PHOTO: Kate Bundy/Flickr
Chris Bond
April 4, 2016

As with any business, writing a business plan for a poultry farming venture is one of the keys to a successful enterprise. By taking the time upfront to plot your business course, you can save time, money and headaches down the road. As you start out on your venture, here are some things to consider when assembling your business plan.

What Makes A Poultry Farm Profitable?

Why bother with poultry farming as a business? With the relatively short turnover of poultry, as compared to hoofed livestock, and the constant demand for eggs and meat, the potential for profit in poultry farming is very real. Many costs involved in poultry farming are minimal or can be controlled by keeping a healthy flock. While there are always exceptions, some examples are:

  • Poultry chicks are inexpensive.
  • Feed costs can be reduced if opting to raise free-range birds or by supplementing with food scraps.
  • Many existing buildings can be converted with minimal alterations to successfully engage in poultry farming.

Creating A Farm Mission Statement

The mission statement of your poultry farm is a critical part of your business plan. It is where you summarize why you are doing what it is you are setting out to do, what you believe and even how you intend to achieve it. You may be the only person to ever see it, but it is a great tool of reaffirmation as you develop your business.

Considerations When Setting Up Your Poultry Farm

A poultry farm can take many forms depending on certain decisions you make, including what breeds you keep and how you manage your flocks. As you’re thinking through your poultry farm business plan, here are some ideas you’ll want to consider. Note your decisions on these matters within the business plan, so you can track your progress in each area. Remember, just because you put something in your business plan doesn’t mean you’re stuck with it for life, though it will provide a framework that will help keep you focused.

Poultry Breeds

Decide what type of poultry to raise. Will you raise chickens? Ducks? Guinea hens? Geese? All of these species, among dozens of others can potentially be profitable depending upon your region and your cost inputs. You will also need to decide if you are poultry farming for meat, eggs, or to sell or show the birds themselves.

Flock Management Style

When it comes to poultry management, you have several options:

  • free-range: your flocks will have essentially unfettered access to forage around your property at will
  • floor-raise: your flocks are not confined to a cage, but may not have access to the outdoors and forage
  • cage-raise: the birds live in cages for the duration of their lives

There is a wide range of opinion on flock management styles, but remember that the less-stressed your flock is, the more healthy and productive they’ll be and the better quality products they will provide.

Poultry Equipment

Deciding what equipment you need for your poultry farm will largely depend on the breed you select and your management style. The more confined your flock is, the more you will need to invest in equipment. At a minimum, you will need to make sure that they have constant access to clean water. They, of course, will need shelter from the elements and potential predators. A feeding system will need to be devised even if you allowing your poultry to free-range, as there will be times due to weather or other threats when they may have to retreat inside.

Feed

Consideration for feed will largely hinge upon your management style. If you opt for to get organic certification, you must select feed that is also Certified Organic or otherwise approved for feeding animals with organic certification. You will also need to decide if you are going to feed your poultry medicated or non-medicated feed.

Poultry Health Maintenance

It would be a rare find to meet a poultry farmer that would seek veterinary care for a sick bird, but considerations to your flocks’ health must be a factor. Starting with purchasing your starter flock from a reputable breeder, making sure that your birds do not fight one another and ensuring that they have constant access to food, water and shelter will go a long way towards raising a healthy flock.

Where To Find Investors

Few businesses can be started without some initial capital or investment in their business plans. Fortunately, poultry farming is an endeavor that can be started with little investment and be ramped up over time. If you decide to seek outside funding, there are a numerous sources to look into.

Traditional Lending Sources

The usual lending sources, such as banks and credit unions, are logical places to start. There are also institutions that lend specifically to farming interests. These agencies usually have farm size requirements, and most small-scale farmers are unable to take advantage of many types of farm lenders. Obtaining a home-equity line of credit taken against the value in your existing residence may be a viable option for obtaining the capital to start your poultry-farming business.

Alternative Funding Sources

Investment groups exist in many communities with the sole intention of lending small to moderate sums of capital to support local businesses. This may be an option if you are unable to secure investment capital from friends or family. Although not ideal, borrowing from a whole life insurance policy or from credit cards is possible, though none of these decisions should be made without considerable evaluation and even consultation from financial professionals.

Staffing Your Operation

Farm staff will not likely be a consideration at the outset of your venture, as it’s unlikely you’ll be turning a profit right off the bat. You will, however, need to make arrangements with friends, family or neighbors to keep an eye on your flock while you’re on vacation or unable to check on them.

Accounting & Record-Keeping

Keeping good records is a must for any business, not just poultry farming. You will need to account (for the method of bookkeeping you’ll utilize when making your business plan. Numerous software programs exist to assist the small-business owner to do this, and this aspect is no longer the daunting chore some may have once seen it.

Finding Your Niche & Analyzing Your Market

This is the reconnaissance part of your poultry-farming business plan. This is where you hope to discover what the market in your area is lacking and how you can fill it. Go to farmers markets and see what is being offered and what is being bought. If there’s an abundance of free-range eggs already on the market, you may be setting yourself up for failure if that’s what you were hoping to do. If you see that there is a dearth in quail, duck or heritage breed eggs, you can capitalize on that and charge a premium for them. The same is true for meat poultry. It is likely that there is already a ready supply of “run-of-the-mill” broiler chickens. Offer something that no one else is doing and you may well be onto something.

Marketing Your Chicken/Eggs

This is the part in many business plans that falls short and can lead to lagging or poor sales. Most people go into a particular business because they have a knack or a passion for the work. Most of these same people however are not born marketers. Take the time to tell all of your friends, family, neighbors and co-workers about your poultry farming venture. Find and attend as many meeting, conferences and social events that target small businesses, agriculture businesses or other food-service providers. Take advantage of all forms of social media. You can scale back on any of these methods if you find they’re not working, but the “shotgun” approach is a necessary first step.

Following Poultry-Farm Regulations

No matter the size or scale of your poultry farm, you will need to follow all relevant national, state, regional and local regulations. The local branch of your state’s university extension service is an excellent resource, as is your state’s department of agriculture’s website.

It’s becoming a more regular occurrence that city ordinances are relaxing restrictions in residential areas in regards to raising poultry. Be sure to check with the zoning commission in your municipality before attempting to start any poultry farming venture.


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