Chickens raised on small farms are increasing in popularity, whether you're providing chicken eggs or chicken meat. Consumers have grown more concerned about the health of the food they're consuming and the sanitary conditions in which the meat is raised. This in turn has led to greater opportunities to start a chicken farm business that provides an alternative to large, corporate owned farms. The key to doing so successfully is to follow a few important steps.
Buying chickens as newborns is the cheapest way to go, with chicks costing approximately $2.50 to $3.50 each. For a small business, you might only need to start with four to 10 chicks and add additional chickens as demand grows. For egg-laying, you'll typically choose from among Ameraucana, Australorp, Leghorn, Orpingtons, Production Red, and Plymouth Rock breeds. For meat chickens, choose between Cornish cross hens or heritage hens such as the Black Broiler breed.
Startup Costs for Chicks
If you buy chicks, you'll need a brooder to keep them warm. This can be as simple as a cardboard box with a lamp. Specialty heat lamps range from $10 to $20, and bulbs can be $6 to $12. Purchase chick starter to feed them. It covers all the supplements and vitamins a chick needs. A 50-pound bag costs about $15 and can last two months for 10 chicks.
Once your chicks are grown, your costs will rise a bit. Full-grown chickens need wood pellets or shavings for bedding, a coop, and food. Feed costs about $13 for 50 pounds and organic feed costs about $30 for 50 pounds. A 50-pound bag will last a month for six chickens. You'll need supplements such as calcium for egg production and grit for digestion. You can build a chicken coop or buy it pre-made. Building a coop for 10 chickens could cost about $500, including chicken wire, paint, wood, windows and nesting boxes. A pre-made coop will cost more.
Licenses for Chicken Farms
Make sure you have all the licenses that your county or city requires for raising chickens. Talk to your county's local coop extension for details on relevant laws. In Texas, for example, you don't need a license if you're selling ungraded eggs directly to consumers. Your cartons must simply be labeled "ungraded" and "produced by" with your name in legible typeface. The carton must also include safe handling instructions.
Laws for Selling Chicken Meat
If you're selling chicken meat, you'll have a few more rules to worry about, depending on how many chickens you plan to sell a year. In Wisconsin, for example, if you sell fewer than 1,000 chickens a year, you can butcher the chickens at home and sell the meat directly to consumers. You can also just sell live chickens directly to consumers if you want to avoid the butchering process altogether.
Selling Eggs and Meat
A dozen farm fresh brown eggs can sell for about $2.50. One hen lays about two eggs every three days. Chickens sold for meat typically get about $1.90 per pound. You can get the word out about your eggs or chicken meat by selling them at local farmers' markets and joining community agricultural programs. Talk to your friends and neighbors and try to set up a regular egg-buying or meat-buying program. You can also advertise your product for free by posting announcements on websites like Craigslist or Facebook. If you design an eye-catching logo and keep information about your chickens on a website, you'll likely retain more customers.