I received an email today asking advice about starting a small scale sustainable farm. I thought my response was worth posting here:
The best suggestion I can make, overall, is to be careful of your expectations. The word "sustainable" has a nice sound but achieving it is more of a goal to see in the distance than anything truly achievable on a small scale (without wads of excess cash). The cost of growing your own food is higher than most realize.
That said, gather up an armload of reasonable expectations and go for it. Expect to fail and fail plenty. This is part of the process.
Specifically on the eggs side you really need to consider margins. We have yet to break even. We can't order feed in truckload-bulk unless we have 300+ birds. We have about 120 so we're stuck with bagged feed. With feed prices so high it might cost you more to sell your eggs than just producing enough to consume. Figure out how many hens you think you need and then double it. Between predators and bad luck you will loose birds.
In all your planning look very closely at ROI (return on investment). We had sheep that came with the property. They were nice (except the ram) but useless from a production standpoint. The wool didn't fetch enough to pay for a single bag of feed never mind a year's worth. They basically sucked in time and money and produced nothing. That's a bad deal.
In your planning also make sure to account for the value of your time. Many neglect to do this. I was playing with the idea of a third coop but my son talked me off the ledge. It would be at least a $3k out-of-pocket expense and would cause us to loose more money every year (every dozen sold at a loss is more loss) and take very valuable time from our non-farm income producing activities. It was a very bad idea. He's only 12 and he was able to see it where I wasn't!
My ever so brief but possibly meaningful meeting with Mr Fox.
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Here's a video from PBS that does a great job of explaining what "cage free" and "free range" really mean.
'Story Of An Egg' Film Explains What 'Cage-Free,' 'Free-Range' Actually Mean (VIDEO)
Moving your pullets from the brooder to a coop usually goes well but when it goes wrong it can go horribly wrong. Here are some basic tips that can prevent disaster.
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