What are the true costs to starting a farm? We’ve got the numbers below. It’s easy to get caught up in the romantic vision of a life outdoors, growing your own food and kicking the day job to the curb. But while those things are true, passion and really hard work are also part of the reality.
This past week I meet up with a group of local farmers for farmer beer night. While enjoying my Star Chicken Shotgun IPA (had to), I had the great fortune of sitting next to the original pastured chicken farmer in our area. A local legend! He started out in the mid 90s when the words local and organic were hardly known and marketed except by the hippie food co-op folks and let’s be real most immigrant families.
We got to talking about fun stuff like predators, sharing the horrors of finding your flock beheaded by an owl or catching a red-tailed hawk because it had eaten the ENTIRE chicken and couldn’t fly. (Don’t worry. It went to a rescue.)
About 20 minutes through our conversation he turns to me and says, “I’m supposed to talk you out of farming. Don’t go into it.”
“This has been the worst year for me. I lost money and I still have a freezer full of turkeys waiting to be sold.”
“Huh? We’ll it’s too late. Besides I REALLY love keeping chickens.” I say half cracking a smile.
Now most of us new, younger farmers know the how hard it is to get into farming. The work is HARD, damn hard and pay is LITTLE, damn little. But I got to thinking am I really that naïve to think I could break into an industry that makes it so hard to get by?
It’s my first year and we’re hoping to break even and maybe even make a little money but that didn’t come easy and we’re still hustling. This winter I’m strategizing of all the ways I will continue to hustle to keep my business not just alive, but thriving in 2017.
To give you a glimpse into our year raising 600 pastured, Red & Black Rangers, I’ve included our major costs. How much did you spend? How do you keep your small farms alive? Let us know in the comments below.
Feed is hands down the LARGEST cost of raising chickens. You will see I raised 600 red rangers in cycles of 100 with the exception of the last round being black rangers. In the last round I sold 53 live birds in week 37 hence the drop in feed consumption. Total cost = $4666.46
We didn’t process our chickens on site so were at the mercy of our local USDA processor at $4.50/bird. We processed 4.25 rounds of birds and sold 1.75 rounds live to local farmers. Total cost = $1962
Of course I’m leaving out a few things like chicks, bedding fuel, transportation and storage which I’ll round into the total. Total cost to starting a chicken farm = $8400
It’s not exactly the cheapest startup by any means but as far as farms go with all their equipment and overhead, I’d say starting a chicken farm is one of the moderately easy farm startups.
[This post is part of a series. Curious about labor and production plans? Get on the email list for notice when those go live.]