I recently bought six chickens and by late summer hope to be harvesting fresh, nutritious eggs from them. At one point we were adding up the costs of this food growing hobby, and when doing so, the joke was made that not counting food, it would take about 100 dozen eggs to break even, maybe 150 dozen. And that is allowing $3-$4 per dozen which is about what free range locally grown chicken eggs will bring.
A couple of times per week I harvest the chicken manure and move it to the compost pile. After doing that for a few weeks I've noticed that the compost pile, which has always run cool, is beginning to operate as a hot pile. So here is a secondary benefit of having the chickens. If the compost cooks quicker, moves to the garden quicker, and is more nutrient rich as well, perhaps the garden will begin to produce 10-25% greater harvests. Maybe the break even for the chickens, coop, and supplies is closer than that first estimate!
Right now the chickens are being fed regular commercial chicken food which is being augmented by a good daily batch of weeds that are tossed in for forage. I'm in the process of growing an expanded area for free range and forage, about 1/8 acre, that is planted in various grasses, grains, and sun flowers. At some point I would like to move the chickens toward closer to a 100% organic diet. Soon my worm bed will start to contribute some earth worms to the cause, but am waiting on the chickens to mature first.
Nevertheless, that first chicken egg will cost at least $450-$500. Even the first 100 eggs will have cost $5 per egg. Those chickens really have their work cut out for them!