Egg update

seven eggs

A full house

On two days now the 7 hens have each laid an egg. The first time was 24th March 2014 and then they did it again on 26th March 2014.

7-eggs1

They adapted well to life in the new chicken coop. Although there were four eggs boxes attached to their sleeping quarters, they always laid their eggs in the same one diagonally opposite the door.

I was really pleased with the chicken coop I bought when we were back in the UK last November from EGGSHELL. The only modification I will make to it for next year is to attach some pieces of plastic to each section of the run. What’s been happening is that the hens kick out the straw and pigeons come and eat it. I’ve bought the plastic from IKEA (PRÖJS desk pad) and I’ll punch some holes in them and then attach them with cable ties to the inside.

7-eggs2

On 27th March, one of the older hens laid my first double yolker ever.

Is keeping chickens economically viable?

Chicken Coop

Chicken Coop

From the end of December to April, we are at the coast in a city. We keep the chickens in a coop with a hen house and run on the top terrace.The same system could be used by anyone with just a few metres of free space even in a city.

I thought it would be interesting to work out the viability of keeping a few free-range chickens and selling the surplus eggs to friends and family. We want to answer these 3 questions: 

How much does it cost? 
Is there any profit?
Is it worthwhile?  

Wooden Chicken Coop

Wooden Chicken Coop

Here are the results of our experiment:

Starting on 26th December 2013, we decided to sell our surplus eggs to friends. There are 7 chickens in a wooden henhouse and chicken run.

Details of experiment:
Duration: 52 days from 26th Dec 2013 -15th Feb 2014
Total eggs laid: 207

Expenses:
Chicken food:
14 euros for 25kg chicken food
7 euros for 14kg loose wheat
3 euros for a bale of straw
Total: 24 euros

Two chickens

Two chickens: these are two of this year’s newly hatched hens (with white ears)

Income:
The eggs were sold at slightly below the price of free range eggs in the supermarket.
The average price of the eggs was 1.30 euros for 6 medium eggs (54-63 grams), 1.50 euros for 6 large eggs (64-73 grams) and 1.70 euros for 6 extra large eggs (84-93 grams).
207 eggs were sold for 49 euros.

By now, all of the 4 new hens were laying medium-sized eggs and the older eggs were laying large-extra large eggs.

Profit: 25 euros
Profit per day: 48 cents

Infrastructure costs:
7 hens 56 euros. Three of the chickens were bought and four were raised from eggs. The cost of buying a laying hen is 8 euros per bird.

Chicken coop: 120 euros

The full infrastructure costs are 176 euros.

It would take an entire year to recoup the investment if the cost of the chickens and their coop is included.

Once the infrastructure costs have been covered, there would be a profit of 174 euros per year.

Conclusion:
Most people would not consider keeping chickens on a small scale to be economically viable if only the amount of work and the amount of financial gain is considered.

However, it seems to be worthwhile if you consider it to be a pleasant hobby.

There are other advantages which cannot be judged on financial terms and which override the purely commercial concerns and may explain why we continue to do it.

These are the following:
The taste and quality of the eggs is very high.
The chickens appear to be happy and much happier than commercially-reared birds.
A by-product of the chickens is highly nitrogenous  manure which is very useful on the garden.
Happy chickens are amusing to watch.
We like the sounds they make.
Eggs are very easy to sell and most people are very happy to buy them even though they are more expensive than supermarket eggs.
The packaging (egg boxes) can be reused.

Keeping chickens also has a some negative aspects.
These are the following:
A chicken coop does not smell very good albeit for only a fairly small radius.
It would be unfeasible to spend money on vet’s fees for a chickens. If a bird has a health problem such as a prolapsed vent, it would be necessary to kill it humanely. Someone must be willing to do this.
If you raise the chicken from eggs, the male birds must be killed. This could be distressing for vegetarians.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Interesting facts about chickens

Facts about chickens

Facts about chickens

  1. A young chicken is called a chick.
  2. Males are called cocks (Br. Eng.) or roosters (Am. Eng.).
  3. Females are called hens.
  4. Males younger than 12 months are called cockerels.
  5. Females younger than twelve months are called pullets.
  6. Castrated males are called capons.
  7. There are more than 24 billion chickens in the world – more than any other bird species
  8. It takes 21 days for a chick to hatch from an egg.
  9. Chickens can live for between 5 and 10 years, depending on their breed.
  10. In the wild, chickens eat seeds, insects, lizards and small mice.
  11. The oldest hen on record lived until the age of 16.
  12. The fleshy crest on the head of a chicken is called a comb.
  13. The hanging flap of skin on each side under the beak is called a wattle (plural caruncles).
  14. Both males and females have wattles and combs but in most breeds they are more prominent in males.
  15. Chickens cannot fly long distances but can fly very short distances if they think they are in danger.
  16. The average hen lays 300 eggs a year.
  17. Chickens lay fewer but larger eggs as they grow older. An egg without a yolk is called a “dwarf”, “wind” or “fart” egg.

Chicken and eggs or Eggs and chickens

Information about eggs and chickens

Information about eggs and chickens

INTERESTING FACTS ABOUT EGG DEVELOPMENT:

  1. The egg-production process begins when light stimulates a photosensitive gland near the hen’s eyes: when the gland is stimulated an ova is released.
  2. Hens have one functional ovary.
  3. Hens generally lay an egg a day for six days and then rest for one day.
  4. Hens start laying eggs when they are 4 to 5 months old.
  5. The smallest ever egg laid by a hen weighed just 7.3g and was the size of coin.
  6. As hens grow older, they lay fewer eggs but the eggs become larger in size.
  7. The average hen lays on average 300 eggs a year.
  8. When female chicks hatch, they have 4000 tiny ova. As the hen matures, some of these will become yolks and then eggs.
  9. It takes around 25 hours for the egg to form.
  10. The process by which eggs are formed is like a conveyor belt in a factory: at any one time, there are a number of yolks at different stages of development
  11. Eggs can have multiple yolks. The record for the number of yolks found in one egg is nine.
  12. An egg without a yolk is called a “wind”, “dwarf” or “fart” egg.
  13. The largest ever hen egg was laid in 1896. It had five yolks and weighed 340g.
  14. It is possible for a hen to lay an egg with a fully formed egg inside it.

THE EGG-PRODUCTION PROCESS:

  1. The ova goes from the ovary and to the funnel-like structure called the INFUNDIBULUM where it is fertilised by the rooster. This part of the process takes about 15 minutes.
  2. The yolk then moves down into the MAGNUM where the inner and outer shell, membranes, vitamins and mineral salts are added. This process takes 3 hours.
  3. The yolk then continues on to the ISTHMUS where the egg yolk is wrapped in egg white (albumen). This process takes an hour.
  4. The yolk and white then move on to the UTERUS or SHELL GLAND where they are covered with a shell. Water is first added to thin the outside of the albumen layer, then shell material (mostly calcium carbonate) and finally pigments are applied. This process takes about 21 hours.
  5. The egg then passes through to the vagina and is laid. This process takes 1 minute.
  6. The shell formation process begins in the afternoon/early evening so it is important not to disturb them at this time.
  7. Any thin points or cracks in the eggshell can be repaired before the egg is laid.

Chickens at 12 weeks

Chickens at 12 weeks

Chickens at 12 weeks

The chickens are now 12 weeks’ old and are growing well.

Chickens at 12 weeks

One of the male chickens: he’s developing white-coloured ears like his father

 The males have started to adopt male posturing and one of them has even tried to crow – although the noise that came out was more like a warble.

Female Chicken at 12 weeks

Female Chicken at 12 weeks

None of the females has laid an egg yet.

About 10 days after the photo was taken we killed two of the males. We are going to have to kill them at some point so thought that now was as good a time as ever. They did not have much meat on them and there is massive difference between these and the chickens we kill for eating at about the same time. Still, we ate one (chicken casserole and chicken soup) and put the other in the freezer for later.

Chick update: chicks are two months old today

young chicks

Chicks after 8 weeks

It was only when I looked at photos of when the chicks had hatched that I realised that they were born exactly 2 months ago today (27th May 2013).

I have now taken the rooster back to the neighbour and the three older chickens keep the young ones in check.

A couple of the young male chickens have already started play-fighting but it’s not serious and they soon get bored.

The total count is 4 females and 5 males so I’m really pleased: the whole point of increasing the flock of laying hens has been achieved.

8-week-old chicks

Chicks at 8 weeks: female on the left, males in the centre and on the right

Because I was going to be getting some more eating chickens we cleaned out and disinfected the greenhouse in preparation. However, the shop won’t be getting eating chickens in until the middle of August.

I’ve closed the door to the greenhouse and yesterday the chicks ventured inside for the first time.

Killing chickens

Killing chickens using a cone

Killing chickens using a cone

Today I had to kill one of the eating chickens. It hadn’t been eating and spent most of its time hiding beneath the feeder which meant that it would be attacked whenever one of the other chickens came for food. I bought the chicks on the 8th May 2013 and when I asked the shopkeeper how old they were at the time, he said 2 or 3 weeks. By my calculation, therefore, they were born on about 24th April 2013

Last year, we killed the chickens when they were 12 weeks old and they were quite big by then. The chicken I killed today was about 8 weeks old. It was pathetically puny but I didn’t want to wait for it to die like last year when we lost two.

Most people recommend killing eating chickens at around 10-12 weeks. Any longer than that and they are really getting too heavy and spend most of their day eating.

I’ve found the best way to slaughter a chicken is to use a chicken cone and a poultry dispatcher (which is a cross between a clamp and a pair of scissors and which I bought from Ascott Dairy Supplies). The cone is mounted on the wall above a table where you can put a bowl to catch the blood. If you want to use the blood, put a pinch of salt in the container to stop it congealing.

The best time is early in the morning when the chickens are calmer and before they have been able to eat or drink too much. Catch the chicken and hold it upside down by its feet. Put them head first into the cone so that the head comes out through the hole. Still holding the feet, clamp the neck with the dispatcher so that you cut off the blood supply to the brain (you may need to use two hands). Wait until the chicken stops moving and then bleed it by cutting its neck – just below its ear on the side, avoiding the throat. Leave the chicken in place until it has stopped bleeding. Cut the bird’s head off completely.

PLUCKING THE BIRD:
The next step is to pluck the chicken. Heat some water in a saucepan which is large enough so that you can completely submerge the bird. The temperature should be about 68-70ºC. Dunk the bird 3 or 4 times and you’ll then find that the feathers come out really easily.

PREPARING AND GUTTING THE BIRD:
1. Cut off the feet
Lay the bird on its back. Using a sharp knife, cut off the feet off by cutting between the joint and through the tendons.

2. Remove and loosen the crop
Unlike mammals whose food goes directly into the stomach, chickens first store their food in the crop which is a sack just above their right breast. From the neck end, using your fingers, find and hook out the crop, pulling it slowly away from the bird. 

3. Remove the oil gland
The oil gland is just above the parson’s nose and looks like a lump of fatty tissue. You will need to cut down into the flesh and then follow the line of the parson’s nose. It is quite small.

4. Open up the back end of the chicken
The idea is to make as small a hole as possible and not cut through any of the intestines. Pinch and lift the skin directly above the parson’s nose and carefully cut round the rectum to detach it from the rest of the body. Insert your fingers into the hole and hook them round the intestines. Pull away carefully to remove all the innards and intestines. Feel inside to check that everything has been removed and then rinse out.

Plucked chicken

Plucked and prepared chicken