Do i get some more layers or not? Like dairy cows, chickens require daily attention and in some seasons of life, we simply don’t want or need to be tied to daily chores, especially considering that farm chores often will not be covered by someone else. When i finally decided to go ahead and order for late summer/early fall shipping, COVID 19 hit and apparently everyone in the country thought homesteading was the only thing to save them! In other words, all the hatcheries were suddenly sold out with no idea when they would have more inventory. So, i waited and waited and checked Cackle Hatchery website over and over. Did research on alternative heritage breeds and at long last they had Salmon Faverolles. I had no experience with them, but what the heck. So i put the number of chicks in my cart and waited and considered another week – just to make sure i really wanted to raise more layers to take the place of my nearly 15 month old Welsummers hens come next spring.
That extra week was all it took! Voila! The Welsummers were once again available, so i switched out and took them. Now i see the Faverolles are sold out. Maybe another year for them.
Cackle Hatchery sent me a ship date and on that date, they sent a time of shipment, i called our postal service in Laclede early afternoon so she could message the Linneus post office that chicks would likely arrive early in the morning and would they call me so i could go pick them. They did arrive overnight and the call came through and i high tailed it up to get them. (Our two small town post offices share hours for the day, ie Linneus is open in the morning, Laclede is open in the afternoon)
Of course, i had already set up their housing and was ready for them with chlorine free water and feed. For housing, i just pull two cardboard boxes together and cut a hole in the sides. I plugged in the heat lamp before i headed to town, having already checked out that the area where the chicks would congregate would warm to 99F. I use cardboard boxes so i can simply burn them once i move the chicks to their larger outdoor living quarters when they are older.
I thought i’d already posted the brooder building photos, but guess not. Remember, the key to keeping it cheap, is to raid the rubbish pile to build something. But one must also guard against the cost of labour involved in ‘making it work.’
Should be enjoying fresh pullet sized eggs in about 3 months.
From delivery of chicks to first pullet eggs is typically about 6 months.
25 female chicks (26 actually, but 2 were roosters and one hen is deformed) – $100
Starter feed – 3 bags each 30 lbs at $90
Mixed feed about 1 gallon (or 4 lbs) per day: $2.20 per day times 120 days – $396
Labor for 180 days varies, but averages about 20 minutes a day at $15/hr – $900
So before 25 hens are even laying or producing anything at all, your backyard laying hen project has invested a total of $1486. That’s a lot of eggs you could have bought at $4/dozen. But now that they are laying, there should be about 1 1/2 years of good laying, but of course the feed and labor expenses continue. Labor will slightly increase because I’ll be moving the chicken tractor to fresh grass everyday and collecting, sorting, washing (if needed), and packaging the eggs EVERYDAY.
Total costs (not including building the brooder and chicken tractor): $1486
So figuring forward:
Feed for 1.5 years (540 days @ $2.20) – $1188
Labor at $15/hr for 30 minutes a day – $2025
Egg cartons if you buy them are at least 50 cents (281 cartons) each: $140
Assuming a lay rate of 1 egg per two days (this is an average including a harsh winter where costs will continue but few eggs will be laid) per hen (times 25 hens) – 3375 eggs
(270 days/2 = 135 times 25 hens – 3375 eggs)
Total costs during laying period of 1 1/2 years – $3353
Final costs of raising 25 chicks to laying age plus production for 1 1/2 years: $4839
Cost per potential dozen (281 dozens): $17.22
Value of spent hens is negated completely by labor costs associated with butchering.
All this assuming that in one night along any part of this route, a fox, raccoon, neighbour’s dog or coyote doesn’t come in an annihilate all your hens.
Now winter laying could be increased somewhat by keeping heat and light on the hens.
Certainly, i could be the typical farmer and say ‘well….if i don’t count my time….but that would be unfair, right? He’s taken ALL the risk, done all the labor, built all the infrastructure, and cared for them every single day. If i removed all the labor costs from the scenario, cost per dozen is $6.63/dozen.
Why am i doing this? good question. it’s ridiculous actually, except i cannot buy eggs from hens on pasture being fed non-gmo and mostly organic grains in our part of the world and they do taste better and have more nutrients (according to various tests).
These are real costs to produce eggs from hens on pasture, not inflated or overpriced. Lowering production costs is easy – stacked cages with 67 to 76 square inches of usable space per hen being fed well balanced diet of conventional grains and no chance of being eaten by predators. Automated egg sorting, washing, and packaging. Find employees who will work for minimum wage or less in dusty conditions. Tightly confined conditions allows for fewer employees. Hens will be allowed to lay for less than a year (until first moult) and then replaced to maintain high production year round. This part can also be done on pasture raised as well and would be a good idea. Production drops considerably after that first moult, so replacing them with younger, higher producing hens would reduce costs a little.