Invariably, one of the first questions I get when I tell people that we have laying hens is “Do you sell your eggs?”. I usually tell them that we don’t have enough extra to sell; which is quickly followed by an offer to buy them if we ever do have extra. This is a very encouraging sentiment to a chicken keeper, but I don’t see us ever selling our eggs for several different reasons.
We don’t produce extra eggs. We went into our laying hen venture with a lot of research and analysis behind us. Our chickens are not kept as pets or as a hobby, we got them specifically to produce eggs. We learned about the different production rates of the different breeds and we only got enough chickens to produce the amount of eggs that our two-person household will use. A lot of folks have a collection of chickens as pets or as a hobby, so they may end up with more eggs than they can use. I am by no means knocking that, but our aim was to only have as many layers as will feed our family.
Our state regulates off farm egg sales. Unless I sell my eggs from my house (in the middle of nowhere) or from a roadside stand “near” my house (in the middle of nowhere) I would have to do the following in order to adhere to South Carolina’s regulations.
- Weigh or Size each egg
- Candle each egg (to check quality) and assign a grade
- Wash each egg according to USDA standards
- Keep the eggs refrigerated at 45 degrees (or lower)
- Label each carton according to USDA labeling requirements
That’s a lot of work for a small scale chicken keeper to unload some eggs. A violation of these regulations is treated as a misdemeanor and can be punished by fines and/or jail time.
Our eggs are worth more than people want to pay. This is the heart of the issue, in my book. Due to our nationally subsidized food system, people tend to have a perspective which undervalues what eggs (and countless other food items) are worth. The going rate for ‘farm fresh’ eggs according to the internet and local data seems to be $3.00/dozen. I figure our eggs ought to sell for at least $6.00/dozen.
The whole philosophy of our farming/homesteading endeavors is that we want the best quality organic food for cheaper than we can buy it at the grocery store. This means that our chickens eat USDA certified organic feed in addition to foraging in our yard for half the day. Here’s the breakdown of that $6.00/ dozen price.
We go through $30.00 of feed per month and produce an average of 75 eggs per month. That’s $0.40 per egg or $4.80 per dozen. This doesn’t even include the capital investments of the chicken coop, feeder, and waterer, or the time spent caring for the hens daily, or the 6 months of the chickens’ lives that we were feeding them before they were old enough to lay, or any time spent jumping through regulatory hoops to sell them legally.
The equivalent eggs in my grocery store (certified organic, pasture raised, and antibiotic free) retail for $6.00/dozen; and our eggs have a leg up on the grocery store eggs because ours are fresher (not having been stored and transported anywhere).
A lot of resources, time, and labor go into producing eggs (which are legally sold) and due to decades of government subsidies, a lot of folks just can’t fathom paying that much money for eggs.
So, to make a long story long, we’re not selling any eggs at the moment.