Where the farm meets the city
Fresh FREE-RANGE pastured, Cage-Free chicken eggs that are truly just that
Why do farm fresh, free-range pastured eggs cost more than regular store bought eggs?
A lot of people ask, “Why do fresh eggs cost more compared to store bought eggs?” The answer can be broken down into a few simple reasons, which when added together drive the cost of the eggs. For commercial farms, the cost is reduced by sheer volume. Buying bulk feed at a substantially lower cost than a backyard farmer can allows them to sell their eggs at the price they do. But the price of free-range and cage-free eggs (See home page) tend to be more expensive on the commercial level. That is due to the space needed to produce millions of eggs each year. So what does it take for a backyard farmer to get free-range pastured, cage-free eggs to the market (mostly networking through friends and friends of friends)?
First is the cost of raising a chick to laying age. Chickens will start to lay eggs at around 16-20 weeks. So, for the first four to four and a half months, they are just eating machines. The first week of a chick’s life, it will consume about one and a half ounces of food weekly. From there, the amount goes up rapidly till it reaches about one and a half pounds of feed per week. Also during the first four to five months, most chicks are given a starter or a starter/grower feed. This feed cost about 25% more than the layer feed does. This is a must if the chicks are to develop properly. Layer feed has too much calcium in it for the new chicks, and not enough protein. So why not just "free-range pasture them and not suppliment the feed?" The short answer is the need for nutrients. Chickens do better with a balanced diet that nature alone does not provide. Calcium is needed for strong egg shells, as well as a strong bone structure in the chickens (which is very inportant for broilers). Without it, the shells will be fragile, soft, or even missing and you may have more breakage, and the birds' legs will be weak and in some cases, unable to hold the weight of the chicken.
Second is the cost of housing the chicks. If starting with a large number of chicks as we did, the cost per chick will be lower. It costs FarmGateTX about $16.00 per bird to build their habitat. If starting with just a few chicks, what size habitat can be built for that amount per bird? Choosing a very small habitat or increasing the cost per bird on the habitat are the options that most backyard farmers will face.
Now it is time to crunch some numbers. The overall cost for raising chickens for one year, regardless of their age, is about $45.00. When they are young, they eat less, but the feed costs more. As they get close to laying age, switching over to laying pellets will cost less, but they are eating more. This will include all the feed, water and electricity needed. However, even though there is a cost to build a habitat, it is not included in the yearly cost because it will be depreciated over time.
Then there is time itself. How much time does it take to take care of chickens? Our day goes like this: first thing each morning, We check on the birds and feed and water them. This takes about 15 minutes. Then they will be let outside and can free-range as long as they want to be outdoors. The coop doors are left open to give them access to both their feed and water system. Because they are free-range pastured chickens, they get checked several times a day. Each evening, it takes about 20 minutes for a final feeding (filling feeders), gathering the chickens and closing the habitat. So, regardless of the number of chickens, free-range animals will require at least one hour each day for hands-on care.
The chicken breeds that we have chosen will lay about six eggs per bird each week. That works out to 26 dozen eggs each year per bird. Keep in mind that the first couple of weeks after they start laying, the eggs will be what most people refer to as "pullet eggs". These are REALLY small compared to what a full size egg will be. You may even get one or two as small as a quarter. At our current price of $3.50 per dozen, we must sell 13 dozen eggs per hen per year just to feed and water the hens. To include time spent caring for them, add two more dozen to that count. That leaves only 11 dozen eggs per year gross profit, or $38.50 per year per bird. This does not take into account dead-loss from natural causes or predators. Depreciating the habitat over five years, take off at least another dozen eggs per bird. So, for a profit of $35.00 a year per bird, others get to have the best eggs that nature can provide - a true free-range pastured, cage-free, and non-medicated egg and we get to have fun raising them. Note: Due to the cost of egg cartons, we had to raise our per dozen price to $3.75 as of 9-1-15.
If comparing apples to apples, or better said, "Backyard Free-Range pastured" to "Commercial Free-range", then the backyard chicken farmer tends to sell at a lower cost overall than the BIG BOX STORES. The main reason for this is the amount of space required. On a commercial scale, the cost of land verses the cost of a backyard farm per square foot is substancially greater. Most backyard farmers do not go out and purchase land just for the flock. We tend to have purchased the land for a homestead already and just happen to have some space available.
Need pullets? We have them