J. S. MOORE
AGRICULTURAL EXTENSION SERVICE
UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA, GAINESVILLE
Commercial Egg Farming in Florida
By J. S. MOORE
On January 1, 1965 there were
9,643,000 hens and pullets of lay-
ing age on Florida poultry farms.
These hens and pullets were pro-
ducing at a rate of 224 eggs per
layer, per year. The number of
hens and pullets on Florida poultry
farms is expected to double within
the next 10 years; and, eggs per
layer will increase to 240 eggs per
The number of layers in Florida
now, and the number expected by
1975 makes commercial egg produc-
tion big business. Florida poultry-
men will need to develop not only
additional state markets but also
out-of-state markets to absorb the
expanding production. Competition
for markets will grow keener. To
be competitive, producers must be
highly efficient and cost conscious.
The total cost of producing a dozen
eggs may have to be reduced to
below 25 cents.
There are still many independent
egg producers, but the trend is to-
ward producing eggs under con-
tract. A poultryman with the ability
to both produce and market eggs
may continue independent of con-
tracts, while a poultryman more in-
terested in production than in mar-
keting may consider producing
under a contract. Another poultry-
man with limited capital might con-
sider contracting in order to increase
the size of his business.
Most contractors agree to pay the
poultryman so much per dozen eggs
produced, or so much per month per
thousand of birds kept. The poul-
tryman furnishes the land, houses,
equipment, utilities, labor and other
specified items. The contractor
furnishes the birds, the feed and
medication, and markets the eggs.
Some contractors offer incentive
payment. These payments are
based on pounds of feed to produce
a dozen eggs, low mortality, etc.
Usually the contractor is a feed
company or egg handler.
For those poultrymen who are
considering egg production under
contract, it is important to fully
understand the contract. An attor-
ney should examine the legal as-
pects of the contract, and someone
with poultry business training
should examine it from the produc-
tion standpoint. This is always im-
portant so that misunderstandings
will not occur.
For example, who is to pay for
utilities, litter, cartons, and so on?
If payment is to be on a per dozen
rate, what is the payment to be
for all sizes? If payment is based
on a price per month, per thousand
birds, when and how will the count
be made? These may seem to be
small items, but they are all-
important and in some cases can
determine the difference between
profit and loss.
The poultryman must realize his
payment for producing eggs under
contract must not only give him
a labor income, but provide money
to pay taxes, interest on invest-
ment and other miscellaneous items,
and cover depreciation on buildings
Whether you are an independent
producer, or produce eggs under
contract, the following are factors
that influence costs and returns:
Number of layers per man
Production per layer
Diseases and mortality
Breed and/or strain
Housing and equipment
Depreciation on birds
Price received for eggs
Total cost of producing eggs
Getting started in commercial
egg production can involve a con-
siderable cash outlay. The amount
of money you will need varies
widely and depends on the size of
operation, type of buildings, kind
of equipment, and cost of getting
chicks to laying age, or the cost
of started pullets.
Aside from land, the estimated
cost of getting started in egg busi-
ness breaks down as is shown in
If you decide to build a brooder
house and raise your own pullets
then add about another $2.00 per
bird for the house and equipment;
this should, over a period of years,
lower the cost per pullet housed.
Number of Layers
In October 1963 there were 771*
commercial egg farms in Florida.
The farms were in size groups as
shown in Table 2.
Per Bird Per 1,000 Layers
Laying house and egg room $2.25 $2,250.00
Laying house equipment 1.65 1,650.00
Pullets 22-24 weeks 2.00 2,000.00
Total $5.90 $5,900.00
Number of Birds Number of Farms
400 1,499 179
1,500- 4,499 238
4,500 6,999 99
7,000 9,499 68
9,500 19,999 118
20,000 and over 69
*Commercial egg farms in Florida 1963 Summary edited by the Florida
Crop and Livestock Reporting Service.
There are at least 10 Florida
farms maintaining more than
The number of layers per work-
man depends on many factors. One
man who only feeds, cares for hens
and gathers eggs, can handle 10,000
layers. This number will decrease
according to the number of other
jobs a man does. If he grows his
own pullets, candles, grades, packs
and markets his eggs, then the
number that one man can handle
will decrease to about 2,500.
The number of layers per man
depends on the kind and amount
of labor, plant arrangement, type
of equipment, replacement program
and marketing program.
Income for the operator's labor
may vary from year to year for a
particular farm, depending primar-
ily on egg prices and cost of feed.
And during the same year the
owner's labor income may vary from
farm to farm, ranging from a net
loss, to more than $1.00 per bird
above all costs.
If you start your egg farm with-
out previous experience, your labor
income probably will be lower than
the average. It is rather difficult to
start with fewer than 2,500 birds
and hope to increase the flock's size
out of current income. If you have
previous experience and knowledge
of poultry production, you proba-
bly would be better off to start with
an operation of adequate size, even
though you have to borrow capital.
Organize your farm to use labor
efficiently. It is a 365-day a year
job for yourself and your family.
You should not spend more than
18 minutes of labor per bird per
year that is labor for laying
Egg farming involves "details"
every day. The poultryman must
be alert and do each job when
needed and not put it off; The poul-
tryman must see things to do regu-
larly and, above all, have a love for
Production Per Layer
High egg production is essential
for success, as practically all income
from your poultry flock will come
from sale of eggs.
Your aim should be to secure
240 to 250 eggs or more per bird
housed. Since most layers are kept
in lay for 13 to 14 months, this
should mean a lay of 275-300 eggs
per bird for this period.
Good stock is a must. It takes
very few extra eggs to pay the addi-
tional cost of high quality chicks.
Cull unthriftly and diseased birds
promptly. In general, the flock
should be replaced with pullets each
year because of lower production
rate, and poorer shell and interior
egg quality as the hen ages.
Brooding and rearing replace-
ments will help assure maximum
use of laying houses and labor.
A multiple replacement sched-
ule will permit a more uniform pro-
duction rate throughout the year.
Disease and Mortality
Some mortality is to be expected
during the laying season, but should
not exceed one percent a month. In
all cases, find the cause to see if
some preventative action could have
Practice a sanitation program.
Buy healthy chicks or well grownout
started pullets. Use a proven vac-
cination program and feed a well
If prevention is not successful,
take sick birds to the State Poul-
try Diagnostic Laboratory in your
area for identification of trouble and
Breeds and/or Strains
Practically all birds used for egg
production are of the Leghorn type
-small body size and bred for high
egg production. This may be pure-
bred White Leghorns or Inbred
crosses. A producer has over 15
commercial strains from which to
choose. The bird selected for egg
production must have high livability
and produce a large number of eggs
of the proper size and of high qual-
ity with the least poundage of feed
Most of the better known breeds
and strains are now entered in Ran-
dom Sample Tests over the country.
Study the records from these tests.
And don't use the records from one
year of tests; evaluate as many
years as possible.
Housing and Equipment
Suitable and adequate housing
and equipment must be provided
for the comfort of the birds. See
Circular 156 for details on housing
Depreciation of Layers
Depreciation of the layers is the
second largest cost item in produc-
ing eggs. It represents the difference
in value of thq hen at end of the
laying period compared to the be-
ginning. The lower the mortality
and the higher the production per
layer, the lower the cost of depre-
ciation per dozen eggs.
Business Analysis Records from
Florida poultry farms during the
five years from 1959 to 1963 indi-
cate that feed represents about 46
percent of the cost of producing
eggs. The formula used must be
well balanced and properly fed. See
Circular 155A for details on feed-
ing and Circular 189A on Poultry
The cost of feed per pound, and
the pounds of feed required per
dozen eggs, determines the feed
cost to produce a dozen eggs. Table
3 illustrates feed requirements.
Feed Required Feed Cost Per Dozen Eggs When the Price of Mash Is:
Per Dozen Eggs
(pounds) $3.50/100 lbs. $4 00/100 lbs. $4.50/100 lbs. $5.00/100 lbs.
4.0 14.00 16.00 18.00 20.00
4.5 15.70 18.00 20.30 22.50
5.0 17.50 20.00 22.50 25.00
5.5 19.30 22.00 24.80 27.50
6.0 21.00 24.00 27.00 30.00
Organize your poultry
out before you start
Proper arrangement of
and of equipment within
ings, will increase labor
Prices Received for Eggs
Obviously, the price received for
eggs is a very important factor, but
one over which the producer has
little control. The producer can con-
trol whether he sells wholesale, to
the retailer, or directly to the con-
sumer. In addition to price, mar-
keting methods will affect returns.
Should the producer decide to mar-
ket his eggs directly to the con-
sumer, he should plan on receiving
at least 10 cents per dozen above
the wholesale price to pay for the
added labor, equipment and pack-
aging material costs in order to
make a profit.
Total Cost of
The figures for operating ex-
penses, net returns, and costs per
dozen eggs in Table 4 are from
Florida Poultry Farm Business
Analysis for the years 1959 through
FLORIDA POULTRY FARMS 1959 -
Machinery & Equipment
Building & Fences
Dep. Mach. & Equip.
Dep. Bldgs. & Fences
Interest on Capital
Total Gross Expenses
Value Per Doz. Eggs
Net Return Per
-7.83 1.50 .55
PER DOZEN EGGS
*These figures do not represent the same farm each year.
**Number of farms each year.
These figures are averages for
farms cooperating in Florida's poul-
try farm business analysis program.
Of course some farms show a much
higher net return per dozen eggs
than others. Returns per dozen
eggs varied from year to year.
Feed cost makes up the largest
single item of cost in egg produc-
tion. In the Florida studies, feed
cost was about half of the total
production cost. The better the feed
conversion, the cheaper the feed
cost. Poultrymen should strive for
a feed conversion of four pounds
of feed for each dozen eggs.
The cost of producing eggs must
be divided into both cash and non-
cash costs. From the Florida figures,
about two-thirds of the cost is cash
cost and one-third noncash. In too
many instances the egg producer
forgets to take this noncash cost
into consideration when figuring the
cost of producing eggs.
COOPERATIVE EXTENSION WORK IN AGRICULTURE AND HOME ECONOMICS
(Acts of May 8 and June 30, 1914)
Agricultural Extension Service. University of Florida,
Florida State University and United States Department of Agriculture, Cooperating
M. O. Watkins, Director