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How To Turn Your Backyard Chickens Into Homestead Money-Makers

Raising Chickens For Profit

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So you’ve decided that chickens would be a good addition to your self-sufficient lifestyle. Now comes the more difficult part. What exactly are you going to do with those chickens you see scratching and nesting in your mind’s eye? Are you raising them for eggs only? Maybe you are remembering those expensive, fancy breeds shown at county fairs.

Why not raise them for some extra cash? If that interests you, then keep reading.

Before you get started, consider:

1. Is it legal for you to raise chickens where you live — and to sell?

In rural areas this might not be an issue. However, it is always smart to check just in case your county or state has some obscure regulation regarding raising chickens and all that enterprise entails. In urban areas there is almost always some ordinance or regulation you will need to be aware of regarding the raising of livestock within township or city boundaries. Roosters are often banned within city limits, so that would mean you couldn’t breed your own line of show birds.

2. Do you need a permit to build your chicken coop and run?

This is definitely necessary to find out if you are within city limits, since you could be required to pay a fine and remove the unpermitted building or addition.

3. Do you have enough space?

Figure at least four square feet per bird for the coop and eight square feet per bird for the run. We’ll discuss this more a little later in the article.

4. What kinds of predators are there?

In the city you may have to deal with rats, raccoons, opossums, feral or stray cats and dogs, and the occasional troublemaking human. I live within township limits and I have seen foxes during the day and heard coyotes at night. You may have these same problems depending on the size of your town/city and your location within it.

All The Answers To Every Chicken Question And Quandary …

Hawks, eagles, owls, weasels and snakes also can cause problems if your homestead is located in smaller townships and villages.

In true rural areas you will encounter larger predators like wolves, bears, badgers, bobcats, etc., depending upon the region you live in.

5. What age of chicken will you buy? How long do you want to wait for eggs, good-sized carcasses, or to be able to show your bird?

Raising Chickens For Profit

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Chicks require a bit more work to raise. If you can’t keep them warm enough they will die. Chicks are somewhat delicate and you will wait at least six months for eggs and up to a year for them to be full adult size and ready for butchering. As far as ornamental birds go, you could wait up to three years for them to be ready to compete. Another potential problem is that you can’t really tell if you are getting male or female chicks because vent-sexing is only about 90 percent accurate.

Pullets are about 20 weeks old and are just a couple weeks away from laying eggs. If you buy pullets to start your flock you will know you are getting all hens as the adult feathers are growing in and are distinctive between male and female. This is the most popular way of raising chickens. This is the age that most ornamentals are purchased and some county fairs have a pullet class, meaning you can begin showing your bird as soon as the chicken has settled into its new home.

Mature hens are difficult to find. However, you can occasionally find farmers willing to sell their “old biddies” to you. Keep in mind, however, that these birds are past their prime laying years. Mature show chickens can be quite expensive, especially if they are considered to be bred from champions of their breed.

Once you have found out or considered the information above you are ready to decide whether you are raising these chickens for eggs, meat, both eggs and meat, or for show birds. The care for the birds is similar, though show birds tend to be more delicate and require extra care and more extravagant housing.

The first thing to think about when choosing the types of chickens to raise is related to where you live. The climate in your area will be the biggest deciding factor in choosing the breed of chicken you can most easily raise in that area. Once you have determined the seasonal differences, you are ready to research which chickens will do best in your region.

Chickens Raised for Food

The table below lists the chickens that are raised for egg production in a backyard setting, the approximate number of eggs per week you will get from each bird of that breed, and the color of the eggshells. All of the breeds listed in the table are cold-hardy birds, though you may need to offer some form of heat in the coop if temperatures dip below what is the norm for your region.

Breed Egg Laying Egg Color
Australorp 5/week Brown
Rhode Island 5/week Brown
Red or Black Star 5/week Brown
Chantecler 4/week Brown
Delaware 4/week Brown
Easter Eggers 4/week Multi-colored
White Leghorn 4-6/week White
Plymouth Rock 4/week Brown
Wyandotte 4/week Brown
Ameraucana 3/week Light Blue
Holland 3/week White
New Hampshire Red 3/week Brown
Orpington 3/week Brown
Redcaps 3/week White
Java 3/week Brown

 

As you can see from that table most of the chickens raised for eggs are dual purpose. That means that once their egg-laying days are over, they can provide a meal for your family. You should remember that chickens can live from 10 to 14 years but will only lay the projected amounts in the table between the ages of one and three to four years. After that, egg laying will taper off until your chicken is laying only one or two eggs each week.

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Other things that will affect your hen’s egg laying are winter, molting, crowding and illness. You can’t really do anything to increase laying in winter so just be aware that as the days grow cooler and shorter your hens may not give you as many eggs. Molting occurs in most breeds starting at about 18 months of age. A molting bird will look terrible since they lose most if not all of their feathers during this period, which can last from two to four months. Egg laying will resume about a week after the bird’s feathers grow back in. Crowding occurs when you have too small a space to contain your flock. To be comfortable and happy each chicken needs the proper amount of space to roost, nest and scratch. Illness can be controlled somewhat by keeping your coop and run clean and having a vet familiar with livestock birds care for them, when needed.

How To Turn Your Backyard Chickens Into Homestead Money-Makers

Image source: Indiancreeknaturecenter.org

In the table above – with the exception of the Easter Eggers, White Leghorns and Ameraucana breeds – the chickens were bred to be layers as well as roasters or fryers. The breeds listed in that table will weigh between five and eight pounds at their full adult weight and will dress out to a four- to seven-pound carcass.

Chickens Raised for Profit

Show chickens, also known as ornamental birds, require slightly more care than the breeds used as layers and meat producers. You will need to be sure that their coop is much cleaner since mites and lice will detract from their looks. These birds, too, will molt so they won’t be able to be shown or sold as show birds during this time. I suggest that you do a lot of research before investing in your choice of an ornamental breed. However, if you do choose to raise an ornamental breed, or several, they can bring in a nice profit on each chick, pullet or chicken sold.

Below is a list of 11 of the most popular breeds used as ornamental or show birds. You may choose one of these more popular breeds or take a risk on raising a rarer breed. It is a myth that ornamental chickens don’t lay eggs. Of course they do, since all birds lay eggs. However, their eggs are much smaller than chickens bred for egg-laying. The eggs are are edible if they are gathered shortly after being laid.

  • Brahma. This breed is called “The King of All Poultry.”
  • Cochin.
  • Favorolle.
  • Cubalaya.
  • Java.
  • Orpington.
  • Silver Phoenix.
  • Dominique.
  • Langshan. These birds can fly fairly high, so build your fences accordingly.
  • Malay. These chickens stand two- to three-feet tall!
  • Dutch Bantam.

Your egg layers and your meat birds can earn you money as well if you have a large enough flock to support that effort. Two to four birds will provide enough eggs each week for your family and probably have enough left over to give away to friends. However, if you have a large enough flock and raise your chickens properly, during the summer months you can make a tidy profit at the farmer’s market or selling to your neighbors.

It is thought that about half of the backyard farmers or homesteaders that raise chickens sell their excess eggs. Eggs from chickens that are raised with grain or corn supplemental feed sell for about $2 per dozen. Eggs from chickens that are either free-range or eat only grass, vegetable waste from your kitchen and bugs are considered organic can sell for as much as $5 or more per dozen. If you are raising your chickens for meat, you also can sell the butchered carcass at the farmer’s market or to your neighbors. Corn- or grain-fed chickens sell for about $3 per pound. Free-range or organic-fed chickens can sell for around $5 per pound.

And then there are the “heritage breeds” that are raised for meat. These carcasses can sell for more than $5 per pound since their meat is tasty and tender. One thing to remember if you are raising meat chickens to sell: Butcher them at the earliest time after they have reached their full adult weight. If you butcher chickens older than two years of age, they are no longer “roasters” and are only good for stewing due to the meat not being as tender. Roasters bring in the most profit, although “stewers” or “soup” birds can still be a nice money-maker during the winter months.

What advice would you add in raising chickens for profit? Share your advice in the section below: 

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16 comments

  1. Here is a good tip from a Mexican friend for getting chicks going. If you have a bird that is sitting or wanting to sit on eggs in the springtime you can buy your little chicks and then at night slyly slip them in with the bird that is sitting and she will “wake” up in the morning to find she has a batch of chicks and SHE will take care of them as her own. Beats cleaning the cages, keeping them warm, and cleaning their butts. Also a smooth acceptance in the flock.

  2. Sell the fertilized eggs for hatching and sell chicks that are hatched (either from the broody hen or from the incubator). After laying hens have passed their prime, sell them to others wanting their own flock of layers. (Just be honest about their age.

  3. You also can keep egg-laying chickens as pets. They are fun and cute to watch. I think it is wrong to sell chickens for profit. They are living animals who deserve respect. I know this from past experience. Talk about disrespect to animals.

    • “… I think it is wrong to sell chickens for profit. They are living animals who deserve respect. I know this from past experience. Talk about disrespect to animals.”

      Yet you bought them for pets from someone or somewhere selling them for profit.
      You do comprehend that this is a prepping/survival site,right?
      The majority of the people who visit such sites eat meat,and many of us raise animals for food,hunt and fish to help feed our families.

  4. If you happen to live in The SE US, Orpingtons lay year round. There is a bit of a slow down during molting in fall. However, they a good sized birds with big eggs and taste good too!

    • I don’t know, my Orphingtons take a few month break in the fall during their molt and lay all winter here in the northeast, those girls just aint right… At 7 years old they still laying strong with 4-6 eggs a week, they refuse to use a laying boxes as only a corner will do.

      • I’m new to Orpingtons, I have the Buff variety right now. They are pretty good layers- they did slow down during their molt, but they are picking up now- end of December/first of January. One of my hens started setting, but jumped the nest before any of them hatched a while back. Don’t know what happened. They are in a closed coop and run.

        The Cochins are a heavy breed, lay good sized eggs and are good brooders and mothers if you want to raise your own. So many breeds now have had the broodiness bred out of hens so they’ll keep up their egg production. Cochins are pretty cold hardy, but seem to do ok in our Central Alabama heat and humidity.

        We have a small county fair every fall, which has a petting zoo. You can guarantee the local feed store will supply plenty of chicks for this. After the fair is over, they will usually sell them at cost, and I have even gotten them free! I figure if the little boogers survived a week of kiddie-handling, they’d be pretty hardy birds. I’ve been right!. Look on the net to find how to wing-sex young chicks. Out of my last twelve biddies I took home, only one is showing signs of being a cockerel!

  5. This is a poorly written article that suggest the author knows little at best about chickens. You can increase laying in cold weather by supplying a light source to extend the amount of hours of light. Chickens don’t need near the space suggested by the author. They can make do with 2 square feet per bird and do fine. The table provided doesn’t say anything about dual purpose birds.

    In reality, raising chickens, if done correctly can produce income. But, it isn’t all roses trying to get a profit out of your birds.

    • Its an article, not a book. No one is expecting to cover all aspects of chicken raising.

      Haters gonna hate, but I enjoyed your article!

    • With 60+ laying hens, I was hoping that this article would present some way to get a little more income from these birds that I hadn’t thought of, or even how to cut costs without compromising standards. And, yes, 4 sq ft per bird would be an impressive, and way oversized, chicken house.

  6. One additional money maker? How about selling the chicken manure? I have no idea what price to place on it, but it should have some value.

    • Instead of trying to figure out a monetary value on your manure, I like the idea of trading the manure for some extra veggies when the crop comes in. Hey, free food…. just sayin’.

  7. I found with my chickens that initial setup cost a little bit, but they’re pretty low-maintenance at this point. They’re fun to watch in their run, and once they’re old enough to lay eggs, we already have a buyer for them.

    Great article, and lots of good info. =)

  8. The list of egg laying by breed isn’t correct. The white leghorn is not a 4 egg per week breed. Production whites lay 300 or more eggs per year, or 5 to 6 per week.

  9. I have whiteleghorns,orpingtons,and road island reds. I make my own feed for them 300lbs runs me right at $27 That with the premix vitamins and minerals very easy to do. My white leghorns pay about every day. Little bulb light in winter and some extra corn. Have old tobacco tralers that I turned in to coops with wire mesh bottoms with a 120sq feet of ground space.i move the trailers every evening when I close there cool and let them fertilize my cow pastures. It works grate never run out of eggs or checked to eat and in early spring very late winter I move them across my garden plot. Use every aspect of your chickens I save $1000 every year

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