Grit Blogs > Panthers Hollow

My First Chicken Customer

Jennifer Quinn

Greyscale on fence with hen

Recently, I posted about an extra rooster I didn’t know what to do with (“What to Do About a Shy Rooster?”), since I was in the beginning stages of building my Icelandic breeding flock and had only a few hens and pullets. Finally, it came to me that the thing to do was to post him on Craigslist, hoping someone would be shopping for a rooster and be willing to try an unusual breed. So I posted him for 15 dollars, which is cheap for an Icelandic rooster, but not for one that I probably should have culled in the first place.

Sure enough, that same evening I got a call from a guy who lives only a few miles from me and had seen the ad. He wanted to know if I had any hens to go with the rooster. He had gotten interested in Icelandic chickens after seeing a picture and admiring their plumages. Well, with only one mature hen and three pullets I was reluctant to part with any, but I finally decided I could offer him my least productive pullet along with the rooster (an 8-month-old cockerel, actually) for 25 dollars. I had a sale!

Then it occurred to me that if I collected eight or ten eggs from my remaining hens/pullets (one of which is an amazing egg-layer) and popped them in the incubator, I could probably hatch out a few more pullets for him by summer. They’d be mostly siblings or half-siblings, but since he’s not planning to breed them I figured it wouldn’t matter. And if I cull all the cockerels, I’ll have an abundance of chicken meat later. I suggested that to my new customer, and he said he’d like to have the pullets. So now I have my incubator purring away with ten very nice eggs, all of which look viable so far.

When I began keeping Icelandic chickens I was thinking I might be able to sell some, since the breed is rare and no one else seemed to be selling them in my area. At the time, there was a self-editing list of breeders on the Icelandic Chicken Facebook page, and I thought — once I had a little flock established — I could add myself. Then, the association began limiting the list to approved breeders, with a requirement of 25 birds minimum, including at least 3 roosters.

Fair enough, I thought, but if I can raise 20 new birds each season from outside sources and need to cull at least 60 percent of the pullets (the standard for effective breeding), it will take me about five years to get to the requisite 22 hens. Now it occurs to me that each year I might hatch some pullets from my own stock and offer them for sale, along with a perfectly good extra cockerel from outside. If I don’t need more than two or three roosters at a time, I’ll probably always have extra cockerels that are too good to cull. And since they won’t be related to the pullets from my own flock, they could form a little nucleus flock that someone could build on. And that could really help me cover costs while I’m building my breeding flock. How’s that for a business plan?