Went out to feed the chickens today and they were completely out of food again! Mary only half filled their feeder yesterday morning. Looks like I'm going to have to go to filling it every day. There are 33 growing birds right now, so I guess I shouldn't be surprised. But still, I mean, wow. They are going through about 7 lbs of food a day, on top of what they are foraging. I may have to move into grinding my own feed sooner than I thought.
I'm going to take a minute here and look at the costs of chicken raising, now that I know what little piggies they are. At $12-$14 for a 50 lb bag, that seems like a lot of money to put into chicken. I've got 3-5 weeks before they are big enough to butcher. Doing the math, that's $2-3 in feed per chicken, so I guess it's not terrible. I got them for about $2 each, so I'm looking at about $5 for a broiler/fryer that will weigh out butchered at about 4-5 lbs. A dollar a pound for free range, antibiotic-free meat is a bargain.
I didn't include here the cost of the range shelter, equipment, or the fencing. We actually built the range shelter from scrap wood we had and left over shingles and tar paper from fixing our roof. So, the only cost there was $5 in paint. The fence right around their enclosure was also built at no cost because we used left over fence posts and poultry netting from when we had ducks, and left over tent stakes from some old tents to stake the fence down. We did buy the electric poultry netting, that cost $140. The solar energizer, wire, ground rod, and incidentals cost about $200. For feeders, waterers and brooders we spent about $60. So, the total cost there was about $400. We had a real problem with our ducks roaming the neighborhood and we have very brave skunks, so I didn't want to take any chances. We are going to keep chickens for eggs though. The useful life of the equipment and fencing we bought should be about 10 years, so that amortises out to $40 per year. Once we start laying, I'll calculate that cost into the eggs, as well as the cost of the chicken coop when we get it built.
You could do it much more cheaply. My sister in law kept her chickens in her fenced in back yard and bought a prefab coop for about $200 I believe. If you were only keeping meat birds and had a fenced yard, you could get by with just the feeders, waterers, brooder, and a place for them to get in out of the sun and rain (a tarp or an old dog house would even work.) A word the wise here--if you raise Cornish X of some type (we don't) they will need a roost and they will generate a huge pile of droppings where ever it is. Cornish X are hybridized meat birds that can get to 6 lb butchering weight in as little as 6 weeks, but all they do is convert feed to meat. That means they sit around and poop. A lot.