Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Chicken dollars

When we decided to raise our own animals for meat and eggs, a lot of factors came to mind. Would we have enough land? Do we have enough time? How much does this all cost? We are both in our mid-twenties, just starting out,  and even after reading all of these agriculture books, I still can't seem to find a tree that money grows on...

Those first two questions were easier to answer, but when it came down to the money, things got a bit muddier. For backyard or hobby farming, a lot of people quantify the cost in different ways. We decided that no matter what, we couldn't consider our time as part of the equation. To put a price to the man (or woman) hours that it takes to raise our own food seemed impossible to us. That's why we call it a "hobby" farm, we enjoy it.  

When we raised our meat birds this year, we started with 6 (in addition to the 6 buff orpingtons we were raising for layers) just to give it a try. One died as a chick (which is a long story, but was a lesson learned), so only 5 broilers made it into the freezer. Aside from the initial investment of the materials for the chicken tractor, feeder, and water trough, our rough estimate concluded that the chicken in our bellies was $3.08/lb.

6 meat birds bought from our local feed and supply store at ~ $3/chick = $18

The birds ate about 2 and 1/2, 50 lb. bags of good quality chicken feed at about $15 per bag = $37.50 for food.

$55.50 to buy and raise our Cornish rock cross to 10 weeks old. We let them forage in the grass for bugs, so they were a bit more lean than some of the jumbo chickens you may have seen before.

After butchering, we had one bird at 3 pounds, two birds at 3.5 pounds, and two birds at 4 pounds = 18 pounds of meat.

Even factoring in the loss of one bird as a chick, that is $3.08/lb for a whole chicken. This doesn't take into the massive amount of chicken stock we are getting from the carcass, feet, and necks that we will be able to use in lots of recipes.

The math above doesn't take into account the chicken tractor, which could really be blog post of it's own. S put together a chicken tractor with some 2x2's, hardware cloth, wood screws, washers, and some other pieces of scrap wood and plastic roofing thrown here and there. You will notice the handles which are key for moving the meaties to fresh grass every day. With more birds, you would want to move to fresh grass 2 or 3 times a day even. Half of the top of the contraption is on hinges so that we can easily scoop out or drop in (and run away screaming in fear, if you are me) food and water. We will likely make a few tweaks for when we have a larger amount of birds next year.

To know exactly how that animal lived it's life and what it ate, I'd say it was worth it!


  1. Definately worth it, it's a great feeling to know exactly where your food came from. I love that you know prices down to the cent, we are not great at keeping track, well done!

    1. Thanks! I'm sure it's a bit harder to keep track on your scale. Easy when it's just 5 little guys :) We will see if we can keep it up.