Homegrown Chicken Costs {Cornish Cross Style}

Cost of Homegrown Chicken

The day after Christmas, post “great flu incident of 2014,” we processed 50 Cornish Cross chickens to stock our freezer for the upcoming year. Unlike our first year raising chickens for meat (Freedom Rangers in 2013), I actually tracked our costs this time around. Say what? High fives self and eats chocolate chips as reward.

And so here I am, a mere four months later, disclosing all the details.

The chickens.

The chickens themselves, 50 “Jumbo Cornish X Rocks” chicks, cost $134.47. We ordered them from Murray McMurray, where we also get all of our laying chickens. McMurray sent a few extra chicks at no cost, and coincidentally we ended up losing a few chicks, resulting in 50 chicks as planned. Out of all the flocks of chickens we’ve had over the years, this was the first time we lost any in shipping or as babies. I am assuming this has something to do with the Cornish Cross not being a very hardy chicken, and I’m also assuming that’s why the hatchery sent a few extra.

Cornish Cross Chickens

We opted for Cornish Cross this time around just to get an idea of how they are different from Freedom Rangers, and because we were looking forward to their quicker growth time. We expected them to be to slaughter weight as much as a month before Freedom Rangers would have been ready. Spoiler alert: they weren’t.

The feed.

As I’ve mentioned before, we have a local-ish (~1.5 hours away) organic feed mill where we can purchase bulk grains for a much more affordable cost than pre-made organic feeds.

Because I didn’t want to use soy or fish meal, both high protein sources, our home-created recipe was lower in protein than recommended for Cornish X. (You can find the details of our broiler recipe here.) We supplemented with worms and meat scraps from deer season, but even still we went through more feed (over a longer period of time) than what is typically needed for Cornish X.

chicken feed

Feed conversion.

These birds were slaughtered at 11.5 weeks of age. They were actually ready around 9-10 weeks of age, but we all got the flu so they had to wait. Everything you read online says they can be to slaughter weight by 6- 8 weeks. We assume our low protein feed coupled with the exercise they got out on pasture contributed to a slower growth rate.

We used 18, 50-lb bags of feed at $19.20 per bag. That came to a total of $345.61 and 900 lbs of feed. This total also includes the mineral and kelp supplements, which the feed mill adds to each bag.

900 lbs of feed to grow 50 birds to a weight of 4-6.5 lbs per bird, dressed (aka, cleaned and looking like a grocery store chicken), works out to a feed conversion ratio of 3.3:1 to 4.5:1. (Meaning it took 3.3 to 4.5 pounds of feed to get 1 lb of weight on the finished meat bird).


According to the always informative Walden Effect, a feed conversion rate of 3.5:1 is great for pasture raised Cornish Cross, whereas industrial birds are at a reported 2:1 conversion rate.


  • $134.47 for 50 chicks
  • $40 in pine shavings for their coop bedding
  • $345.61 for 900 lbs of feed (fed over 11.5 weeks)

Total of $520.08 spent for 50 chickens, which works out to $10.40 per chicken. The chickens weigh between 4 lbs and 6.5 lbs each (dressed), with a couple falling in the 3.75 lbs range and a couple above 6.5 lbs.

Since I was not feeling 100% on the day of processing, I did not weigh each finished chicken. I am weighing them as we eat them, so I don’t have a total weight for the entire batch yet. Hence, the range of costs.

Conservatively assuming most were 4.5 lbs, that works out to $2.31/lb. It’s seeming to me that the average weight is closer to 5 lbs, making the cost $2.08/lb. Considering we would have to pay $4.59/lb for pasture raised whole chickens from a local farmer, I’m pleased!

Other costs.

Obviously you can see that there are a lot of things not included in my little quick and dirty cost analysis.

  • Our blood, sweat, and tears. Aka, our time.
  • Gas and vehicle wear and tear to make the round trip to the feed mill.
  • The wood chipper we purchased to be able to grind our own chicken feed in larger batches.
  • The electric poultry netting we used in place of chicken tractors.
  • All of the processing equipment.
  • Brooder, coop, feeder, and waterer costs.

We already owned the processing equipment, brooder, coop, and feeders and waterers. But we did indeed purchase them (or the materials to make them) at some point in Whistle Pig Hollow’s past. The electric poultry netting ($139.95 from Kencove) and wood chipper ($400 used) were new purchases for this batch of chickens, although we will use them for many future flocks.

As for our time, the electric poultry netting was so much less labor intensive for us than the chicken tractor was, so we really felt like we didn’t devote too much time to the daily care of the chickens. I’ll conservatively estimate 30 minutes a day at $10 an hour for one person, taking care of the chickens daily for 11.5 weeks. That comes to a total of $402.50.

Farmer Dickie and his brother processed them all in one day. Let’s pretend we paid them both $10/hour for 10 hours of labor, working out to $200 in processing costs. Instead we paid them in chicken.

The feed mill is a 185.6 mile round trip. Assuming $0.55/mile, that works out to $102.08 in “cost” of going to get the feed. We did buy corn for the pigs and some extra grains to start our egg layers during that same trip, so the trip wasn’t entirely for the meat chickens, but still.

Just for fun, still not counting equipment, but adding in gas and man time, and assuming a 5 lb bird, that brings our cost to $4.90/lb. Suddenly you can see how those Farmer’s Market chickens cost so much, right? And that’s only paying $10/hr and not including any equipment costs!

However, if you already have everything you need for chickens and you have a source of feed for a reasonable price, then with the addition of an electric poultry netting and a few non-technical processing items, you could be ready to go quickly and expect to raise them for less than you could buy them.

If you’ve raised chickens for meat, how much did they end up costing you?


chicken cost 5 lbs

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  1. Thanks for this post. We just have backyard layers, but I’ve been curious about the economics of small-scale meat chickens, and this is the most straightforward but thoughtful cost analysis I’ve come across.

  2. Just found your site, liking it very much! We raise our own beef and pork and I’ve been dropping chicken raising into conversation with my better half for a few months now, hope it’s sinking in! Thanks for the cost breakdown!

  3. Hey,

    Thanks for the info! We are starting a family chicken share (90 shares) and hoping our own shares/chickens come out free since we’re doing all the work. There’s so many costs that can be calculated..but then again, for instance, my homeschool kids (and myself) need chores, exercise, and experiments. And if we drive to pick up supplies, these can go into recreational activities since we’re generally driving places to engage in activity – so, this saves us time and energy and expenses toward other forms of recreation.

    When you look at it like a business, there are certain expenses that that shouldn’t be missed. My sister is getting CSA chickens for $25.00 a piece! Someone is getting a high hourly wage at that price! But it’s not a sustainable price for most people.

    But for a family who wants to grow their own chickens, for whom it is a type of hobby or activity, you would also have to add the cost savings of other things you could be doing but aren’t (ex. When we have chickens, we generally don’t travel. This probably amounts to $600-$1,000 a year. We still travel to see family when we can get someone to watch the chickens, but just not as much.) Or, if you take a drive to get good feed and the drive is nice, don’t you consider it to be a sort of adventure for your family? We do since we have so little money. We can’t go to the mountains or beach for a trip, but driving to the feed store or to a farm and talking to some new folks is just as much a pleasure, and one within our budget. So it’s all how you look at it!

    Now, when you’re paying employees or really have a big business going, you do have to calculate all those little expenses because you’ll never be able to afford regular and large expenses as part of your family’s recreational budget, and the money has to come from somewhere.

    I don’t want families to get discouraged, you don’t have to feel pressured into looking at raising chickens as a business. Afterall, who pays Mom to cook or wash the laundry or dishes? Who pays the home school parent for their invaluable service? Making it a quasi-business that helps you sustain low and no cost or even a small profit for raising your own food is a little more nuanced than a traditional business model.

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