If you love animals and have a little outdoor space at home, raising hens to sell eggs can be a simple idea to earn money without too much effort. In this article, we’ll explore the essential steps to starting up, managing, and maximizing profits from your avian business. From setting up the chicken coop to intelligently exploiting the egg market, here you’ll learn the essentials you need to know about the subject.
- Here's the program
- What exactly is this idea?
- How to get your hen house off to a good start?
- How and where to sell your eggs?
- How to take good care of your hens
- 12 tips to optimize your chances of success
- Pros and Cons
- Information recap
What exactly is this idea?
I think you’ve all figured it out by now: The central idea here is to raise laying hens for their eggs, and then sell them to those who appreciate the quality and freshness of local produce. But while the concept may seem simple, putting it into practice is not. There’s nothing complicated about it, rest assured, but there are a few steps and rules to follow as we’ll see in this article.
A noisy activity
Before you decide anything, you should know that chickens can sometimes be a bit noisy, especially if you choose to get a rooster (if you want chicks) who will call out his famous “cock-a-doodle-doo” several times a day. This can be a nuisance for your neighbors. So, while there’s nothing to stop you raising them in the city, bear in mind that this may pose a problem for some people in the neighborhood, and that the countryside remains the best place to develop this activity. So, it’s up to you.
How to get your hen house off to a good start?
This is where you need to concentrate most of your efforts because if your hens are not comfortably installed or suffer from any stress related to their environment, the harvest is likely to be disappointing. Here are the steps you need to follow to set them up properly in your home:
1Preparing the site
The first essential step is meticulous preparation of the space that will welcome your future feathered companions. A well-prepared site is the foundation on which the success of your poultry business rests. Let’s take a closer look.
You’ll need to start by looking for a spot that gets plenty of sunlight but is also sheltered from prevailing winds and rain. Make sure the location is accessible and convenient for your daily tasks. Next, you’ll need to remove any debris, stones, and roots that might get in the way of construction. Levelling the ground and creating an even surface is important to ensure the stability of the coop and to facilitate subsequent cleaning.
The safety of your chickens is an absolute priority. You’ll need to build a strong, sturdy enclosure to protect your animals from predators such as foxes or coyotes. Use durable materials such as wire mesh, and make sure fences are high enough to prevent predators from jumping over them. Don’t forget to include a secure door for easy access to the coop.
In addition to the coop, a spacious outdoor area is essential for your hens’ well-being. This will allow them to explore, peck and scratch naturally, which contributes to their health and well-being. Make sure this area is screened to prevent predator intrusion while leaving enough space for them to roam freely.
2Choosing the right hens
There are many different breeds of hens, and each has distinct characteristics that influence egg production, environmental adaptation, and behavior. Understanding the selection criteria is essential to making the best choice, so you’ll need to carefully weigh elements such as laying frequency, egg size, shell color, and disease resistance.
You also need to take into account the climatic and environmental conditions in your region. Some breeds are better suited to warm climates while others are more tolerant of cold, wet winters.
Popular options include breeds such as the Sussex, Rhode Island Red, Plymouth Rock, and Leghorn. In the US, the Rhode Island Red hen is the most widespread, especially on factory farms because it’s medium-sized and, like the Leghorn and ISA Brown, is capable of producing up to 300 large eggs a year.
Finally, mixing different breeds can add diversity to your breeding, but it’s important to understand how each breed interacts and cohabits as this can influence the way you manage egg production and commercialization. And since this choice is a determining factor, I invite you to read this article, which is much more comprehensive on this very subject.
3Creating a comfortable cocoon
The design and construction of your hen house are crucial to providing a safe and comfortable space for your hens. Choose the right size for the number of hens you’re keeping. Make sure it’s well insulated to protect them from temperature variations, especially during the cold seasons.
Good ventilation is also essential to maintain a healthy environment inside the coop. Chickens produce moisture and gases, which can quickly become a problem if the air doesn’t circulate properly. Provide adjustable openings to allow constant ventilation while avoiding excessive draughts.
Nests, where your hens will lay their eggs, require special attention. You’ll need to create a dark, comfortable space, preferably out of sight of the other hens. Use clean, dry bedding, such as straw, to create an environment conducive to egg-laying.
Feed and water are also essential. Make sure they have constant access to a balanced diet and clean water. Placing feeders and drinkers in convenient places in the coop will help reduce stress and keep them healthy.
Finally, don’t forget to provide space for rest and entertainment. Perches will give your hens a place to rest high up at night. Also provide an open-air area where they can express their natural behaviors, such as scratching and pecking.
4Maximize egg production
Once your hens are settled into a comfortable and suitable environment, it’s time to look at how to make the most of their production potential and achieve optimum yield.
Feed plays a central role in egg production. Providing a balanced, nutritious diet ensures your hens have the essential elements they need for egg formation. This will depend on their age as chicks have different nutritional requirements to adults.
These feeds are generally cereal-based (wheat, corn, barley, oats, etc.) and contain around 15% protein. Above all, avoid giving them too much corn as its high energy content can lead to excessive weight gain and alter their reproductive system, resulting in reduced egg-laying. Prefer wheat—they love it. Alternatively, you can opt for a feed specially designed for layers, rich in proteins, minerals, and vitamins.
This is really important because the right diet not only improves the quantity but also the quality of the eggs produced. So, take the time to find out all you can about it.
Light also plays a crucial role in the egg-laying cycle. Make sure they receive enough natural light during the day. If necessary, supplement with artificial lighting to maintain an adequate number of hours of light. This stimulates their hormonal system and encourages regular egg production.
Regular egg collection is essential to encourage continued egg-laying (they hang one egg a day, on average). Eggs left in the nest for too long can encourage hens to sit and brood, reducing their desire to lay new eggs. Collect them several times a day to avoid this.
The health of your hens has a direct impact on their egg production. Keep a close eye on their behavior and appetite. Any significant variation may be a sign of health problems that could affect their production. Make sure they have access to clean water at all times.
Finally, proper management of their space can also influence egg production. Make sure they have adequate space to move around and perch. Avoid overcrowding as this can cause stress and reduce egg-laying. Also keep an eye on the temperature in the henhouse since extreme conditions can be very uncomfortable for them.
Find out about the legal aspects
Before taking the plunge into this type of farming, it’s crucial to find out about any administrative procedures required in your area. Regulations vary according to location, but some common steps could include obtaining breeding or farming permits, registering your farming activity, and complying with health and animal welfare standards.
Check with local authorities, agricultural agencies, and breeders’ associations to make sure you are in compliance with all legal requirements. A good understanding of the administrative aspects will help you avoid future problems and get your livestock business off to a smooth start.
How and where to sell eggs?
Once you’ve established an optimal environment for your hens and maximized their egg production, it’s time to explore the various sales options. But first, it’s essential to assess local demand. Start by identifying the needs and preferences of consumers in your area. More and more people are looking for local, organic, and high-quality products, which can be a promising niche to exploit.
Here are the different sales channels available to you:
- Direct sales: These offer an opportunity to interact directly with your customers and build trusting relationships. Farmer’s markets, local fairs, and door-to-door sales are excellent ways to offer your eggs to consumers. Present your products attractively and share information about your business and farming practices.
- Distribution: Collaborate with local grocery stores that value fresh, local produce. Some independent grocery stores actively seek to support local producers and may be interested in buying your eggs. Make sure they are properly packaged and labeled according to current regulations.
- Product baskets and subscriptions: Offer your eggs as part of fresh produce baskets or subscriptions. Consumers appreciate the convenience of regularly receiving fresh eggs at home. Create different options based on family size and dietary preferences, giving your customers greater flexibility.
- Online platforms: These can also be an effective way of selling your eggs. Create a website or use online sales platforms to present your products, accept orders, and organize delivery (by you as postal delivery can be tricky) or collection. Make sure you have high-quality photographs and detailed descriptions to attract buyers’ attention.
By exploring different sales options in the egg market, you maximize your chances of commercial success. Identify the channels best suited to your project, keeping in mind the preferences of your potential customers, and the unique advantages of your products. Bear in mind that a diversified approach can enable you to reach a wide audience and thus turn your simple project into a thriving business.
Selling organic eggs?
If you want to sell your eggs with an organic label, you’ll need to obtain specific certification. To start with, you’ll need to raise your hens according to organic standards, feeding them organically grown feed (i.e. free from pesticides and GMOs). Once your hens have been reared in compliance with the criteria defined in the specifications, you can obtain the appropriate certification from approved inspection authorities.
Opting for organic certification may cost you a little more, but it will have the effect of attracting consumers concerned about their well-being and that of the environment while reinforcing your image as a producer of top-of-the-range, ethical eggs that meet organic quality requirements. What’s more, you’ll be able to sell your eggs at a slightly higher price too.
How to take good care of your hens
Now let’s take a look at how to care for your new feathered companions, and make sure they stay in good health. I’ve already mentioned a few points, but I think it’s worth reiterating them.
To begin with, observe their behavior, appetite, and physical appearance. Any unusual variation may indicate a health problem. Don’t hesitate to consult an avian veterinarian if you notice any worrying symptoms, and isolate those showing symptoms of disease as they could pass them on (a virus can do a lot of damage to your flock).
Clean nests, perches, and floors regularly. Change the bedding and remove droppings to prevent the build-up of moisture and odors. Make sure your hens always have access to clean, fresh water. Regularly clean and refill water troughs and bowls to avoid contamination, which is crucial for their health and egg quality.
Protection against predators is another constant concern for breeders. Reinforce fences and gates to prevent intrusion. Close the coop carefully at night to protect them from nocturnal predators.
Pay close attention to the laying of eggs. Collect eggs regularly to prevent them from accumulating in the nests. If you observe hens brooding, remove them from the nests to encourage continued egg-laying.
Interacting with your hens can strengthen bonds and identify any unusual behavior. Offer them moments of freedom by letting them explore the outdoors. Add things they can enjoy, such as branches and pecking objects, to stimulate their natural behavior.
What to do with male chicks?
When you’re raising chickens, you’ll be tempted to hatch some eggs to get new laying hens. But the question of male chicks may arise as they don’t lay eggs of course, and therefore have no “use”. To solve this problem, there are several options. Some breeders choose to keep them for their meat as rooster flesh can be used in a variety of dishes.
Others opt to sell or donate the male chicks to other breeders or local farms. If you don’t want to keep them for meat or sell them, finding a suitable home for male chicks can be a respectful option. Alternatively, you can simply keep them if you have enough room (for your information, a rooster or a hen lives to the age of 6 to 12 years).
12 tips to optimize your chances of success
We’ve almost come to the end of this article, but before we do, let me give you a few more valuable tips that should help you generate quick profits and prosper in this business.
- Adopt at least 2 or 3 hens and a rooster when you start out. This will keep them from getting too bored on their own and give them a social (and love 😋) life.
- Plan for one rooster for every 8 hens, or even 2 for every 10 hens—if they get on well with each other (this is often the case when they’ve grown up together) and behave peacefully enough.
- Offer them a varied diet with leftover raw vegetables, fruit, and herbs. This not only diversifies their diet but can also improve the color and flavor of the eggs.
- Above all, avoid giving them leftover onions or leeks, banana, citrus and kiwi peels, and more generally any leftovers that are too salty or spicy.
- Feed them foods rich in natural pigments such as pumpkins, squash, sweet potatoes, and carrots for more colorful egg yolks (more info here).
- Chicken manure is an excellent natural fertilizer for gardens and crops. If you have sufficient production, consider selling it to local gardeners or using it yourself. Make sure the manure is properly composted to avoid the risk of contamination.
- Share funny stories or anecdotes about your chickens on social networks or in your interactions with customers. This adds a personal, human touch to your business.
- Create educational videos about raising chickens, harvesting eggs, and preparing recipes. Post them on social networks such as YouTube and TikTok to attract a wider audience.
- Ask your customers for regular feedback to continually improve your products and services. Their suggestions can help you improve your offering.
- If you have an attractive rural area, consider adding a tourist dimension to your business by offering guided tours of your farm. Visitors can enjoy an educational and immersive experience while you generate additional income.
- Offering fertilized eggs and chicks to other breeders will open up a new revenue opportunity. But be sure to provide accurate information on breeds, care requirements, and handling of fertilized eggs.
- Once you’ve become an expert yourself, share your expertise by organizing workshops and training courses on chicken keeping. Beginners and enthusiasts alike may be keen to learn the basics of raising chickens, building hen houses, or even cooking with eggs.
Whether you live in the city or the country, raising laying hens and selling eggs can be an excellent idea for earning the equivalent of a supplementary wage, or even more as you develop your business. It will take some work, especially in the early stages, and a certain investment of money but can become profitable fairly quickly.
Please note, however, that this article is only an overview or even a summary of everything you need to learn or know before embarking on this adventure. Because this idea involves the “exploitation” of living animals, capable of feeling certain emotions, and their well-being is a crucial element that you must constantly take into account. If you really like this idea, I strongly advise you to take a training course or read books on the subject to avoid making any regrettable mistakes.
Environmental and climate change issues are more than ever at the heart of the concerns of this 21st century, which is why I am proposing a few ideas that will enable you to limit the negative impact that the implementation of this idea could have.
These solutions that I suggest are sometimes largely insufficient to compensate for these negative impacts, such as carbon offsetting. Unfortunately, there is not always an ideal and 100% efficient solution, far from it. And if you have others, please do not hesitate to share them in the comments below.
Unless you start a factory farm, this activity has a relatively limited impact on the environment. However, if you have the opportunity, opt for an organic label to reduce the deleterious effects of chicken farming. Appropriate management of droppings, through composting or use as a natural fertilizer, can also help reduce soil and water pollution.
This idea is even quite virtuous as it’s also a way of promoting local, short-circuit sourcing. This means that, thanks to you, some of your customers will avoid consuming products from far-flung regions, often trucked to supermarkets.
- Fresh eggs at your fingertips
- An outdoor activity that connects you to nature
- Quite a lot of work, especially at the beginning
- It’s a long-term commitment, so it’s hard to take a vacation.
- Location: At home.
- Investment: Start-up costs vary from case to case but are in the region of a few hundred dollars.
- Earnings perspective: Varies according to the number of eggs harvested each day but overall an additional income or more.
- Required: Love of animals, patience and rigor, not afraid to get your hands dirty, ability to sell.
- Risk level: Low. In the worst case, you’ll get free eggs (or almost).
- Implementation time: A few weeks (hens start laying between 16 and 22 weeks).
- Material needed: Tools to build the henhouse, a fridge to store the eggs, and a smartphone to communicate with your customers.