Wednesday 12 February, 2014
In a previous diary entry, I said that I was going to look at the income and expenses for our various enterprises here at Dalmore. The laying hens were first on the list, mainly because they are easiest.
I think laying hens are a good venture for a smallholder insofar as the capital outlay need not be enormous and the income starts flowing almost immediately - unlike, say, cattle or sheep. But you have to keep it fairly small and be able to sell the eggs direct to the consumer or you end up in all sorts of red tape. Before we moved here, I sold eggs in the office in which I worked; here, we're on a popular walking route so get decent passing trade but we ARE affected by weather - if it's a miserable weekend, sales will drop.
We have two flocks of about 40 birds and about 20 odd "scratchers" that roam the paddocks (they're about to get a new home in a converted caravan but more about that anon). Each of the two big henhouses has three paddocks, each about 120m2 and the hens are rotated round on a monthly basis. Each house has three popholes, so it's easy to move them by simply opening a different pophole.
The six paddocks are deerfenced because we are half way through planting them with apple trees; the idea being that we get two crops of the same land, with the hens eating bugs and the trees giving the hens shelter. It's a kind of one way relationship at the moment :-)
So, the figures. Between 1st April 2012 and 31st March 2013, we sold £3240.70 worth of eggs and £85 of layer pellets and corn (my chum buys her's from me at cost). That's about 11436 eggs, and weekly sales averaged £62. We sell eggs at £3.40 a dozen.
If we assume that we had 80 hens for the full period, each hen produced 143 eggs, which is pretty pathetic (39% productivity) and well short of the 260-280 that all these hybrids are supposed to produce. 280 eggs per year is 76.7% productivity. However, my record keeping wasn't detailed enough and I now keep a daily record of how many eggs we get from each house and how many hens there are in them so that I can work out the productivity.
Expenses were feed (layer pellets, Flubenvet layer pellets and mixed corn), bedding, egg boxes and Diatom. I also bought 20 Rhode Rock POL. Feed was by far and away the single biggest expense. We use roughly 125g per bird per day plus 25g mixed corn. I'm currently looking at feed suppliers to see if I can reduce feed costs.
The bottom line was that we made a revenue surplus of £760 (the purchase of POL hens was included as a revenue cost).
For 2013/14, the surplus looks like being just over £1100; the major change is higher productivity rather than lower costs so we do need to revisit our culling / replacement policy if we want to increase the surplus.