As egg prices have grown exponentially over the past year,we’ve seen an tremendous increase in requests for our eggs. I figured this would be a good time to discuss what it really takes to produce a single egg from start to finish and how Wild Child Farms calculates out our production for the year.
Typically, in December we start reviewing our sales from the past year and the age of the laying flock. We have ranged from 40-60 birds in a laying flock and try to average out 20-25 birds as one year old or younger and the remaining as one year old or older. This staggers out slumps in production as birds start to molt, and gives us a better ROI on our birds. As a bird leaves it’s first molt it will produce on average about 25% less eggs. This is dependent on the breed as some birds (HyLine) have a very productive first year 350-400 eggs per year and then drop off dramatically in the second, down to 250 eggs per year.
We have standardized on two breeds that give us a good second year production of eggs and still leave us with a meaty enough carcass that we can use as a stewing hen. We get both breeds from Sunnyside Hatchery in Beaver Dam, one is their Production Red, basically an improved Rhode Island Red, for brown eggs and their Easter Eggers, for the colorful eggs you see in our cartons.
When we place our order, we get to specify our hatch day, which then corresponds to the day those chicks arrive at the post office. We get them typically within a day or two of hatching, and then the brooding process begins. The birds spend 3-5 weeks in the brooder as they gain weight and start to feather out. Once they feather out, they can be moved to the coop or a chicken tractor. The difference in timeframes is dependent on ambient temperatures outside. The chicks are most fragile during this period, and we typically lose about 5% of them.
We then watch the birds and adjust their feed from Starter Feed(higher protein content for first 6 weeks) to Grower Feed (for 6 weeks to 22 weeks, 18% protein) and eventually to Layer Feedat approximately 22 weeks. At 24 weeks, the birds lay their first eggs which are typically smaller than the ones we sell, so we keep those for ourselves.
As you can see it is very difficult to ramp up production so when we see a drop off in customers and we adjust our new bird orders lower, this affects our production for the entire year until we order new birds the following spring. This is why we try to keep consistent sales so we don’t have large gluts or shortfalls.
We thank all of our current and past customers for getting us to where we are today and hope we can continue to serve you now and in the future.