Tuesday, January 15, 2013

The End of Our 1st Chicken Tractor Trial

So around January 1st the eight week chicken tractor project trial run came to a close. The test was to try several different breeds of chickens with two different tractor designs. Besides analyzing that information, Jimmy also needed to test feed amounts and how much time was required, as well as analyze the profit margins. During the two months Jimmy had limited help, so it was mostly just him every day hauling water and feed and moving the pens. 
We started with 90 chickens and ended up with 72 after some losses. Only 35 of those were of the breed that we found was the easiest to sell at a standard price/lb. for meat. 

Some of the birds weighed 4.5 lbs at only 6 weeks! They were sold for $5-8 with an investment of less than $2 including initial purchase price and feed. The first bird Jimmy took to the agrovet to weigh was such a looker, someone bought it on the spot! Since culturally here people buy the chickens live, there was no need to butcher our own chickens, which is a huge benefit. The profits were enough to pay off the supplies of building the two chicken tractors, so a net gain of 0, but the pens of course can be reused, so not too bad. 

Time involvement was around 30 minutes per day including the 15 minute round trip drive time, so it looks very doable for our students to have enough time to study and still work their chickens.

If we double that and give every student 4 pens with 160 chickens total, their individual profit every two months will be at least $400. That may not sound like too much for somebody in the States, but here that equates to 62.5 quetzales per day. The "going rate" for a day laborer is Q50/day, so for an investment of one hour per day our students (future pastors) will be making 25% more than their neighbors who are working all day mixing concrete. 

Once again the vision and goals for our sustainability projects are working out better than we had planned in real life trials. 

Some of the lessons learned were: rat-proof better, buy smaller chicken wire, install handles on the pens, don't buy brown chickens, or black chickens, or anything called a "patio chicken." 

The leftover chickens are shown below. The white ones were sold the next day. One thing we found was that people usually bought one being skeptical, but then returned two days later to buy 2 more. The feedback from our chicken customers was that they had a better taste and less fat than the farm-raised chickens available, and they were juicier and more tender than the "street chickens".  In our personal taste tests we thought they tasted better too, but we thought we might be a little biased.
{Our Christmas Dinner Taste Test!}
One day Jimmy drove door to door with a plastic laundry hamper in the back of his pickup selling chickens. I would have PAID MONEY to see the looks on peoples faces when they looked out their front doors to find a gringo selling chickens. He only told me about it at the end of the day or I would have pictures! Our friends didn't even believe us when we told them we had chickens to sell. Gringo chicken farmers don't fit into the stereotype! 
All those brown chickens will be producing eggs in a couple more months, so we are copying some designs from Tony Thrasher, a member of one of our supporting churches in SC, for some pens for our laying hens. Until then they are living in this chicken coop next to our new house in San Pancho. The guy we bought our land from is letting us use these coops for free. It won't be long before we move them back out to pasture! 

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