If your passion for backyard chickens means you have far more eggs than you or your family and friends can ever use, consider selling them either at farmer's markets or from your home. If you keep a considerable number of laying hens, you may find additional venues for your eggs.
Your neighbors may become your best customers. If you have a neighborhood Facebook page, let potential customers know about the quality of your eggs, their availability and price. You can schedule weekly deliveries or have a specified time in which eggs can be picked up.
For most small egg producers, selling eggs through local farmer's markets, community supported agriculture programs or farm stands makes the most sense. You can store eggs throughout the week and bring them on market day. If you keep a large number of laying hens -- and have the hen house set up with lighting and automatic timers so hens will lay throughout the winter -- you can market your eggs to local restaurants and grocers.
Federal and State Regulations
Federal regulations regarding egg sales are aimed primarily at large producers. If you keep fewer than 3,000 laying hens, you are exempt from many of the United States Department of Agriculture laws regarding egg production.
Check your state laws prior to starting sales. Your county agricultural extension agent also can help you. In North Carolina, for example, if you sell over 30 dozen eggs weekly, you must grade your eggs -- either AA, A or B -- and put the grade on the cartons. If your eggs aren't a standard size, the carton must read "mixed size." In Wisconsin, farmers with less than 150 laying hens do not require a license for food processing to sell to private customers or at farmer's markets.
Of course, local regulations come into play. Even if your town permits the keeping of backyard chickens, keeping hundreds of hens is another story. Make sure your zoning allows for the number of birds you must keep to make a profit.
You want to choose the most productive breeds for your egg business. You also want to consider egg colors. Many consumers enjoy the palette of colors they find in their fresh egg cartons, ranging from white to dark brown, or green or bluish "Easter eggs." In their first couple of years, prolific hens lay between 250 to 280 eggs annually, with individual birds laying an egg almost every day. Top egg producing breeds include:
- Leghorn -- white eggs
- Rhode Island Red -- brown eggs, also suitable for meat production
- Plymouth Rock -- brown eggs
- Marans - dark brown eggs
- Ameraucana -- green or blue, sometimes pink eggs
If you adhere to federal and state regulations, you can raise your chickens organically and market the eggs as such. In addition to giving them only certified organic feed, that means you can't treat them with antibiotics if they get sick. For small farmers, letting your flock free-range is far easier than it is for birds raised in industrial chicken farms. That's another marketing advantage.
If you keep a rooster with your hens, you may develop a niche market of selling fertilized eggs for customers who want to "grow their own." The hatching rates for locally produced eggs far exceed those ordered and shipped via mail.
Jane Meggitt has been a writer for more than 20 years. In addition to reporting for a major newspaper chain, she has been published in "Horse News," "Suburban Classic," "Hoof Beats," "Equine Journal" and other publications. She has a Bachelor of Arts in English from New York University and an Associate of Arts from the American Academy of Dramatics Arts, New York City.