Tag Archives: feed

Raising Buff Orpingtons & Associated Costs

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Arrived this morning (2 October 17). Okay, right, so I’m a bit bored and succumbed to buying chickies. But just 25. Buff Orpington. Gives me opportunity to redesign another egg mobile (this will be my 11th model). Oh brother’
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3 week old chicks having fun with scooped gourd goo and seeds. still in their ugly stage.
Happy chooks. Good grief; I’m growing sprouts for my little flock. This forage mix is the same as the pasture mix drilled on my farm this summer.
One month old – tired of these sweeties in the basement – nice weather and i finished up the ‘pullet grower station’ – they are still a bit freaked out by the move, but won’t be long before they’ll be running around like they are free! went from 11 square feet to 39 square feet!
Busted old plastic water tank and scraps – had to buy heat lamps, clamp aluminum bases, and 10 feet of 1/2 inch hardware cloth – oh, and bolts, nuts, and washers. Of course it was an excellent excuse to buy a new DeWalt battery powered jigsaw, too. 😉
Chicken feed
This was taken 4 February 2018 – it’s been bitterly cold this winter and although the hens are quite big by now and still in their brooder, they are still immature.  I’m probably spoiling them, but they surely do prefer these sprouted grains vs dry grains.  I was even warming them a bit in the oven during the most brutal cold.
These 23 big girls (plus a couple roosters that will be lunch someday) did well this winter in their brooder.  (Here they are at 3 1/2 months old) from Cackle Hatchery.  Feed is sunflower seed, millet, oats, peas  from Welter Seed & Honey with occasional soaked alfalfa pellets.  Minerals provided by Thorvin kelp also available from Welter Seed & Honey.
Work on the chicken tractor has been continually hampered by brutally cold temps and wind.  Slowly getting it done, but seems like i build a thing twice since i typically have to start by undoing what i did the day before. 😦  But, that is not unusual when flying by the seat of the pants projects: each basically a prototype.  I’ve built several different sizes and types of eggmobiles and chicken tractors over the years and each one is a new design and always using as much scrap material as possible to keep down costs.

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.


Chooks Eating Grass – Replication 2 – 3 days

Next 3 day replication started morning of 5 Jun 2015 with Dallas moving poultry netting to fresh pasture before letting the chooks out of their tiny eggmobile.  Day 1 egg collection – 7 eggs.  Day 2 egg collections:  7 eggs. Day 3 egg collections: 7 eggs.  We’ve continued with one pound of the wheat screenings cleanout, but that is really not enough for them since they are eating it all and still seem like they want more.  However, for the next replication, we will continue with one pound and increase it after the grazing trial.

More and better quality in this paddock with up to 65% red clover and a good deal of plantains, although both are more mature than what chickens usually desire, they'll still hammer it pretty good.
More and better quality in this paddock with up to 65% red clover and a good deal of plantains, although both are more mature than what chickens usually desire, they’ll still hammer it pretty good.
Lovely thick forage in same sized paddock of .39 of an acre.  Estimating 300 lbs of forage per inch with 6 inches available for 1800 lbs times .39 for 702 lbs in the paddock.
Lovely thick forage in same sized paddock of .039 of an acre. Estimating 300 lbs of forage per inch with 8 inches available for 2400 lbs/acre times .039 for 93.6 lbs in the paddock.

We  have discovered that this size paddock with this much forage results in far too much trampling of quality forage and not enough eating.  Now that we are getting an idea of how much chooks eat in a day, we can determine how many chooks can be managed in smaller, more easily handled housing.  A full length 164 foot poultry netting fence is too much work for only 14 hens eating .75 lb of grass per day.  In other words, to be more cost effective, the 41′ by 41′ enclosure allowed with a poultry netting should allow about 41 hens, of course depending on forage quantity and quality.  This would include realising that the taller forages would be unavailable for chooks to eat.

We realise that, by the book, chooks typically eat only 4 ounces of feed per day.  However, i think that is a purely grain diet which would be more dense than grass, legumes, and forbes.  Probably, most of what is being utilised, however, is actually scratching and trampling.  Nevertheless, this needs to be considered to keep a healthy sward.