg chickens require a balanced diet with a focus on nutrients that support consistent egg production. Housing and nesting considerations are also vital, as layers need a comfortable environment to lay eggs regularly.

Understanding the types of chickens and their specific needs is the foundation of successful chicken raising. Whether you choose meat chickens like Cornish Cross or Freedom Rangers or egg-laying breeds like White Leghorn and Rhode Island Red, aligning your choice with your goals and preferences is key.

The tables and lists provided offer a quick reference to help you make an informed decision as you embark on selecting the right chickens for your homesteading needs.

Cost Analysis of Raising Meat Vs. Egg Chickens

Understanding the cost of raising chickens is crucial for anyone considering this endeavor. Whether you’re raising chickens for meat or eggs, the expenses can vary significantly based on factors such as breed, feed quality, housing, and more. In this section, we’ll discuss the costs of raising meat and egg chickens.

Cost of Raising Meat Chickens

Raising meat chickens involves several key expenses, including the cost of chicks, feed, processing, and shelter. Here’s a detailed analysis:

  • Chicks. Depending on the breed (e.g., Cornish Cross or Freedom Rangers), the cost of each chick can range from $1.50 to $3.00.
  • Feed. Meat chickens consume between 16-20 lbs of feed from chick to butcher weight. The cost can vary greatly based on quality, with organic feed being more expensive.
  • Processing. If processing at home, costs include equipment rental or purchase, bags, propane, and possibly labor. Alternatively, local processing facilities may charge per bird.
  • Shelter. Building a chicken tractor or coop can range from $100 to $600, depending on materials and size.
Cost Breakdown for Raising Meat Chickens
ExpenseCost RangeNotes
Chicks$1.50 – $3.00Per chick
Feed$0.50 – $1.00
$9 to $18
Per pound. Each chicken consumes 18 pounds (average) of feed to reach butchering weight. Total
Processing$50 – $200Depending on equipment and labor
Shelter$100 – $600Depending on materials and size

Cost of Raising Chickens for Eggs

Raising chickens for eggs involves different considerations, including the cost of chicks, feed, housing, and ongoing care.

  • Chicks. Egg-laying breeds like White Leghorn or Rhode Island Red typically cost between $3.00 to $5.00 per chick.
  • Feed. Layers consume a balanced diet that supports egg production, costing around $0.40 to $0.70 per pound.
  • Housing and Accessories. Coops, nesting boxes, and other accessories can range from $200 to $1000, depending on size and quality.
  • Ongoing Care. Regular expenses include bedding, healthcare, and other maintenance, which can add up to $100 to $300 per year.
Cost Breakdown for Egg Chickens
ExpenseCost RangeNotes
Chicks$3.00 – $5.00Per chick
Feed$0.40 – $0.70Total per bird per week
$0.6 – $1.05
Per pound. An adult bird eats about 1.5 pounds of feed per week.
Housing & Accessories$200 – $1000Depending on size and quality
Ongoing Care$100 – $300Per year

The cost analysis for raising chickens for meat or eggs provides a clear picture of the financial investment required. By understanding these costs, prospective chicken raisers can make informed decisions aligning with their budget and goals. The tables offer a concise reference, summarizing the key expenses involved in raising both meat and egg chickens.

Raising chickens on a homestead is an appealing option for many who seek a more self-sufficient and sustainable lifestyle. Whether it’s for meat or eggs, raising chickens on a homestead offers unique benefits and challenges.

Benefits of Raising Chickens on a Homestead

Raising chickens on a small scale offers several advantages to the homesteader and their family.

  • Self-Sufficiency. Producing your own meat and eggs reduces dependence on external sources.
  • Quality Control. Control over feed quality, living conditions, and processing ensures a higher quality product.
  • Sustainability. Small-scale raising often aligns with sustainable and ethical practices.
  • Community Engagement. Locally sharing or selling products fosters community connections.

Considerations for Small-Scale Chicken Raising

If you are a backyard or suburban homesteader, you may want to enjoy the benefits of raising your own meat or egg-laying chickens, but there are challenges that need to be considered.

While the benefits are appealing, there are specific considerations to keep in mind, as follows.

  • Space Requirements. Adequate space for free-ranging or a well-designed coop is essential.
  • Feed Choices. Options include commercial feeds, organic feeds, or supplementing with garden scraps.
  • Local Regulations. Understanding local zoning laws and regulations regarding raising chickens.
  • Time and Labor. Regular care, feeding, cleaning, and monitoring health requires time and effort.

Practical Tips for Raising Meat or Egg Chickens On The Homestead

If you are a beginner chicken keeper, it is always a good option to learn from other experienced chicken keepers to avoid mistakes and get the most from your investment.

We have compiled some practical tips for those considering raising chickens on any homestead, whether a large-scale rural or smaller urban homestead.

  • Start small. Begin with a few chickens to learn and gradually expand.
  • Choose the right chicken breed. Select breeds that align with your goals (meat, eggs, or both).
  • Invest in quality feed. Quality feed ensures healthy growth and production.
  • Build a secure coop. Protect chickens from predators with a secure coop or enclosure.
  • Engage with your local community. Connect with local farmers or groups for support and resources.

Raising chickens on a homestead scale is a rewarding endeavor that aligns with self-sufficiency, quality control, and sustainability values. However, it requires careful planning, an understanding of local regulations, and a commitment to regular care and maintenance.

The considerations and practical tips provided in this section offer a roadmap for those looking to start their chicken-keeping journey, whether for meat, eggs, or both.

Sustainable and Ethical Chicken-Keeping Practices

Sustainability and ethics are paramount when deciding to raise chickens on the homestead, whether for meat or eggs. These practices align with responsible stewardship of the environment and contribute to the product’s overall quality and integrity.

We will explore the importance of employing sustainable and ethical practices in raising chickens and provide guidance on how to implement these principles.

Importance of Sustainable Chicken-Raising Practices

Sustainable practices in raising chickens focus on minimizing negative environmental impacts and promoting a healthy ecosystem. Key aspects include the following.

  • Waste Management. Proper handling of chicken waste to prevent contamination and utilize it as compost.
  • Water Conservation. Efficient water usage in feeding and cleaning.
  • Feed Choices. Opting for organic or locally-sourced feed to reduce environmental impact.
  • Free-Range Practices. Allowing chickens to forage naturally, promoting a balanced ecosystem.

Ethical Considerations in Raising Chickens

Ethical practices in raising chickens go beyond environmental concerns and focus on the welfare of the chickens themselves. Considerations include the following.

  • Humane Treatment. Providing adequate space, proper nutrition, and humane handling.
  • Healthcare. Regular health checks, proper vaccinations, and prompt treatment of illnesses.
  • Ethical Processing. If raising for meat, ensuring humane processing methods.
  • Transparency. If selling products, be transparent about the practices and methods used.

Implementing Sustainable and Ethical Practices

Implementing sustainable and ethical practices requires careful planning and commitment. Here are some actionable steps:

  • Choose the Right Breed. Select breeds that are suitable for your climate and space.
  • Invest in Quality Housing. Ensure adequate space, ventilation, and protection from predators.
  • Implement a Balanced Diet. Provide a diet that meets nutritional needs without over-reliance on commercial feeds.
  • Engage with Local Community. Collaborate with local farmers and organizations to share resources and knowledge.
  • Consider Certification. If you want to progress to selling chicken products, consider certifications like organic or humane-raised to demonstrate your commitment to these practices.

Sustainable and ethical practices in raising chickens are not merely buzzwords but essential principles that reflect responsible farming and contribute to product quality. By understanding and implementing these practices, chicken raisers can align their efforts with broader goals of environmental stewardship, animal welfare, and community engagement.

The insights and actionable steps we have provided offer a pathway to raising chickens in a manner that honors these vital principles.

Practical Guides and Tips

Raising chickens for meat or eggs requires careful planning, knowledge, and ongoing attention. While previously, we have provided a comprehensive overview of the types, costs, scale, and ethical considerations, in this section, we offer practical guides and tips for consideration when starting out raising chickens.

These hands-on insights will help both beginners and experienced chicken raisers navigate the day-to-day challenges and joys of this rewarding endeavor.

Building Chicken Shelters

A shelter is a fundamental need for chickens, providing protection from predators and weather and creating a comfortable environment. The type of shelter you choose, whether a stationary coop or a mobile chicken tractor, will depend on your specific needs and goals.

There are several different shelter options to explore, and the following options can provide guidance on building or choosing the right one for your flock.

  • Chicken Coops. Considerations for size, ventilation, insulation, and nesting boxes.
  • Chicken Tractors. Benefits of mobility, access to fresh grass, and predator protection.
  • Predator Protection. Securing the shelter against common predators.
  • Maintenance. Regular cleaning and periodic maintenance are required to ensure a healthy coop environment.

Processing Chickens On The Homestead

If you are raising chickens for meat, processing is a critical stage that requires careful planning and execution. Whether you process chickens at home or utilize a local processing facility, understanding the steps, equipment, and ethical considerations is essential.

We will guide you through the options and provide practical tips for humane and efficient processing.

  • Home Processing. Equipment is required to process the chickens quickly, efficiently, and with as little stress to the birds as possible.
  • Local Processing Facilities. Finding reputable facilities near you, what the costs are, and the scheduling timeframes at the processing facility.
  • Ethical Considerations. Ensuring humane treatment of the chickens during the processing stage.
  • Regulatory Compliance. Understanding and complying with local regulations if you intend to sell chicken meat.


Raising chickens for succulent meat or fresh eggs is a homesteading activity filled with opportunities, challenges, and immense rewards. As a homesteader, you must understand all the aspects of raising chickens, from the different types of chickens and their specific needs to the cost analysis, sustainable practices, and practical implementation.

Raising chickens on the homestead for meat, eggs, or both can be a cost-effective way of producing high-quality protein for you and your family. If you have the space and manage the process correctly, you can also turn the activity into an income-generating aspect of your homestead.



Alice is a writer who grew up on a beautiful homestead in rural Old England. She now lives in New England with her fur babies and is on a mission to return to the land for a simpler, greener, and all-round kinder existence.

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