Failing to Plan for Fall Egg Demand

I get this all the time.

“So, Chris, my 14 year-old daughter just watched Food Inc.  Now she’s not eating.  How much are your eggs?”

“Chris, we just started this new diet (Paleo, Zone, Sally Fallon…you name it) and need a source of clean food.  Do you sell eggs?”

“Chris, my sisters are coming in town this weekend and we are hoping to do a bunch of baking.  Can you get me 3 dozen extra?”

Well, shoot.  Our eggs are $4 (that’s $0.50 less than an inferior egg costs at Walmart!) but I’m afraid I can’t take new customers until Spring.  I would love to publish more on the topic of working to lower food costs and prices but for now, see what Salatin had to say about it in his speech about going full-time.

I sell a better egg than you can buy anywhere at a better price than you can find in a store. Consequently I don’t have enough eggs. Any chicken owner will tell you that egg availability changes through the year.  In the spring we are swimming in eggs.  In the heat of the summer the girls slow down (understandably) and heading into fall they molt. We’re in the lean times and it will get worse before it gets better. To account for this, most chicken owners start pullets in the spring so they begin laying in the fall. That way when the older hens molt they can be retired (either to the freezer or to Craig’s List) and the new hens will pick up the slack through the winter. I realize I’m not using specifics here but I’m just relating a general trend.

I failed. Our spring was so busy I just couldn’t raise pullets.  My travel schedule, my work schedule, the endless amount of work the farm requires of us…I couldn’t get it all done in the spring. Something had to give.  Since I didn’t sow, I don’t get to reap.  No pullets? No eggs. Not only can’t I accept new customers, I’m struggling to satisfy the demands of my existing customers.  I should have ordered pullets in the spring…like we always have.

Pullets On Pasture

Chalk this one up as a mistake we will work to avoid going forward.  If you focus on making a quality product, customers will find you.  You need to anticipate and accommodate that demand. I could have put down a book one evening late last winter and gotten everything ready for a few hundred chicks.  I just didn’t. As a consequence, I’m missing an opportunity to feed more people. Lesson learned.

14 thoughts on “Failing to Plan for Fall Egg Demand

  1. I always say there is Next Year! My hubby says, “well, I was doing something more important at the time.” The book you were reading probably was more important, maybe you were reading to your kids, or learning how to farm better. None of us ever learn without making the mistake first.

  2. Been there, done that. In fact, I’m kind of there right now – this bunch of hens is going into their first moult, and I usually don’t start pullets for this particular moult, I wait for next spring, so they’re kicking in when the old birds go to the freezer – but – this bunch is, well, let me just say, I could probably encourage them to flap their way down to Illinois and bulk out your flock, and they’d jump at the chance. You can have ’em (good luck squeezing eggs out of them), and I’ll just buy my eggs from someone with better behaved hens than mine. Unlike you, I could have managed to fit starting a new batch into the schedule back in May or so, but just didn’t because way back then (only a few months!) I still liked these hens – that’s changed, but too late. Like you, I’ll be better organized next time round I hope.

    • Well, at least I’m happy with my birds. Most of the flock came from Central Hatchery but a few came from Cackle and Schlecht. I was surprised at the variety of colors that come from the Central Sil Go Link breeding program. Mostly red but also a number of black and a few white birds. Excellent layers and good foragers too. But we’re going back to Barred Rock (or Wyandotte maybe?) and New Hampshires going forward, alternating our hatching each year.

      Are your birds getting aggressive? Flighty? Escape artists?

      • Escape artists. To say my hens are free range is to understate their range. This is of course mainly my fault – fencing repair fell by the wayside during some time crunch way back in the summer (was that last month?).
        I have raised Barred Rocks in the past – nice birds in terms of temperament (NOT the roosters), eggs were uniform, though a bit pale, and on the small side of large. I haven’t tried Wyandottes, though would like to. I’m thinking of going back to Rhode Islands next, and get back to breeding my own stock. I don’t think my hatchery supplies Wyandottes except in those exotic sample packs for backyard enthusiasts and 4-Hers. Certainly not 50 at a time. I envy you your choice of hatcheries. We have one choice, in Alberta -it’s really two hatcheries owned by one company. There are other hatcheries but they only supply the commercial producers. There are lots of hatcheries back East, but they don’t ship all the way out here.

        • I don’t know about the BR rooster thing. Roosters are interesting critters. Hard to find one that works. If you can find one in a breed you like it might be worthwhile to hatch your own. It’s working out well for us with our New Hampshire birds but our hatch capacity is too small. We’ll have to scale up if we’re going to be serious about it.

    • I don’t remember where we got it but it’s a plasson bell drinker. We have maybe 5 of them. All awesome. We just use friction to fit a rubber hose in a hole drilled in the side of a 5-gallon bucket. No fittings, just friction.

      I have some ideas for using nipples on a pipe running the length of the chicken tractor. Maybe hang it from a chain so you can adjust the height as the birds grow? Might be better to make it the width instead of the length so you don’t have to crawl inside to make adjustments. Just ideas really.

      I REALLY liked the nipple drinkers in the brooder but my friend Darby had trouble with them getting stuck open and leaking all over his birds. That may have been because of a lack of water pressure.

  3. Sailorssmallfarm, you can buy those water nipples anywhere for a lot less money. I found them at Farmtek.

    Chris, if you are selling out of eggs at $4/dozen, raise your price. Not to mention, it is impossible to make any money selling eggs at that price!

    • We are creeping upward. I keep a picture on my phone of brown eggs at Walmart for $4.48. I picked up one carton in the store just to see, picked up one egg and it was dirty. For $4.48.

      Prices are going up. Just not all at once.

    • Thanks Kristin. We don’t have Farmtek in Canada, but I too have seen the nipples on various websties. I haven’t sat down to do a serious cost comparison yet, because I’m not sure what I’d want to go with – a pipe, like Chris mentioned, or a bucket. I’m a bit worried about the nipples clogging up, but I guess that could happen with the hose from bucket to bell drinker too.

  4. It’s tricky doing a price jump isn’t it? Especially if you sell a variety of products. I waited for a break in the egg supply last fall (the old hens were not producing well, the pullets were just starting to lay), and did my price change then.

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