One of the best ways to get Omega-3 fatty acids in your diet is through pastured eggs. Not to be confused with pasteurized eggs, which I'm not even sure is a thing. Pastured eggs is where chickens get up to 1/3 of their diet naturally from grasses, weeds, small plants, bugs and worms found in the pasture.
I had never heard of such a thing as pastured eggs or chickens before. When I thought of chickens, I only knew of having the small farm chicken coops and chickens running around in the pen or the factory chicken operation with thousands upon thousands of chickens in a building that never see the light of day, but when I heard of the chicken tractor, I knew that this made more sense for a small diversified farm.
What's A Chicken Tractor?
A chicken tractor is a small chicken run which for our purposes also has a small coop with nesting boxes attached, which you put in your pasture. At this point the chickens have free access to everything on the ground. They will eat many of the green plants, peck and turn over the dirt looking for seeds, bugs and worms, which is beneficial to the soil like plowing it with a tractor, but has the added benefit of the chicken manure fertilizing the ground. After so many days, you just roll the tractor forward to the next "new" spot, and so on down the pasture.
How Much Money Can Be Made With Pastured Eggs?
There is a lot of factors that go into the business of pastured eggs, so here is the breakdown.
Each hen is an egg laying factory with a productivity span of 2 1/2 years, at which time they should be dispatched for a stewing hen. The cost per hen is as follows...
Day-old sexed chicks are $3 a piece delivered with a loss rate during brooding at 10% so $3.33 per chick.
Overhead of equipment for each bird on average ends up at $3.60
It takes about 16 pounds of prepared feed (started and grower) to raise a chick to laying age. After this a hen will consume .2 to .25 pounds of feed a day in addition to their free range foraging. So for the two years where a chicken is laying, it will need 180 pounds of feed in addition to the 16 pounds to bring it to laying stage. Certified organic feed bought by the pallet ends up being on average $25 a bag so the feed cost per bird is $90.
So the cost per bird for it's lifetime at this point is $96.33
Now each hen can be expected to lay about 250 eggs the first year and then 150 in the second year or 400 eggs per hen.
So if we spread the lifetime costs of the hen over the number of eggs she'll produce, we see
Non-feed costs at $0.21 per one dozen eggs
Feed costs at $2.70 per one dozen eggs
Packaging at $0.35 per one dozen eggs
So that all boils down to $3.26 per dozen for costs alone
So in a realistic, small farm setup, let say we have 50 hens with half being in their 1st year and half being in their 2nd year, we can expect to get about 2 dozen eggs a day, so by selling these eggs at $5 a dozen, we can expect a profit of $3.48 per day or $1270 per year.
Final Word On Pastured Chickens
So you can increase your profit by changing to a non-organic feed, or by seeding your pasture with higher quality plants like alfalfa and clover. You could reduce your cost by buying "straight run" chickens, but then you have to figure out what to do with those useless roosters. You could also try to raise the price over $5 per dozen. If the demand is high enough you could increase your flock to reduce overall non-feed costs. At the end of the day though, you may not be able to rely on eggs as a big source of income, but by adding this to the farm mix, you will always have an additional source of products to bring customers to your door, and healthy eggs for you and your family.