"Spent" Hen Enterprise

Discussion in 'Managing Your Flock' started by JayColli, Jan 19, 2017.

  1. JayColli

    JayColli Out Of The Brooder

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    Wanted to brainstorm with you folks about the viability of running back a farm gate egg sales business with returns plentiful enough to make the business self-sufficient and have enough left on the side for an extra bag of feed or two every couple of weeks - essentially raising one flock to generate enough income to support another as well.

    Every year in early spring our local factory egg farms sell off their 18-month old hens right out of the battery cages to locals. My guess is that the big processing companies that turn these hens into cat food are not paying nearly as much.... So the question is, given that these hens are likely due for a molt, would it still be reasonable to expect 10-12 dozen eggs from these commercial grade brown layers from 18 to 24 months of age? At 24 months I would give them away or process for stew.
     
  2. cavemanrich

    cavemanrich Overrun With Chickens

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    Try it and see for yourself. Personally, I would keep the Ex battery hens longer since they may produce for 3 or 4 years. It just gets less profitable, and the egg producers have Pointy Eared Accountants holding Sharp Pencils directing the business operations. You sound like not the kind to climb the ALMIGHTY $$$$$$ LADDER.

    Wishing you best [​IMG]
     
    Last edited: Jan 19, 2017
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  3. lazy gardener

    lazy gardener True BYC Addict

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    How big a flock do you have right now? How big do you eventually want to get in terms of flock size? You might start with a dozen battery birds, and see how that works before committing for more. How much are they selling for? I'd not pay more than $3-4 for a battery bird, and at that, I'd consider that I was doing a favor. You are undertaking a risk of bringing disease into your flock every time you bring in an adult bird. Battery birds even more so, because they are going to be super stressed and have an immune system that is essentially shot.
     
  4. JayColli

    JayColli Out Of The Brooder

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    @cavemanrich thanks for the input! The research I have done to date has led me to believe that commercial layers can still be very productive after 18 months but I guess they're not quite as productive as big producers would like so they get sold off cheap. If I had the space I would keep them longer but I only have winter accommodations for my pet flock of personal layers and the goal is to have these birds paying for themselves and my pet flock so after 2 years they may not be able to produce at that rate but those that do will likely be integrated into the pet flock!
     
  5. JayColli

    JayColli Out Of The Brooder

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    I have 6 now but have had up to 20. The layers sell for $1 or $2 a piece right out of the battery cages. I want to sell 8-10 dozen a week so perhaps 25-30 hens?

    Disease and parasite considerations are a good point but they'll be tractored on a 3/4 acre down the road from my property so I'm not too worried as my pet flock isn't likely to ever cross ground they've covered. They'll be entirely separated.
     
    Last edited: Jan 19, 2017
  6. lazy gardener

    lazy gardener True BYC Addict

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    Keep us posted about how it goes for you, and what their lay rate is after you get them settled.
     
  7. JayColli

    JayColli Out Of The Brooder

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    Will do! Having thought a bit more about the idea I am going to do a small test run this year as proof of concept to iron out some of the variables as you suggested @lazy gardener

    The shock of going from whatever artificial daylight schedule the hens are used to in the laying houses to a regular night/day cycle in early May could force a molt lasting 8-12 weeks, which really only leaves me with 12 weeks of laying IF they come right back into lay after a 12-week molt.

    So within the 24 weeks that I plan to have them I would expect an average of 5 eggs a week per hen or 60 eggs (5 dozen) over 12 weeks. At $4/doz that's $20 less approximately $13.75 for feed (assuming they eat 1/4 lb. per day at $18/bag) and $2.50 for 5 new egg cartons I can expect to make $3.75 in profit per bird over the 6 months I plan to keep them meaning I'll need about 5 hens to pay for one extra bag of feed for my other pet flock.

    I don't factor in labour since raising chickens for any reason is always a labour of love and I'm not aiming to turn this into a huge commercial enterprise so we'll leave that out of the equation. The feed they'll get as a result of daily tractor movement is hard to determine but could also drastically reduce their feed costs for 2-3 months over the late spring/early summer when grass is growing most vigorously and insect populations are up. As for the materials required to build the tractor I already have 90% of it leftover from other projects and suspect that I'll be spending no more than $10 on hardware to assemble the wooden frame and fasten the 1/4" galvanized mesh so let's leave that cost out as it will last a long time.
     
  8. JayColli

    JayColli Out Of The Brooder

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    A few more details to be added from my research:

    • Some commercial producers keep hens to 31 months of age but they tend to be less profitable due to the decreased value by weight of eggs in the XL to Jumbo range which are less desirable for sale by the doz directly to consumers so usually get sold in bulk to processors. This is probably why there are so many "spent" hens for sale. Any producer with sufficient capacity and facilities to raise replacement pullets wouldn't be maximizing their profit if they kept them any longer.
    • Commercial lines of White Leghorn can still be expected to lay at approximately 75% during their second cycle up to 31 months of age which is slightly more than 5 eggs per week.

    Finding specifics on brown layers is proving more difficult but there are references to them being only slightly less productive than white egg layers so I suspect an average of 5 eggs per week is a reasonable number to expect from these hens.

    I'll also add that I plan to have a stocking density of 10 sq.ft. per hen, their feed (layer pellets) will be rationed to 1/8 of a lb. twice a day per hen and their tractor will be moved each evening so that they'll wake up to new pasture

    Can anyone comment on their experience with reduced laying rates during molting in commercial brown layer hybrids? I have one myself but she is still a pullet and hasn't molted yet.
     
    Last edited: Jan 20, 2017
  9. aart

    aart Chicken Juggler! Premium Member

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    I'll follow along out of curiosity...interesting concept.
    Good that you are keeping them separate for both biological reasons as well as cost accounting.
    Should be pretty easy to track feed/supply cost and egg production and sales...as well as observations on behaviors, health, etc.
    Agrees infrastructure (housing, equipment) costs should not be included.

    Will you employ lighting techniques for winter laying?

    ETA: I'd be wary of restricting feed.
     
    Last edited: Jan 20, 2017
  10. donrae

    donrae Hopelessly Addicted Premium Member

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    I don't have a huge sample, just one bit to share....

    I had a sale at the end of September. A man brought half a dozen red sex link hens he wanted to get rid of cause they weren't laying. 18 months old, they were just coming out of molt. One or two still looked pretty scraggly, but the others had grown feathers back and looked nice. I was busy with other customers, so my Honey gave him I think $25 for the lot. They did have some mites, so we treated them for that, otherwise they were fine and healthy. We kept them a month, at the end of the month we were getting 4 eggs a day from the group. Sold them for $60 for the lot to a friend who has been thrilled with them all winter. Not sure exactly how much they've produced over the winter cause the friend free ranges and is more interested in just "having chickens" than getting eggs, but they were doing well for us.

    I'd give it a try and see how it goes. You're not out much if it flops.

    I don't think the daylight cycle should be too different, if you're getting the birds in May. Should be a smooth transition in that regards. Probably just have to deal with the normal "you moved me and I'm not sure I'm going to reproduce right now" issues of not laying right away. When I move birds, I find it's about 2 weeks til they kick back into production.
     

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