Upclose of laying hens

Backyard Chickens

Getting started doesn’t have to cost a wing and a leg

One morning I woke up thinking that I would like to have chickens, laying hens, specifically. I just couldn’t get the idea out of my head, so I went ahead and did it. Now it seems like everyone wants to raise their own backyard chickens and, since I’ve been down that road, I’ll share some tips that might be helpful. This is not a how-to guide, but some insight for those thinking about taking the leap.

Step 1: Research. Prior to getting chickens I needed to make sure I understood what I was getting myself into. I spent months reading absolutely everything I could about raising chickens and I joined chicken groups on various social media sites. I researched the bylaws in my area to make sure I was allowed to have a small coop with hens on my property.

I took a lot of time to determine how many birds I wanted, as this dictates factors including the size of their house (the coop), their outside space (the run), and the amount of bedding and feed that will be needed. After considerable thought, I decided to get four laying hens and to build a 4×4 square foot coop.

Chicken coop construction underway

Photon Credit: Grace Kimpinski

Step 2: Budget. Because I was new to the whole ‘chicken thing’ I did not want to spend a lot of money right away. I didn’t want to regret spending a lot of money on setup. I decided to set my budget at a maximum of $500

Step 3: Plan. I looked at a lot of different coops before settling on a basic style. I wanted my coop to look like a little house, with a nice ‘ladder’ for the hens to get in and out of the coop. Additionally, I wanted to have outside access to their nesting boxes. I also had to think of ways to protect my chickens from predators (e.g. hawks, raccoons, foxes, etc.).

Completed chicken coop with red exterior and welcome sign.

Photo Credit: Grace Kimpinski

Step 4: Gather supplies. I looked everywhere to get the best deals. I checked out online sites for used items to source wood and materials and joined a few buy, sell, and trade sites as well. I also let friends and family know that I was collecting supplies and many of my friends contributed items they had leftover from their own building projects. I needed lumber, fencing, posts, and hardware (e.g. latches, screws, nails, etc.).

Step 5: Build. Someone had given me an old kids’ playhouse that had fallen over and was being unused. That became the basis for the coop. With the additional lumber, I was able to construct something that made a decent chicken coop.

Step 6: Ensure the chickens are safe. I got a lot of fencing and was able to construct a decent-sized run for the birds. In addition, I added fencing as skirting along the outside of the run and secured it to the ground with old metal tent pegs. This is an anti-dig safety hack – any fox or other predator who wants to get into the birds will give up before they get in. Additionally, I covered the entire space with chicken wire so to keep any predators from getting in from above.

Outdoor run for chickens

Photo Credit: Grace Kimpinski

Step 7: Get the birds! I found a person online who was selling some of his birds, we came to an agreed-upon price, and I got the birds.

In total, I ended up spending less than $300 on start-up costs for my backyard chicken setup, but that was with a lot of patience in finding good deals on supplies and building the coop myself.

Breakdown of My Backyard Chicken Start-Up Costs

Fencing and metal posts: $25 (found online)
Wooden Stakes: $2.25/each (I bought 10)
Playhouse: free
2- 4×8 plywood sheet (used to construct nesting box, floor of coop, ladder): $40
2- 2x4x8 lumber: $15
Miscellaneous hardware: $70
Chickens: $10/each
Chicken supplies (feeder, waterer, feed, bedding, etc.): $70


About Grace Kimpinski

Grace's passion to be creative combined with her drive to get things done make her an invaluable member of the Salty team. As the sole-support parent to a teenaged... bottomless-pit... er... son, she strives to be a 'smart' food shopper. Although she's not keen on writing about herself, she is very keen on eating a great BBQ'd meal in summer and a hearty stew in winter.

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