GRAPHIC CONTENT WARNING
Please note that this is a section that Suburban Chooks has put together to answer the hard questions
that either you don’t feel comfortable asking (for whatever reason)
or you want to know but can’t ask us in front of your children.
The information below can be very upsetting due to the graphic images it will conjure in your minds. We ask that you proceed with caution, and read the orange questions first. If they evoke a feeling of dread, consider how you may feel if you aren’t happy with the answers…
Unfortunately the reality of some answers isn’t nice.
Why are ISA Browns cheaper than other ‘expensive’ chickens?
ISA Browns are bred and purchased (by us and other commercial suppliers) from ‘The Big Boys’ in the poultry world, who deal in millions of chickens annually. Backyard poultry businesses and hobby farmers are, in comparison, very small fish in a big pond. They hatch out anywhere from 50,000 + fertile eggs per week, and often much more. Along with this massive quantity of resulting chicks comes the ability to drive down prices to compete in a competitive market place, such as the egg industry.
This is referred to as ‘economics of scale’. Basically their cost of production ‘per unit’ (chicken) is much smaller than that of someone (us) who are hatching out lower numbers. Also, the technology involved in the breeding of a commercial hybrid chicken means that they have genetically selected a bird that will produce, essentially, maximum eggs in minimum time which also hatches out different colours. This final point allows them to cull the cockerals (boys) from the pullets (girls) upon hatching, again keeping their costs down.
In the poultry world cockerals are, as a whole, an unwanted byproduct. There is no doubt that there are scientist whiling away hours and thousands of dollars in research grants, trying to work out how to maximise the rate of pullets hatched…
The image below is from Bergs Hatchery in Canada, and clearly shows the two down colours of the chicks at hatching. The red/brown coloured chicks are pullets (girls) and will be grown out for the layer industry or selling to backyard poultry keepers. The yellow coloured chicks are cockerals (boys) and don’t have anywhere near a bright future ahead (see below for more information).
Why are purebreed chickens so expensive?
There are many factors that go into the pricing of a chicken, irrespective of location worldwide… many of which aren’t considered when people new to the poultry world look at an advertised price.
Without going into a mindboggling financial breakdown which would include mind numbing mathematical equations, they can be summarised by the following contributing factors:
– Establishing quality breeding stock
– Infrastructure (coops, sheds etc)
– Ongoing food and health supplements (when needed)
– Vet bills, vaccinations and medications (if you believe in that course of action)
– Land rental
– Incubator and brooder equipment
– Cost of electricity 24/7 for minimum 9 weeks
– Tax 🙂
And lastly, poultry breeders have to factor in the cost of hatching and raising cockerals into their costs. At a minimum, breeders have to factor in that at least 50% of their hatched chicks will be roosters, of which there is no viable market demand. If the pendulum swings the other way, and we get more pullets, it is a blessed rarity.
A few seasons ago, all breeders we knew who dealt with Pekin bantams (one of our most popular chicken) hatched out 90% roosters. That is for every 10 chicks that were nurtured through to eight weeks of age – the time when most people can differentiate between the cockerals (boys) and pullets (girls) – only 1 was a girl!!! Amazing! No reason for it that we were able to account for, but reality that year none-the-less. And this was Australia wide! I still can’t believe it, years on…
Why are chickens cheaper in the country?
A majority of breeders in country areas are hobby breeders who either hatch small volumes to onsell or hatch as a hobby. Either way, they often have lots of land and don’t run chicken breeding as a business. The main implication of this is their ability to charge lower prices and avoid a lot of the costs that they would otherwise incur if they ran it in a more formal manner, closer to Melbourne. Another reason is that a lot of country areas don’t have the demand for chickens that contribute to pricing.
Having said that, the popularity of chickens has meant that I know of breeders who are expanding their range of available breeds who charge the same as, if not more, than Suburban Chooks for some breeds…
What happens to the cockerals (young roosters) that are hatched out by Suburban Chooks, other businesses,
hobby farmers and commercial hatcheries?
An unfortunate and very upsetting side to the poultry world are the fate of millions of excess cockerals which are produced Australia-wide, every year. In general, the term used by breeders in relation to cockerals is ‘Culling’. Culling refers to the removal of the genetic material from the breeding pool, although not always by killing (although this is often the reality).
If you find yourself with an unwanted cockeral/rooster, the fastest way to ‘rehome’ it to fate beyond your control is to advertise it on Gumtree. Free to any home works best in your advert as it is just not possible to guarantee a happy ever after for ever rooster ever hatched. Other options for a happier ending is to join of the Facebook groups started for poultry loving and advertising there. At least then they will have the best chance at a home, but again the chances aren’t good. There is also more of a demand for purebreed roosters that commercial crossbreeds (for example, ISA Brown roosters) or your garden variety crossbred ‘mutt’.
Commercially, cockerals are manufactured into usable commodities such as pet food, blood and bone and… hold onto your stomach’s peoples… the meat meal in chicken food. This last point has only been something we have become aware of, and why our preference is to give our chickens a vegetarian formula food. I have no issue with chickens eating insects, bugs and other creepy crawlies – that’s nature. But we (Arthur and myself) have decided to make a conscious decision not to let our chickens pick over left over chicken bones (despite reports from other chicken keepers that they love it) as it doesn’t ‘sit’ well with us psychologically. And this has been extended to meat meal in chicken food.
In no way do we suggest, expect or push our customers to do as we do… I am simply telling you our thought process in relation to this matter.