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Friday, June 22, 2012

Pastured Eggs: More than you thought possible

In my last chicken post there was some discussion about the logistics of raising chickens that I'd like to touch on.  

First, the aspect of large numbers and bird safety.  This past week we combined our laying flock of 55 Black Australorp hens who are a year old with the 120 new pullets that are a mixed bag of Barred Rock, Silver Laced Wyandotte and Ameracaunas.  It's always a little dicey combining groups of chickens.  Have you heard the term "pecking order"?  All livestock establish a pecking order but chickens are the worst.  I joke with Hubby that they are worse than junior high girls!

There are a few things we did to ease this transition:  
1.  We moved the pullets into the hens.  This is important so that the hens are in their home where they are comfortable and they will keep laying.

2.  They have plenty of space to move away from one another if tensions get out of hand.

3.  Feeders and waterers are placed all around the fenced pasture so that the hens can't "defend" them and keep the little ones away.

Here is the whole group.  The pen in the middle is a range shelter completely covered in tin and with the wire removed from the front and next boxes on either side.  They can go in for shade or to keep dry, if they want.

The chickens are fenced in with electrified poultry netting from Premier.  This keeps the chickens in and the predators out.  Every time you lose an animal to a predator, it's operator error.  That's a hard thing for us humans to admit:  that we did something wrong that caused this.  We have a lot of predator pressure.  Just last night I laid in bed and listened to the coyotes howl across the lake.  Hubby has gone out when we've heard them on this side to make sure things were secure.

If you did the math from above, this fall we'll have 175 chickens laying eggs.  If 2/3 of them lay an egg every day, that's about 116 eggs per day (about 9 dozen).  Currently, we sell our eggs for $3 per dozen.  That's $27 per day, and just under $10,000 per year.  Our favorite farm, Polyface Farms, sells about $300,000 worth of eggs per year on this same production model.  Our chickens require about a half hour of work every morning and 20 minutes every evening.  I spend 15 minutes washing and packing eggs per day.  So, for just over an hours worth of work...that's pretty good money!

Not to mention the amazing job they do at eating weeds, trimming alfalfa, eating bugs and applying natural fertilizer rich in nitrogen!

The second point from the last post is that everyone should have chickens.  I'm serious.  Certainly every farm, but also town folks.  Many municipalities allow chickens as long as you don't have a rooster.  Think of the fun you would have with five of these beauties in your backyard? 
Ameracauna pullet in front, Silver Laced Wyandotte behind her, and Barred Rocks in the back.

 Because chickens are omnivores, they would mow your lawn, provide natural bug control, consume all your kitchen scraps and you could compost their manure AND get eggs!!  It's a win-win!

If more people raised chickens, we wouldn't need large factory confinement egg facilities at all.

And, as my friend from sailorssmallfarm pointed out, if we ate less processed foods like cake mixes, we wouldn't need as many eggs.  Did you know there's powdered egg in salad dressings?  Did you know that they use all the broken eggs in powdered eggs?

 And, a personal note...

Ameracaunas are not a standardized breed.  That means that there is a LOT of variation from chicken to chicken which is exciting for someone like me who likes a lot of diversity.

This is my favorite chicken, Cleopatra.

She is fierce and gorgeous and utterly wonderful.  And the only chicken who is named.  She is definitely the queen of the pasture.  And she'll lay blue-green eggs.  I can't wait!


  1. So Annie, what's the bottom line on your laying hens - take out the feed, the cost of the chickens, the poultry netting and other overhead - and then what percent (if you don't want to share a round number) is your profit? Just curious.

    1. I have my crack staff working on that! When we did it with the purchase of the hoophouse, we had $1 of expenses in every dozen. Hubby is going to re-do it now that we're on pasture with electric fence. I'll let you know!

  2. That is a GREAT idea with the range shelter - how do you get to the nest boxes - flap on the outside? I couldn't tell from the picture. We don't have enough range shelters to spare for this kind of usage-yet. Currently we use an old picnic table, which requires two people to move, it's falling apart, so I need a plan B and I think you just provided it. Our 50 or so layers are all called Henny Penny - always. We mostly can't tell them apart anyway.

    1. Yes, there is a cover on the outside. The nestboxes were added retroactively to a regular broiler shelter, just hung on the sides like saddlebags.


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