Expensive chicken, is it worth it?
No gruesome photos today.
Here is the breakdown on the costs of raising this batch of chickens, and my thoughts on whether it is worth it or not. If I didn’t stretch these chickens so far, getting 5 days of lunch meat for DH, 2 family meals and a fair amount of broth per week, raising so many birds would not be a good value. However, for me, since I know my way around these birds, raising 75 in one pen is the same amount of labor and capital expenditure as raising a smaller batch of 25. (chicks are shipped from hatcheries in increments of 25.) I make estimates of how much food I need to stock up on, loosely based on 1 unit a week, except items like beef of course. For instance I try to can 50 quarts of sweet cherries, and glare at my husband if he eats more than one a week. ;) The way food goes around here, we might eat 3 quarts of those cherries in one week, and then not touch them for weeks, it always seem to work out. So I plan for cooking a chicken a week, and I devote that much freezer space to that. If I raised the same number of chickens in two batches, I would be doubling my labor/time expenditure during a time when I really need to be doing other things.
Here are the costs based on 75 chicks:
♣ day old chicks - $ 80.25
♣ brooder electricity - 12.00
♣ feed, 3/4 ton - 558.75
♣ processing - 117.00
♣ gasoline - 20.00
Total expense $ 788.00
If I sold these chickens, I would sell them for $3.75 per lb. I ended up with 71 chickens. At first I thought I received 72 from the hatchery, and lost 4, but the actual count was 71, so I did receive my full order.
♣ average dressed weight was 5.7 lbs. 405 lb x $3.75 = $ 1518.75
♣ hearts, livers, gizzards and feet 42 lb x 3.50 = 147.00
Total Value $1665.75
Net after expenses: $ 877.75
Cost to raise – $11.10 per bird.
that is about $1.95 per lb.
Prices here in the Pacific Northwest range from $ .69 per pound for conventional fryers to $3.75 per pound for organic fryers.
The following are some things I can’t reconcile on my spread sheet:
I didn’t include my labor costs because these are for our personal use, but I spent 14 hours over 8 weeks, and 6 hours processing, for a total of 20 hours. If I do bookkeeping for someone I charge $20.00 per hour. If I count my time, that would add another $400.00. That would be a figure to take into consideration if you were going to sell these. I could have sold all of these at our high price. I need approximately 60 to satisfy my goal of one a week and have some extra. I will barter the balance of these. By keeping track of my costs I know how much they are worth. I’m here anyway, I like these chickens for all the good food they provide, and their stay is brief, so I don’t mind this chore either.
Another detail I have a hard time placing a dollar value on, is the fellowship on butchering day. My daughter always has fun, and gets a chance to visit with kids she knows, and meet some new friends, who don’t think it’s weird to be killing chickens. I have fun too, I like the smells, and sounds and I never have a problem eating fresh chicken for dinner that very night! Does that make me a bad person? I decide what my family eats, this is one way to ensure there are good feelings surrounding that food.
Placing a value of the broiler manure for pasture fertilizer is hard compare with the typical fossil fuel based fertilizers that need to be applied every year, and do more harm than good. But that is the test conventional farmers always use – if it gets taller than everybody else’s, that’s what counts. I’m not looking for tall hay, or volume, but quality. This pasture has been grazed down twice this season before we dropped it out of the rotation for hay. This is our only flat field, so we raised our broilers here, when we were doing it as a business. Note the strip of Spotted cats ear, or false dandelion Hypochaeris radicata. This dandelion grows on our ground that needs help. In this field we had to run the pens along side the plow line, so this strip never received any chicken manure. The cows relish this bitter herb fresh, and in hay, so we don’t worry about it. (It does tense out our neighbors, though, hehe.) We use it as an indicator to tell us we are slipping backwards in our fertility applications. Broilers haven’t been here for 3 years.
For us, if the grain prices continue to climb, which they will (I’ve heard at least until 2010.) It may not pay to raise these chickens. We rarely ate chicken until we started raising them, and it would be hard to go without now. We squeeze so much out of each chicken nothing goes to waste, but it would be more cost effective for us to raise more beef, since we don’t grain our cattle, we would have less cash out of hand, just labor costs. That’s why chicken used to be reserved for Sunday dinner, it was expensive to raise on a farm where cash flow was nonexistent, and the chicken supply was usually a young rooster that wasn’t needed.
On our trip to process the chickens, we were able to stock up on Thorvin Kelp and Redmond Salt for the cows, so I can really charge the gas for the trip to the beef, offsetting the cost to chickens.
So, as usual I’ve probably raised more questions than supplied answers. If grain is available at an affordable price in your area, that would certainly help make the decision on whether or not it would pencil out. So I hope this helps.
For dinner tonight – you guessed it! Roasted Chicken Huge Salad.
Jericho romaine, Merlot, Flashy Green Butter Oak, and New Red Fire lettuces, Five color silverbeet, lambsquarters, Genovese basil, cilantro, Goldgerber purslane, vetches, violas and Lemon Gem marigolds.
Foxglove in the barnyard. Digitalis purpurea