Last week when I sprayed the weeds it was an almost perfect day, cool, cloudy and virtually no wind. I sprayed that afternoon and it didn’t rain until the next morning. Of course since then it has been raining or the wind is howling and I have not been able to spray the old orchard. But I did most of the important stuff last week. I have burned weeds for the last three years and have made great progress, I have also been digging the large weeds by hand, but nothing beats herbicide when it comes to large tracks of land. It is amazing stuff when used correctly, here is a picture of my thistles going away and the grass just getting greener.
There are literally hundreds of thistles dying at this point just on the hillside. This is the back creek that runs off of pure snow melt runoff. It started up this year the first week of April. We hope it will run until July at least. A good year is 5 months of running and we did not get that kind of snow this year in the mountains. I suspect we will only get about 3 months out of the creek this year.
It is another month so time for the monthly egg report, courtesy of Annmarie’s spreadsheet she made for me. If you know anyone that has chickens they can download the excel spreadsheet for free at our website (the link is on our blog homepage). I love summer. The chickens always cost less to feed and they lay more eggs. Now considering I have been negative for the first three months of the year, I figure I need to make all my profit in six months so I can afford to lose money for the other six months. Not exactly a sound business plan, but unfortunately I cannot control when the chickens lay lots of eggs (I can’t even control where they lay eggs!).
So April was a profitable month. I made a whopping $40.75 net profit on 33 hens laying (for the year my net income is –$14.27/month. I had $43 in expenses mostly food (for the year my monthly expenses are $45.72). We collected a total of 524 usable eggs averaging 16.9 eggs/day collected (for the year the average is 8.3, remember I had 20 babies that matured and are now laying, April was their first month of them being solid layers). The chickens ate 0.48#food/egg (for the year are averaging 0.84#/egg, remember I count my feed expense against the laying hens. So when I am feeding babies the adults are responsible to make up the difference). Feed cost was greatly reduced per egg which is why the month was my first profitable month of the year. In April it cost $0.08/egg (my yearly average is $0.21/egg or $2.52/dozen. I have been selling my eggs for $2.50 dozen since the beginning of the year.) I may have to up the price in the winter to $3/dozen. My production will drop about 60% in the winter. Hopefully, only 40% during winter but i doubt it. So I am finally making a profit. I am –$57.09 for the year so far.
The chickens are definitely not a huge money maker, I am hoping to get them to a place where they bring in around $50-100/month. There is definitely an economy of scale to chickens. I think that around 100-200 chickens is probably the most profitable for a small scale operation. This is around 1500-3000 eggs/month (125-250 dozen/month) or around 31-62 dozen/week or around 4.5-9 dozen/day or 55-110 eggs/day. Gotta have a full size refrigerator just to hold a few days worth of eggs, better not miss a farmers market or you are gonna be buried in eggs. All those eggs have to be directly sold to a consumer or else you have to grade them. Which requires a grading room which requires a sink, running water, sewage, and power = $/expenses. So we are not going there yet. Gonna stay at this level for a while.
That was probably more information that most people needed, but it is very interesting. Remember, my chickens free range so that is why my food expense goes down drastically in the spring/summer and fall. The chickens eat everything not nailed down. Here is a picture of some of the brood. You can see Sprout (small dog), Bailey (chocolate lab), one of the momma cats and lots of chickens (23). They are all following the golden rule “Comply or die” and getting along famously. The sheep are currently in our front yard mowing the lawn. We are going to leave them in for a few days to see if one of the ewes has a baby. Tired of the coyotes killing the babies.