A few years ago I raised a flock of meat birds. I accompanied these birds from brooder to butcher and along the way, I shared with readers how I made a collapsable chicken tractor, how I got a broody hen to adopt all my hatchery chicks so I didn’t have to use artificial heat lamps and other chicken-keeping tips. What I realized, recently, is that I never shared the cost breakdown of this adventure. I kept a detailed spreadsheet recording the costs associated with raising my own Cornish cross chickens on my small farm and below report on the cost, profit, and savings of raising a small scale flock of chickens for meat.
|coolers and ice||7|
|9 bags of feed||13.15||9||118.35|
|31 birds to butcher||cost per bird:||8.632580645|
|Avg dressed weight: 4.62|
I found raising the birds to be an interesting experience. Although I never repeated the process of raising Cornish cross checks to butcher weight, I learned a lot in the process. Modern life makes it easy to not think about the context that our food comes from, but the experience of raising chicks and having them butchered was helpful for me in understanding the amount of work that goes into raising and butchering chickens.
When you plan on raising chicks to butcher, you might only calculate initially for the cost of chicks and feed. I discovered in the process of raising the birds that I also had a lot of incidental fees – like ice for transporting the processed meat, bags for storing processed meat, and the cost associated with building a tractor to raise my meat birds (read more about my DIY portable tractor and download the simple woodworking plan).
IMPORTANT – my cost breakdown includes having my birds professionally butchered. Although I butchered chickens in the past, it’s very time-consuming if you are not experienced. Because butchering 31 chickens was not how I wanted to spend a hot summer day, I chose instead to have them processed at a cost of $2.50 per bird (a service offered by some local Amish women)
In the end, including all of my expenses (Including professional butchering) my costs came out to $8.63 per chicken, with an average dressed weight of 4 pounds, 10 ounces.
Getting 31 chickens butchered with an average dress-out weight of 4 lbs. 10 oz. meant that my cost per pound was $1.87 – certainly not bad for mostly–organic and very much pasture raised chicken.
In addition to this dressed weight, my processor also gave me the option of taking home the chicken feet. Although I’d had chicken feet prepared in restaurants, they aren’t something I would normally prepare at home. Despite this, the feet were useful- mostly as raw meat dog treats and a few for making a rich flavored chicken broth.
If I had opted to process these birds myself. The cost per bird would be $6.13 assuming I was not able to butcher them quite as efficiently and ended up with a dressed weight of 4 lbs. 8 oz., my cost per pound could have been much lower- $1.36 per lb (NOT accounting for the fact that butchering 31 birds would have taken me at least 4 hours- and probably bloodshed!)
Although I have not opted to raise meat birds again, I wouldn’t hesitate to do so if I had a good set up and more help with the hard work of raising, feeding, catching, and butchering the birds. If you are considering raising meat birds I recommend giving it a try. Even on a small scale, it’s possible to save money by raising your own meat birds and grow a better understanding of how food is produced.
Lindsayanne is a professional artist, writer, and serial-DIY-er with a knack for solving problems creatively at home, in the studio, out in the garden, and even online. Learn more about Lindsay, her training, and her background here.