If you’ve been bitten by the chicken bug and dream about quitting your city job and raising thousands of fluffy chicks, you might want to pump the brakes a bit. But just a bit! Agricultural work is notoriously difficult in both the sheer amount of physical work and the daily struggle to actually turn a profit.
There are a few ways you can raise chickens and make money, though! Most people that raise poultry commercially work for larger companies as production or hatchery managers, assistant managers, or as caretakers.
Some people own their own poultry houses and raise broilers on behalf of larger companies and many, many more work in the processing end of things. Other individuals work as inspectors to assure the health and safety of the birds and products being created.
Most people that are interested in raising chickens for profit are interested in a smaller sort of business. If you want to own your own little poultry farm and are planning on steering clear of the aggressive, commercial poultry world, you still have a few great options! While you won’t make as much money, you can still raise chickens for profit and find some spiritual enjoyment too.
Rules, Regulations, and Standards
The American Poultry Association (APA) is a great resource to find more information on the different recognized chicken breeds. Purebred birds are often easier to sell since your clients have a better idea of what they’re getting. You can also join the APA, participate in shows, and earn recognition for your superior breeding skills, which will increase the value of your birds!
If you are planning on raising chickens and selling chicks for profit, you will need to check your state’s Department of Agriculture for their rules and regulations. Many require you to be licensed to sell those chicks or chickens, to hatch eggs, or even just sell the hatching eggs – no matter how few! There are also rules for selling eggs or meat for human consumption that you will need to follow.
You should also familiarize yourself with your state’s requirements for the National Poultry Improvement Plan (NPIP.) This voluntary program requires regular testing of your flocks as well as maintaining certain standards of care. Since you can’t sell hatching eggs, chicks, or adult birds across state lines (for most states) without NPIP forms you will need to participate in order to expand your business.
One common way you can make raise chickens for profit is by hatching chicks! There is always some demand for backyard mix chicks, but you will have better luck if you breed purebred birds. You will have even better luck if you breed purebred birds to their Standard of Perfection!
Most chicks are sold at about a day of age and there is quite the market for new chicks when spring rolls around! Hatching eggs requires an incubator, especially if you want to churn out a certain number. Using a broody hen can be an option for smaller groups, but it can be difficult to get enough broody hens to make a profit.
You can also incubate eggs for other people for a fee. Some individuals don’t want to get their own incubator or struggle with getting a good hatch rate, so they pay others to incubate the eggs for them! If you are good at it and have extra incubators lying around it can be a great service to provide!
Selling and Shipping Hatching Eggs
If you don’t want to go through the trouble of running an incubator you can always sell hatching eggs! Many hobbyists choose to order eggs online, because they can’t find a certain breed nearby and shipping live birds can be risky and expensive.
If you decide to sell hatching eggs from your flock, you will need to crack a few eggs. Literally. You can’t identify eggs that are not fertilized without looking inside and you can’t tell if your rooster is doing his job unless you check the eggs! Selling a lot of duds is a great way to get blacklisted from the hatching egg world.
When you crack an egg open, you’ll find a small spot on the yolk called the blastodisc. When an egg has been fertilized this will look like a bullseye, or like there’s a halo around the blastodisc, and it’s now called a blastoderm. Good egg sellers will regularly check the fertility rate of the eggs their flock produces so they can be sure their clients are starting on the right foot.
Shipping really does a number on egg viability and once they leave your possession you no longer have control. You will also have to pack them very carefully to avoid crushed and cracked eggs. Despite your best packing job, the boxes may be x-rayed, dropped, placed in cold or hot places, or simply be bumped and jostled on their way to their destination. Placing stickers or paying for careful handling is not enough to guarantee they’re being treated correctly, so don’t skimp!
Some customers prefer to have their eggs held at the post office, while others want them delivered to their door. If they want them held, be sure to speak with the employees at the post office for the proper way to do this! Postal sorters have hundreds of parcels to move and can easily miss a note written on the box, resulting in eggs being tossed into the back of a mail truck and driven around in the heat for hours. Hold for Pickup likely needs to be selected when you are paying for the postage!
You will also want to look into insuring your package. Accidents do happen and you want to be covered if your eggs arrived smashed! Being able to refund your clients if their eggs arrive in unhatchable condition is important when you want to run a successful egg business.
Selling Adult Birds
If you raise chickens for show, or just for fun, you can also sell adult birds! There is less demand for adult roosters, but there is a lot of demand for hens or started pullets. Raising chicks is also time consuming and requires a lot of supplies, so many people jump on the chance to buy hens that are already ready for their coop!
Selling more mature birds is a great option for those that are raising chickens for show, because you can sell the girls that don’t make the cut to someone for their backyard layers. If you have a lot of supplies and experience raising chicks, you can raise them much more efficiently and at lower costs. Young hens that are about to start laying usually sell for good money – much more than a day-old chick!
Farm Fresh Eggs
Hens lay a lot of eggs, so you’ll likely end up overrun at some point if you have more than a few layers. This is where many people turn to selling their extras! Free range, barnyard chickens lay eggs that are tastier and healthier than factory-farmed eggs and people love the idea that the chickens are living a happy life.
Depending on your location, a dozen eggs can sell for $3-6! If you have the space you can raise pastured hens and sell the eggs at a local farmers market, roadside stand, or even a local grocery store! Check local laws and regulations regarding grading and washing eggs, because it is often legally required once you reach a certain number.
Pastured Poultry Meat
Another option for an individual is raising pastured broilers. There is a demand for chicken meat from birds that were raised outside on grass and in the sunshine instead of in warehouses. They are more expensive to raise, but they sell for more per pound.
These birds will need processed, so you will either need to have the ability to do this yourself or you will have to pay a processing facility to do it for you. These facilities can be difficult to find, but they are efficient, inspected, and you only need to drop the birds off and pick up the finished product later!
How Much Profit, Really?
At the end of the day, you’re not going to get rich off of chickens. With careful planning you can make more from your birds than you spend keeping them, but this takes a lot of dedication and sacrifice.
Most people are happy to break even because chickens are ultimately their hobby. If you are raising birds for show, then it will be even harder too actually profit! The amount of time spent traveling and entering shows will eat up a lot of the money you might make from selling birds, chicks, or eggs.
As you increase the number of eggs produced or birds sold you will have to have more permits and licenses as well. It can be tempting to try and fly under the radar, but these rules and regulations exist to protect the people who you sell to and the poultry industry in general.
With enough dedication and planning you can raise chickens for profit, just be realistic about what you are willing to do and keep it simple!