Chickens do not cost much to keep, but you will still need to shell out, pun intended, to get started. (This is because you will either need to buy or make poultry specific housing, and other equipment.)
To help you get cracking, we have written a list of everything that your chickens will need. This includes:
- A Chicken Coop – this should be spacious and secure from predators. It should also contain enough perch space for your hens as well as nest boxes.
- A Chicken Run – this should be predator proof. It can either be attached or a separate ‘walk-in’. Each chicken should have 1m2 of floorspace each as a minimum, although double this amount is preferable. Either part or all of your run should be permanently roofed, to provide shade and shelter for your hens.
- A Feeder – this should be large enough to hold at least one day’s feed ration, although preferably two. Most Large Fowl will eat 100-150g of feed a day.
- A Drinker – this should be large enough to hold at least a day’s water supply, although preferably more. Most Large Fowl drink at least 500ml of water per day.
- A Grit cup – Grit should be fed separately to feed, and it will need a separate container.
- A Coop and Equipment Cleaner – You will need to be able to clean and disinfect your equipment and housing. If you own a wooden coop, you will also need to buy Mite Treatments for your housing.
- Some Bedding – there are lots of bedding options available. We like to use large, dust free shavings.
- Some Feed – choose a quality feed appropriate to the age of your hens. For Point of Lay, or POL, hens buy Layer Pellets.
- Some Mixed grit – this is essential for both digestion and egg shell formation.
- Some Diatomaceous Earth – this will help you to control external parasites on your hens and in your housing. Puffer bottles work well for use on both.
- A Violet anti-septic spray – Chickens are very attracted to the colour red, and therefore blood. Keep a bottle of this spray handy to clean injuries and to prevent other hens from pecking at wounds.
Your ‘start-up’ costs can vary greatly, depending on the choices you make about equipment and housing. (For example, you might save some money by converting an old shed into a coop instead of buying chicken housing.)
A Note on Running Costs
Your ‘running costs’ can also vary greatly, depending on the choices you make about equipment and housing. A good example of this pertains to which type of coop you buy: wooden or plastic. A wooden coop will cost much less to buy than a plastic one. However, a plastic coop will cost much more to maintain. This is because you will need to buy extra supplies such as mite treatments. (A wooden coop will also need to be repaired at times and eventually replaced.)
In our experience, there are some other costs which many first time chicken keepers overlook. The first is veterinary expenses. Like all animals, chickens can sometimes get poorly. At such a time, you will likely need to seek the advice of a vet. This can be very costly.
However, it is likely to cost you even more if you don’t find the right vet from the start. Chickens are livestock and your local small animal practice might not be suitably equipped to diagnose and treat poultry. To avoid this, we advise that you find your local Certified Poultry Vet, before any problems can occur. (A Certified Poultry Vet will have received specialist training in the diagnosis and treatment of chickens.)
If you plan on owning a large flock, of fifty or more birds, you might want to consider enlisting the services of a local Farm Vet. Practices which specialise in diagnosing and treating livestock will have the greatest knowledge about poultry and the lowest prices. Try talking to your local Farm Vet to see whether they would consider adding you to their books.