The annual income of poultry farmers fluctuates from year to year, depending on the size of the poultry operation, weather and the market demand for eggs and meat. Because income is undependable, many small poultry farms supplement their annual income with "off-farm" employment.
Large, commercial poultry operations are run by poultry farm managers. The United States Department of Labor Bureau of Labor Statistics reports full-time salaried poultry farm managers had a median weekly salary of $775 in 2008. The middle half received between $570 and $1,269 each week. The lowest 10 percent of wage earners received less than $358. The highest-paid 10 percent of farm managers earned more than $1,735 per week.
Small Family Farms
On small poultry farms across America, many farmers raise chickens or turkeys for their own table and to sell at the local farmers' market. A 1997-98 study of poultry farmers conducted by The Center For Integrated Agricultural Systems (CIAS) at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, reports that most family poultry farms raise 2,000 or less birds. The study showed that a much larger operation is required to produce $18,000 in annual returns.
The United States Department of Agriculture Economic Research Service reports a gloomy forcast for small poultry farmers in 2011. The department reports overall income for egg and poultry producers is expected to be 2.5 percent higher in 2011. However, increasing costs for fuel, feed and utilities will impact net profits. Small egg and poultry farmers' average net cash income is projected to drop nearly 22 percent in 2011.
The USDA Economic Research Service classifies 60 percent of poultry farms as rural residences or locations where the majority of the household income is earned from off-farm sources. In the majority of circumstances both operators and their spouses were employed in off-farm jobs. For these rural farmers, farming operations have, and continue to be through 2011, negative cash-income producers.
Commercial Poultry Production
Income varies based on the size of the poultry farming operation. The USDA reports commercial operations, with sales greater than $250,000, are predicted to experience a 17-percent increase in net sales in 2011. Commercial contract poultry farming occurs when a food production company and a farmer enter into a contractual agreement to produce a set number of commercial laying hens, boilers, breeders or replacement pullets.
The 1997-98 Center For Integrated Agricultural Systems (CIAS) study indicated that smaller poultry operations with 4,000 to 10,000 birds or less received a net income per bird of $2.24. Net income did not include the cost of land or family labor. Poultry producers with flocks of 10,000 or more birds received a net income, per bird, of $2.19. (Large poultry operations have higher labor costs that reduce profitability.)
Urban Chicken Farmers
In most major cities and towns across America, zoning ordinances and state or local laws prevent homeowners from raising their own poultry. However, in areas where the law allows individuals to raise poultry, many individuals are electing to add a chicken coop to raise a small amount of birds for their own consumption. Urban farmers are not raising their flock for profit. They are motivated by a desire to supply their family with toxin-free, wholesome food produced in a humane and sustainable manner.