Raising chickens for meat is a great sideline business for a 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:
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.
FIXED COSTS - These are the costs for equipment that can be reused and amortized over a number of years. Here's what you need:
You can get more information and plans for my two movable coops in my book How to Raise Meat Chickens.
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.
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 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.
Total fixed costs: $1475
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:
Total costs per batch of 300 meat chickens = $3,245.
Now, what to charge? The cost per pound of your chicken is $3,245 / (300 x 5 lbs.) = $2.16/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 $3.45 - 3.55 lb.
This means you will net around $1,900 on the first 3 batches, which pays for all your equipment and gives you about $500 free and clear.
If you want to see raising chickens for meat on a larger scale, check out my friends Ryan and Monica at Merrifield Farms.
They are building a pretty good start-up business from their meat chickens.
Integrating animal husbandry and vegetable crops are critical for a thriving micro-farm. Learn how we raise chickens for meat, pastured pork and operate our organic market garden to the benefit of the animals and the land.
Based on 20+ years of gardening and farming experience, I wrote some books that show you practical approaches to gardening and raising small livestock. If you want to fill your freezer and cold storage with your own healthy, nutritious food, and provide some real food security for your family, it might be worth a look here.
I just put together two special book deals:
p.s. my book How to Raise Meat Chickens is included in each special pack, at a special price.
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