The cost of growing corn free, soy free, free range eggs

eggsThese are our beautiful, farm fresh eggs! We currently have 10 dozen eggs ready to sell. We didn’t sell any through the winter, and I wanted to make sure that we were actually making a profit on eggs, so I did some calculating today. Interestingly, I also read this post today, about how small, local farms are making a huge profit margin on their products (and how that’s unfair to the consumers).

I don’t want to over-charge our customers. They’re all working hard to make a living. I want our living to be an honest one. Farming isn’t cheap, though. We’ve been here nearly 2 years, and we have learned a lot, made mistakes, and spent more money than we needed to on things (example: word to the wise: never buy “1 year old” chickens on Craigslist. People lie.). But we’re serious about real food. We’re serious about growing it for our own family, and about growing it for other people. We’re serious about, someday, somehow, getting The Farmer home on the farm. And we’re serious about actually paying ourselves a wage for the work we do on this farm. We can’t sit back, feed our friends, and take a loss. We have to be realistic about this farming thing if we’re going to make a living at it. So, I pulled out my calculator…

Last year we charged $4 per dozen for our eggs. We had no clue if we were actually making any money. We were new to this gig, and didn’t even really know how much our chickens were eating. This year, we will be charging $6.50 per dozen. Another local farm that uses the same feed as us charges $7 per dozen, which sounded amazingly high to me, until I did the math. Someday soon, we may be charging $7 per dozen as well.

Here’s the math:

  • Over the last 53 days, our chickens have produced approximately 1,479 eggs.
  • In that same amount of time, they have eaten about 1/2 ton of feed. We buy from Magill Ranch, and we get really good quality corn free, soy free, non-GMO, organic feed. The total cost of feed for the last 53 days has been $420.
  • We estimate that we spend about 20-30 minutes per day taking care of the chickens (feeding them washing the eggs, etc.).
  • We buy about 100 new chicks every year, and raise them up until they are layers. It costs $188 (from Far West Hatchery) to buy 100 layers. It costs almost $600 to feed those baby chicks before they ever produce an egg for us.
  • I am guesstimating that we spend about $150 per year on other supplies (brooder fixing/re-building, waterers, feeders, any supplements we may need (we feed them apple cider vinegar and yogurt to prevent disease), etc.).

So our costs are something like this:

  1. $3.50 per dozen, feed
  2. $.26 per dozen towards new birds every year
  3. $.83 per dozen towards feeding baby birds that don’t produce eggs
  4. $.21 per dozen towards other supplies

The total so far, without labor is $4.80 per dozen (.80 per dozen more than we were charging last year!).

So now let’s look at labor. It really comes down to how much we want to make per hour. Like I said, we want to make an honest living at this. We don’t want to charge our customers crazy amounts, but we have to be realistic.

  • If we wanted to make $10 per hour, that would be $1.48 more per dozen
  • If we wanted to make $20 per hour, that would be $2.94 more per dozen
  • If we wanted to make $30 per hour, that would be $4.41 more per dozen
  • And so on…

At $6.50 per dozen, we are making a wage of $11.33 per hour. Not a lot, really. If we were full time egg farmers and using this method, we would only make about $23,500 per year.

There are a couple of things that probably impact our cost.

  • We did buy some of those “1 year old chickens” on Craigslist that will be slaughtered this year. They are eating up feed and probably aren’t producing any eggs. We are currently getting approximately 48 eggs per day and we have somewhere around 100 chickens. Most of our chickens are truly 1-2 years old (we raised them as chicks), but we do have some hens (that I’m sure are old geezers)
  • We have Araucanas, which produce beautiful green eggs, but they are not very good layers, compared to other breeds.
  • Since our chickens are free rangers, we occasionally find stashes of eggs that may or may not go towards our total count of eggs. During the winter months, they’re usually fine. During the summer months, a stash of eggs is probably rotten and needs to be thrown out (literally–I throw them out into the trees…It’s fun!).
  • We are raising roosters. They don’t give us eggs, but they do fertilize our eggs and make them more nutrient dense. They also make sure that all of the hens get into the barn at night before we close the door.
  • It may be cheaper to let some chickens brood & raise their own chicks. We had one chicken do this last year, and she had several baby chicks (I think 13 or 14). They were so cute & followed their Mama around. After predators and hard weather, we ended up with one baby chicken, and it was a rooster! (And he decided to live in the tree near our bedroom and practice crowing at 4 and 5 am. Lovely!).

We could spend less, for sure, if we bought regular feed from our local feed store. It costs $19.80 for 80# of pellets. Over the last 53 days, it would have cost us $247.50 for this kind of feed (a $172.50 difference). That totals a $1.40 per dozen difference, which is significant. But still, our cost, at $11.33 per hour, would be $5.10 per dozen. And who wants to pay $5.10 per dozen for eggs that are barely any different from grocery store eggs? (Granted, they’re not cooped up in a big building with no windows, but the feed is the same).

With the feed we buy, we know for sure a couple of things:

The other benefits of our eggs:

  • Our chickens free range. You won’t find fenced in chickens on bare ground at our farm. I don’t believe that an un-moveable chicken house with fencing right around it is a good solution for chickens. Eventually, they will eat down the grass and they will be living on bare ground. The result is more expensive eggs (they eat less grass & more feed) and less healthy eggs.
  • Our chickens eat bugs.
  • Our chickens lay colorful eggs (that’s worth the price, right?). :)
  • Our chickens have fun names, like Fabio and Jackie O. :)

Do you buy farm fresh eggs? Are you paying your farmer what they’re worth? :) Do you grow farm fresh eggs? Have you calculated your cost of raising them?



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