Wednesday, May 26, 2010

which comes first, the chicken or the egg?...or the business plan? or the riding lawn mower????

As each day goes by, I'm constantly thinking of ways to improve and simplify our quality of life.  One of this thoughts is chickens.  Yes, chickens.  I'm not a farmer, have never raised livestock of any kind (assuming dogs, hamsters, bunnies, goldfish do not count) but the thought of chickens seems appealing to me right now.  "Where did you get this thought" you ask?  A few weeks ago, I was at the farmer's market and there were organic eggs, for $7/doz.  Yes, that is expensive.  Yes, I want them.  And yes, I think I could do this.  I want to go as organic as possible plus the idea of having a chicken or 3 is somewhat charming, in an Americana kind of way. 

After careful planning on the most appropriate time to broach the subject, I propose the idea to my husband and got an emphatic "NO".  But we all know that a 'no' today usually doesn't stop me from trying again.  So a few weeks later, at lunch, I bring it up again.  This time I get, "show me a business plan".  Typical.  But I write it.  So now, after research and thought, I have created The Thompson Family Farm - urban farming for a healthy and happy family.

The plan has everything a typical business plan would have.  Breakeven analysis, ROI, Mission/Vision statements, operations planning and even an exit strategy.  I've named the different divisions of our farm, one division for each pet we have in our family.  With most business plans, the idea is to make a profit.  However, the bottom line is I want organic eggs and I don't want to pay $7/doz for them.  And I want to have cute little chicks and someday eggs.  I want my son to go out and find eggs, see them roaming around, care for something outside of himself and overall enjoy something that is fun and different. 
What I didn't know when I was putting all of this together, is just how popular this is right now.  There are articles all over about raising chickens in your backyard.  And I've come to find out that some of our neighbors are doing it.  This just gives me more confidence that I can do it also.  Mommy Tam-Tam is now Farmer Tam-Tam.

So here is a little something from the plan......  maybe someday I'll post the whole thing.  Keep in mind that it was written for my husband, not venture capital and it should be used for only that purpose...convincing a questioning spouse that it just might make sense.
Mission Statement: 
The mission of the Thompson Family Farms is to provide quality, organic foods and fertilizers for personal use while providing an Americana Home Spun quality of life for raising our family.

Organizational Structure:
Chicks and Chickens must be acquired to begin the operation. These are the “staff”. Minimum wage for staff is feed and water, and some excitement every once in a while from an overactive cocker.  Operations for the care of chickens are simple. They must have food and water every day. During the winter, to keep the chickens warm and also “trick” them (thanks Wayne, sales clerk at farmers exchange) into thinking there is more daylight than there really is, we add a heat lamp. This allows egg production to continue all year long, not just in the spring/summer. When it is time to breed them, a rooster needs to be added to the coop. After there is a “cock in the hen house”, the eggs will be incubated until hatched. Hatchlings can be added to the “staff” if it makes sense at the time for expansion of production, and/or they can be sold on craigslist or at the local markets.

Cost Analysis:
The average laying lifecycle of a chicken is 6 to 7 years. At approximately $7 per dozen and the average chicken lays 30 dozen per year, that is a cost savings of $210 per year per chicken or a gross savings of over $5000 in 6 years for the 4 chicken operation. The ongoing costs for the chickens are feed and electricity to maintain the heat lamp during winter months. The net life cycle savings of The Urban Peep is $4000. Additional income could be realized with the retention of a Marketing Director / Business Development Manager.

Exit Strategy
Dinner. Celebrating the harvest. Thanksgiving.

The plan has information on the other divisions "Hop Poop", (organic bunny fertizlier division named by my 2 year old son) and "Abbey Lane Kennels", (dog breeding with our cocker spaniels).  That will come to you another day.  Today, I focus on the chickens.  And there really is a lot to learn. 
  • Building a coop
  • What types of chickens to get
  • How to get chicks this time of year (I only want 3 and you have to buy a min. of 25 at the markets now)
 So much to do and plan, but so fun.  This is the catch for the plan to even begin.  The deal I made with my husband is that he gets a riding mower before I get the chicks.  Chicks cost around $3 each.  Mowers cost around $2000.  Big price difference.  Somehow, I think I can swing it.  So for now, I'm putting the coop designs aside and researching where I can get the best deal on a John Deere.    Soon though, you will be hearing me say, "here, chicky chicky"!


Thursday, May 13, 2010

...take the time....

As if life isn't crazy enough, getting news that you have to do something on your Saturday, right in the middle of the day, your only day off, is not the news you want. Especially if you've had something planned for over a month at the exact same time, especially if that something was getting your hair done. Being a working mommy takes serious coordination to get personal things done. Its been 4 months since I had my hair done for just this very reason. So when I found out I had to cancel, it was like a bubble was burst before my very eyes. I wanted to cry. 3 inches of grow out and frumpiness is beyond frustrating and the thought of having to wait one more day is beyond comprehension.

So I cried. And I vented. And I took a the mailbox. And I discovered beauty and rest in this beautiful spring day. Flowers along my house that I see every time I rush here or there, but somehow forget to stop and enjoy. So now I stop. Now I enjoy.

The tiny bell-shaped lilies that my mom always says reminds her of her grandmothers house, a nostalgic moment for her. A French tulip, that has held onto life beyond the expected, as if to say that she was here just for me to enjoy today, when I needed to enjoy something in life. And the Clematis that graces my kitchen window with a distinguished arch. The same Clematis that I can see from my make-shift office when I want to sit and get more sun than my normal office allows. The same Clematis that I cringe when I see my husband "trimming" with the weed eater to save time.....yes time. Time that is so dear and I have so little of. Time which is more precious than wealth, especially when you look in your 2 year old's eyes and realize that the baby you held just yesterday is now grown into a young man beyond his years.
So although I lose my Saturday, I choose to enjoy my day today. Not to waste a moment of time. Even the walk from the mailbox back into my house.