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Pasture raised eggs on small scale not that easy

Discussion in 'Holistic Farming' started by Chasingmytail, Apr 30, 2018.

  1. Chasingmytail

    Chasingmytail Member

    Newport, SE Wales
    Following from Joel Salatin's model. Eggmobile and weekly moving to new pasture.

    As much as I enjoy the hens there are many issues not addressed by JS. The idea of the organic eggs was to introduce the locals to our farm and then open the doors to any further produce we may sell. (I did do spuds in the summer).

    These are the issues:
    Endless hawk attacks (lost over 12 in the summer)
    The weather (lost 2 in the snow even though hens in shed the snow was deep)
    Moving the eggmobile around site in the wet fields (mess and can be slippery)
    The holes they dig (time to fill in)
    Moving them around, electric fence up and down is timely.
    Over wet weeks the hens get muddy and the eggs get mucky. the area around the entrance is a mud bath.
    Natural deaths
    Risks of disease from wild birds (Mycoplasma etc)
    Feed costs - buy in 1 tonne
    Not farm gate have to deliver (allow time to do this and keep distance close)
    Initial costs incl price per hen (quality hens cost money)
    Cant replace birds therefore the flock only naturally decreases (all in all out)
    Finding new homes for older hens (hard work)

    When you have a small flock (less than 100) and you sell most of the eggs. Over the year you start to lose the hens, there are the odd ones what are dead in the morning. A sickily one. I had a new flock of 70 hens last summer now I have 50. Meaning I have lost the sale of a lot of eggs. 20 hens at 10 pound each then lose of sales say £2000pa - yikes. Different breeds of hens with white, brown and blue eggs.

    Now my sales book is full I am on edge as cant take on any additional orders and over this year I'm going to lose more birds means I wont be able to fulfil my orders. Options are to replace birds with younger birds from same source but then you get in a mess sorting through ages. I had issues on my last flock that some weeks I couldn't take orders as they were slowing up and numbers dropping.

    Therefore I cant see how doing eggs on small scale works. The conclusion for us is to find a new owner who would like a bulk number of birds and keep a few back for own supply (say 10) call the whole thing off. If I keep them then the numbers are dwindling so get back into cancelling orders again. For the margins it takes too much time and adds to things to be done on the farm. Then if we go out we need to find someone to put them in and let out. Then walking out at midnight as forgot to put them in arrhhh.

    The hawk attack really knocked my confidence and worries us now. Because I'm not farm gate the issues of rolling customers is really what means I cant slowly let my numbers decrease.

    Turning into a bit of a nightmare....
    H A and spin cycle like this.
  2. Hartwig

    Hartwig Member

    On the videos from Polyface Farms there is always the sun shining on happy people and healthy animals !?
    .... he`s a good salesman.
  3. Blaithin

    Blaithin Member

    Alberta, Canada
    Look for a good LGD? They can be good deterrents to birds of prey. Also helps to make sure there are hiding places for the hens. A pallet teepee, tent, etc.

    Do you have any roosters? They’re the alarms of the chicken world. They watch and give the call to hide for hens.

    Is there a reason you don’t hatch your own replacements? It’s what I do, ridiculously easy with broodys although I’m slightly incubator challenged.

    As for sales, I advertise when I’ll be in the city, list the time I will be there and directions to find me. People show up for their eggs or I sell the no shows to others. Usually end up telling them I’m short during the moult and winter is hard since the eggs tend to freeze before I can get them. But there’s always people that want them again in spring when the supplies regular once more. Not a huge money maker by any means but it supports my chicken hoarding tendencies :oops:
    The Ruminant, Treg and Farmer Roy like this.
  4. Dry Rot

    Dry Rot Member

    Soil type wuld be a major consideration for me if I moved from here. I have horses but virtually zero poaching issues because it is (a) well drained (now!), and (b) I am on virtually 100% free draining sand. It would be a different story if there was clay, which I am guessing you have.

    I've read a lot about hawk attacks on here and am sceptical about these killer buzzards I read about. Goshawks are becoming more common and would certainly take a hen -- and keep coming back. Now, as an ex-falconer and transcriber of ancient books, here is an old trick that certainly worked for my tethered goshawk and free range hens -- and it worked back in the 17th century!

    Instead of picking up the partially eaten corpses (it's unlikely a gohawk can fly off with a hen and they certainly couldn't eat one in one meal!), leave the corpse but sprinkle something obnoxious on it. The old books recommended white pepper which is what I used. The theory is that the bird learns that hens don't taste very nice so don't kill any more. It worked for my birds but not sure if it would work for birds in the wild and hens on free range, but it would cost very little to try. We use a similar strategy to stop foals chewing manes which they are sometimes inclined to do.
  5. Jungle Bill

    Jungle Bill Member

    Joel says he has around 15% hen losses each year to various ‘natural causes’.
    Chasingmytail likes this.
  6. Recoil

    Recoil Member

    South East Wales
    We are exactly the same as you. Buy in 50 new point of lays off Ben every six months to keep the amount of eggs fairly constant. Have started putting rings on the legs to know ages and keep in seperate flocks if possible. It takes ages to move fences and sheds etc. I have a local guy who buys old birds ten at a time to make soup.

    Seriously considering dropping the organic for eggs as food is half the price so instantly making more money as most of our customers want free range, not organic. Our flock is around 100 to 120 birds and makes around £2500 a year not taking anything out for labour.
    graham99, Treg and Chasingmytail like this.
  7. Chasingmytail

    Chasingmytail Member

    Newport, SE Wales
    Think that is very optimistic lucky man - mine is 30%.
  8. Chasingmytail

    Chasingmytail Member

    Newport, SE Wales
    I don't see the scale I'm working at a very good model really. To make it work I think you need to be working around 500 plus birds. Obv then you would need to work hard to shift organic pasture eggs around here which means transportation costs. Its not a great area for foodies. Giving up whole days to sell at a farmers market (also cost of stall) The risks associated with increasing are time/transportation/pushing sales. It would mean changing my time to being more of an egg farmer and something I'm not keen about for the cash return.

    The organic food comes in 1 tonne from Hipeak but having to pay for haulage adds to the overhead whether I buy 1 or 5 tonne. To make this cost effective youd need to buy a wagon and have silos.

    Ive done the coloured rings successfully and works on my old hens but its then still messing about for very small return. I think the best way for us is to concentrate more self sufficiency.

    I have to say the quality of the birds are first class and produce lovely eggs. Customers love the different colours and I have no problems selling as a roll every week. But I'm looking for a buyer of about x40 organic hens at 1 yr old.
  9. Recoil

    Recoil Member

    South East Wales
    Selling at a farmers market just seems to be such a big commitment and I'd imagine you don't have much spare time already.

    Maybe with the old birds you could take them somewhere to be killed and plucked and fill the freezer for yourselves. Might be someone who does turkeys at Christmas willing to do it at a quieter time for a few quid. Or do it yourself. It took me an hour to do my first one and tbh it didn't taste any better than a supermarket cheapy.
  10. Dead Rabbits

    Dead Rabbits Member

    I don't know that anyone makes money at small scale eggs. It's more meant to be a "gateway" product to get customers to buy your other products. And be a complementary enterprise to your other ones. As you said, somewhere around 500 hens is where you need to be to start turning a significant profit. (Have talked with numerous other people that have reached the same conclusion)
    Nick Adams and Chasingmytail like this.
  11. Chasingmytail

    Chasingmytail Member

    Newport, SE Wales
    Yeah, husband again, was pushing me down the direct meat selling, Been there done that - never again. The eggs are a good gateway and make a nice profit however too many obstacles. He went through endless reading of Joel and think got too brain washed as its a model on a large scale and he doesn't do the endless other things that we do like construction and firewood. Joel also has employees which we don't.

    Kids found another dead hen yesterday (just natural) so slowly losing numbers.
  12. worth checking out Richard Perkins youtub channel - addresses quite a few of those issues in his numerous videos.
    Chasingmytail likes this.
  13. Chasingmytail

    Chasingmytail Member

    Newport, SE Wales
    Ive sold 27 hens. I aim to sell min 10 at sale. People are keen because of the coloured eggs. Going down to around 12 which with some older hens running around should give me dozen per day.
  14. Chasingmytail

    Chasingmytail Member

    Newport, SE Wales
    Perkins has a lot of hens. His lifestyle is far to too glossy for me....in a perfect world.......
  15. graham99

    graham99 Member

    it will take time .
    but have thought of breeding your own.
    i find most modern breeds of any animal are breed for produce first.
    and going back to the soup, we have two cross breed ducks that, i am hoping are going to be very tasty .
    you need to remember to make a little bit of money form every thing.
    Recoil likes this.
  16. Chasingmytail

    Chasingmytail Member

    Newport, SE Wales
    I have priced up hatching own v buying and there isnt much difference when buying POLs. Also the quality of buying from hatcheries like Piggots is excellent with good bio control. Breeding from strong strains. Also the time and effort that goes into an incubators. Highs and lows.
    Recoil likes this.
  17. Recoil

    Recoil Member

    South East Wales
    I've bought day olds before, but it's so much easier to just have them point of lay. We have never had a bad bird from Ben Wetherden and at around £10 a bird delivered it's probably not much more expensive than rearing your own.

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