My father cannot pass up a good deal. If he has a need for something, can foresee a need for something in the future, or thinks that maybe one day it might come in handy, he will buy it if the price is right. That is how our vision of having a dozen hens in our backyard that would supply our two families with a constant supply of fresh eggs turned into our new reality of having NINTY ONE chickens in our backyard and not only supplying our family with fresh eggs but also selling them to our community. There was a good deal on chickens that my dad just could not pass up!
Yes, we now have 91 chickens free ranging on about an acre in the back half of our property. We’ve gone from starting a chicken hobby to full on chicken farmers within the space of a few days. It has been a steep learning curve. We started with very little knowledge of chickens and now my dad and I have read through numerous books learning the ins and out of raising chickens. Let me tell you, it is not just a simple matter of waking up to fresh eggs every morning. Chickens have needs, can develop bad habits, can get infested with pests, and need just the right mixture of food to lay those beautiful eggs.
It was a lot of hard work at first, getting their coop and run set up and learning all the many things we needed to know about chickens. Now, three weeks in, we have a fairly good handle on the situation. My father and I split up the chores (Mike and my mother just roll their eyes at us because they were never fully on board with the chicken plans). I fill up the watering pails every morning, collect the eggs a few times a day, wash and store the eggs at the end of the day, and sell the eggs. My father lets them out of the coop in the morning, fills their feeding pails, cleans their roost, and shuts them back into their coop at night (we have coyotes around!)
So how do I feel about raising all these hens? I must say, it feels pretty fantastic. This is the first time I have ever felt a real connection to my food (other than fruits and veggies I have grown). It FEELS good to go out to grab fresh eggs, it feels good to eat those eggs, and it feels like I am doing a good deed in my community by selling those eggs. Eggs from happy chickens are the bomb!!!!!
I never want to eat a store bought egg again. Now that I am learning about what it takes to raise chickens and all of the rules about selling eggs I am beginning to understand that any eggs bought at a super market pale in comparison to farm eggs (literally). We have figured out that with selling our extra eggs we will just make slightly above what it costs us to raise the chickens. Basically we are eating free eggs and getting a bit of pocket change. If someone were to do this as a business you would need thousands of chickens to make it profitable and you would need to cut corners wherever you could. In my mind I had pictured the chickens laying those “free range” eggs I was paying $5 in the grocery store for as happy chickens frolicking on a farm. Now I know that “free range” only means they have access to the outdoors. It does not specify how much outdoors or if they have access to grass. And if you are raising thousands of chickens to make your business profitable, just how much space could you offer your chickens anyways?
My children have become little chicken farmers. They race at the chance to take the compost out to feed the chickens, they come with me to collect the eggs, and we have nicknamed Kayden the Chicken Whisperer as he has an amazing ability to get the chickens to stop for him and let him pick them up. Yes, my youngest son loves to cuddle chickens! We have hatched our own chicken eggs, had lessons in death (not all of them made it), have watched the baby chicks grow bigger and bigger, learned the skills of a chicken farmer, and have taken a giant step in becoming more self sufficient.