Day 239 of 365
Our teenage son is a very big boy. He’s about 6’4″ and is a foodie. He loves scrambled eggs and can eat four eggs in the blink of an eye. I told him one day that, when he grows up, he will have a hard time finding eggs as good as our eggs. “You’ll probably have to pay about $10 a dozen for similar eggs, but you should pay. They are worth it.”
Our eggs are very, very good. They are not registered as organic, but our chickens are fed organic food and scraps, and when I have to administer any kind of non-organic medicine, I withhold the eggs. Our chickens also get to free range in a small, fenced pasture and are treated as well as we can possibly treat them. We work hard to make sure each chicken is happy. If someone is unhappy, we try our best to figure out what to do to improve the situation. Sometimes, as in the case of Ruby, this means they get sleep in the garage all summer. Or, in the case of Juliet, this means they stop the car when I come home and get treats.
You can taste happiness. I didn’t fully understand this until I tasted the difference. Our eggs are so good because our chickens are fed high quality, organic food–and they are, overall, quite happy. I mean, they have some complaints at times, but they let me know about them. One time, a few years ago, we had to buy eggs during the winter, and I made the mistake of making scrambled eggs. I thought I was going to cry. The eggs were terrible and tasted like depression. I swear, I could taste the sadness.
In contrast, the other day, I made some scrambled eggs for breakfast for our son. Right now, scrambled eggs are a rare treat because we do not add light to our coop to give our chickens a rest during the winter. On a good day, we will get three our four eggs at the most. On a bad day, we will get just one egg. Anyway, it’s been a month or two since I have had scrambled eggs, which I also love, so I snuck a bite of the eggs. They were so good I thought I was going to cry.
I am going to be so glad when the hens come online again. We’re getting close. The light is coming back.
We have wait lists for our eggs. I have a base of very kind and loyal customers, and then I have some customers who can only get a few dozen during peak season when we are overrun. Still, they are so excited about getting them. I was teasing Ron one day that I am going to be like The Lost Kitchen of eggs and will have to have a postcard lottery to see who gets some of our eggs. I wish we could have a little bigger farm and raise a few more chickens for eggs. I love teaching, but the conditions have gotten pretty rough over the years. I would love to teach a little less and chicken farm a little more.
But there is not really in profit in it, I think. Still, I am wondering if we were able to scale up if we could figure out how to make it profitable. It helps that our chickens get to eat bugs and grubs and worms in the summer and fall, but organic feed is still very expensive–and getting more expensive all the time. And you really can’t charge too much more than the grocery store because, otherwise, people will just buy eggs from the grocery store. Of course, right now, grocery store eggs are outrageous because of the avian flu this last year. When our eggs come available again, $5 a dozen for organic eggs is going to seem like a deal for sure. However, the high costs of eggs should not be permanent. Hopefully, we won’t have an avian flu outbreak again. If we do, then all bets are off for all of us anyway.
One of my New Year’s resolutions this year is to finally start keeping records of eggs sales and compare it with feed costs. I figure I have to also consider how many eggs we eat and imagine those costing $5 a dozen as well because, if I had another chicken coop, all of their eggs could be sold.
There’s the labor, but I am not going to worry about that because the chicken work is one of the joys of my life. Ron worries about me cleaning the coop all of the time, but I try to tell him that I generally love it–well, maybe not in the summer, but you don’t have to clean your coop much in the summer anyway. I love to clean the coop because I love to make it cozy and nice. I don’t decorate our coop like a lot of people do because the chickens somehow manage to poop on everything. But clean and cozy seems important. Today, I cleaned it for the second time this week, and because our local grocery store was out of peppermint oil to deter rats and mice, I ended up sprinkling the entire coop with cloves. That’s another story for another night though. I guess this is just a long way of saying my labor for those chickens is good for me.
The real struggle we would have in trying to have a little egg farm is that we let our chickens rest all winter. Obviously, no eggs means no sales. You can add light to your coop, but after having a few hens, including my Poe, die from ovarian cancer, I am determined to let our chickens rest in the winter.
Anyway, I have a little notebook, and in just about a month, we should be back in egg business. I’m going to keep track of it all and see where we are at the end of the year. Ron used to dismiss me when I would ask about expanding our egg business, but I can see he has some curiosity about it. It will be interesting to see how the numbers add up. We could be losing our shirts, but I don’t think so. Either way, it will be good to know.