The Real Cost of Raising Meat Chickens – Year 1

How many of us go into chicken farming for the meat and eggs for our use and to sell, hopefully making a profit? Well, it doesn't quite work out as planned. Raising chickens is not a skill that comes through genetics, we have to seek out information, read and understand it and put the best information to work. Several dead chickens later, holes in fences designed to keep predators out, and piles of feathers give evidence that the poor thing was dragged off, probably still clucking and flapping its wings. No easy death for that poor creature. Reinforce the security system, buy more equipment, get serious about learning how to raise chicken, give up hobbies because we run out of energy and time. 

Try again, learn some more basics, give up more free time and more money and we end up with a $40.00 cost per chicken. Did we save money? Did we create superior laying hens and meat birds? I don't know; these are values statements and each person has his or her values that help each one determine whether or not the finished bird is worth the cost. 

With experience and gained knowledge, the costs per bird can be reduced. However, these take time and sometimes more money. 

My hunch is that more urban and rural folks start raising their chickens because of the health benefits, remember having to get up off the couch more often to tend to bird-work, and taste-bud advantages. With determination, perseverance, and vision of a better, healthier life, any sane human begins the life-change that occurs when raising one's food for consumption. 

We ate like queens!

The Real Cost of Raising Meat Chickens – Year 1

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When chickens were raised by necessity they were fed table scraps and whatever they could find for themselves. At least that's the way my grandmother did it.

So do we.  They love foraging for bugs, come running for our kitchen scraps, weeds, and garden trimmings.

So did both of my grandmothers. Grandma Denoo also let her chickens free range. I have fond memories of the activities around the chicken houses and yards. They used the manure in their gardens. Cleaning the chicken houses each year was hard smelly work that I did not enjoy. 

$40 per chicken, plus tons of labor. Pass, thanks.

Ours arent for meat, they are for eggs.  They eat most of our kitchen scraps and a lot of garden trimmings, like overripe sweetcorn, turnip leaves, wormy collard green leaves, dandelions, grape leaves, but mostly bought feed.  During spring, about 20% of their food is dandelion greens, makes the yolks much darker orange from the carotenoids.  In fall turnip greens have similar role.  In summer, the robust growth of grapevines provides lots more food.  

The chicken house is a repurposed children's fortress playhouse.  It is true we have had some predators, a fact of life in nature.  Chicken house does need cleaning, makes the best kitchen gardrn compost there is.  Free range chickens eat caterpillars and worms and grasshoppers too.  Having a rooster in the flock protects hens from many but not all predators.

The eggs are richer color yolk, firmer yolk and white, more beta carotene, higher quality fatty acids, and much better flavor than store bought. 

The hens are entertaining to watch.  They take some effort, but more stimulating and intelligent that anything on TV including the news.  Its frustrating to lose them to a predator, but chickens are predators too, and mean hens can also gang up on weak ones.  A rooster keep hens in line too, but can be over amourous, so the harem favorites back is missing feathers, looks plucked.  They grow back.  It is part of nature.  They descend from dinosaurs.  We dont raise them for meat so I dont know about that.  Neighbors love it when you bring over a carton of surplus eggs,builds relationships.

Cost-wise ours are cheaper than organic free range chickens at Safeway, but more than store brand eggs.  If an owner does not kitchen garden, is not a do it yourself type, does not shop around, then I can see them being too costly.

Since they were doing it themselves, I dont they should include labor cost.  Plus, it is exercise.  The housing and much of the materials, is one time investment.  Subtract about 2/3 of the cost.  Most places dont have bears.  Probably more like $10 per chicken and that can be decreased.

For all these reasons and more, my farm kids don't raise chickens anymore. However, one of their farm hands might give it a shot. I miss the eggs. By the way, Aldi large eggs are only 79 cents/doz. Another reason why organic eggs don't easily sell.

Chickens continue to reside at L&L Acres. We feed them chicken scraps as well as garden residue. I love to visit them, they are quite friendly. 

Larry raised meat chickens several years ago, but gave up, happily, the slaughter stage. My great-granddaughter now has the honor to be the family egg farmer; however, most of the eggs stay for the North house. With five siblings she can't get enough for the South house, no matter how many eggs they produce.  

From the sound of it, I don't think I want to raise chickens.  Too much work, too much cost, and I don't like poop in my garden, even though I would enjoy the entertainment of watching them, as Daniel mentioned.

It sounds like ducks would be even more entertaining, but I've experienced their poop, and NO THANKS! One of my relatives had ducks, and there was no way I could walk on their patio without stepping in soft poop.

When I lived in the country, I considered animals, but never tried it because of the reasons mentioned above, plus the necessity of not being able to go on vacation without bugging a neighbor to take care of them, which I would not like to do.  A cow would be one of the worst, as I understand they need to be milked 2 or 3 times a day.  The necessity of needing to do something even once a day would also become very annoying.  My personality just hates that kind of commitment, even though the exercise would be good.  I like to do what I want to do when I want to do it, and resent being tied-down.

A person could construct automatic feeders and waterers, but most animals still wouldn't be worth it for me, however, there is one animal I would like to try raising.  Catfish.  I love the taste, and not near as many bones to contend with as most other fish.  I would guess predators would be less of a problem than with other animals, and an automatic feeder should be easy to make.

Catfish might be fun too!  Around here, the main predators would be herons.  We used to have b ig koi, then we didn't.  A happy looking heron was lurking nearby.

The main reason to have animals, is because one likes them.  Our hens pay for themselves, because Ning sells the extra eggs.  We currently have 6 hens, most of them laying every day or every other day.  Some will be winding down soon.  Then he will eat them.  I don't eat meat, so that is not for me.  I wanted to raise their food, corn, sunflower seeds, buckwheat, but each had its issues.  Birds ate all of the sunflower seeds, deer ate all of the buckwheat, and the corn is too hard to crack readily.  We do crack some and feed it as supplement.  The ducks make use of slugs, as a minor part of their diet, and forage a pretty large area for bugs, worms, slugs.  The hens seem to get some nutrition from the seeds on the grass in their large pen.  I save a lot of the weeds that I pull, and feed those to the hens too.

We love the eggs, they are flavorful and rich.  I don't like grocery eggs any more.  They do take a significant effort.  We can get by for a couple of days without feeding, watering, and egg collecting, but it's better to do those every day.

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