Frequently Asked Questions

poultryHow old do I have to be to participate in this project? Because this is a 4-H livestock project, the main participant in the family must be at least 9 years of age.

Do I have to buy started pullets? Started pullets are recommended for this project as they will save you lots of time and work. The pullets will be ready to lay eggs when they reach about 20 weeks (5 months) of age.

What if I already have hens? If you already have hens, you may participate in this project. However, it is not recommended to add new hens to your existing flock for biosecurity reasons. If you add new hens, you should get rid of your old hens first, clean out your hen house, disinfect the equipment, and start fresh.

What if others in my family want to participate in the project? Other family members are welcome to take part in this project. Each participant ought to have specific responsibilities related to the project like feeding, gathering eggs, packing eggs, selling eggs, keeping records, etc.

How long will this project last? This project is designed to last 12 months from start to finish. At the end of 12 months, you can sell your hens and be done or continue if you want.

How many eggs will my hens lay in a week? Most chickens lay about 5 to 6 eggs each week. So a flock of 10 hens might lay about 7 to 8 dozen eggs in a week.

How do I find a market or buyers for my hens’ eggs? You should figure out who will buy eggs from your hens before you order your hens. There is a fact sheet (Possible Markets for Fresh Eggs) designed to help you determine your customer base.

What happens if my hens get sick or die? Your hens may become sick or even die. If the hens get sick, you will want to find out why. The Animal Health Lab at the University of Maine in Orono can help you determine the cause of illness. There are no medications or drugs labeled for use in laying hens. If you give a drug or medication to a laying hen (through feed or water), you need to wait through what is known as a “withdrawal period” before the eggs can be eaten or sold. You want to reduce the risk of disease by making sure your hens are fed properly, provided with clean water 24/7, and kept clean and comfortable.

What type of feed is best for laying hens? Laying hens should be fed a layer ration. This ration could be a mash or in pellet form. Do not feed your hens rations that are meant for other livestock species or rations that are designed for chicks. You can give your hens “scratch” like cracked corn in small amounts as entertainment. You can give your hens table scraps occasionally but keep these extras at a minimum. The purchased layer ration is a complete feed. It contains everything (vitamins, minerals, protein, and energy) the hen needs to stay healthy and lay eggs.

How much feed is needed for laying hens? Hens ought to have feed in front of them at all times. If they run out of feed or water, you run the risk of forcing them to moly (stop laying eggs). It takes about 4 pounds of feed for hens to lay one dozen (12) eggs.

How much should I charge for a dozen eggs? Your price per dozen eggs depends on your expenses. Use the Break-even Calculator for Poultry (Excel) to determine your cost. You will likely need to charge at least $3.00 per dozen eggs if your birds are fed conventional feed. Organic eggs will need to have a higher price.

What is expected of me as a project participant? You will be expected to take good care of your hens, keep records related to your project, follow rules in selling eggs, and provide a final report. This project is designed to be fun and to provide opportunities for you to learn about chickens and have a small business.

How will 4-H or UMaine Extension staff help me? A 4-H Egg Business Project website has been designed to help project participants. However, 4-H and Extension staff will also be available to answer questions and help solve problems. They can also provide specific information to you.

How much will started pullets cost? While the price varies, you should expect to pay about $10/pullet.

How much will it cost to build a chicken coop? The cost of your chicken coop will depend on the size. But an estimated cost for a shed (8’ X 8’) built from scratch or purchased will be about $800.

How much will it cost to buy equipment (feeder and waterer) for my hens? Poultry self-feeders and waterers (ones that you fill) vary in price. But you will likely pay $30 to $35 for each piece.

Do I have to provide light to my hens when the days get short? If you want your birds to lay through the winter months when the day length is short, you will need to provide light. Fourteen (14) hours of light will keep them laying. You can provide light with a single light bulb and a timer through the winter.

Do I have to charge Sales Tax or pay Income Tax? Sales Tax: Since eggs are a tax-exempt grocery staple there is no need to apply for sale tax registrations.

Income Tax: In Maine, a person isn’t required to file a state income tax return if he/she isn’t required to file one under federal law. The federal guidelines for 2016 income tax filing for a single dependent under 65 is required if one earns $10,350 gross income.