Duck Tales: Depressing Duck Math

Though the ducks are laying cheerfully, I did find most of the receipts for the ducks and well, even if we achieved peak production for this month and December (daily laying from the Khakis and the Cayuga finally laying a couple eggs a week this month and next), we’d be in the hole on the ducks by quite a bit.

The waterers endlessly leaking and being super expensive was the problem.  We dropped a lot on waterers designed for indoor poultry, though we didn’t really think that part through when we got them.  So, sucky!  We’ll have to do some kind of hanging thing sometime in the next few weeks and see how that goes.

We spent about $120 on various feeding and watering contraptions, mostly waterers.  The ducks themselves cost $47 and one had to be killed for severe congenital problems.  The first 75lbs of feed was just starter ration to get them to laying age.  We’re now at 120lbs of layer ration used so far.

The starter was about 20 a sack, the layer 14 or so a sack.

Without projecting the additional costs of more feed (we buy layer 80lbs at a time, and in a week or two we’ll be through 160lbs of feed), we can only “earn” about $170 in market value for the eggs this year.  But we’ve spent about $240 all told and have to buy more feed to get them to year-end.  Figuring 80lbs/month, we’ll close the year out having spent about 300 dollars on all costs for the ducks, with a maximum of about 170 dollars in egg value from 4 layers.

And peak laying is 8-9 dozen eggs per month with that many.  Current  market value of a dozen duck eggs is about $7, so each month the ducks would be producing (if all four lay) 56-63 dollars worth of eggs.

If we have to kill the second Cayuga for being a dud, we won’t get to 170 bucks this year and our laying max is 7.5 dozen, or $52.50/month in egg value.

So, even at peak laying, we don’t see a breakeven on the ducks until sometime in March.  Now, doing it this way loads all the expense at once, amortizing the ducks’ purchase price and the equipment over 3 years (reasonable laying lifetime at good high numbers per month) makes that 170 for the year look a lot nicer.

To summarize:

  • All expenses at once– $170-$300= $130 loss at peak laying numbers.
  • Amortizing equipment and animal purchase price over 3 years– $170-$100= $70 profit at peak laying numbers.

We may not get peak laying, I’ll revisit this in January and obviously if I have to kill the Cayuga, I’ll note that as well.

Our labor is negligible, the ducks take a couple minutes a day, even moving the run takes seconds.  I was pretty surprised, it seems longer some days, but 5 minutes is a long duck-tending day.  Water costs are a few dollars annually.  And of course, feed is the biggie.  They eat a variable amount daily, sometimes a quart, sometimes three, they clearly get a lot out of the fresh grass and bugs they have access to.  But right now a safe guess is 80lbs/month, or about $340/yr, rounding a bit.

So right now, next year the ducks would bring in $625-750 in eggs at peak laying, which compares ok with the feed estimate above.

I am less depressed now, yay!

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Homesteading Diary, Monday September 16

Husband and I: both tired, both kind of in a bit of excitability about which direction to take with our tiny flock that works with our family situation.

Goats: They hate the rain and I figured out why they love the juniper.  It concentrates copper and some other minerals in this type of acidic soil and basically serves as a natural mineral supplement.  Pretty handy husbandry tip!

Sheep:  Three look hefty and one looks a little thin, but the thin one was the breeder favorite for conformation and fleece production.  They’ve been here a week or so and seem to be doing ok.  Relaxed, and the skinny one started coming up to me today.

Ducks: TWO EGGS IN ONE DAY FINALLY.  They are making it happen!  It’s just not an instant leap into an egg a day per duck as we kind of hoped.  Well, learning curves can be steep.

Kids: Chicken pox.  Sucks.  That is all.

Sustainable Economics–Firming up the Farm Plan

When we moved out here about a year ago, we had one idea about what homesteading would be like.  Life has shown us that idea is not going to work so great.  We hope to have more kids over the next few years, God willing, so that means for us, specializing and simplifying our plans.  What we can navigate while dealing with very young children is basically animals and nothing else.  Managing pasture and woods will have to be gardening enough for us.

I spent a lot of my childhood in rural settings, dealing with livestock and animal care, so I can bring the ability to plod outside in crappy weather and take care of animals when tired to the table.  I can also bring the ability to be calm and patient for the animals’ sake when there’s an issue that makes the animals frantic (like being tangled in electronet, but there’s plenty of other examples, like a labor needing assistance).  My husband has been finding that he can bring that calmness as well.  It’s very useful no matter if you have two or two hundred animals.

So the long and short is that we’re just going to buy vegetables from local farmers and focus on producing our own meat and eggs and (in a couple years if all is ticking along nicely) dairy products for the time being.  Toddlers can’t dig up animals and just might be able to help gather eggs.  We’re also going to start small and rely on natural increase for the most part, only buying a very few starter animals.