Keeping a few hens in the back garden is rapidly becoming one of the fastest growing ‘hobbies’ in the country. More and more people are looking to this character filled creature not only as a pet or pleasant addition to the garden but also as a source of home grown food in the form of eggs. In fact its fair to say that a small flock of chickens are not only excellent and accessible animals to own, but they are great addition to the running of a house, providing fresh eggs of like you will have never tasted and converting unwanted green matter into first rate compost for the garden!
One thing for sure is that most chickens are certainly efficient in producing eggs for the family and this can lead to a surplus. Think on it, a flock of 6 regular hens will produce around 200 eggs each a year. That’s 1200 eggs a year or 100 dozen if you prefer to think in egg box terms. Hens also tend to take a break from laying for up to 3 months over the winter laying much less frequently or in some cases not at all. With that in mind the sums can work out to be 3 dozen eggs a week. Even for egg intensive family this can mean surplus eggs, so what to do?
Eggs can be stored for use during the more lean months but eggs are always at their best when used fresh, so why not sell them? It won’t make you rich but it can contribute to the upkeep of the hens and ultimately mean the eggs you consume are as good as free.
So how do you go about selling your home produced eggs? Is there any restrictions or rules? On a commercial scale there are very complex and heavy regulations surrounding the sale of eggs but for the home grown market you fall within the exception known as “Farm Gate Sales” – yes, you get to call yourself a farm. Selling eggs in this way does mean you are exempt from the commercial regulations but you are restricted in the way you can market your eggs.
More information can be found here http://www.defra.gov.uk/ahvla-en/form/emr1/ however the main don’t and do’s are:
• The eggs must not be graded in terms of size. Obviously you can box them according to size should you wish but you should not claim that they are what’s commercially known as large, medium or small.
• Don’t try to market the eggs as “Free Range” or “Organic”. These are industry standards and as such there are requirements you must comply to in order to use such terms. The fact your hen eggs may be better than free range or organic is a mute point but let your imagination work out some different terminology.
• The eggs do need to be clean but not washed. Washing the eggs will remove the protective ‘bloom’ from the egg and potentially expose it to the risk of bacteria entering the egg. In all honesty most customers don’t mind a bit of poo or mud on the eggs but technically speaking these should be kept for your own use. It should also go without saying that the eggs should be checked for cracks before selling
• Think about how you market them, you’ll be amazed just how many people would sooner buy eggs “Off the Gate” as opposed to from a supermarket. There is always a bit of a buzz of excitement about picking up some eggs locally knowing the food miles can be counted on one finger and freshness count in days not weeks.
• Make sure you research prices. It’s remarkably easy to undercut the supermarket prices if you don’t take into consideration the actual cost of production, eg feed. Pricing them with a view to the income making a contribution to the cost of keeping the hens will still mean they are an attractive alternative to high street pricing, especially if you give it the personal touch
• Be sure to know the age of the eggs you are selling. Eggs will usually last for up to 4 weeks from the date of laying so make sure you have some system to date order your boxes of eggs and advising your customers of a best before date. In most cases you are likely to be selling eggs that are only a few days old which already puts them well ahead in terms of freshness versus then off the shelf product.
And the biggest ‘Do’s’ of all keep a count of the money you make and enjoy yourself.
Ok, the likes of Branson or Sugar won’t be quaking at the thought of your entrepreneurial enterprise but knowing your small flock of matronly madams are close on to being a self funded food supply in these austere times can certainly bring a smile to ones face