A Business Lesson Learned Raising Chickens for Meat
By Joel Yourdon – My two oldest boys Brodrek (10) and Wyatt (9) decided they wanted to start a business raising fryers. They saved their Christmas money and the money they earned from doing odds and ends around the house over a 10-month period. It was enough to pay for the birds (25 total) and most of the feed for them. They also borrowed $80 from me.
I thought this would be a great opportunity for them to learn about business, hard work, and for us to learn how to raise meat birds. I decided that the family, aside from the boys, would raise 50 birds for our consumption as the boys planned on selling theirs for a profit. So we ordered 75 broilers from our local hatchery.
One morning we received the call from our post office. The birds were ready to be picked up. Waiting at home, we had a metal 6-foot stock tank and some chicken wire. We also had four 55-gallon drums of soy-free, non-GMO half starter and half grower feed. The boys and I picked them up in a double stacked box with a crazy amount of “cheeping” coming from it. We got them home and into their new digs, with some grit, food, warming lamp, and water.
Within the first four days, unfortunately, one of our curious cats killed about 25 of them, so I hurried and ordered another 25. We got them two weeks after the first batch, so we were back to 78 (they sent us three extra). Over the next few weeks, our cat ate another 10 to 15 of them. We figured out how she was getting in and fixed that so that we wouldn’t have that problem. I didn’t order any more. I figured it was too late now since we’d already had them for almost a month.
The plan was to keep them in the stock tank for four to six weeks, then move them out to pasture. We built a chicken tractor that was two feet tall, 12 feet long, and 10 feet wide with 75 percent of the roof covered, and half the sides covered. One of the covered quarters on top was a lid for access to them. A friend of mine built me a “tractor dolly” that we could slide underneath the back side, flip it to the ground and pull the rope on the front side to move them each day.
The boys did all the work feeding and watering them and changing the bedding as needed. Moving day came and we put them outside early in the morning so they could get used to being outside. They had a little to get used to with moving each day, but after a while, it was old hat to them. Some days a few of them didn’t want to move and would pop out the back so we’d collect them and put them back in their home.
The boys and I sat down to talk the “business” of chickens. We discussed how there were three equal parts of this business: management, labor, and sales. The management makes the purchasing decisions: how much feed to buy, what kind of feed to buy, how much to sell the birds for, etc. The labor is the physical work: day in and day out of feeding, moving, protecting the birds, etc. The last was calling the people they thought would be interested in a home-raised, well-loved chicken; free from any chemicals, hormones, GMOs, and checking in with those who had asked to order. So they could get an understanding of it all, I told them they needed to help with every aspect of the business.
I also told them that they couldn’t name any of the chickens because we would be butchering and eating them. They all agreed that they wouldn’t until Wyatt got the bright idea of naming them names like Nugget, Chicken Enchilada, Snack … you get the idea. They thought this was hilarious and all joined in.
We didn’t lose any more birds to our cats, however, we did have a night where we found a neighbor’s dog dug under the coop, killing several of them. While they didn’t like losing the birds, the boys loved the adventure of raising them.
They ended up selling their 25 chickens and one of mine for $4 a pound. They made a total of $420; they put back all the money they needed to reinvest and pay for the next round of 35 chickens (10 more than this time), pay me back, give some to charity, and of course spend some for themselves. Wyatt bought a guitar, and Brodrek bought a Red Ryder BB gun.