The cost of eggs…

So a recent conversation on face-ache made me sit down and work out exactly how much it costs us to keep hens for eggs. How much do you think a farmer should be paid? $15 per hour? $12? Surely you wouldn’t begrudge us minimum wage of $10 per hour? How about $10 a week? Or even $2.25, a WEEK? That is exactly what we’re paid if you buy our eggs for $4.75 per dozen.

Here’s how it breaks down:

Feed cost, $16 per bag.

Sawdust cost, $6 per bag.

99 layer hens, the maximum we are allowed to keep per civic address, eat 4 bags of feed a week and use one bag of sawdust a week to keep their coop clean, dry and disease free.

This adds up to $4056 per year.

We keep our hens all year, even though they don’t lay for us in the winter. A lot of people cull their birds at the end of the season then buy new point of lay hens the following spring. This makes sense financially but falls short on the ethics front.

We can expect 99 hens to lay 38 dozen eggs per week, or 988 dozen over the course of a laying year. Therefore, if as most people do we just take feed and sawdust into consideration if we sold our eggs for;

$4 per dozen we would be $2 in the hole each week.

$4.25 per dozen we would have $2.75 to spend each week.

$4.50 per dozen would net us a whole $7.50 each week.

$4.75 would get us a balmy $12.25 each week and if we were to get

$5 per dozen we would be rolling in it with a whopping $17 each week.

But then I added all of the other incidental costs that don’t immediately spring to mind:

cost of replacing 25% of your egg boxes @ 20c each: $50

cost of replacing 1/3rd of your flock through natural attrition: £320

cost of 1 bag of oyster shell and some poultry spice to keep the birds laying as long as possible: $25

cost of replacing the tote boxes to store the feed in: $30

cost of cool boxes and ice packs to transport the eggs: $70

1/3rd cost of the farm registration: $25

1/3rd cost of the market license: $14

Incidental costs, excluding the coop construction, electricity and fuel used to transport the feed, chickens and eggs comes to $534. Let’s say $10 per week then.

That means our new figures look like this:

$4 per dozen we would see us dive $12 in the hole each week.

$4.25 per dozen we would have us at $7.25 negative each week.

$4.50 per dozen we would down $2.50 each week.

$4.75 would net us a balmy $2.25 each week and if we were to get

$5 per dozen we would be paid $7 a week to get your free range eggs to you.

And we have friends who have to sell their eggs for $3 a dozen. This doesn’t reflect the true or the fair cost of the eggs.

Farmers provide you with good food for your table and paying a reasonable price for this food will ensure that we can keep doing it. There are alternatives, but they’re not pretty.

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2 responses to “The cost of eggs…

  1. I usually go through this horrible math exercise at tax time, and I don’t remember the figures off the top of my head, but I do know we net a profit after feed, shavings and shell are taken out. I keep fewer hens than you (about 50 right now) and I keep them for 2 years – right now they are Red Rock cross, which I like a lot, but usually I have ISA Browns. It looks to me like the shell and shavings cost about the same – I am paying $12/bag for feed, which is a big difference – it’s all veggie, but not organic. We charge $4/doz for eggs and apart from home use, I always sell out. $4 is the going farmgate price around here (Vancouver Island). I have seen 2 signs recently for $5/doz, so perhaps we’re going to trend up locally. I don’t sell eggs at market, just from the farm (or to colleagues at work), so I have no expenses there. When I’m brooding the new batch of chicks, I do count the cost of supplies, the cost of the chicks, etc, but not the electricity. I’m kind of guessing, but I think we net about 1300/yr on the eggs, give or take a bit – which I’ve always been happy with, but when you break it down to the week like you just did, it’s a bit humbling! About $26/week for 50 weeks. Still I do figure that my labour on the adult layers is pretty minimal, maybe 1.5 hrs/week over the year, so perhaps that’s not so bad. I do use deep litter in the hen house, so I don’t clean them out as often as it sounds like you might – I don’t go through a bag of shavings a week, that’s for sure – maybe 1 a month. My hen house is about 12X18, and I try to keep the litter about 4 inches deep at least at the roost end. I use hay in the nest boxes, but I get that for free (we have hay fields). Well I guess not free, since I pay for the tractor service etc and sell the hay to the tractor guy, who then gives me a bale for the hens when I ask – but I cannot be bothered to figure that one out, sorry! In case you’re interested in a comparison….but your point is valid – farmers who raise/produce good food need to be paid a decent wage, or there’s little incentive for them to keep at it. I totally agree!

  2. ok, humble pie time…I asked about the cost of organic layer feed today at my local feed store – $19.50/bag!!!!! And it’s mash, not pellets, which means more wasteage, since the hens tend to beak it out of the feeder and tromple it in the mud. Obviously no one in my locale is selling eggs from hens eating organic feed – or if they are, they are paying to do it, as you said above.

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