I am investigating establishing a free range egg business on my smallholding near Hermanus / Caledon in the Western Cape and wondered whether you would help. I have a nice piece of land and we believe that this business could work – there is potential to scale, but first small steps and proof of concept. At this stage i am looking at purchasing the Lohman breed (approx R90 per hen at point of lay), but there is a bit of a learning curve. i have three general questions and would appreciate some input from you if you dont mind:
One thing we are trying to establish is how much roughly will a wholesale free range egg sell for ? Obviously a lot depends on target buyer and volume discounts. Looking in the Spar and Woolworths, i note that these eggs retail between R1.30-R2.10 per egg depending on how many you buy. I would look at direct, bakeries, restaurants etc
I only sell directly to the end user and an organic market – I charge R42 for 30 eggs. This is for mixed sizes large, x large and jumbo. The one baker I sell just large to and charge him 1.19 per egg. A thing that caught me out was the fact that I have no control on egg size (i asked my hens really nicely for large but….) The result is that I have many more jumbo than large (which is what all bakers and cooks want due to recipes needing large?) Spar and Woolworths have a very strict buyers policy.
The other question, is what is the typical egg life / productivity of a single hen ? Assuming it is breed specific, but roughly ? I note you indicate 60 weeks – is that an appropriate guideline for the lohman ?
60 weeks is what all large producers work on. While the breed makes some difference, more important is how the bird was raised to 18 or 20 weeks. A good trustworthy supplier of layers is critical unless you are raising your own chicks to point of lay. Feed, vitamins and vaccines seem to make a huge difference in the quality of the eggs and lay rate (and this all happens in the first 18 weeks. Remember to ask for free range birds – my first batch came debeaked and terrified to go outside.
The final question surrounds the ‘after shelf value’ of the hen. Assuming one could sell a hen for meat, should you definitely factor this stage into the business model and what are the options here.
A big factor – you can get R28 – R35 per hen after the 60 weeks. Many black folk love older chicken – known as “hard chicken” in rural speak.
Any input would be much appreciated. Alternatively if you would point me to someone who may have advise on this this would be very kind of you
Go onto the forum – it is free and there are buyers, sellers and farmers all participating. With regards to breed type – I asked an guy from Onderstepoort some time back for the best breed to breed chicks for free range hens on the Highveld – his answer:
Ovambo, crossed with Venda… Remember lots of calcium /crushed sea shells in their diet..for good egg shell quality. The Boschveld breed is also good… But I would cross the Boschveld with Koekoek…. using 7 Koekoek roosters each with 2 boschveld hens to create your first 7 lines from which you do cross breeding. to prevent inbreeding.
Wayne, I have read that supplementing your hens diet with food like radish, rye grass etc will improve the egg quality. do you do this and what other food sources (eg worms, vegetables, etc) do you recommend has a visible and proven impact ?
Definitely a plus. Vegetables like carrots, spinach, magou and chillies give the yolks that deep orange colour – worms, bugs, baby rats and mice – chickens will eat anything. Avoid potatoes and Avo (and limit cabbage). I also give mine my table scraps – meat, rice etc. As long as you would eat it – it will be good for them – If you are going to give them egg shells (which are very good for calcium) crush them so they do not look like eggs or they will hammer your eggs in the coop.
I will work through this huge source of info, and keep in touch if you are ok with this. One more issue we are investigating is typical consumption rate per bird and of course sourcing well priced food. We currently have been advised that the a chic consumes 1,814 kg of food to produce 1 doz eggs. Price of food is R220/50 kg. Do these figures ring true with you ?
Mmm sounds high (but could be an average over the whole 60 week cycle) – I give my chickens between 105g and 125g per day each. I am playing around with feed amounts to see if I can get the egg size down without dropping lay rate. Just remember that you still have to feed the non layers – and in a large flock, unless you are cage farming, it is difficult to see which hens are not laying, or laying badly. You will also be paying for waste – I end up with lots of feed on the ground, and if you are free ranging you also end up feeding the local bird population.
How to do free range egg farming in South Africa – Some common questions and answers about what chickens to use, or what hens to use when free range farming and how to breed you own strain of free range chickens.