|Briarwood Poultry, Canada||
As you can imagine, we often get request for point of lay pullets to sell. Usually - especially the beginning of spring - we don't have any available.
This is for a few reasons.
We are a small hobby farm and we breed to improve the breeds we work with. We also have a laying flock of our own to produce delicious eating eggs for us to consume and to sell the extra's.
What does this mean? Well for us it means that each spring, starting about March we begin to hatch chicks to keep at home. We hatch a lot of chicks of each breed, more of the breeds that need more work. For example, this past year we hatched over 50 silver sussex chicks to keep and raise at home in order to select the nicest for our breeding pen for next spring.
This fall we have some pullets for sale - not many but a few. This has brought about the question - why do we charge so much for point of lay pullets?
Well, raising heritage chicks from day old's to point of lay is expensive, simply put. The cost of raising them to the point of being off heat is roughly $4-6 per bird depending on the weather and how fast they feather in. That cost includes heat for their barn to keep the ambient temperature warm, a heat lamp or brinsea brooder, feed, shavings and any supplements for their water such as apple cider vinegar. Now, keep in mind that's $4-6 per bird, regardless of whether they are a pullet or a cockerel. So, say you started with a $10 chick (the $10 going towards feeding, housing, bedding and lighting for their parents who have these requirements year round not just during breeding season), add $4-6 for the cost of having them until they are outside off heat - you've got yourself a $14-16 bird and they are still months away from laying! The next 2-3 months they will continue to eat feed, require housing, water, bedding and attention. When selling a pullet for $30, that extra $14-16 will mainly cover their feed costs, and a little of the bedding costs.
Anyone looking at this from a business standpoint will say "Wait! What about profit? What about the roosters? What if they all turn out to be boys?"
Well that raises some good points too. We rarely make a profit from selling point of lay pullets. And, actually, when you figure in the cost of raising the roosters and the pullets to point of slaughter and lay, then figure that a rooster sells for $15-20 when processed (which is another $4/bird in costs for processing at a licensed and inspected facility), it's a bit dismal. Also consider that the batches of chicks will be roughly half pullets half cockerels - roughly - but not always. We have had 7 cockerels and 3 pullets out of 10 chicks. Similarly we have had 8 pullets out of 8 chicks, so it varies from hatch to hatch, and always seems to be that if you are wanting pullets you'll get cockerels and vice versa.
So, at the end of the day, selling point of lay pullets is a bit of an exercise in futility for us. We have do have some available right now (3 each of the coronation sussex and 3 black wyandottes) and hopefully this blog will help people to understand the cost of raising pullets to point of lay and why we sell them for the prices we do. It's important for consumers to continue to support sustainable farming, even though I know you can find POL ISA Brown hatchery birds for $12 each, the importance of supporting small farmers as well as preserving heritage breeds is paramount.
Briarwood Poultry's tech-savvy coop cleaner, Amanda, comments on life on the farm, breeding and keeping poultry.