Are you looking to make additional income from your homestead? Of all the livestock we raise, making money with chickens may be the most efficient income generated per square foot.
Ever since Farmer and I started raising livestock, we have had chickens.
I love hearing them cackle.
I love gathering fresh eggs.
I love watching them forage on green pastures.
Right now we have 7 happy, healthy hens. But when we sold meat at farmers markets, we had a flock of 200 layers. Although we no longer need quite so many, I am eager to grow our flock again.
Begin operation, ‘Convince Farmer.’
My first step was to discover all of the ways I could make money with chickens. I began stalking Facebook chicken boards and online chicken forums. I attended local chicken auctions. And talked to a neighboring farmer who sells farm animals to ethnic markets.
Next, I put together all of the possible ways I could make money with chickens. To see what it would take to make a profit, I created an Excel spreadsheet outlining my expected egg production, feed costs, and where and how I planned to generate income.
When all the dust settled, I had discovered there are really only nine ways to make money with chickens.
Making Money with Chickens
1. Eating Eggs
The first and most obvious way to make money with chickens is to sell eggs for eating.
When we sold eggs at farmers markets, we were fortunate enough to sell our eggs for $5/dozen. This allowed us to make a profit once we subtracted out our cost for labor, birds, and feed. However, it is unlikely I will get that price locally from family, friends, and neighbors.
If you are planning on selling your eggs for $3.50-$4.00 a dozen you are going to need to find additional income streams. It is exceptionally hard to make a profit at this price point.
To calculate your feed cost, first calculate the per pound cost of feed.
$15 for a 50 pound bag / 50 = $.30 per pound
Then multiple that number by 9 (the average feed per month of a dual purpose breed).
$.30 per pound x 9 pounds per month = $2.70 cost of feed per bird per month
An average layer will lay somewhere between 3-5 eggs per week or 13-22 eggs per month. At $3.50 per dozen you are making $3.79-$6.40 a bird.
13 / 12 x $3.50 = $3.79 income per bird per month
22 / 12 x $3.50 = $6.40 income per bird per month
Then you have to take into consideration labor, additional expenses, and the time your hen takes off during molting and lack of winter daylight.
So you see, it is very hard to make money with chickens just by selling eating eggs.
That said, selling fresh eggs is a great way to bring in additional income when your chickens are at peak production.
Here is a great article on the Proper Handling of Eggs: From Hen to Consumption.
Helpful hint: Check with the feed store where you buy your chicken feed. Many will offer to sell your eggs for free.
2. Hatching Eggs
I was amazed at how much money people make selling hatching eggs. It is not unheard of for hatching eggs to go for $45-80 a dozen.
If this is one way you plan to make money with chickens, you will need to invest in purebred birds from the start. (See why I recommend homesteaders raise purebred animals.)
You are going to want to find high quality birds that are in demand by chicken enthusiasts.
Whether you are buying hatching eggs or selling them, be sure you understand the breed you have chosen. Even if you do not plan on showing your birds, I recommend purchasing the most current American Standard of Perfection (SOP) from the American Poultry Association. This is the best resource for understanding what your breed should look like and how much it should weigh.
A word of caution for both buying and selling eggs. There are a lot of “chicken breeders” (and I use the term loosely) that are just in it to make a buck. They have little experience choosing foundation hens and roosters and little knowledge of their breed’s ideal breed type. They remind me a lot of puppy mills.
The industry is full of poor quality stock because people buy a dozen eggs, hatch out 4 birds, and start advertising show quality chickens from proven genetics. Although the genetics were once proven, the birds and the new breeder are not.
If you decide to sell hatching eggs, I recommend purchasing a few dozen from various breeders. Then use the experience you gain to determine which are the best methods for selling, shipping, and packaging your eggs.
Who doesn’t love a newborn chick! And selling day old chicks is another way you can make money with chickens.
Most chicks sold by small producers range in price from $3-$15 each for a straight run (both males and females with no guarantees as to the number of each).
To get top dollar, just like with hatching eggs, it is important to start with high quality purebred birds.
One piece of advice here. I personally recommend choosing breeds that you can not tell the sex at hatching. It is much easier to sell straight run chicks at higher prices. If you choose an auto-sexing breed, you will need to decide what you will do with the extra roosters, which are in less less demand.
If you decide to sell day old chicks you will also need to decide if you are going to sell them locally or ship to buyers.
To sell locally you can either advertise them on Facebook and through other online sale sites or you can start building relationships with local feed stores and agricultural vendors to carry your chicks.
Should you choose to ship chicks, you will need to have a NPIP (National Poultry Improvement Plan) Certification from your state’s Department of Agriculture. Each state’s requirements vary slightly, but the program was initiated to help insure that only healthy, disease free birds are shipped across state lines.
It is very hard to grow out pullets in a cost effective manner. Even so, I believe every purebred breeder should have pullets available to buyers.
As a breeder you will be growing out additional birds to 1) improve your flock, and 2) replace older birds. But this does not mean that every pullet you grow out will make the cut to be part of your flock.
Many backyard chicken enthusiast jump at the opportunity to purchase young birds that are ready to lay eggs. (Remember, not everyone wants to raise chicks, as it is an expensive endeavor with a definite learning curve.)
So why not offer these birds to potential buyers while improving your flock.
So if this is going to be part of your income stream, let’s look at the costs.
On average a chicken will eat 20 pounds of feed to get to 20 weeks or 4 months of age. From our example above we know that our cost per pound of feed.
$15 for a 50 pound bag / 50 = $.30 per pound
20 pounds of feed to 4 months old x $.30 per pound = $6.00
Then add the price you would have gotten if you had sold the chick at a day old. This is the opportunity cost you lost by choosing to raise the bird.
$6.00 + $10.00 = $16.00
So now you know what it cost you to raise your pullet to 4 months, excluding labor and additional costs such as electricity to hatch, dewormer, etc.
Those numbers vary from breeder to breeder much like feed and price per chick. If you are unsure of your additional costs add a few dollars to make up for it.
On average, any group of chicks we grow out will be half females and half males. It cost me roughly $16 to raise one bird or $32 to raise two birds for 20 weeks regardless of sex. But I know that I will sell my cocks at only $5-8 per bird, giving me a loss. So for me to cover my feed costs, I will need to get more for my pullets.
Because we know we will get $5-8 per rooster, we start selling pullets at $24-27 each.
$32.00 to raise 2 birds to 20 weeks (minus) $5-8 dollars for the rooster = $24-27 for the pullet
Just like your pullets, you will want to grow out roosters to improve your flock.
However, unlike hens, you only need one rooster per ten hens. That means you will have an ample supply of roosters to harvest, eat, or sell.
I am very fortunate that I have a local farmer who will take every rooster I can supply. This makes growing out chicks more feasible because I have a ready market for all my extra males.
Posting that you have roosters for sale in local advertisements is a great way to move these extra birds. Or harvest them yourself and put them in the freezer.
Although you will not get much for each rooster, remember every little bit adds to the bottomline.
And if you priced your pullets appropriately, you should be able to make up for this loss with the females.
6. Cull Hens
When a hen has outlived her productive life, it is time to move her out of the hen house.
I know there are many who keep older birds because they grow attached to their chickens. But if you are truly looking to make money from chickens, you need to decide if your chickens are pets or a vital part of your homesteading enterprise.
We keep our birds for no more than three years.
As with cull roosters, you really only have two chooses. You can harvest the birds to eat or sell them to someone else.
Keep in mind, because we choose to turn over our layers fairly young, they have a higher value to others as layers.
If we were to keep them until they were 6 or 7 years old, they would not only be less productive, but we would have to sell them for less money.
7. Freezer Birds
In almost all livestock related enterprises, I am a fan of adding value. Typically if I can add value to a product, I can sell it for more.
For example, you can sell ground beef at one price. But make homemade chili, put it in quarts, and you can sell that same pound of beef for more.
That same philosophy, however, does not apply as easily to dual purpose laying hens and roosters. I can almost always sell my live three year old hen for more than I can sell a whole freezer bird.
Because even good dual purpose breeds lack meat and older birds are tough.
That isn’t to say you can make money with freezer birds.
If this is any area you wish to explore, I recommend purchasing breeds such as Cornish Cross or Freedom Rangers.
I highly recommend the deep litter method of raising chickens. This allows me to clean out my coop once or twice a year. I then compost my litter and apply it to my garden.
Depending on the number of birds you have, this may be another way to make money with chickens.
I use chicken litter on my garden every year and know there are other gardeners who would take advantage of this if they could.
Left unattended, chicken litter compost will be ready to use as fertilizer in 6-12 months. If you turn your pile occasionally, your waiting time is reduced to just 4-6 months.
Chicken feathers can be used to make jewelry, pillows, ornaments, and home decor. In addition, neck hackle and saddle area feathers are used to make fly fishing lures.
If you are interested in making money with chicken feathers, I encourage you to do additional research. Fly Tying Feather Facts is an interesting article to start.
As you can see, there are several ways to make money with chickens. And for the most part many of them go hand and hand while establishing and maintain a purebred flock.
How do you make money with your chickens? Leave me a comment below.
Also, leave a comment if you are interest in seeing the Excel spreadsheet I use to project my annual flock income.
Other Posts You Might Like:
- Purebred Animals on the Homestead
- 40 Cheap Ideas to Save Money on Chicken Feed
- Making Money Homesteading and Why We Quit Farmers Markets