Cost of raising meat chickens??

Discussion in 'Meat Birds ETC' started by Frozen Feathers, Aug 2, 2007.

  1. Frozen Feathers

    Frozen Feathers Songster

    May 4, 2007
    In general how much does it cost to raise meat birds? We already have a goat (yes we eat goat, no it's not one of our Nigerian dwarf cuties) going in the freezer and a side of beef and were curious about raising meat birds. Any pointers on getting started?
  2. silkiechicken

    silkiechicken Staff PhD

    Well... When I raise them with exorbitant feed prices up here, and a chick costing almost $2 a pop. At 8 weeks, dressed out bird is about $2LB. To approximate it where you are. I get 4 meat birds, one layer chick, and raise them all to 8 weeks and butcher the meat birds all on one 50lb bag of starter/grower.

    So your cost per four will be about 50lb feed for each 4 chicks 8-9 weeks old at butcher. I do have a tiny bit of feed left over at the end though per bag. About enough to feed the remaining layer for a week or so.
  3. Bubba

    Bubba Songster

    Jun 18, 2007
    Do you let your birds freerange or eat alot of grass silkie? My birds eat alot of green stuff. You can also get leftovers from restraunts, toss them in the blender and viola! Free food for the birds. I feed my birds everything, well just about.


    PS Edit They can eat/ drink goat milk products to.
    Last edited: Aug 2, 2007
  4. silkiechicken

    silkiechicken Staff PhD

    Yeah, all my birds free range and get scraps. The cornish get to nibble on any fresh grass they want and consume anything they want along with the others.... but they don't really do much other than pig out. I do butcher at 8 weeks so they spend the first 4 under the lamp... or if they are early season birds... spend almost all 8 weeks under the lamp because day temps are only in the 50's. They still eat like pigs though. In the summer months, I could prob pull of 5 cornish per 50 lb bag. Live weight at butcher is about 7-8 lbs each. I get 5-6 lb table birds from them.
  5. greyfields

    greyfields Crowing

    Mar 15, 2007
    Washington State
    I too butcher my meat birds around 10 week or 8-10 pound live weight for nice roasters. Mine are kept in a brooder until they go on grass (depends on the weather). I then use a portable tractor for awhile until they're stinking it up by mid-day. Then, I put portable electric around the tractor and let them out during the day. This means I only really have to move them ever other day, rather than every day. That means a lot with my schedule. However, that extra 'exercise' they get, does seem to delay me at least 2 weeks from the 8 week of age target.

    I initially did crops of 25 birds. Before getting much experience, I estimated my costs to be $2.29 per pound. They actually came out closer to $3.09 per pound. My subsequent crops were around $2.79 per pound and then down under $2.50. I get better return each crop. With those costs consider:

    a) I amoratized my equipment, shelter, handling supplies over a 2 year period. After the first 2 years, my costs should be $1.86 per pound.

    b) A pound either way on your finished products means a helluva difference in your profitability. Don't let them go that extra week if you don't have to.

    c) My mortality with Cornish x's was awful, so I'm currently working Freedom Rangers, which so far have been much heartier. Seriously, feeding a work for 9 weeks, having it die the week before processing? Ouch.

    d) I'm doing crops of 50 now, rather than 25. I'm also breeding some of my own meat birds, which saves me $2.60 per bird (includew shipping) which should save me around $0.40 per pound. However, I have to pay off the incubator ($500+), but I'm doing a lot of hens, meat birds, ducks and geese, so the shock to one income source isn't too great.

    I theoretically could get my per pound costs just under $1.50. And none too soon! I sell at $3.50 per pound which is generally palatable. I just have a feeling that people won't spend over $20 on a chicken because they view it as cheap meat feeding only 2 people for 1 meal. Why, we could get steak for $10 each, right? So, that's why I shoot for 5-6 pounds dressed. I want their $20 bucks, but not their $25 dollars because they won't view it as a good deal for them.

    Finally, if anyone ever gives you grief over your prices, consider this:

    A common Snickers Bar is 2.07 ounces and costs you roughly $0.75. That equates to $5.79 per pound. Which should you spend your money on? The sustainably raised chicken or junk food?

    Last edited: Aug 2, 2007
  6. silkiechicken

    silkiechicken Staff PhD

    Haha, yeah seriously. Good write up though about things to consider. I don't even equate the housing for them!
  7. greyfields

    greyfields Crowing

    Mar 15, 2007
    Washington State
    I just wanted to point out that most people on these forums are producing for their own personal use, not a working part-time farm. But, we started simply as enthusiasts and greedy guts. We wanted our own eggs and delicious meat birds, rather than constantly shopping at Whole Foods and paying $$$ for organic and pastured animals. So, any of you toying with the idea of selling meat birds, here is my advice:

    1) Poultry inspection & sales rules are on a state-by-state basis. The USDA is only involved with mega-huge producers. So check with your extension agent first, because they get teh question asked all the time.

    2) Generally, in order to sell to customers, you have to use a state inspected processor - or - in my State, you can sell from your farm directly to people who happen upon your driveway. However, in my state, you have to sell them within 48 hours of slaughter and are only allowed to chill. When looking at the permitting requirements to do it, you'll find quickly that the $3 - $4 bucks you pay a processor is actually a bargain in time spent (if not money also).

    3) I've sold out every crop I've done within 2 weeks of processing. There is a demand for pastured chickens. I advise never to use the word "organic" though, unless you are truly certified. Use "pastured" or "free range". What makes it nice is that we get 4 or 5 birds per crop for ourselves, and our customers have paid for it. We essentially get our chicken, eggs, beef, pork, goose, lamb and duck for free now, rather than spending hundreds of not thousands per year at Costco or Whole Foods.

    When I say "free" I means it cost me no money, however, you always have to remember the hundreds if not thousands of hourse you spend working your farm. A neighbor worked it out last year and told me he essentially makes (profits) about $2 per hour assuming 12 hour days year around.

    4) When calculating how much a meat bird (or layer) enterprise will cost you, add up:

    a) Cost of the bird (include shipping)
    b) Food (our costs in the NW are greatly higher than the rest of the US)
    c) Slaughter (include your mileage and gas to get there and back)
    d) Shelter (add up all your receipts from Home Depot for all the lumber and niggly things you needed to house the birds)
    e) Portable electric fencing, permanent fencing, whatever is applicable to you (include shipping costs!)
    f) Fountains and Waterers
    g) Range Feeders, starter feeders
    h) Brooder lamps and light bulbs
    i) Medicine
    j) Amoratized incubator costs (if hatching your own)
    k) Business license, permits, marketing, farmer's market fees, web site maintenance/cost, receipt books, money box, paper for flyers, your 10' x 10' caravan tent for the market, a table for the market, some chairs, mileage to and from the market, etc.

    Add those up, then determine your number of crops per year and the target weight of the finished birds. You can then calculate your costs and decide how long you want to amoratize your fixed costs (like housing), then go for it!
  8. silkiechicken

    silkiechicken Staff PhD

    Very good points. Raising chickens for self use versus a business are two whole different worlds. If you are gong to go the legal route and sell to market... there are tons of rules and regulations. The larger you get the harder to manage too.
  9. K8tieCat

    K8tieCat Songster

    Jan 15, 2007
    Northern California
    Wow. :eek:

    I just started my project in January. I built a nice shed and run and now have 12 birds which are eggs only and friends. According to your notes here, so far my birds have cost me $110/lb., estimating that they weigh approximately 5 lbs each. Two trips to the veterinarian have cost more than $1,100 included in that figure.

    It's probably a good thing I'm not trying to make money at it.

    If it weren't so much fun, I would be depressed.
  10. greyfields

    greyfields Crowing

    Mar 15, 2007
    Washington State
    Quote:You can only laugh! [​IMG]

    Or go crazy. But at least there are pills for crazy.

    So, I really am laughing and I can totally sympathize! Our life here at Greyfields has been the best, most productive of my life. But there are always so many set-backs, so you just have to forget about the bottom line and take good care of your animals. We do it ultimately for them. To know our animals were treated well can't be assigned a $$$ value. Our goal is to make 2 mortage payments per year from farm profit, which I think is a modest goal for anyone with acerage. But gosh, sometimes it feels like we hemmorage money!!

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