Besides the horses, laying hens were our first foray into livestock. They are for lots of people. Hens have a relatively low investment cost (you can order chicks from a hatchery for about $2 each), require only moderate housing, a daily does of grain and all of your leftovers, and in 5 months you’ll get about an egg a day from each girl. Their production peaks when the days are the longest and wanes as the winter comes and we have less daylight. So eating seasonally for eggs, means eating plenty in the spring and early summer and cherishing every egg in the winter. Production will slow down again after they are about 2 years old, which is why in commercial operations they are culled at that age. They are great backyard livestock that are accessible to almost anyone anywhere and are very affordable when a family is raising a small flock on their own property.
When we started scaling up to sell our eggs (and it became a business enterprise and not just for our own nutrition and entertainment), there wasn’t much to our pricing strategy. We marked them up just a bit more than the ones you find in the grocery store, figuring how we keep them (freedom, sunshine, fresh air) and their added nutritional value was worth the extra few cents. But lately we’ve been taking a hard look at all the enterprises on the farm and have decided that it doesn’t do anyone any good for us not to be making money on any one of our farm enterprises. If we’re not profitable, we’re not going to be able to stay here. And another family farm will be gone.
So a jump from $3.50 to $5 per dozen seems like a big price increase. But here’s why we need to do it. 1. At $3.50 per dozen we really weren’t being honest with ourselves or our customers about all of our costs and labor plus profit to keep our farm going for the future. 2. They eat a lot! If you have any more than a handful of chickens, then pasture and kitchen scraps will not be enough. If you want a steady stream of eggs, you’ll have to pump some grain into them. And the price of grain has gone up about 25% in the past year. 3. Compared to other sources of protein, eggs can been seen as a great financial deal in terms of weight: One dozen eggs weighs in at over a pound of protein (not including the shell), while our beef and pork starts at $6.00/lb. So at $5.00, eggs are a great value!
Check out this link http://cuesa.org/article/pastured-eggs-what-it-really-takes to get perspective from some other farms.
A blog about farming and food. Kate Bogli owns and operates Maple View Farm, raising livestock and growing veggies, with her husband Jason. The farm has been in his family for 65 years.