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Wouldn’t it be nice if all the animals on your homestead could make you enough money to support themselves? Although most animals on the farm have a job to do, it’s especially nice if they can bring in enough cash to pay for their upkeep and maybe a little extra left over for the farmer, as well. That’s the way to true self-sufficiency!

A flock of backyard chickens can be found on almost any homestead, and for a good reason. They are truly one of the most versatile, easy to care for critters on the farm. Chickens can provide not only a sustainable source of meat and eggs but also pest control and garden fertilizer, too. But that’s not all. Here are some creative ways your homestead chickens can bring in a little cash, as well.

Sell Your Extra Eggs

This may seem like a no-brainer to most of you, but I’m surprised at how many folks don’t take advantage of this easy way to bring in a little extra income. At certain times of the year, our chickens lay more eggs than we can use, so why not sell the surplus to neighbors, co-workers, and friends? In some states, you can even sell your eggs at farmer’s markets. Better yet, keep an extra dozen or so hens and you’ll probably have enough eggs to sell year-round without increasing your workload too much.

Keep in mind that the amount of money you can charge for a dozen eggs will vary depending on the market in your area. Expect to get somewhere between $3-$5 per dozen in most areas. Eggs from birds raised on pasture and organic or non-GMO feed will bring in a higher dollar. A lot of folks will pay more for pretty brown, green, or blue eggs, so consider having a mixed flock of laying hens that will give lots of different colored eggs.

Sell Hatching Eggs

Get yourself a rooster, and you’ve got fertile hatching eggs! Many folks will buy eggs to hatch out in an incubator if they want to save a few bucks over buying chicks. You could expand your market even further by investing in breeding stock from a highly sought-after breed. In some cases, people will pay $4 or more for one hatching egg from a rare breed bird. Of course, you’ll have to keep your specialty breeders separate from your regular egg layers, so there’s no cross breeding.

Sell Day-Old Baby Chicks

You can make more money selling day-old chicks than you can hatching eggs, so consider investing in an incubator! Have your day-old chicks ready to go in early spring like the farm stores do, or better yet, tap into a different market by having chicks available when the farm stores stop selling them for the year.

Depending on the breed of chicks you have, you can sell them for anywhere from a couple dollars for common breeds to $6 or maybe even more for rare breeds. If you can learn how to sex your chicks, you can charge even more, but plenty of folks are willing to buy straight-run chicks, too. If a lot of people seem interested, you might consider raising a few flocks of different rare breeds.

Sell Grown Pullets

A lot of folks don’t want to deal with the extra time and work involved with raising up day old chicks. They would rather spend a little extra money to purchase hens that are almost ready to start laying eggs. If you have the space for your chickens to forage, this can be a great way to make a real profit from your chickens. Depending on the breed of chicken and your area, you can expect to sell your layers for anywhere from $10 to $25 per bird.

Sell Stewing Hens

Most hens slow way down in their egg production after they get to be a couple years old. Most farmers butcher the oldest hens each year and replace them with young pullets that are just ready to start laying. Another option is to sell the older hens as stewing hens for a few dollars each. Yes, they are probably going to end up in someone’s stew pot anyway, but it might be easier than butchering the onsite, especially if you or your kids have become attached.

Sell Broilers for the Freezer

Did you know that broilers can be ready to go in the freezer in as little as eight weeks? That’s a pretty fast turnaround! You will need to check into the laws in your area before you get started. In some states, you can butcher the chickens yourself and sell them ready to go in the freezer, which is the most profitable. In other states, you may have to sell the birds live for folks to butcher themselves, or you can deliver the birds to a meat processor for an additional fee. If you’ve ever looked at the prices for pasture raised, organic chicken at your grocery store, you know that people are willing to pay a pretty penny for meat that was raised right.

Sell Your Chicken Manure

If you’ve got a lot of chickens, you probably have more chicken poop than you know what to do with. Why not bag it up and sell it to gardeners in your area? You can make a few extra dollars per bag without much extra effort on your part.

Sell Your Feathers

Don’t forget to save your birds’ feathers during molting season or at butchering time. Crafters and fly fishermen will pay more than you’d think for pretty feathers, especially the flashier ones from your roosters and colorful breeds. Some hatcheries even sell a mixed flock of birds with exceptionally beautiful plumage. The best way to sell feathers is to bag them up and sell them at craft shows or on Etsy for use in craft projects like making jewelry, dream catchers, or even tying flies for fishing.

Even if you’re not interested in turning your backyard chickens into a business, many of these ideas can be done without too much extra effort on your part. And don’t forget, all of these methods will work for quail, ducks, and other poultry, also! Try experimenting with a couple different ideas to see what goes over the best in your area.

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Rabbits: A Multi-Purpose Animal on the Homestead

Whenever someone asks me what type of livestock is best for a small, urban homestead, my answer is always rabbits. The thing is, rabbits are so versatile that they’re suited to most any situation. They’re great for beginners, they’re affordable to purchase and care for, they’re quiet, and they’re multi-purpose. All you really need is one buck, and a two does to get you started.

Rabbits have been making their contributions to American homesteads in the form of fur, food, and companionship since the early 1900s. As an added bonus, all rabbits produce wonderful manure that can be applied straight to the garden for a free, all-natural fertilizer.

Shelter for Your Rabbits

As you can imagine, rabbits are very vulnerable to predators. Aside from keeping them safe from predators, they also need to be protected from extreme temperatures. In the summer, make sure they have lots of shade and ventilation. They also like to dig and chew, so keep that in mind when designing their housing.

Most folks raise their rabbits in a hutch with wire on the bottom that allows waste to fall through. Usually, the hutch is wire on three sides with an enclosed box in the back. It’s most economical to build your own hutches, and there are lots of easy to follow plans on the internet.

Rabbit tractors are another option, and that’s what we use here for most of the year. Our rabbits are moved around the yard all spring, summer, and fall so they can nibble on the grass but still be safe from predators. Chicken wire covers the bottom of their tractors so they can’t dig out, but grass can still poke up through for them to much on.

During the winter, we move them into the hutches in our shed for warmth and so that we can collect their manure to use in the garden in the spring.

Some folks choose to keep their rabbits in colony housing. The rabbits are kept within a large fenced area with wire buried around the outside to keep them from digging out. They have access to shelter, but will often dig their own burrows to sleep in.

Breeding Your Rabbits

Rabbits can be bred about every 90 days, or so. Gestation takes approximately 30 days. The babies will need to nurse for about 6 weeks. At six or seven weeks, the babies can go into their own hutch. If you’re raising meat rabbits, stagger your breeding times, so you have a fresh litter of babies every 6 weeks or so.

Feeding Your Rabbits

Your rabbits should be allowed to eat as much hay as they want. Alfalfa, timothy, and clover hay are all ok. Just feed whichever is the highest quality in your area. They should also have access to a high-quality rabbit pellet, based on their size and weight. To supplement, vegetable scraps, weeds, and lawn clippings (untreated, of course) are great. Greens are ok, too, but feed them in small amounts until your rabbits get used to them to prevent stomach upset.

Raising Rabbits for Meat

When you think about raising rabbits, the first thing that usually comes to mind is raising them for meat. Two does, and a buck can produce as much as 180 pounds of meat in a single year. The most common meat breeds include the New Zealand, Californian, and the Giant Chinchilla, but other breeds can be raised for meat as well.

In general, meat rabbits can be butchered at about 8 weeks old through about 8 months. If you wait too long to butcher, the meat will be tough. Choosing a medium to large breed is best if you’re going to be raising your rabbits for meat. They do eat more, but smaller breeds aren’t going to be large enough to butcher at 8 weeks. You can sell the pelts from the rabbits you butcher, as well, and the larger they are, the more they’re worth.

Rabbit meat is delicious. It’s very lean and tastes a lot like chicken, but it’s firmer. A word of caution, though. We started out with meat rabbits and found it very difficult to butcher the cute little things. Now, we stick to pets and are considering investing in some Angoras for fiber. I know plenty of folks who have no problem putting their rabbits in the freezer, but it was just too hard for us.

Rabbits as Pets

There’s no doubt about it, rabbits are cute little critters. Smaller rabbits, such dwarf and mini breeds are especially popular as pets. If you’re dead set against having rabbits for meat, raising these adorable little rabbits to sell as pets can be a great option. My daughter raises 3 or 4 litters of Mini Lops every year to help cover the cost of keeping her 3 pet bunnies. They don’t eat as much as larger rabbits, so they’re more economical to keep as pets, too.

Raising Breeding Pairs or Show Rabbits

If you invest in a buck and two does that are show quality rabbits, you could raise and sell breeding pairs or show rabbits. Specialty colors and rare breeds will, of course, be more profitable.

Raising Angora Rabbits for Fiber

Raising Angora rabbits for their wool is another great option for those who aren’t interested in raising rabbits for meat. These lovable, sweet rabbits come in several varieties, and they’re a lot of fun to raise. The Giant Angora weighs in at 10-12 pounds and produces as much as 2.5 pounds of wool per year. Angora rabbits can be very valuable, so you could also breed them to sell the babies.

Weekly grooming is required for Angora rabbits, and you should start when they’re very young. Start handling them and brushing them as soon as they leave their mothers at 6-8 weeks of age. You can groom them right in your lap, and it will take around half an hour per week for each rabbit. You will get some wool at every grooming, but huge amounts of wool are released when the rabbits molt a few times a year.

There are 3 ways to remove the hair. Plucking the fur is painful for the rabbit, and it’s not necessary. You could shear them if you want. It’s faster, but it’s not the ideal method if you want to sell the fiber for spinning. The simplest method is the best in this case. Simply brush or comb the hair. It releases naturally when it’s about four or five inches long, and that’s perfect for spinning.

As you can see, there are a lot of options when it comes to raising rabbits on the homestead. And, don’t forget, no matter what your bunny’s main job is, they all produce lovely garden fertilizer. Rabbits are an excellent choice for even the brand new homesteader.


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