I watched egg prices climbing and having grown up spending summers on my Aunt and Uncle's farm in Montana and helped tend the chickens, I knew I could provide a safe, healthy environment and life for chickens. I studied various breeds, feeds and housing options and knew from the beginning that I wanted a heritage, dual purpose breed that was productive and docile. I selected Plymouth Barred Rocks for those reasons. I also figured that their barred feathers would be of interest to fly fishing enthusiasts and artisans making feathered earrings.
For their housing since this is leased land, the main consideration was being able to disassemble and relocate it if needed. It is definitely a case of function over form. About 80% of the coop and run comes from repurposed materials like pallets, chain link fencing and old political signs.
Natural lighting in the coop was an easy decision. It would have been difficult to run electric to the coop. Also, it could place undue physical strain on the girls to keep spring/summer production going throughout the entire year.
I had pet rabbits for a number of years when the kids were young and was familiar with their care requirements. I also knew that they truly are prolific breeders if left unchecked. A friend, Sylvia, had posted on facebook about her New Zealand White Rabbits, a good meat breed. I talked to her about them and she even provided my starter stock. Just like with the eggs, on the second or third day of having them, I began searching for a market for them and found several- a pet store, two feed stores and a reptile store said they would buy the rabbits. My plan was and is to raise a few for my consumption and sell the rest to allow their upkeep.
Farmer's Market vs Wholesaling:
Two days after my first batch of pullets arrived in the mail, I began searching local Farmer's Markets about space rental costs and requirements to vend at each. Then I had to make a decision between compromising my environmental beliefs or using my vehicle to get to these markets. I began looking at other options and that's how I found the Food Conspiracy Co-Op. It is located in the center of downtown and accessible via bus ride and a short walk, which is how I get the eggs to market.
After figuring my break even price for production (rent, feed, coop/run requirements and construction), liability insurance, carton cost and travel expenses I was able to chose between direct sales and wholesaling. While I would have made a $1.50 more per dozen at Farmer's Markets, I would have had the cost of registering and insuring my vehicle again, gas and my time (travel, setup and teardown and being at the market all day to sell the eggs and future produce) and refrigeration concerns. So, I chose to gladly trade the $1.50 extra to avoid all that and make $1.00 profit per dozen.
The Co-Op has also told me they will take all the eggs the girls can produce and all the fruits and vegetables I can grow. I do have another health food market that I am talking too in the event that the Co-op can't handle everything I am going to be providing.
Since I had been recently unemployed with few assets and having never operated a homestead farm, I knew that I wasn't a prime candidate for a commercial loan. So I took what few financial resources I had at the time and used that to build the raised beds, purchase the pullets and build their home.
If I don't hit the lottery this year, I will apply for a farm micro loan through the USDA to get a small 2 or 3 acre spread outside of town and build a farm 2.0 style. I now have a years finances and experience to show that I can run a farm and turn a small profit.
I plan on getting a part time job off the farm to supplement expenses. Once this happens, I will have to get my car on the road as it will be a 40 minute ride to town and busses do not run out that far.
As always, thanks for dropping by! Enjoy today's posts about animals and homesteading