How to earn money with backyard chickens
A lot of people ask me sometimes how to earn money with backyard chickens. I will be honest with you, this isn’t going to work for everyone. Most people lose money on having backyard chickens. The initial costs for the chicken coop, possibly egg incubator, and other items can be quite high. After that the chickens usually eat a fortune of food every single week, making it very difficult to just break even for most backyard farmers.
If you want to start raising backyard chickens solely for profit, I recommend you seek another business venture. There are plenty of start-up ideas that are way more likely to yield a decent profit. Sadly enough raising backyard chickens isn’t one of them. So unless you actually want to raise your own backyard chickens for the sake of having your own chickens, it’s better to look for profit elsewhere.
Now if you are a hobbyist thinking about raising chickens for fun, don’t be scared. Raising backyard chickens can be expensive, but it doesn’t have to be. With a bit of luck, you may even be able to turn it into a nice profit. If you already got a coop and a few chickens, I hope I can provide you with a few tips to make your hobby less expensive, or even allow you to buy some extra gear with the profits!
Keeping the costs low
Profits are earnings – costs. And especially with chickens, the cost is a big part of that formula. Chicken feed can be very expensive. The chicken coop, egg incubators, and other gear can be very expensive too. To maximize the profits we have to keep the costs as low as possible. The chicken feed tends to eat up most of the earnings, so let’s look at lowering that first.
Lowering the cost of chicken feed
Food costs are most likely your single biggest expense. Prices for chicken feed vary a lot depending on where you live, the brand of chicken feed, and the chicken breed itself. Some breeds eat a lot more than others, which is something to keep in mind when buying new chickens.
You can lower your food costs by
- purchasing a cheaper brand of chicken feed
- Letting the chickens roam freely and forage in your yard
- Mixing kitchen leftovers into the chicken feed
- Approaching local farmers for corn, wheat, and seeds to add to the feed
- Creating your own chicken feed from scratch
You can try out some of these options, combine them if possible, and see how well they work. Some breeds do better with certain types of food. Finding out what is best (and cheap) for your backyard chickens is mainly a process of trial and error.
Lowering the costs of onetime expenses
Chicken coops and egg incubators can be very expensive. Not everyone needs a $2000+ coop, so think twice before you order one. You can make both chicken coops and egg incubators by yourself if you wish, there are plenty tutorials online. Even if you aren’t a handyman, you may be able to get a neighbors help in exchange for some fresh chicken eggs.
Before you run off and build your own chicken furniture, it may be better to buy an expensive egg incubator and chicken coop for some of the earning tips later on in this article. Whether it applies to your situation is up to you to decide.
Raising the income and earning money
Here is where things get interesting. In order to make a profit we will need income. And the more the better of course. With raising backyard chickens there are some (very obvious) ways to make regular income. Think of selling fresh eggs, hatchlings, chicks and the like. There are also some less obvious ways to make some extra money every so often, which can be very profitable on their own. Firstly I’ll discuss how to maximize your earnings from the regular income, after that I’ll give some tips for possible extra profit.
Setting up a steady income
The first way to set up a nice steady income is to start selling eggs. Most backyard chicken farmers have laying hens, and if you have a few good laying hens you will likely get more eggs than you need yourself.
To earn as much as possible, first you will need to make sure you are getting as many eggs as possible. To make this happen use only young laying hens. Whenever a hen is 1-2 years old she will start laying less eggs. Chicken feed can also have a big impact on the amount of eggs your hens produce, so you may want to try out various feeds. Overall 5 eggs a week per chicken is very good.
When selling your eggs, don’t bother trying to out-compete your local supermarket. Your eggs are 100% fresh and 100% local. Trying to compete with mass produced factory eggs won’t ever give you a decent profit. Instead advertise your eggs as local, fresh, and organic.
Try to sell your eggs in your neighborhood, and if that fails, visit local events and mention your fresh eggs. If necessary you can provide extra service by delivering zero to one day old eggs. People are willing to pay for that. When it comes to pricing, I recommend selling 2 to 3 eggs a buck. That way you earn 4-6 bucks a dozen, which is a lot better than what you get trying to out-compete the local supermarket.
Lastly, don’t buy those chicken cartons. Tell your buyers to not throw theirs away, and that you will refill them instead of putting the eggs in new cartons all the time. This is way more ecologically friendly. And good for your wallet of course.
If you want to sell chicks, it may be worth it to buy some hens from the most expensive breeds. Usually their chicks sell for a lot more as well, which all ends up in your pocket. Selling chicks does require you to have a rooster, and it is generally a bit more difficult than selling eggs. You may want to check out your local market for chicks before hatching dozens of them.
I strongly recommend buying a high quality incubator, such as most Brinsea incubators. Although they are more expensive, their hatch rates are a lot better than the cheaper models. Also there are fully automatic models, which means a lot less can go wrong. For example, check out my Brinsea Octagon 20 Advance Egg Incubator review. We got a comparison of the best incubators as well
Lastly you can grow your chicks for a few weeks and sell the grown chickens. Brooders aren’t that expensive, and grown chicks can sometimes be sold for quite a bit more. Best to check out your local market first though.
High but irregular income
There are a lot of ways you can earn an extra buck if you have backyard chickens, some of which may seem pretty surprising. This is in no way an exhaustive list of all options, but still a nice list of ideas.
Classroom egg incubators
Did you know that quite a few egg incubators are in fact sold to schools? Having an egg incubator in the classroom can be an amazing learning experience for the kids. Sadly, egg incubators are pretty expensive, and not all schools think of buying one.
Here’s where you come in. If you buy a nice automatic mini incubator (check out my Brinsea Mini Advance Egg Incubator review), you can rent the incubator out to schools. You give them the incubator, put your eggs in it, and tell them how to take care of them. Three weeks later you return to pick up the incubator, hatched chicks and your check. Besides the free electricity, you can easily charge $20-50 per time.
Even better, offer to give 4 presentations “guest lessons” on day 0, 7, 14 and 21. That way you can also candle the eggs yourself and teach the kids more about the chicks. Some schools will happily pay $200 or more for your time and incubator. Multiply by a few schools and a few classes and you are earning very decent money.
Besides renting out egg incubators to schools, you can also rent out chicks to families. I would recommend renting them out for 4-5 weeks right after incubation. During that period they grow very quickly. Also there is nothing more adorable than little chicks.
Small children love little chicks, and if you are growing them anyways, you may as well rent them out. You will need a lot of small brooders, and depending on how much you charge for chick-renting it might be best to build your own brooders.
Do keep in mind that pets are generally very expensive. Dogs and cats cost about 100$ a month to have, and there is little reason to charge less for renting out chicks when you supply the brooder and feed as well. Although it may seem expensive as first, properly explaining the costs to interested parties works wonders.
You can find interested families at almost all local events. You can host an open house day every so often as well, allowing little kids to visit your backyard farm and to let them play a bit with the small chicks. That way the interested families will find their way to you.
You can sometimes sell chicken tail feathers to fly fishers. Just save up a bunch of chicken tail feathers and take them to a fly fishing meet up. Maybe they are worthless to them, and maybe they are willing to pay 10-20 bucks a feather. I’m not a fly fisher, so I can’t tell you what to look out for beforehand. But at any rate, it is definitely worth it to try.
I hope I’ve given you some useful tips and ideas to start earning back some of the money required for your own backyard farm. The most important thing is of course to keep having fun and to keep enjoying your own fresh eggs. If you have any tips or suggestions I missed, please put them in the comments or contact me so that I can add those too.