Besides the horses, laying hens were our first foray into livestock. They are for lots of people. Hens have a relatively low investment cost (you can order chicks from a hatchery for about $2 each), require only moderate housing, a daily dose of grain and all of your leftovers, and in five months you’ll get about an egg a day from each girl. Production peaks when the days are the longest and wanes as the winter comes when we have less daylight. So eating seasonally for eggs, means eating plenty in the spring and early summer and cherishing every egg in the winter. Production will slow down again after they are about two years old, which is why in commercial operations they are culled at that age. They are great backyard livestock that are accessible to almost anyone anywhere and are very affordable when a family is raising a small flock on their own property. [Ed. Note: Check Granby zoning regs for any restrictions that may apply to your property].
When we started scaling up to sell eggs as a business enterprise and not just for our own nutrition and entertainment, there wasn’t much to our pricing strategy, we marked them up just a bit more than the ones you find in the grocery store, figuring how we keep them (freedom, sunshine, fresh air) and the added nutritional value was worth the extra few cents. But then we took a hard look at all the enterprises on the farm and decided that it doesn’t do anyone any good for us not to be making money on each and every one of our farm enterprises. If we’re not profitable, we’re not going to be able to stay here and another family farm will be gone.
When our prices jumped from $3.50 to $5 per dozen, we owed our customers an explanation. Here are some of the reasons our eggs cost $5:
• At anything less than $5 per dozen we really weren’t being honest with ourselves or our customers about all of our costs, labor plus profit to keep our farm going for the future.
• They eat a lot! If you have any more than a handful of chickens, then pasture and kitchen scraps will not be enough. If you want a steady stream of eggs, you’ll have to pump some grain into them.
• Compared to other sources of protein, eggs are a great financial deal in terms of weight: One dozen eggs weighs in at over a pound of protein (not including the shell). Our beef and pork start at $7/lb so at $5, eggs are a great value.