Backyard chickens have become increasingly popular in urban areas for many reasons. They allow city and suburban dwellers to connect with the land like a farmer does, they provide fresh tasty eggs at no cost, and they become loved like other pets for some owners. Having a dozen free eggs a week, however, may save money off your grocery bill but does not generate income. Is it possible to make money with backyard chickens?
You Need to be Able to Scale Up
A mature hen in its prime will lay about 6 eggs a week. If a dozen eggs is selling for about $2 at your local grocery store, you will probably need at least 20 egg-laying chickens to even generate $20 per week in revenue (roughly $1000 per year). It is possible that you might be able to sell for as much as $5 per dozen if your eggs are certified organic, but keep in mind that even that is only $50 per week with the 20 chicken scenario. This is not a huge money maker. In many towns, they have ordinances that limit the number of backyard chickens to as few as 2-4. So you need to make sure you are even allowed to have that many chickens.
You Need to be Prepared to Butcher Your Chicken Once it is Past its Prime
You might only get 1 year of 6 eggs per week production from a hen before its production starts to taper off to half of that. At some point, the hen will stop producing eggs altogether. If you love your backyard chickens like a pet, then scaling up production to a commercial level is probably not for you, because realistically, you need to send your chicken to the butcher when it is past its prime. Not only will you be able to eat or sell the chicken meat, you will create room in your coop for another chicken to produce more eggs.
You Need to Find a Market for your Eggs
A national grocery chain like Safeway or Whole Foods is unlikely to buy 100 eggs a week from a backyard chicken farmer. They need greater scale than that so they deal with large commercial farms. Your options include selling to a friends and neighbors, selling at a local farmers market, or setting up a stand to sell your eggs. It is possible that a smaller grocery store or other food store might have an interest if you can satisfy their minimum volume requirements.
You Need to Do Your Homework Before You Purchase Your First Backyard Chicken
Prior to getting started, you should purchase a book on raising backyard chickens. Our recommendation is The Chicken Chick’s Guide to Backyard Chickens. There is a lot more to raising backyard chickens then just finding out if you are allowed to have chickens in your area and buying chicken feed. You need to learn everything about the right way to build and maintain a coop, to placement of coops and cleaning areas, to something called vent sexing. Spending a few dollars up front will help you avoid a lot of headaches down the road.