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.