Raising Chickens for Meat (and Money)

Raising chickens for meat is a great sideline business for s small farm. You can fill your freezer with great, naturally-grown food, and put a few dollars in your wallet, too.

And, if you raise chickens seasonally, (i.e. in the snow-free months only), you can get started with very little equipment and resources.

But, what kind of money can you expect to make raising meat chickens? Here's a breakdown of the expenses and income possible:

Making a Living on Your Small Farm

VARIABLE COSTS - these are the costs that apply to each bird you raise. Note I'm using my expense figures as an example, substitute your own costs into the formula given to figure your costs.
  • Day-old chicks @ $1.00 each

  • Organic chick starter feed @ $0.30/lb

  • Organic chick grower feed @ $0.26/lb

  • Processing at abattoir @3.00/each

FIXED COSTS - These are the costs for equipment that can be reused and amortized over a number of years. Here's what you need:
  • Broody boxes and heat lamps to shelter the young meat chicks

  • Feeders and waterers

  • A movable coop

  • Electromesh fencing and fence charger

Let's use the information above to make a sample budget for a small meat chicken operation, raising 300 meat birds in 'batches' of 100. We are using small batches so that equipment can be re-used as each batch is finished.

Raising Chickens for Meat - Sample Budget

Let's assume we want to raise three batches of 100 meat birds, aiming for a 'market weight' of 5 lbs per bird. Here's how to calculate costs and profits:

Figure a feed conversion of about 5:1 ; that is, it takes 5 lbs. of feed to grow 1 lb. of chicken. This will further break down into 1/3 for organic chick starter feed, and 2/3 for grower. Here's the feed cost using the feed prices given:

300 meat birds x 5lbs. each x feed conversion of 5:1 = a total of 7500 lbs of feed. 1/3 of this is chick starter = 2500 lbs @ $0.30/lb = $750. 2/3 is chick grower = 5000 lbs. x $0.26/lb = $1,300.

So the total feed cost to raise 300 meat chickens is $2,050.

Add in the cost of processing at the abattoir - $3.00 per bird - and the ,b>total variable costs = $2,050 + (300 x $3) = $2,950.

Calculating the Fixed Costs. Your fixed costs will vary quite a bit depending on what equipment you use, and if you buy or build your coop, feeders, and broody boxes. I'll use numbers from my records, and you can use the same formula substituting your own figures to calculate your fixed costs.

  • Movable Coop $150

  • Broody boxes $75

  • Lamps, feeders, waterers, etc $175

  • Electric poultry netting $150

  • Fence charger, wire, ground posts $250

Total fixed costs: $800

So, let's run those numbers to create our budget. Assume we can amortize all the equipment over 5 years, and that we will continue to do 3 batches of meat chickens each year. Here's the results:

  • Feed cost for 300 birds = $2,950

  • Fixed cost for 300 birds (amortized over 5 years) = $800/5 = $160.

Total costs per batch of 300 meat chickens = $3,110.

Now, what to charge? The cost per pound of your chicken is $3,110 / (300 x 5 lbs.) = $2.07/lb. I recommend pricing your chicken to net at least 60% or 70%, to allow for losses. So in this example, your price should be around $3.25 to $3.35 lb.

This means you will net around $1,800 on the first 3 batches, which pays for all your equipment and gives you about $1,000 free and clear.

Makes raising chickens for meat a pretty good start-up business.

See also: Tips for Raising Chickens for Meat

The New Terra Farm Movable Coop

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