So you have fallen in love with chickens but cant stand the idea of running a traditional chicken farm. That is great, things really need to change in the industry and hopefully, one day, birds won’t live their whole lives in cages.
A free range chicken farm is a great way to make a living while helping to straighten out the industry. Take a look at what you will need to do in order to run a free range chicken farm.
Make A Business Plan
First, you need to determine what your plan is going to be. Where will your farm be located? What breed of chicken will you concentrate on? Are you raising chickens for meat of for their eggs?
If meat is your goal, you should be comfortable slaughtering chickens at a relatively young age. A free range chicken is ready for slaughter and processing at around 8 weeks of age. You must learn not to get attached to your birds if this is your choice, but it is a profitable decision. Meat producers can sell just about every part of a bird for profit.
If egg production is your thing, you can live with your birds for much more time although you may find your business a bit less profitable. Traditional cage farms are able to squeeze more eggs out of a bird so the free range option can be difficult, although ultimately rewarding.
There are a lot of decisions to be made and if you are at a loss, now might be the time to take a step back. Offer your assistance at another free range chicken farm, for free of course. Work for free or for a small wage in order to gain the experience that you need to be successful in the industry.
Find Your Money
Once you have your plan, you need to come up with the money. If you intend to start out small, which you probably should, you can do it with little capital. As little as 20 000 dollars can get you a small poultry farm. If you have this money on hand you are starting on a strong point, but do not be prepared to finance. Websites like Loan By Numbers can help you secure financing and even provide you with some financial guidance that can help you qualify for a loan.
Secure your loan and then figure out an economical budget that will see you through the first few rough months. No business starts out smoothly and their will be hiccups. Make sure that you have enough capital on hand to keep the farm running. That might even mean maintaining your normal job while you start your chicken farm.
Establish Your Farm
With money and a budget in mind, you can choose a location for your farm. Choosing a location out in a rural area will be the most convenient option. Land will be cheaper and neighbors will object less to the smell and/or odor of your chicken farm.
That being said, the closer that you get to a major city, the cheaper your transportation costs will be. Ideally, you should be close to a city and located near a major interstate highway.
Purchase all of the equipment that you will need to house, feed, care for and protect your chickens. Get everything completely set up before purchasing your first birds. When it does come time to house live chickens, start slow. Do not immediately take your farm to maximum capacity. Taking it slow will allow you to spot any kinks in your system without exposing yourself to a large loss of chickens.
Chicken predator defense will be a huge part of your work load, initially at least.
Market Your Business
In the beginning, marketing your business will take a large chunk of your time. Being new to the industry, it will take time to grow your name and reputation.
Be sure to develop a well designed website and devote some of your money to advertising.
Networking will be the cheapest tool at your disposal to find business. Join your local chamber of commerce and try to reach out to as many businesses in your field as possible. A smile, strong handshake and a stack of business cards can get you far, by them by the thousands. At about 20 dollars for 1000 business cards, it is your cheapest advertising tool with the biggest ROI.
Grow Your Business
All that is left to do now is to grow your business. Start building systems and routines that will let you expand once you have the market.
Your startup business might have just a few hundred birds now but who knows. In just a few years time you might have a large farm with thousands of free range chickens. Doing it the right and humane way while making a profit.