I started keeping chickens (hens) about a year ago. I wanted the fresh eggs and I love being self-sufficient. I’ve been keeping detailed records about what I’ve spent and how many eggs my 4 chickens have provided me with.
Things to consider: cost of a coop (hen house and run), cost of food (feed and ‘scratch’), cost of feeders, waterers, etc.
By and large, the coop is your most expensive purchase. If you build your own (especially if you use reclaimed & recycled materials) you can save hundreds of dollars.
A final consideration is the value of your time tending to the chickens.
From purely a financial point of view, if you just buy the store brand, and aren’t buying free-range or organic — grocery store eggs are, by far, the cheaper option.
If you compare the cost of local fresh eggs, which sell for about $4 a dozen, then keeping chickens is cheaper in the long run.
Egg quality is quite different. Farm fresh eggs are richer and have less cholesterol. They also won’t be full of antibiotics and hormones. “You are what you eat” goes for chickens and their eggs. There are organic options for feed, it costs nearly 3x as much. Of course if you live in an area where you can raise free range you don’t have to worry as much about it.
Chickens are also fun pets! I honestly wouldn’t have believed it had I not experienced it. They are friendly and will follow you around for food and attention. They don’t snuggle like a dog or cat, but you can hold and pet them.
With just a small flock of chickens they aren’t smelly. Especially when you compare them to dogs or cats.
Chickens also provide you with fertilizer for your garden and are voracious bug eaters. One of my friends put her chicken tractor right over a vegetable bed that had a lot of grubs and the chickens cleaned it out for her.
Chickens do require daily care, but its not very involved. You should also be prepared to clean the coop out weekly, as well as keeping the water dishes and food dishes clean (and full!).
So, when not measuring just the financials, I think keeping chickens is worth it (and fun!). Heck, I just got 2 more yesterday, bringing my flock up to the maximum size of 6 for my area. (be sure to find out if your city allows chickens before getting them! lots of cities don’t…)
Strictly by math, it will take a few years before I even break even in terms of investment vs the price of eggs. And I’m okay with that.