Friday, June 2, 2017

How I make $1,000 a month from 15 chickens!

Chickens can be expensive. Even if you don't count the coop, the feed and bedding are monthly expenses that add up a lot! I decided a long time ago to have a no freeloaders policy and I make all my chickens earn their keep. I've tried many different ways to make money from my chickens but the most profitable way just fell into my lap!

When I started raising chickens, I decided to hatch the chicks from eggs I ordered from a breeder. When word got out that I had hatched chicks, I started getting calls from people who wanted to buy my chicks. As soon as my chickens were full grown, I hatched their eggs! The calls kept coming and I kept hatching. Over the years I've had as many as 90 chickens and as few as six. I've realized that by setting things up the right way I can make up to $1,000 a month on as few as 15 chickens.

make money from chickens

Of course you could sell eating eggs, feathers and even chicken poop to make money from your chickens. I'm not knocking that at all because it is a good way to make extra money. In my opinion though, the best way to make money off chickens....is by breeding chickens for profit.

Now, I'm sure you thought of that. In fact I'm pretty sure you're sitting there now saying "well yeah, but I can't make $1,000 selling chicks!" I promise you though, that you can do it. You just have to follow the money.

How to make money with chickens

My calculations today are going to focus on 15 chickens because I realize that even when I had 90 I was making most of my money from two of my breeding groups. Let's say each of those breeding groups had six or seven hens and one rooster. That equals up to our 15 chickens.

If every hen laid an average of 5 eggs a week, that would equal out to 65 eggs (on the low side, most 1-2 year old hens will lay 6 eggs a week). Since you have one rooster to each set of hens you should have a high rate of fertility. Take those 65 eggs and multiply it by the four weeks in a month, and now we have 260 eggs.

Now take that thousand dollars that we want to make. Divide that by those 260 eggs and you get $3.85 each. So if you hatch all those eggs and sell each chick for that amount, you'll make $1,000 a month. Unfortunately it's not quite that simple, you have to take into consideration hatch rates which may cut into your profit. 

I don't expect a 100% hatch rate, so I choose to sell chicks for $5 each. Using this number I have to sell 50 chicks a week to make my thousand dollars a month. Remember, we're getting at least 65 eggs a week out of 13 hens, which makes hatching 50 chicks a very feasible number.

Also, trying to sell 50 chicks of 1 breed is harder then trying to sell 25 chicks each from 2 different breeds. Large quantities of 1 breed over-saturates your market quickly. You could even break this down further into 3 breeding groups if your market isn't strong enough to support the sales of chicks from 2. 

make money | chickens

Now this is what I mean by follow the money: The key to selling chicks for $5 or more per chick, is to have the right breeds for your area. It also helps to have good quality specimens of those breeds. Show quality or breeder quality preferably. Nobody is going to pay you $3 more for a chick they can get at TSC for $2, but if you have something that's a step above that (or just hard to find) they will pay more!

For example, my silkies all came from breeders with very good reputations. I may have paid a little more per bird initially, (and by a little more....I mean a few dollars) but it pays off in the long run. My silkies are all beautiful, fluffy and are a very good representation​ of the breed. These birds are exactly what people are looking for when they decide they want silkies. This is why people will pay extra, your birds are exactly what they want! You simply figure out what they want in your area and you produce it, and customers will pay what you ask.

Another one of my flocks are the French black copper Marans. Marans are an interesting breed because they're mainly desired for their egg color. When breeding them I do like to avoid certain problems that they get with their feather coloring, because I try to stay true to the breed. Mostly though I'm breeding for dark eggs which is simple enough. 

The easiest of all my flocks are guinea fowl. There's no show quality and there's no pet quality, they're​ pretty much all the same which makes it really, really easy. I have seven colors and they all run together. What makes my guinea keets more in demand is that I have 7 colors! Everybody has the standard pearl color. I'm the only one in the area with multiple colors. All I do is collect the eggs and hatch them. Guinea fowl are a perfect bird to make money on because people will lose them every year since the foolish things like to sleep outside!

The same people will be back every year because they need more guineas to take care of the bugs. It helps if you live in a heavily tick populated area like I do here in Western Pennsylvania. I simply saw the demand and started supplying it. In the last few years as other people also started selling keets, I added the colors to make mine different. The only downside of guineas is that you need a higher male to female ratio. The upside though is that they hardly eat any feed unless it's the dead of winter!

Now those are just the reasons why these flocks work for me. You may have people in your area that are absolutely nuts for Polish chickens. If that's what's going to be most profitable chickens, then I suggest that's what you get into if you're trying to make money from chickens. As long as you stick to that 50 chicks a week that you can get $5 each from, you will make your thousand dollars a month.

I don't recommend breeding fad chickens. It seems that every year there are new chickens that cost $100 each! People start buying them up like crazy because they're rare and everybody wants to have them. It seems like these would be the most profitable chickens to breed, but they're really not. They're over-bred like crazy and the quality suffers plus the market tanks quickly. Besides, next year it's going to be a different fad chicken. If you don't make your money back by then, you're not going to.

Obviously you're going to need an incubator. I happen to have two cabinet incubators from Brinsea that I absolutely love. I can rely on them completely and they are the 'set it and forget it' type. I've seen a lot of people have good results with the Sportsman also. Whether you decide to go with one big incubator or a couple of smaller incubators, keep in mind that each one has a maximum capacity. That number is going to determine the maximum amount of money you can make. 

To minimize your expenses you're going to want the chicks out of your house the day after they hatch. If you get stuck raising chicks for weeks then you're going to put feed, electric and time into them. Not only is that costing you money but your time is valuable also. You need a method for selling your chicks and preferably you will have people waiting on each hatch. Here are some places I've promoted/sold chicks that have worked for me:
  • Online (social media)
  • Poultry swaps
  • Poultry auctions
  • Hanging signs up at feed stores, pet stores and veterinarian offices
  • Hanging business cards on community bulletin boards
  • Word of mouth.
Facebook is tricky right now but I recommend a 'like page' so people that buy from you can follow the page on Facebook. There are a lot of local poultry swap groups on Facebook. I suggest you find some of them as they always post when and where different poultry swaps and chicken based events are being held. Here's what to expect at a poultry swap.

If you advertise online and somebody contacts you for chicks you should meet them with the chicks at a public place. Safety first and all that. Plus at 50 chicks a week, you could be meeting with a lot of people and having them all come to your house....not such a good idea.

Another thing I highly recommend is to sell straight run chicks. You want to avoid sex-links and other breeds that can be sexed at sight on hatch. Yes, you will lose a few sales because you can't provide all pullets. However you lose even more money if you have to raise all the cockerels because nobody bought them.

Most of my breeds cannot be sexed at hatch by the average person. I didn't do that intentionally but I am really glad it worked out that way. If by some chance I have chicks that don't sell and they grow out for a few months I then sell the pullets for $10 and either give the cockerels away or take them to auction. Sometimes I grow them out for meat, depending on how many I have.

You can make good money selling chickens at auction, but poultry auctions can be hit or miss. I've gotten $15 each for Roosters that the next week fetched $2. I've gotten $30 each for adult guineas in January and $10 in July when people should need them more. I've had beautiful show quality silkies go for $3 and an ok quality Silkie of the same age go for $10 on the same day. I've had chicks fetch $30 for a box of 5 and the next week I got $5 for a box of 10. 

You really never know what you're going to get for anything you take there. Selling chickens at auction is different every time depending who's there to buy, what they're looking for and what else is there to sell. The great part about poultry auctions though, is that many of them run year round. So those are an excellent option for slower months and you won't have much competition then either. 

If you live in the southern half of the country, you can probably sell that amount of chicks almost year round. If your hatching more then you are selling though, you may want to slow down on hatching and supplement your chick income with some of these other ideas...

Sell and ship hatching eggs. The demand for chicks is lower here in the winter and I can still get 3-4 dollars per egg in online egg auctions. I use both chicken sites and Ebay to sell hatching eggs. The difference here is you're selling all the eggs, not just the ones that hatch. Which is why I set my per egg price lower.

If you have a breed with pretty feathers you can sell feathers online. I pick dropped feathers up all the time. Every chicken that passes on gets the hackle, tail and saddle feathers clipped. I wash them and sell them online for craft projects, hair clips and fly fishing. Guinea feathers are great for this too. Ebay and Etsy both allow feather sales.

Now you know my method for making money breeding chickens, do you know how much I spend to take care of 80 chickens? Check out The true cost of raising A LOT of chickens.

Want to know more about making money by selling chicks? The book with every detail you could possibly need will be out next month! Click here to join my mailing list and be the first to know when it's available!

~L

I did want to mention that breeding chickens is not as easy as get good stock and toss them together....however, in the interest of not making this post take 20 minutes to read I did summarize that part quite a bit. When you decide on a certain breed, I suggest you research it thoroughly and purchase good quality stock from at least 2-3 different breeders. I like to grow out a few experimental hatches of their offspring to make sure I'm getting the quality I want before selling chicks. That is another reason I do not recommend fad chickens. By the time you've test hatched and grown some out to evaluate them, the market has dropped. There is a ton of information online about breeding chickens and I'm sure you'll find any information you need! 

(this post contains affiliate links. If you chose to purchase something through the link, I will get a small amount from Amazon to thank me for sending you their way and help support this blog. It will not affect your purchase price)


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10 comments:

  1. Wow!! What an interesting article, Lisa! I've never thought about selling chicks before, and you make it sound logical and easy! Maybe I'll get there one day. :-) Sharing on Pinterest & FB too! Thanks!

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    1. Thanks so much, I'm glad you liked it! You should really consider selling some chicks. Even if you only sell 10 a month it'll put a dent in your feed bill!
      Thanks for sharing!


      ~Lisa

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  2. Wonderful article, and thanks! I plan to get chickens soon for my own eggs and meat, but I never considered raising eggs to sell the chicks! I could use the extra cash for awhile, to get some projects finished ...not sure if I'd want to do this forever, it sounds a bit exhausting!
    Do you maybe have a 'ballpark' figure to get started? $200.? $500? $1000.?
    Again, thank you for a great article with loads of information!

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    1. Thanks, I'm so glad that you liked it! To get started I would say it cost us about $1700 and $1500 was the coop! The first coop here was pretty big though and built with some fancy wood that I rolled my eyes at lol! You could definitely go cheaper on the coop though, and that is going to be the bulk of your startup costs. For instance my grow out pen which can hold a breeding trio of Silkies is a $60 dog house and $15 worth of fence with deer netting over it. I've also seen some really cute coops made of all recycled materials or even free pallet wood. If you already have a barn or shed you can use for a coop, you can get started for just a few hundred.

      ~Lisa

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  3. Thanks so much! Would love to see some pictures of your operation, breeding pens, etc. Always looking for ideas.

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    1. I don't have pictures of my complete hatching system, though I can definitely write about it! At the bottom of the article above is a link for: The True Cost of Raising Chickens, which is my complete tax deductions for 2014. I list exactly what it cost me to raise around 80 birds for 1 year. I'll do a video tour of all the coops/pens if you'd like!

      ~Lisa

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  4. Do you allow your Guinea to free range? Or do you keep them in a cage all the time?
    I have heard they only lay in the Spring. Do you know if that's true? Thx!

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    1. I let my Guineas free range. They start laying in about May and stop again around October. It depends on the weather and they always take that winter break. I do tend to keep them in the coop till about noon so they usually lay in there, though guineas are well known for hiding their nests in the woods.

      If you look up at the top of this page where there's a bar with topics, the one says Guineas 101. I have every article I've written about guineas listed on that page including pictures of guinea nests so you know how to find them.

      ~Lisa

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  5. I did a little research, as I live in California, where the cost of living is significantly higher; I found that the average price point for similar breeds around here is around $15 for a just-hatched chickie, and if you raise them even just for a few weeks, their value skyrockets up to $45-75 each! Of course, an older chick=more upkeep=more$, but I was surprised by just how much more money they can bring in after such a short amount of time. I knew the cost of living was going to result in more expensive chickies, but $15 for an unsexed ball of fluff isn't bad!!! So, my advice to anyone interested in breeding chicks is to definitely factor in the region you live in and cost of living! You don't want to overcharge obviously but don't sell yourself short either! :)

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    1. Wow....that is a serious amount if money you could be making! If I could get $45 to just hang on to them a few weeks my whole garage would be full of brooders! lol

      Really great advice though as region does have a lot to do with what you can expect to sell them for!

      ~L

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