“My son is a 17 year old boy who loves animals. As his father I would like to support him. He wants to start his egg laying business in our back yard. We have no clue where to start. I would like to do this professionally. Will you help us please?” ~ Ferrel Paulse
Ferrel, I first want to applaud you for supporting your son and his ambitions.
Starting an egg business can be very exciting and once you are up and running, it is very rewarding.
There are various ordinances and laws you must research. I obviously can’t give you information pertaining to your specific area but I will give you guidelines to follow.
You must first find out if it is legal to keep chickens at your home. In some areas it is legal to keep both hens and roosters, in others you may keep only hens and there are areas where it is not legal to keep any poultry in a residential area. Some areas will only allow a limited number of birds.
It is very important that you start here.
We have people write in regularly to tell us that they’ve built their coop, purchased all the equipment and obtained a flock only to have a knock at the door letting them know that they have 1 week to get rid of all of it because the law does not allow chicken keeping in their area.
Save yourself the time, money and energy involved in such an ordeal by following the laws in your area.
Secondly, if you want to keep chickens for the purpose of selling eggs, you’ll need to check into the ordinances pertaining to that as well.
Some places will require that your facilities be inspected.
Some places will not allow you to sell eggs from a local farm at all.
Some places will require you to use new egg cartons.
The variations are as numerous as the places this newsletter is sent to each week. The important thing is that you are following the laws in your area.
No matter what regulations regarding your set up are in place, may I implore you to keep your facilities and your egg handling practices superior to even those put into place by your governing agencies if you are going to be selling eggs.
You must keep your coop cleaner that you might otherwise.
You must keep your nest boxes extremely clean as well.
Eliminate the probability of your eggs getting soiled.
To be extremely conservative, I would not recommend selling any eggs that have become soiled even though you can wash them. Remember that when you wash away the protective bloom, the porous shell allows bacteria to pass through it. If the egg is soiled, the possibility of bacteria passing through the shell when it is washed is the concern. It is for this reason that I am advising you very conservatively.
If your eggs are clean and you want to sell them unwashed, be sure your customers know that the eggs must be washed before using them.
If you wash your eggs before selling them, you must keep them refrigerated at all times.
Refrigeration will keep the eggs fresher for a longer time whether they have been washed or not, so prepare to have refrigerator space available before you start collecting all those wonderful eggs.
But I’m getting ahead of myself…
So you’ve made sure it’s legal to keep chickens and sell their eggs. Now you’ll want to consider what breed you’d like to keep.
“The Egg Machine” is the Leghorn. They are a light breed and therefore are economical to feed if you must rely on commercial feed exclusively. If your climate allows, you can’t beat Leghorns for their laying frequency.
There is a drawback with Leghorns though; they lay white eggs. That is not a problem in itself because they are as nutritious as brown eggs, the problem is that there is a misconception among consumers that brown eggs are more nutritious and white eggs may not bring a premium price for that reason.
The best layer of brown eggs would be the Rhode Island Red. Reds are dual purpose birds and are therefore larger than Leghorns. This translates to more feed consumption but the difference in price that brown eggs bring might be worth the additional feed costs.
Once you’ve decided upon your breed(s), you can determine the size of your coop and facilities accordingly.
Smaller birds can get away with a little less space; larger birds require a little more space. Refer to past issues of this newsletter for building your coop; there are also a lot of coops available for purchase.
Here’s the tricky part; if you’ve never kept chickens before you might want to start with just a few birds before you decide to commit to a large flock.
However, if you add to an existing flock with live birds (as opposed to fertile eggs that you hatch), you have to keep them separate for a few weeks to ensure that you are not introducing disease into your flock. This would mean 2 completely separate living spaces.
An option would be to build a small area for your first few birds and a large area for a larger flock. The larger area could serve as your main coop when you combine the old and new flocks. The small area could serve as your chicken infirmary when you have sick or injured birds in the future.
If you are planning on hatching chicks at some point, you could use the smaller area for a brooder building and the first home of the chicks when until they are fully feathered and ready to join the others in your flock.
I always recommend that people build their facilities larger than they need because we chicken keepers always seem to get the itch to increase our flocks.
Finally, I’d recommend that you count the cost before you start anything.
Find out how much it will cost you to build your coop, your feeders and watering stations. If you’ll confine the birds to a run or yard, how much will fencing cost? How much is feed in your area?
In most cases you’ll need to at least supplement with commercial feed. Can you get a discount for buying your feed in bulk? If you have to use new egg cartons, how much do they cost? How much can you sell eggs for in your area?
A good rule of thumb is to plan on getting 2/3 the number of hens you have in eggs over the course of a year.
In other words, if you have 90 hens, plan on getting a daily average of 60 eggs over the course of a year. The actual number of eggs will change depending on seasons, daytime hours of light and molting. If you have good layers and provide excellent living conditions, you can expect that number to be higher but 2/3 is a good number to use when planning.
Also, keep in mind that purchasing hens at point of lay is expensive but buying them younger involves feeding them for a period before you start to see any return on your investment.
I do not mean to discourage with all this planning and business stuff but it’s been my experience that businesses are destined to fail without proper planning. If it takes you 2 years (just as an example) to recoup your initial cost before you start to make a profit, you should know that before you spend any money.
Ferrel, I hope this has been helpful and wish you and your son only the best.