108 layers in our flock. 29 eggs yesterday. Some of that is my fault. Those birds were hatched in March and July of 2012. I chose not to raise pullets in 2013 (beyond a few we hatched for fun). If I had raised replacements in the spring, those younger birds would be laying well right now. The older birds are taking a little time off because the days are so short…and because they are tired.
And I’m OK with that. They worked hard all spring, summer and fall. Now it’s time for them to rest up and restart in February when the days get longer. I could put a light bulb out there but, well…come on. I know our customers are disappointed that we are so short on eggs right now but…can’t they have a little time off?
Julie met a couple nearby who raised pullets in the spring who have not slowed down at all. They are selling eggs for $2/dozen at a farmer’s market and say they are giving away a fair portion of their eggs. They just can’t sell them and they certainly can’t imagine charging $4 for eggs. The conversation went back and forth a little bit, “Walmart charges $4 for low-quality brown eggs.” but the main theme was Julie saying, “You can’t possibly be making any money at $2” and them saying, “We do make money at $2.” So I thought it was a good time to review what it costs to produce a dozen eggs…cause there is just no way they are making money at $2.
I’ll assume their birds are outdoors which means they are not as feed efficient as other birds. According to Nutrena, a layer needs 0.21 pounds of feed per day. Let’s just call that 0.25 to adjust for outdoors and to make the math easier. This family is keeping 150 birds and says they pay $9 per bag of feed. I don’t know if that’s a 40 pound Nutrena bag or a 50 pound Purina bag so we’ll just say 50 pounds and give them the benefit of the doubt. 150 birds would need to eat 37.5 pounds of feed each day costing $6.75. A chicken lays an egg 2 days out of three. That means they should be getting 99 eggs/day. Let’s say none are cracked or stained so he gets 8 dozen eggs each day. $6.75/8 = $0.84. Maybe they feed garden waste or table waste to their birds to cut feed costs. I don’t have that information. I think you’ll see that even free feed wouldn’t help the situation.
He has $0.84 worth of feed in each dozen eggs he sells (assuming quite a bit in his favor). Because he is a licensed egg seller in Illinois he follows the rules. The rules say we have to use new egg cartons. He does. Egg cartons cost $0.30 at our scale weather you buy foam or pulp. Now we are up to $1.14 per dozen.
Each day the farmer has to feed and water the birds and gather the eggs. Then the eggs have to be washed, sorted, packed, weighed and labeled. Let’s call that an hour and let’s just suggest that an hour of that labor is worth $10. Now we’re at $2.39 per dozen eggs (assuming we’re selling 8 dozen each day).
We haven’t accounted for the 6 months of raising the young pullets when they weren’t laying any eggs and ate 10 pounds of feed each. We haven’t paid for the brooder they used. We haven’t paid for nest boxes, housing, roost space. We haven’t paid the Illinois egg inspection tax. We haven’t accounted for birds that will be killed by predators. We haven’t covered transportation as we haul them to a farmer’s market or paid for the booth at the farmer’s market…or paid for our time at the farmer’s market. Many of those costs are detailed in an older post. But forget all that. This producer is paying his customer $0.40 per dozen ($1,168 per year) and STILL has to give the eggs away. Heck, let’s break that down to one day. He’s getting up, trudging through the ice and snow, thawing drinkers, feeding chickens, cleaning nest boxes, gathering eggs, thawing waterers again, washing, packing, sorting, weighing and labeling eggs just so he can give his customers at least $3.20 every day. Wouldn’t it be better to just sit on the couch under a blanket? There are easier and funner ways to burn money!
If you are a customer of ours, I apologize that we are currently short on eggs. I apologize that our egg prices went up this year (and are likely to go up again in the spring). I know what it costs us to produce a dozen eggs. I know what it costs our business if I am unable to meet your demands for eggs. I realize I made a mistake in not raising pullets last spring. But, where I am today, working with what I have to work with and at our current scale, I feel it is best not to put a light on our birds to make them lay more eggs. Stick with us for just a little while longer. I know this is inconvenient but by March we’ll be swimming in eggs again.
I found a couple of articles at OnPasture.com that addressed the egg issue well. There are also some articles linked on my original egg math posting.