• Post Reply
  • Bookmark Topic Watch Topic
  • New Topic

A way to not lose money on chickens?

 
William James
gardener
Posts: 1010
Location: Northern Italy
23
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Hi,
We have 9 chickens. When we bought them, I was of the mind that killing them would be in the cards. But obviously the other people here have come to the realization that chickens are cute and cuddily and fun to watch and sooooooooooooo... It looks like we'll be keeping them around for 6 years.

We're getting organized for finding ways to offset the feed cost a little, but I guess we got the breed that likes to eat a lot (Red Star). They go through about a pound a day (1 kilo). I did a rough calculation and over 6 years that's like 1,000 euros.

I'm doing chicken math to find out the number of eggs offset for the full number of years to include the years they won't be producing. Finding people to buy them isn't a problem, but finding a way to sell them legally is.

So I see we have these problems.
1. Not killing chickens.
2. Not being able to sell the eggs at a price that would offset both the years of menopause and the cost of feed.
3. Not having enough chickens to work on volume.
4. Legality of the egg trade.

I see both these problems as a great design exercise for me. These are huge limits, so a good design that could get around these limits would be superb permaculture design.

One thing I see is to separate the problems and deal with each one individually. There might be ways to legally profit from the fact that you have eggs and people want those eggs. I've heard of selling egg-shares, where you're essentially selling part of the business, not the eggs. I don't really understand that strategy and it looks from the outside as sidestepping the law in some way. But, that might be a way if I could find someway to apply it to the italian context I'm in.

Another would be to find some creative way to capitalize on the other products of the chicken, like poop, egg shells, scratching up ground, fun in general.

Another idea I had would be to legally sell the egg for 10 times the market price, which could be explained by the fact that the chickens don't get culled. "Cull-Free eggs". For a lot of vegetarians that would be a HUGE plus and maybe they'd be willing to pay for that.

Any ideas would be helpful. I'm not really interested in people telling me, in a million ways, how it can't be done (that's obvious). It's just a design exercise. Just looking to generate some ideas and learn more about the business potential of small holdings.
Thanks,
William
 
Meryt Helmer
Posts: 395
Location: west marin, bay area california. sandy loam, well drained, acidic soil and lots of shade
15
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I don't know much about raising chickens but maybe in your chicken math you can add in the chicken manure you are now getting as well as the benefits of them eating bugs? they can learn to scavenge for food more and learn to eat the bugs if they do not do so now. i think there are threads around here on raising chickens with less feed. i also think that chickens can help gardens to produce more food than they would without the chickens around.
 
George Meljon
Posts: 278
Location: Southern Indiana zone 5b
2
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
We've started a barley fodder system that will significantly reduce our costs. Google "Jack Spirko Barley Fodder" and there is an article and video about it. That's what I'm going off of.
 
William James
gardener
Posts: 1010
Location: Northern Italy
23
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Meryt Helmer wrote:I don't know much about raising chickens but maybe in your chicken math you can add in the chicken manure you are now getting as well as the benefits of them eating bugs?


I was a little surprised when I found out that 10 chickens don't produce much in the way of compost. It takes me about 3 months to get good compost from them. It's steller stuff, but 3 months is a while to wait for 4 big buckets of compost. I could concentrate their poop, but that means they have less ground to cover, and I like to give them as much room as I can reasonably pay for.

I'm sure that the site is better of having them there, and I can see great results where them have been, but that is a service that is difficult to calculate. I spent 150 euros for the transport of free compost, but I got a mountain of it, much more than we needed for the year.

It would take them a few years to make a comparable amount of compost.

Same thing for bugs. They eat worms that are technically also doing a service for me. How would you calculate that? I look at worm-eating as supplemental feed, which adds maybe 1 cent a year or something, but that's something.

It's not so much about reducing costs. I have them eating food scraps (maybe not enough) and I've started experimenting with sprouting. My question is more along the lines of
1. Creative ways to make money by having chickens, with and without eggs. A chicken zoo comes to mind. hehe. But something that where you can earn money and having a certain number of chickens is a prerequisite (besides cock fighting, my hens aren't really into that).
2. Learning about alternative ways to unload surplus eggs legally. This is because I aim to become bulletproof when it comes to the law and the idea that my neighbor pays me cash for eggs under the table disturbs me somewhat.

William
 
William James
gardener
Posts: 1010
Location: Northern Italy
23
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
George Meljon wrote:We've started a barley fodder system that will significantly reduce our costs. Google "Jack Spirko Barley Fodder" and there is an article and video about it. That's what I'm going off of.


Awesome. I have something similar going, but this is way better.
William
 
Meryt Helmer
Posts: 395
Location: west marin, bay area california. sandy loam, well drained, acidic soil and lots of shade
15
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
that is too bad about the manure. when I was speaking of eating bugs I meant snails and slugs and crickets and grasshoppers and ticks. they can be taught to eat slugs! here is a video



they can also learn to eat many other pests and I recently read that there tends to be far less ticks in places where chickens are kept. i have always heard of guinea fowl for ticks and I am sure they are better at finding the ticks but chickens also eat them. ticks may not be an issue where you are but they are a big problem where I live.

Edited by moderator to fix link.
 
Meryt Helmer
Posts: 395
Location: west marin, bay area california. sandy loam, well drained, acidic soil and lots of shade
15
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
there is a thread around here about the idea of a 'rent a chicken' service. http://www.permies.com/t/34484/chickens/shred-business-idea
 
Michael Cox
Posts: 1575
Location: Kent, UK - Zone 8
45
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Did you see the geoff lawton videos about feeding chickens compost? Basically make sure your compost heap is in their run area. They will turn and aerate it while scavenging for bugs. They also pick up bits and pieces of kitchen scraps along the way.

I've seen elsewhere that sending your ladies out to forage in the morning hungry improves their scavenging - why scratch around for grubs when the chicken feeder is always available? If you are around to manage them simply make their feeder available later in the day.
 
William James
gardener
Posts: 1010
Location: Northern Italy
23
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
@Michael
Thanks for that. Yeah I saw it, but Geoff runs 40 chickens, he has daily loads of scraps coming from a kitchen that serves many people, and he gets offsite scraps from a local vegetarian restaurant. His 40 chickens can do in one month what my 9 do in 3 months, that's the reason for the lag time. I suppose I could source the compost, get a more steady stream of scraps and reduce the feed. He says they lose weight, so he feeds them grain just before slaughter.

Good idea about giving food later. If they don't get their hit of grain in the morning they kind of walk around groaning. Once you give it to them they go about their business, happy as clams.

William
 
Alfrun Unndis
Posts: 23
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
There is also lacto-fermenting the feed. It is supposed to make nutrients more available and so they eat less and stay healthy.
webpage

Is one of many sites offering advice on procedure.
 
Alfrun Unndis
Posts: 23
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Oops. link is naturalchickenkeeping.blogspot.com/p/fermented-feed
 
Mountain Krauss
Posts: 130
Location: Northern California
1
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
We have 100+ chickens, and we use less than 50 pounds of feed per year, since we only feed it to chickens who are brooding on eggs, injured, or sick. If they're healthy, they're feeding themselves. As others have mentioned, letting them work the compost pile for you.

How large is their space? 9 chickens should have no problem feeding themselves on 1/2 an acre (1/5 hectare?), maybe even on 1/4 acre (1/10 hectare?).

They shouldn't need kitchen scraps, but it's good to provide them. What about your egg customers? Maybe they could provide you with their kitchen scraps.

If selling eggs to your neighbor is illegal, maybe you could charge them for hauling away their food waste and give them the eggs for free. The income for your farm would be the same, but it would fit within the confines of the law.

Once feed is eliminated, chickens don't cost much other than your time and labor. If they don't cost you anything, there's no reason to kill them.
 
William James
gardener
Posts: 1010
Location: Northern Italy
23
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Mountain Krauss wrote:
If selling eggs to your neighbor is illegal, maybe you could charge them for hauling away their food waste and give them the eggs for free. The income for your farm would be the same, but it would fit within the confines of the law.


Excellent idea.

Mountain: you're feeding an average of 2 pounds of feed per year per chicken With or without lots of kitchen scraps? If it's without, is your ecosystem so awesome that it can support so many chickens?
William
 
William James
gardener
Posts: 1010
Location: Northern Italy
23
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Mountain Krauss wrote:
If selling eggs to your neighbor is illegal, maybe you could charge them for hauling away their food waste and give them the eggs for free. The income for your farm would be the same, but it would fit within the confines of the law.


Excellent idea.

Mountain: you're feeding an average of 2 pounds of feed per year per chicken ?? With or without lots of kitchen scraps? If it's without, is your ecosystem so awesome that it can support so many chickens?
William
 
Mountain Krauss
Posts: 130
Location: Northern California
1
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
We compost, and we allow the chickens full access to the compost pile, which lets us keep 50 chickens per acre without any purchased feed. If your only compost is from your own kitchen scraps, your number might be lower, like 20-30 chickens per acre. But chickens are resourceful if we let them be (except maybe Cornish crosses and Leghorns, but we don't raise those), so it's hard to imagine a landscape that wouldn't support 20 chickens per acre.
 
Mountain Krauss
Posts: 130
Location: Northern California
1
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Also, I just checked your math. It's 1/2 pound of feed per chicken per year.
 
Michael Cox
Posts: 1575
Location: Kent, UK - Zone 8
45
  • Likes 2
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Kitchen scraps do go into compost, but most of the bulk is hedge trimmings, lawn clippings, weeds etc... Compost breeds more critters which the chickens eat. You don't need to be finding restaurant scraps to supplement their feed.
 
Ludger Merkens
Posts: 171
Location: Deutschland (germany)
3
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Learning about alternative ways to unload surplus eggs legally

May you use theese eggs to create other produce? From a sanitary point of view, selling cooked egg is probably very different from selling raw eggs.
But of course, you need to check your local law.

-- Ludger
 
Dale Hodgins
gardener
Pie
Posts: 6139
Location: Victoria British Columbia-Canada
187
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Perhaps you could allow the chickens to be consumed by predators. Nature seldom allows a chicken to reach old age. Let them forage by the river or in a wooded area. Tell the kids about "chicken heaven" or something equally implausible. Kids are gullible.
 
Jay Grace
Posts: 229
Location: Nauvoo, AL
4
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Never heard of selling eggs being illegal.
But if it is in your area do it how everyone gets around the selling of raw milk and canned food here without having a commercially inspected kitchen.

Just label it " for pet consumption only"
 
wayne fajkus
Posts: 440
2
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
There's a company in the usa that sells worm tea. Worm castings mixed in water and put in used bottled water bottles. Terra cycle?

What if the same is done with chicken manure? First thought is it is too hot to use. This works to your advantage cause it means less poop per bottle to dilute it.

That would stretch your small amount of compost to a large amount of "tea".
 
William James
gardener
Posts: 1010
Location: Northern Italy
23
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Jay Grace wrote:Never heard of selling eggs being illegal.
But if it is in your area do it how everyone gets around the selling of raw milk and canned food here without having a commercially inspected kitchen.

Just label it " for pet consumption only"


Where I'm at, selling eggs is not technically illegal. However, if you have 9 chickens like I do, the bureaucracy involved in selling eggs legally is extremely prohibitive. Interesting work-around, though.
William
 
William James
gardener
Posts: 1010
Location: Northern Italy
23
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
wayne fajkus wrote:There's a company in the usa that sells worm tea. Worm castings mixed in water and put in used bottled water bottles. Terra cycle?


Hi Wayne,
I've been thinking about that. I currently do a flow-through worm bin that I'm experimenting with. And the chicken compost could actually be worth money if bagged. I'm confused about Terra cycle. What is that?
There are a lot of gardeners here, which is one reason we're not doing so will with vegetable sales. Everybody already has your product for free.
But they often can't get amendments for their gardens on such a small scale. A product like that would make some sense.

William
 
I'm not dead! I feel happy! I'd like to go for a walk! I'll even read a tiny ad:
The stocking stuffer game for all your Permaculture companions
http://www.FoodForestCardGame.com
  • Post Reply
  • Bookmark Topic Watch Topic
  • New Topic