ven though we no longer raise chickens to sell, we still keep records just so we know how much our food is costing or saving us, depending on how you look at it.
It’s not much different from keeping garden records, and really can help you troubleshoot any problems you may encounter especially with raising chickens. All sorts of things can happen and a set of records can come in handy for making decisions.
I just use the regulation green columnar pads for my record keeping. I find it easier to jot down something on paper with a pencil than I do going to the computer and using a spreadsheet. However, spreadsheets or programs like Quickbooks are great if the computer is your tool of choice. I think what is more important is actually keeping detailed records, the method doesn’t matter as much as just putting it down…somewhere, in a cohesive way.
Things I keep track of:
♦ Chick cost – we buy chicks from a hatchery, but you may hatch your own, or buy hatching eggs. It all costs something, whether it be your labor, or the electricity to run an incubator. Determine your actual costs.
♦ Feed Cost – we buy a custom mix feed, you may purchase something similar or mix your own from purchased or homegrown ingredients. Again determine how much it is per pound, bag or ton.
♦ Feed Usage – I keep track of this by date, so I know how much I need to have on hand at what stage in the game. For instance during the first week our batch of 75 broiler chicks hardly consume much food, but that changes rapidly as they grow, and you don’t want to be caught short-handed. My feed is bagged, so when I replenish the feed barrels in the brooder or pasture, I write the date down and number of bags, so when I look back I can see how fast they are consuming the feed.
♦ Mortality – this is very important and can help you track the problem. Birds die for many reasons, and keeping accurate death records with dates can help you determine the true cause. My general rule of thumb is after 72 hours of hatch, it is operator failure. Whether it be from the wrong type of feed or poor housing or misplaced ideals about how chickens should be raised, usually the nut loose behind the wheel is the root cause.
♦ Dressed weight – per bird and a total dressed weight is very useful in determining how much it cost you raise your birds. You can find your feed conversion rate by dividing the total feed used by the total pounds of chicken when dressed. 1500 pounds of feed ÷500 pounds of dressed chicken = 3 pounds of feed per pound of meat raised. Very helpful if you’re going to sell your birds.
♦ Processing costs – This might be per bird or just your labor if you do them at home.
♦ Number of Eggs – I keep track of how many eggs per day, a decline in lay can help you determine if something is going awry, or just help you learn the egg laying cycle.
♦ Feed Cost and Usage – same as above, with these numbers you can determine your out-of-pocket costs for producing eggs on a per dozen basis.
Obviously, none of these items tracks your capital equipment costs, which may vary depending on whether you are just starting or have owned your equipment for some time. But a good set of numbers based on day-to-day observations can really reveal a good deal of information to guide you in the future.
It may sound kind of nerdy, but record keeping can be fun :D