So here we are. I gave it a good try with selling chicken eggs the last 3 years but it’s one of those things where you start thinking more and more about downsizing. Every day you go out to feed and you just keep thinking “this isn’t what I planned to do with this property”. You start to despise all the chicken poo everywhere and all the chickens that get out no matter what you do…just pooping on every surface…..Last year we were up to nearly 300 birds! I downsized at the end of the year cutting that number in half, but it’s still a lot.
Being a chicken farmer was never my intention when we moved here in 2016. I had other plans and goals in mind. (read this post Do what you have to do and this one Beginning a Dream) But those other plans couldn’t be realized yet because they cost a lot of money up front that we just couldn’t do yet (I’ll talk more about that in another post). Selling chicken eggs just kind of fell in my lap. I don’t regret getting into it. It makes us a little money when the hens are laying at 60% or more production. I learned a lot, and we gained a lot of wonderful customers that I am so glad I got to meet! (Thank you if you are reading this!!) Selling eggs helped get our name on the map and that’s always a good thing.
But right now? In January? They’ve decided to take a complete nose dive in laying even with my lights on. It’s to be expected at times, but now that I have even more customers than I had this time last year, it makes things even more stressful. I want to have eggs available and not have people waiting too long, but I have orders that probably won’t get filled 2 weeks or so out! Everyone has been understanding, but it is still a weight on my people pleasing mind.
The problem is, eggs don’t make you much money for how much time and money you have to put into it. Plus, if you don’t have a passion for raising chickens, you’re going to get burnt out. Chickens have never been my passion. I started selling eggs to make some extra cash. I enjoy chickens in moderation, but they are super messy, pooping on EVERYTHING, some of them getting out of their pens even if you clip their wings and have high fencing even though they have several acres of pasture to free range on.
Then you have molting times when they stop laying or drastically reduce for a little while, times that illness runs through the flock leaving many dead and costing money in medication and extra supplements. There’s mites and/or lice…. those are fun…again, more money to buy spray or dip to kill the little buggers. Chickens are also easy prey. Thankfully we haven’t had much of a problem with that here, but I’ve heard of many people around us having issues with foxes, raccoons, etc. I would have quit a lot sooner if we had predator issues because generally once a predator finds out you have chickens, they will keep coming back.
You need to buy bedding to keep their coops and nesting boxes clean. That alone is a lot of work and more money if you want to actually keep them clean regularly especially in the winter. You need to rotate the flock by bringing in new chicks and selling off the older hens to keep production up. There’s a lot to it!
Don’t get me wrong. A small flock is pretty easy to take care of, but as you get more and more, the mess and cost just multiplies at exponential rates!
I love clean animals. Ones that don’t like to poop in their stalls. Animals that have more solid poop that is easy to clean up. Animals that don’t spend most of their time in their enclosed stall/coop.
Do you know what animals fall into that category for the most part? Horses and goats. I have both. I’ve had horses nearly all my life and I’ve had goats for the past 3 years. Goats aren’t necessarily my passion either but I do love the 2 does that I have and I love goat milk! Goats have a lot of personality and if they have a good size pasture, they are pretty easy to take care of and they don’t make a mess of their stall too quickly.
Horses. Now horses are my passion. Horses are what I wanted this property for. We finally have the opportunity to move forward with my original dream and so I will be transitioning over to focus on that full time over the course of this year. I won’t stop selling eggs right away and probably not completely. I’ll still have excess eggs to sell at times even with a smaller flock, and I’ll be keeping the 11 ducks I have (I really do enjoy the ducks!) so there will still be duck eggs available. I will probably stop taking orders and definitely won’t be doing deliveries anymore. Any extra eggs available will be set out in the egg stand.
We will still be selling some beef shares each year too. We only butcher 2-4 steer per year so it’s not much but that is something we will continue to do. Cows are messy too by the way…. but mostly not too much work to take care of and you get more bang for your buck once they are butchered and you get lots of delicious beef to put in the freezer!
The cornish cross meat birds we’ve been selling the past 2 years I’m still on the fence whether to continue with those. It really depends on how many people want them. I’ll definitely continue to do some each year for ourselves and probably sell some of them but I don’t think I’ll be doing the quantity I’ve done previously.( By the way, we are taking pre orders for our 2022 Spring batch of pastured chicken right now.)
That’s all I’m going to divulge in this post, so If you would like to see what our big plans are, stay tuned!