Owning backyard flocks is a unique experience as the birds can be pets and hobbies, and even sources of income.
The amount of profits can vary. Larger flocks generate more profits but require more feed and are subject to more regulations. The rules for running a small business depend on location and, if a flock is small enough, regulations might not be an issue at all.
It is the responsibility of the producer to know the rules and the best way to understand the legalities of selling products is contacting the local extension office.
What to sell?
The demand for eggs produced by naturally raised hens is growing. Building coops, owning the right breeds (some hens do not lay as often as others) and creating or purchasing unmarked cartons for eggs is a good start, but there are still other ways to maximize profits.
Labels mean a lot to consumers and though obtaining them may be difficult, they are worth it as they increase prices. Pasture raised or free range eggs are generally defined and known to consumers as hens that are given outdoor access with plenty of space. For commercial farms with thousands of hens, this can be difficult to accomplish, but the conditions are relatively normal for backyard flocks. As of May 2017, a dozen pasture raised eggs on the market average around six dollars, twice as much as cage-free eggs and three times as much as commercially produced eggs.
To further maximize profits, farmers could consider putting hens on a controlled diet. Though chickens are natural omnivores, some producers put chickens on vegetarian diets to appeal to consumers. However, eggs from chickens raised on an Omega-3 diet have a wider market because studies have proven that it makes a difference in the contents of the food.
It is difficult for some backyard farmers to sell chicken meat because many are raised as pets. For the people that do not get so attached to the animals, then selling poultry meat is certainly an option.
Broiler chickens can be processed after six to eight weeks, according to Backyardchickens.com. Birds usually average five to six pounds at six weeks, but some may require another week or two to reach the desired weight.
There are many variables dependent on the breed of bird chosen to produce the meat. The most popular breed of broiler chicken is the Cornish hen because they produce a lot of white meat and grow quickly. However, according to Morning Chores, there are other breeds that have other good qualities. For example, the Bresse which is known for great tasting meat, or the Orpington which are known for being a great egg layer, thus generating even more income.
Selling birds and feathers
Backyard chicken farms are growing and enthusiasm for birds from farmers can be contagious. Selling chicks or eggs destined to be hatched is usually the easiest way to sell the birds since larger birds can be less docile during transport.
Feathers can be made into useful commodities too or just sold as is for fisherman. Jewelry and pillows can be crafted out of feathers after the feathers are cleaned. Fishermen can also use them for fly fishing.
Where/how to sell?
Farmers Markets and Flea Markets
Farmers markets are always open to selling locally produced foods, but it often costs a fee to join and sign up. Another problem is in a farmer’s market backyard chickens and eggs are not always unique. Special diets or information on how the birds are treated might draw attention, but competing creatively with farms with more resources can be risky.
Flea markets are more varied in their products, but the main attraction at those places tends to be the low prices. Selling live birds from an excess flock is more common than selling other chicken products at flea markets.
Farmers who are not interested in paying to set up and stand in a booth can try selling to local retailers or restaurants. Packaging is important and having official labels such as certification from the USDA of being organic or cage-free can have a big impact on the price retailers are willing to pay for products.
Learn more about the USDA inspection process here.
Setting up an online store gives farmers much more room to properly advertise the products. Information can easily be given through a simple story about farm production or videos and pictures.
Social media can also help spread the word about egg sellers. However, if no actual business is available it can be a little discerning to farmers having strangers know where the farm is, even if just they are just coming to purchase eggs.