We recently moved to Hawaii and bought 40 chickens. None of them would lay. We were told by the hatchery to never let their food go empty, so we didn't and they were laying about 20 a day. After about 2 weeks we let them out to free range more of the property and their egg production went down by half. Chicken feed is expensive out here so we want them to free range more but we need them to produce so we can sell the eggs. Any ideas on what we can do to get them to lay more?? and we want them to be organic but its hard to find organic feed over here and if so it's so expensive it's not worth it.
chickens slowed down egg production
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If they free range they may be laying elsewhere, other than the nest boxes. Some more info might help? You said you got 40 chickens but none of them would lay? I don't understand...were they full grown or did you buy them as chicks? How old were they when you realized they wouldn't lay?
What kind of feed are you feeding them? Are they all the same breed or a mixed flock?
Also, only 20 eggs a day sounds pretty poor for 40 hens. If they are all healthy and young, you should be getting 25-35, assuming they are all the same breed of a known good egg layer breed. Are they all the same age? How old are they? How long have you had them? Answers like this will help us help you figure out where your problem lies. Most breeds lay best in the first 12-24 months of their lives and then become less productive after that. You need a plan/schedule to be periodically hatching new chicks to replace the less productive hens. Then older hens can be processed and used as a good soup chicken, but likely too tough to be used for other cooking purposes. You could eat these yourselves or try to sell them, but I'd be clear that they should only be used in a soup after simmering for 3-4 hours (or longer), because otherwise they are too tough for most people's palates. You have to tell them that even after a long/slow cook they will be a tad tougher than what they're used to, if they've never had older chicken like this. The chicken most people are used to is only 6-8 weeks old when they are slaughtered.
Also, if you want to sell them organic/free-range/pastured, at least in parts on the mainland there is a market for these type of eggs. They sell for $6-$12 a dozen at both farmer's markets and health food stores. See if you can find any Weston Price folks in your area, they will realize the nutritional value of your eggs and will likely pay the premium price. Do some research on the superior nutrition of pastured eggs and then start educating your customers about this if they don't already know.
Figure up all your costs, then add a dollar or three on to the price of the dozen eggs to make it worth your while. Most people while think you're crazy for selling eggs for $9/dozen, but those people are not your customers. People who understand pastured livestock benefits will get it. Paleo people, Weston Price/Nourishing Traditions, variations of the Paleo idea...find these people and let them know they kind of eggs you have for sale. There's gotta be tons of those folks on Hawai'i.
In other words, simply "organic" eggs here can be had for as little as $4.50 at the grocery store, but their nutrition (judged by the color of the yolk) is poor compared to our own free-range hens. Our own egg yolks are generally much darker yolks, especially when they can free range in snow free weather. Our cost (which includes premium organic feed, not the cheapest organic feed and all other chicken related costs) comes out to a little more than $9/dozen. No way are we trying to sell these eggs! If I were, I would have the bulk of our flock to be known excellent egg layers and perhaps a few green/blue eggs for color. You can often charge more for a dozen of multi-colored eggs, but the hens that lay colored eggs (like EE or Americauna) tend to be less productive than say, Isa Browns.
I'm not an expert on selling eggs for a business, but I do know a thing or two about business, being self-employed for over 12 years. Many people who start out thinking it will be a profit making venture selling their own eggs discover it is more just being able to recoup some money to pay for their hobby. Because they don't know how to either lower their costs or more likely, educate their customers about why their eggs are superior to store bought. Do you have a spreadsheet detailing all of your expenses/income to know down to the penny how much money you are making or losing?
Let us know and good luck! Aloha!
Edited by pdirt - 5/13/16 at 11:30am