Many people think of raising chickens as a hobby, but if you minimize costs and maximize production, you can make a lot of money in the business of poultry. Whether you sell eggs, meat, live chickens, fertilizer or all four, the money coming in can be worth the time spent. Unless free-ranging is an option, you will need adequate space for a coop, but chickens require fairly low maintenance to keep them healthy, well-fed and clean.
Hens lay eggs all year round, and while some will be smaller than others, there is a large market for all sizes of eggs -- particularly home-raised, free-range eggs. Fresh eggs have a rich quality to them that is lost on the grocery store shelves, and you should be able to charge $2 to $3 or more for a dozen. Advertise in your local paper and set up at farmers markets to begin to achieve name recognition. As your business grows, if you can keep up with demand, consider talking to local grocers. Those that aren't owned by national chains will often be interested in stocking local products.
If you intend to sell birds for their meat, purchase the Cornish variety. These chickens grow quickly -- meaning you'll be able to sell them after a shorter period of time, increasing profits and decreasing expenditures. Make sure you structure your feeding of the meat birds. If they eat on demand, they can grow too quickly, renting their skin and ruining their breast meat. Feed the birds twice a day to avoid this. If you are killing the birds yourself, be sure to clean them and pack them immediately. Store them in a refrigerated environment until they sell.
You can even sell your chickens' excrement to gardeners looking for fertilizer. Collect the waste carefully, along with the bedding from the coop where it's been soiled. Devise a compost pile fairly far from your home so that the smell doesn't seep through. The manure should be allowed to degrade for at least a week before it can be sold, and periods up to a month are better. Package the finished product and advertise it to greenhouses and farms.
There is a fairly large demand for live animals within the poultry market. You can sell your hens and chicks to farmers and other customers. Keep your breeding hens away from your egg-laying hens and allow the former maximum room to roam. Raising chicks is not difficult, and the small fowl can be sold within weeks of hatching. Some of your meat customers will be interested in buying adult chickens to slaughter themselves for the freshest cut possible. Be sure to sell them your meat stock and not the egg-laying or breeding stock. Not only will selling the wrong chickens cost you money in lost production, it will also be unsatisfactory for your customers.