Should You Buy Chickens This Year?

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By the author of The Prepper’s Guide to Post-Disaster Communications and The Cartoon Ham Exam Handbook: A Complete Ham Radio Technician License Study Guide

As 2023 shifts into full gear, this is also about the time of year that farm stores begin to put out their order forms for spring chickens. Given everything that is going on in the world at the moment, I wanted to give a few of my thoughts on how this year is likely to impact the American chicken market.

The price of feed will go up.

Fertilizer shortages and high gas prices are going to lead to higher chicken feed prices.

With this, I think that it is going to be more important than ever that you find ways to feed your chickens that minimize waste and that you put the older hens that aren’t laying well in the pot. This article has some great tips on how people fed chickens before commercial feed was available.

A lot of chicken feed is based predominantly on soybeans. Corn is pretty heavy in many feeds as well. Those two crops are fertilizer-intensive within Big Ag, the Russian fertilizer ban is still in effect, and with the depletion of the National Oil Reserve – something that is supposed to be used for military preparedness – and the strengthening ties we’re seeing between the Middle East and China, should something pop off in Taiwan I can see how it would easily lead to a further fuel crisis in the US.

Hauwei equipment is being installed throughout the Middle East at the moment. Combine that with the idea that the Middle East hates America, not China, and I think you end up with a stronger argument for why they would choose China over us when it comes to remaining neutral in that situation.

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An increase in egg prices

At the grocery stores where I live, finding eggs now that are $8/dozen is not uncommon. I’m noticing that the people who sell eggs out of their own homes have drastically raised their prices over the past three years as well.

There are no signs whatsoever that inflation is slowing down. It is getting higher and higher, and the prices of eggs at the grocery store are going to increase as a result.

If you do raise your own chickens and sell the eggs, you are going to need to raise your prices as well if you don’t want to be operating a charity. You really need to get over the sticker shock of what it is that you’re selling your eggs for because it’s going to be higher than you’ve ever sold them for before. Do the math, figure out the profit margin you want, and then stick to those numbers rather than your feelings.

The demand for chickens this year is likely going to be intense.

I would recommend ordering early if you can. I think this is going to be for the exact same reasons that chicken sales went through the roof in 2020. People are going to look at the world around them and once more realize that some degree of self-sufficiency is important.

Thousands of more people were added to the homesteading movement – building the infrastructure they needed to raise chickens – in 2020. They’re still going to need chickens and equipment this year as well.

Keep that in mind when you look at that order form this winter.

Come March or April, you’re likely going to have a hard time finding feeders and waterers.

If you need one of these, I recommend going ahead and picking it up now. Really, this happens every year, but I think that there are some 2023-specific reasons for doing so.

A lot of the chicken gear such as feeders and waterers are made from plastic. Where is the majority of this plastic gear made? China.

Should China invade Taiwan this year – something that we seem to have given the go-ahead for here in America – then there is a chance that there will be some American face-value reaction where we say we’re going to place an embargo on Chinese-made goods.

If this goes into effect, this embargo, combined with what I think is going to be increased demand again this year, will make it difficult to find those products that are made out of plastic. Should that be where you find yourself, being able to make your own could be beneficial.

If you have the infrastructure in place with a brooder, you’ll likely be able to make a lot of money selling baby chicks.

If you can get access to Rhode Island Red, Golden Comet, or Black Australorp eggs – all breeds of chickens that are very proficient layers and found in backyard flocks throughout the nation – I think you will have a very easy time of selling every single bird that you hatch this year.

What do you think is going to happen in the world of backyard chickens this year?

Are you concerned about chicken-related supply chain issues? Do you think we’ll potentially see bird flu issues as well? Perhaps legislation pertaining to that? Are you concerned about the prices of chicken paraphernalia and feed going up? Will you buy chickens this year?

Let us know what you’re thinking in the comment section below.

About Aden

Aden Tate is a regular contributor to TheOrganicPrepper.com and TheFrugalite.com. Aden runs a micro-farm where he raises dairy goats, a pig, honeybees, meat chickens, laying chickens, tomatoes, mushrooms, and greens. Aden has four published books, What School Should Have Taught You, The Faithful Prepper An Arm and a Leg, The Prepper’s Guide to Post-Disaster Communications, and Zombie Choices. You can find his podcast The Last American on Preppers’ Broadcasting Network.

Aden Tate

Aden Tate

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  • I agree with everything but having Black Australorpes; worst birds I’ve ever had. Average layers of various sized eggs, they also eat a lot of their own eggs and unless you have the means to find out which bird(s) is the guilty party, you’ll be feeding the birds for fewer and fewer eggs.

    At their peak production, I started freeze-drying the eggs, a gallon at a time. Online I found that it takes 65 L/XL eggs to make a gallon. My layers were requiring over 110 to make that same gallon.

    I got my chicks from one of the big, national hatcheries (McMurray) and when I questioned what I was seeing in my flock, I was basically blown off.

    Oh, and it wasn’t that I had a small flock with just a few birds. I had 50 birds and got less than 2 large eggs a week.

    RayK

    • Sorry you had problems with the Austrolorps.

      I had them several years ago but lost them through predation, and have a new batch now that are just beginning to lay. Both batches through Murray McMurray.

      Both times the birds have been quite gentle and nice, even the roosters. The hens have been dependable and prolific layers.

      Sometimes I think there may be faulty genetics at play. Perhaps you received birds from a cranky strain?

    • The downside of Australorps or any other Orpington is that they don’t lay as many eggs as, say Rhode Island Reds or White Leghorns. The UPSIDE of Orps is that they are “hybrid use” birds. They lay eggs, but are also big enough to eat. Their eggs are also bigger than many other breeds. Orps are also VERY DOCILE. Orp roosters are, well, roosters, and act like roosters, though not nearly as aggressive as others. The hens will follow you around like little kids!

      I’ve had Buff, Lavender, and Australian Orpingtons, and have had little trouble with them at all. They’re my preferred breed.

    • Not surprised at the different number of eggs required for a gallon.
      I have noticed that commercial eggs have a higher water content than homestead eggs. I don’t know why, but it is probably related to differences in breed, feed and environment.

  • Of course I am going to buy chickens, specifically young hens (pullets). My supplier (the Farmers’ Coop) does an excellent job of obtaining healthy good producers. I only buy Red Crosses because they have one of the best records for egg production, and I do not raise chicks. Every year I lose a few layers to age, pecking order problems, injuries. AFAIK, I’ve never had one die of disease, but we are far off the beaten path, and I strongly discourage visitors or wild water fowl near the coop.

    Re raising and selling chicks: yes, some people do succeed at this, otherwise I’d have no pullets to buy! However, our experience with chicks has been generally BAD. Up to 50-60 percent losses before complete feathering. Lots of predators, including my own barn cats. Cost of baby chick food much higher than for adult layers. I have literally not gotten one single egg from a chick – they all died before maturity. So we stick with pullets.

    Also, about 60 percent of my immediate neighbors (those whose homes I can see), also raise chickens and other poultry. I’m guessing that if I ever needed something (or some-hen) that the CFC didn’t have, I could buy or borrow it from one of them. But stay away from poultry shows or poultry fairs – risk of exposure to disease is very high.

    Re costs: yes, everything is going up. My local co-op and Tractor Supply have had no real issues with supply (they make their feeds from local suppliers) and seem to have access to equipment, bedding, etc., though after 25 years, we are pretty much equipped for our small flock.

    The big question is how much do eggs figure into your prepping plans? If you are planning on eggs for 20 people every day of the week, you probably should have in-house supply. If a half-dozen eggs every couple of days for cooking/baking is your requirement (or planned requirement), then you might go with paying big $ at the store and call it a day.

    In our case, right now, we have enough eggs coming in (including now, cold, wet winter) to do breakfasts a couple times a week, boil up a dozen or so for treats for the dogs every few days, and still provide a dozen freebies here or there to friends and neighbors. Yes, I said FREE. Eggs are still one of the best and least expensive ways to meet like-minded people and make friends in the neighborhood.

    Hint – use solar driveway lights in your coop at night to add a few hours of “daylight” to your hens’ laying schedule. Even if you have power to the coop and can use lightbulbs, the solar lights are a great backup. I use them all year long and have gotten excellent results in egg production.

    Taking care of the hens is another small chore. My sunk costs are considerable. But the peace of mind knowing that we have a consistent supply of protein (and breakfasts!) is incalculable. We feed all our animals (cats, dogs, hens) left-overs and kitchen scraps. Great recycling of wasted food into protein and “farm employees.” If, or when, the cost of feed gets totally out of control, we can opt into free-ranging our hens, though the predator problem remains an issue. I’m working on that.

    • Try chicken tractors. Easy to build with scraps of wood and chicken wire. Protects well against aerial predators.

      I will be experimenting with movable electric mesh fencing to keep out everything from dogs to bears.

      Also hope to increase my corn and sunflower crops this year, and add things like mangles and amaranth.

      I’ll still buy feed, ( I like Azure Standard’s feed,) but everything that I can raise will lower my feed bill.

      • I did the moveable mesh fencing.
        Works great . . . except the chickens would jump/fly out.
        I did put some of them in with the male goats. To keep them from the female goats I had to get 6ft tall deer fencing. That fencing the chickens could not get out of.

    • Watch a couple videos on how to raise chicks, you might have better success. It takes 18 weeks or more to lay eggs.

  • I’ve raised chickens for over 25 years. I start with day-old chicks and usually get 12 or so new chicks every year. I’ve started visiting our day-old bread store once a month where a grocery basket full of bread is $7.50 compared to almost $12 for 50 pounds of chopped corn and $14 for 50 pounds of laying pellets. The bread is a supplement/treat for the birds and egg production has remained steady.

  • You can easily supplement much of your chickens’ feed with household garbage as long as you don’t have very many chickens. I used to have fifty chickens but have culled my flock down to seven hens and one rooster. I think I will be buying a few replacement hens though and this time just six hens and one rooster.

    Also, chickens require someone to be around at least some of the time every day to gather eggs and give them food and water although you might be able to get away with stocking them up with water and food to get away for a few days. You could also automate, but that takes more money.

  • think the supply of chickens is going to decline, powers that be are going to continue destroying food production in any way they can; they will declare bird flu, then destroy whole farms of chickens instead of quarantining the sick ones when the first sign shows up (if it truly does, sometimes I think its a ruse). same with diseases of the other animals, wild and domestic; they are culling our food supplies from every angle…..starve the world…..

  • I love watching my neighbors chickens plucking about, what a hoot. I should convince them & go in with them ‘donating’ some funds so they grow free range & not the crap feed they are currently feeding them so I can help them get rid of some eggs. The feed eggs are sweet & I don’t like the taste compared to the free range. I know my limitations, therefore I will probably continue to pay $8/18 eggs at the store every 3 or 4 weeks.

  • Heck yes I will be getting more chickens, probably more than I can handle. I have had great eggs from both Austrolorps, Isa Browns and Brahmas. I had a predator this year, which took out 5 of my beloved hens this year. Went from 8 eggs a day down to 3. My favorites are the Isa Browns.

    I use all (appropriate) scraps from our kitchen and let my girls roam around with the goats area during the day but feed them crumble when they are locked up at night. Soaking the feed makes it last longer too. They are great at finding the bugs, crickets and all sorts of other things in the compost. Heck they even aerate it too!

    When I have to many eggs, I barter with a wood worker who gives me wood shavings in exchange for eggs. Eggs are at a premium here, so folks are starting to store them up.

    I tried water bathing them, but it was a disaster. I think I stacked to many in the Jar crushing them and exposing all of the salt/lime into the cracked eggs. I was about to puke after opening it up. I will try again but in smaller batches.

    • @frankie, we have all Isa Browns and those girls sure do lay. We only wanted 6 but had to buy 10 and all chicks lived. We consistently get 9-10 eggs a day.

  • I’ve been at it with the chickens for seven years. A few things I’ve learned:

    Chickens are fairly low maintenance. I free-range mine during the day, but even when I kept my hens cooped 24/7, maintenance was more or less cleaning the coop out once a week, and that only takes about ten minutes. For reference, my flock is sitting at around twenty birds at any given time. Other than that, it’s just being sure they have enough food and water, and checking for eggs.

    Feed is getting expensive. I started out seven years ago paying $16.00 per 50lb bag of layer mash. That same bag is $20.00 and change now. I leave my hens in the coop for about half the day so that they eat some mash. Then I let them out to forage in the corral. This mitigates some of the cost of feed and takes care of some of the weed abatement back there. They’re also just plain happier to be out and about. I also feed my hens kitchen scraps. Watch this though, as if there’s anything left behind, you’re inviting in rats and mice! It won’t take long to figure out what they like and how much is enough.

    Chickens attract rodents! Their feed attracts rats, mice, and ground squirrels. Rats and mice also LOVE chicken poop for some reason. If possible, DON’T locate your coop ANYWHERE NEAR your house, or the rats and mice will end up there as well! Keep your feeders mounted low enough for the chickens to get to, but high enough to discourage the squirrels. Other wise you’ll not only lose a ton of feed, but you’ll also dinner-bell in FAMILIES of squirrels! Also, if you’re using gravity-feed feeders, try to find feeders with DEEP pans! Most of the stuff I see out there now has really shallow pans. The downside of this is twofold; the hens will “scratch” the pans with their beaks to find their favorite bits, which will fling feed onto the ground. This wastes a TON of feed! It also broadcasts feed all over the place, much to the delight of the rats, mice, and squirrels!

    You’re going to go through hens. I lost over half my flock last spring when the coyotes got our address. Old age and disease will also take some of them out. Frankly, I’ve never had to cull my flock, as the older ones tend to fall to disease or getting egg bound anyway. I replace part of my flock every year, sometimes with pullets and sometimes with chicks. Keep in mind too, that chicks in a brooder need heatlamps running 24/7 for at least a few weeks. Even a 125W heatlamp uses more electricity per hour than a refrigerator, and refrigerators only run occasionally! If you live in a place like I do, with sky-high electricity costs, you need to factor this in. You might come out cheaper buying pullets that don’t need special climate control.

    Your hens aren’t going to lay all the time. Not enough light? They won’t lay. Molting? They won’t lay. They’ll also be put off if they get stressed. “Stressed” can be anything from roving coyotes to a change in their feed!

    If you have a rooster you can incubate and hatch your own chickens. If you live in the suburbs and don’t want visits from the sheriff, DON’T keep a rooster! Those things are LOUD!

    If you end up with excess eggs, you can sell them. Perhaps not to make a profit, but to offset the cost of feed! This can be a win-win for both buyer and seller. The buyer gets FRESH eggs at a GOOD price! The seller’s flock becomes cheaper to keep!

    Automate your feeders and waterers! Gravity-feed towers will hold several days worth of feed. Going away for a week? Put in more feeders. For water, I use a 5-gallon bucket with water tits installed on its bottom. This allows the hens to get fresh, clean water. After five years of use I had to replace the water tits in my bucket. The inside of that bucket was still perfectly clean! I installed a float valve in the bucket and ran a drip line to a water source. The bucket always stays FULL. Even if water service is interrupted, there’s enough water in the bucket to hold the hens over for several days. The bucket lid goes on to keep dirt from getting into the bucket. Yeah, those lids are a hair bear to get off, so I took a slightly more expensive route and installed a Gamma Seal lid on the bucket. Face it; any automated system has its flaws. Sometimes the float valve will “leak by” and cause the bucket to drip from overflow. The Gamma Seal lid lets me open the top of the bucket, jiggle the valve, and close it back up effortlessly! I keep a salad bowl overturned covering the Gamma Seal lid to keep the hens from roosting and pooping on it. ANY means of watering that involves open water pans will end up getting pooped and mudded up! You’ll be cleaning it DAILY, or your hens will be drinking their own poop!

    As seen with COVID, disease, such as Avian Flu or Newcastle’s Disease, is a GREAT way for government to interfere with your keeping of hens. If they suspect disease in your flock, they’ll just kill them all. No recompense…

    Chickens were one of the best prepping investments I’ve made.

      • Chickens are also a lot of fun. Yeah, we work for those eggs, but chickens are humorous. Even the roosters (we have 8). The takeaway from Tom isn’t to not get chickens. It’s to not let the government know what you’re doing on your property if you don’t have to. IF my birds every caught a virus and all died you can be I’d never let any government official know about it. I keep a small backyard flock for personal use, we don’t sell them. The government doesn’t need to know about my chickens or my gardens or anything else I do that isn’t breaking the law. Go ahead and get a couple of chickens to try it out! If you don’t like it, you can always pass them on or have them processed into dinner!

    • Check out “Grandpa Feeder”. It’s all steel and totally encloses the feed except when the birds step on a lower foot step that springs the lid covering the feed. Best investment I’ve made involving the chickens. Makes a big dent in the rodent problem. It’s made in New Zealand. Pricey, but worth it.

  • I wouldn’t consider owning chickens if the only feed available is corn and soy, both almost certainly GMO. No point. I don’t have a problem paying 67c for an egg. Beats other things I could have for breakfast.

    • That’s not the only feed available. You can purchase corn and soy free feed. I purchase a feed with corn and 4 other grains plus peas. Then I soak or ferment it. I will not feed my chickens soy–I avoid soy like the plague. Be aware that the eggs you buy at the store come from hens fed soy and corn unless the package states otherwise.

  • I will get more chicks this spring. They are invaluable in my parasite control program both this time of year in the lounging barns and during the grazing season.

    My annual feed bill for 16 hens and one rooster is $280. Given the choice between that bill or losing just one of my yearling replacement ewes @ &400/cwt is easy math. If I looked at a feed bill and didn’t have the ability to supplement as heavy as I can holistically and looked only at egg and table benefits, I’d be more inclined to support another farm and buy my eggs from them.

    In my barns I employ deep straw bedding packs. I treat those packs like another living organism on my farm (because the are) and manage them as such. Parasites are a cancer in a pack and chickens are the chemo.

    Everything on my operation touches something else. Chickens are worth the stretch to buy more vs. the consequences of not having them.

  • Not sure why your Australorps are the worst birds. Our Black Australorps are docile and will jump on your lap if you sit down with a snack outside. They are prolific layers given the right feed (no tractor supply) and even during the freeze they laid right through winter. We reward them with sunflower seeds and oats.

  • soy de colombia, tenemos 10 gallinas ponedoras lo que hace que tengamos un ahorro en dinero y diario tenemos de 8 a 10 huevos, ya tenemos mas de un año que no compramos huevos en la tienda, y para que el uevo tenga mejor sabor las llevamos a pastoreo en la finca, tambien estoy criando 40 pollos de engorde, la idea es sacrificarlo cuano tengan de 7 a 8 libras de peso, la idea es darles pienso hasta el mes y medio y de ahi en adelante darles maiz triturado, hojas de ciertas plantas y sobras de la cocina para que el sabor e mejor, de eso 40 vendo 20 y dejo 20 para mi consumo almacenados en el congelador, con los 20 que se vendan tengo para los gastos de otra parvada que mas adelante voy a tener, porque la idea es mantener cria constante de pollos para el consumo de mi familia y tener unas resevas de aproximadamente 140 libras de carne de pollo y huevos, sumado a la produccion de la huerta.

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