This was a summer of firsts- and one of the most important ones was our first time raising our own chickens for meat. We went big, raising enough for not just our expanding family for a whole year, but also raising a years worth for my parents. We are very excited about how the whole project turned out, and as a wrap up, I decided to do a fiscal breakdown of the total cost to end our reliance on factory farm meat/big agriculture.
So here we go!
Chicks – We bought day old sexed female chicks from Meyer’s Hatchery online. Because we bought from a particular lot, we received free shipping. We also bought 125, so we got them for $1.44 each. We literally could NOT find them any cheaper anywhere else. On a side note, they sent 130 total. We lost 5 over the 9 week period we grew them out. So we ended up with our original 125 ordered.
Total Cost: $180
Shelter – We built our own tractors out of materials we already had from being “hoardsteaders” – we used wood, tin roofing, hardwire fencing, staples, regular screws and tin screws. We did have to buy a minimal amount of hardware – some screws and hinges, so this cost was subjective really. It all depends on how much of this kind of stuff you already have left over from other projects. For the sake of this analysis, I’m not including the cost of supplies we already had, just the ones we purchased new. We have since decided to do this differently next year for reasons listed here.
Total Cost: $20
Feed- according to our research, to grow out Cornish Rock Crosses, you need about 15 lbs of feed per bird. In our experience it was more along the lines of 20 lbs of feed. Feed comes in 40 and 50 lb bags, so for the purpose of this blog we’ll average it to 45 lbs per bag. Bags of feed cost anywhere between $15 to $16 each. For the purpose of this blog we’ll average it to $15.50 per bag. To grow out 125 birds, we needed 2500 lbs of feed total, which can be converted to 55 bags roughly. This breaks down to about $6.80 per bird.
Total Cost: $850
Supplies – We had to buy waterers and feeders to accomadate the sheer volume of birds we bought. This is a long term cost tho that can be spread over the course of years, because we will be able to use these plastic feeders and waterers for probably 5 or more years. We bought 5 of each, at about $6 each, for a total of $60. We also ended up using part of our stash of Corrid early on, because we were seeing signs of coiccidisis. We already owned it, but I would put that cost at about $5 worth of medicine. We didn’t lose a single chick, so it was worth the preventative. There was also a homemade electrolyte mix we used several times in their water for various reasons- I’d put the cost of that at $2 – we buy all the ingredients for something like that (sugar, salt, baking soda) in bulk so it was pennies per serving.
Total Cost: $67
Butchering – For a couple different reasons, we decided to hire out the butchering aspect of our chickens. We had never butchered more then one at a time, I was heavily pregnant and mobility was an issue for me at the time, we didn’t have the equipment to do it properly, quickly or humanely, and time was also an issue as we both work full time jobs. So we contacted the kind folks at Tenth Village Farm just outside of Calais Maine and they took on our chickens. They are a USDA approved facility, so we CAN sell our chickens to other people, and places for resale if we so choose. At the time of this blog, we had sold a couple to local people and friends of the family, without the intentions of selling to many as we didn’t want to short ourselves. That cost $4.25 per bird for complete processing, bagging and freezing. We had 125 birds make it to butchering time for a total of $531.25. We also had to make 3 trips to drop off/pick up so that cost us about $45 in gas.
Total Cost: $577
So from start to finish the Total Cost ran about $1694 give or take. We ended up with 125 beautiful birds in our combined freezers- each weighing from 4.5 pounds to 6 pounds(although we did have one runt that weighed in at a whopping 3 pounds). That averages to each bird costing $13.55. If you were to average the weight at 5.25 pounds, that is a cost of $2.58 per pound.
I know a lot of people would say “wow that’s expensive!” and “I can get whole chicken for 99 cents per pound!” BUT as I have outlined in a previous blogs, we are DESPERATE to get away from factory farming and big agriculture. We believe that these practices are harmful to the environment, unsustainable and unethical. We were able to give our chickens a healthy, happy life with 6-7 weeks of living outside in the sun, with bugs and plants to eat, to then be butchered by like minded people striving for the same lifestyle. Sure we learned a few tough lessons along the way, and we are going to tweak our plans for next year, but there is most definitely going to be a next year. We are extremely proud of the job we did, the meat we produced and the ability to step away from practices we do not agree with- the butcher even told us, our chickens were some of the healthiest he’d ever seen. So, with that under our hats, we are forging ahead with our localvore ideology….. And you don’t get more local then your own backyard.
Until next time, have a wicked good day!