Topic of the Week - Managing Expenses and Saving/Making Money Keeping Poultry

Discussion in 'Managing Your Flock' started by sumi, Apr 2, 2017.

  1. sumi

    sumi Égalité Staff Member

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    Pic by @ChicKat

    As we all know chicken keeping can get to be an expensive hobby and there is a joke floating around that that first egg often costs hundreds of Dollars! This week I would like to hear you all's thoughts and practices on managing expenses and where and how to keep expenses down and/or recoup some of your money. Specifically:

    - Buying or building a coop and how to save money there.
    - Feed costs - how to keep the feed bill down.
    - Recouping some of the expenses and making money through selling eggs, birds etc.


    For a complete list of our Topic of the Week threads, see here: https://www.backyardchickens.com/a/topic-of-the-week-thread-archive
     
    Last edited: Apr 2, 2017
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  2. I Love Layers

    I Love Layers Chillin' With My Peeps

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    - Buying or building a coop and how to save money there.
    Coops do not need to be fancy in any way or form. There sole purpose is to give the chickens somewhere to lay eggs and to shelter them at night. Driving around the countryside looking at old buildings is not a bad idea. Some people might even be glad if you'd take that old coop or shed off there hands. Old grainerys work very well Also! Grainerys were built well so they will last. Possibly using these older buildings you might have to do some work like roofing and insulating but in the long run you're saving a lot. If you have to build one but discarded crooked lumber or anything you can find that is cheap or you don't have to buy. Ask around to see if your neighbor's have some tools like a nail gun if you do not have one


    - Feed costs - how to keep the feed bill down.
    Free range and chickens do not need mealworms every day! Because i free range my chickens barely way anything in the spring summer and fall, but I do still have feed offered 24/7 in the coop. I have 1/4 Layer feed, 1/4 Whole corn, and 1/2 oats. With grit offered a few times a week. Also in order to savw money on feed you need an efficient feeder. My dad and I built one that there is 100% no waste from it.

    - Recouping some of the expenses and making money through selling eggs, birds etc.
    For selling eggs you need to get customers. If you only have a dozen hens you don't want to be telling the whole town and asking if they want to buy eggs or you will have lots of pestering people. Before i started rebuilding my laying flock I used to about 2 regular customers. But they each took 15 dozen eggs a week or more, and then they sell those to their friends for the same price they buy them from me. If you only have a dozen laying hens or so I recommend keeping quite about the eggs and only selling to a few neighbor's. And if you want to make money selling eggs you will have to have a productive flock all year. I am rebuilding my flock this year to get that 50 productive hens, since I did not stay on top of it last year.
    Bartering for feed also saves money. I get all my corn and oats in exchange for eggs.
    Selling birds is not as simple as it sounds you want to sell chicks within a week or you aren't really gaining profit. Older birds or birds who are still laying can be easier to sell. The best thing is if someone is buying your old hens as meat birds Thats fine. They're buying the birds so they have control over what happens now.
     
    Last edited: Apr 2, 2017
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  3. dunnmom

    dunnmom Chillin' With My Peeps

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    I would estimate my 6 hens to cost us around $1 a day on feed and coop bedding. Probably a little more when it's really hot or cold, due to higher water consumption or purchase of insulation. Probably seems expensive to some people, but it works out fine for us.

    When we built our coop and run, we used reclaimed wood for everything but the frame. My husband got the wood from a fencing company that throws away all the old fence panels from it's jobs. That saved a lot of money, sort of. The most expensive thing was the stuff made of metal that we bought new and the stain/sealer. The hardware cloth, the screws and bolts, braces, and door fittings. I don't count the housing against the hens, since we made the coop with some extra-nice features that aren't necessary for chickens. My husband now builds and sells coops, so it ended up paying for itself.

    We use an organic, non gmo feed that is about $25 for 40 lbs of laying pellets. At first we gave it dry and we went through about 2 bags a month with a lot of waste. Once I started soaking their pellets, boom, no more waste, and we are using about half the amount of feed per month. Money saved. I forgot that we purchase BOSS in huge bags to feed directly and sprout when bugs, weeds, and grass are scarce in the cold months. We do not spend any other money on snacks for them.

    I don't sell my eggs, we just eat a lot of eggs. Saves us money on the protein food group because we buy less meat now. We get 10-12 eggs every 2 days. We were spending almost $4 a dozen on free range or cage free eggs, now we get eggs from our own girls at around half the expense. Not too shabby.
     
    Last edited: Apr 2, 2017
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  4. debattikitoo

    debattikitoo Just Hatched

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    Hi. Would you be willing to share details about your efficient feeder?
     
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  5. 21hens-incharge

    21hens-incharge Overrun With Chickens

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    Coop cost savings:
    Shopping around at stores like Home Depot for cull lumber helps some. Often times there are pieces that are only slightly damaged. Craigslist is another good place to find usable materials. Looking for crates, fencing, windows, siding and such has saved me tons. Don't forget to look for the mis-tinted paints too. A gallon of mis-tint at Home Depot is 9 dollars as opposed to the nearly 30 dollars for a color mixed just for me.
    That being said having a plan and drawings first will help avoid the buying of materials that end up being not needed. Graph paper is a really great tool to sketch it all up.
    There may be extra work in reclaimed materials but my own labor is free to me.

    Saving on feed:
    Keeping mice and wild birds out is a good start. Feeding pellets instead of crumbles reduces waste. I feed out simple wet feed every morning. I mix water with the regular layer pellets and feed it out about 20 minutes later. Most of my flock will bypass the scratch to eat the wet pellets. I only make enough each day for them to fully empty those dishes. Dry pellets are always there for them too. Growing the treats is cheap and easy. I grow a garden every year and plant a few extras just for the chickens. Not any real extra work just a bit of space and water. Swiss chard, cabbage, radish tops, turnip greens, tomatoes, extra apples from the tree, and pretty much any kind of squash are appreciated by the gals.

    Making a profit:
    I am happy when I sell enough eggs to pay for the feed and bedding.
    We keep the peace in the hood by giving eggs to neighbors. Some have started growing things in their gardens to bring for the gals. Others exchange honey or meat from a hunt for the wonderful eggs. I am pretty lucky to have that one for a neighbor!
    I have purchased extra chicks and sold them at POL making a bit of money in doing so. I found parting with some to be difficult as I am a big squishy about my gals. Any pullets I sell from here out will only be to good friends that are also good stewards to their flocks.
     
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  6. Mrs. K

    Mrs. K Overrun With Chickens

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    On feed costs: Do not feed 24/7. Check your feed bowl at night, if it is empty, feed slightly more the next day, if it is partially full, feed less the next day. Hungry chickens will clean up spilt feed, over fed chickens will not.

    And reduce your flock going into winter. Chicken math needs both additions and subtractions. I always solve for the benefit of the flock. I have kept a flock for years, but the chickens come into it and leave over time.

    selling eggs can be difficult, because egg production is not constant. I know several people that have paid for quite a bit of feed by selling either point of lay pullets or 2 year old hens.

    Mrs K
     
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  7. MontainBourbons

    MontainBourbons Chillin' With My Peeps

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    For reducing the feed cost I mix the feed at my mill with raw ingredients. Such as barley, wheat, soy, peas.
    Also you could grow fodder for the winter time. They hardly eat any more feed with this stuff.
    With these two helpers I've gotten my feed cost down to $2 a day for my 25 turkeys.
     
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  8. mobius

    mobius Chillin' With My Peeps

    Coops: As discussed exhaustively here: Do not waste your time on pre-fab coops. They disintegrate. Build or have it built. Also important for predator protection to have a solid coop..

    Food: Ferment your feed. The chickens eat eat less and get many health benefits.

    Add fodder. I just started a small fodder setup: 15 dollars for 50# bag of whole barley seeds.

    Supplement with fermented alfalfa cubes if no greens available (winter, scorched earth).

    Grow your own mealworms. Super easy. They get a sliced potato once a week.

    Plant "salad bars" with clover or variety of grain seeds. Use leftovers to supplement diet. I am going to do salad bars in next week or so.Clover attracts beneficial insects for your garden and is a perennial or reseeds.

    Other: Use garden and lawn and forest waste for run bedding, can also use in coop. Leaves are great, free for taking. Then you have free compost. Nice little eco-cycle...

    There are a LOT of ways, if managed correctly, that take little time and can reduce costs or are free or nearly so! It just becomes a normal system...
     
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  9. azygous

    azygous Chicken Obsessed

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    Buying or building a coop and how to save money there.

    Buying a prefab coop is a waste of money. For almost all new chicken keepers, it will quickly become inadequate, and you will spend more money in the long run trying to bring it up to snarf.

    A few years ago, I hired a carpenter to help me build a run between my two small coops that is a palace as far as coops and runs go. (See my avatar) It could have easily cost as much as a small cabin to build had I used new lumber and materials. Instead, I put out the word and people donated all sorts of used materials, such as nifty glass doors, and the end cost was a mere fraction of what it might have otherwise cost.

    - Feed costs - how to keep the feed bill down.

    Fermenting feed is the best way to boost efficiency and reduce the feed bill and waste. When I was using dry crumbles, I invented feed catchers that strapped onto my feeders, eliminating waste. But fermented feed actually increases the health and productivity of my layers and I get more eggs for a longer period and for a longer span of the life of the laying hens. My seven-year olds are all still producing.

    I garden on a pretty large scale and grow veggies that I store over winter. This augments the feed bill and rounds out the nutrition of my flock.


    - Recouping some of the expenses and making money through selling eggs, birds etc.

    See above. Fermented feed maximizes egg production, and selling my eggs helps me break even on my expenses. This is crucial since I don't have any extra money to throw away on frivolous hobbies. I have regular egg customers, sell the eggs for $5 a dozen and I deliver them.

    My chickens earn their keep, although I love them just as much when they decide to "retire".
     
    Last edited: Apr 2, 2017
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  10. lazy gardener

    lazy gardener True BYC Addict

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    - Buying or building a coop and how to save money there. Build your coop. I recommend a soil floor coop with hardware skirt buried around the entire perimeter. (must have good drainage) Make that coop predator proof. Lots of ventilation, lots of extra room. IMO, it's a false economy to use chicken wire, or skimp on space b/c that can lead to disease and behavior issues. Source your material from unconventional places: Habitat for Humanity, local dump or trash day road side scavenging, call area contractors, roofers, and especially small businesses who specialize in remodeling. You can often pick up plenty of building materials for free. Hoop coops are fantastic in all but the coldest climates.

    - Feed costs - how to keep the feed bill down. Fermented feed. Deep litter compost in the run attracts lots of beneficial insects. It also provides beneficial fungi and bacteria to privide a healthy gut for improved nutrition. Recycle all of your egg shells. Give left overs to the birds. Give extra garden produce to the flock. Plant your yard to provide free range nutrition: berries, fruit trees, Bocking #4 or 14 comfrey, Siberian pea tree/shrub, nut trees, squash, pumpkins, kale, chard, and other greens. Sun flowers, sorghum, grains, feed corn. In winter months, sprout grains. Be sure your feed is fresh. Never purchase it if it has been sitting on the store shelf for an extended time. My rule of thumb is that I plan to use up a bag of feed within 6 weeks of mill date. Price shop. I've found a store brand that is $2 less/bag than the brand the store usually pushes. Nutrient breakdown is essentially identical, with the only difference being a prettier bag, and advertising hype. Realize that layer mash, layer pellets, and layer crumble are simply different forms of the same product, with price increasing a bit based on the form. Let your birds free range if that is an option for you. Never leave feed out over night, and keep your feed in a rodent proof container. If any rodents are seen, realize that for every rodent seen, there are most likely 20 cousins, brothers, and sisters that are not seen.

    - Recouping some of the expenses and making money through selling eggs, birds etc. Use DL in coop and run, collect fall leaves and use them instead of purchasing shavings. When cleaning coop, toss all of the bedding into the run. The chickens will gladly turn that into compost that will feed them, improve their health, help keep any internal/external parasites under control, and provide huge benefit to your gardens. Go organic: no more herbicides or insecticides on your lawn. Give grass clippings (layered with leaves) to your birds for bedding in coop and run.

    Sell eggs to friends, co-workers. Have your egg customers provide their own egg cartons. Realize that your eggs are superior in quality to any eggs that can be bought at the store. Do not apologize for selling them at an appropriate price.

    Sell your older layers.

    Hatch your own chicks. Sell extra chicks. Process your extra cockrels.

    Barter eggs, chickens, chicks for other goods.

     
    Last edited: Apr 2, 2017
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