Growing our Pastured Poultry Flock with Data, Software, and Cloud Technology
Spring is over, summer is here, and it's time to expand our flock to grow our egg business.
Our first month selling at the local farmers markets has been a huge success. We've sold out of our eggs every week within an hour or so of opening. We often get the question:
"Sold out already? How many chickens do you have?".
We currently have 17 laying hens, and 4 laying ducks producing 80 - 90 eggs a week. With a small amount of animals we can develop how we raise our animals, process, package, market and sell eggs before adding hundreds of birds and discovering issues with our systems, or even worse: a lack of market demand!
Having established a strong demand for our eggs, it is time to grow our flock to over 100 animals. But keeping track of over 100 animals is no small task, and I'm not known for my paper records or filing systems. My background is in Software Engineering and Cloud Operations. If one is a hammer, everything is a nail. Keeping true to form, I built some software to keep track of all of our lovely little ones!
To build the software I used material-ui, react, nextjs, aws-amplify, datastore, dynamodb, s3, cognito, lambda.
In just a few weeks I was able to build out a basic prototype system to track all of our birds, project out future egg production, and track current egg production:
Whilst this may be useful for us as farmers, what is more important is the impact this has to our customers.
By using a large amount of data in our systems, we can trace each egg package to the animals that laid the eggs. Our system generates unique QR Codes for every egg package to provide a unique page:
With our new software in-place, we've started adding more (and more) birds to our farm, starting in brooder tanks, and then moving the birds up to an indoor-chicken tractor after about 4 weeks before moving out to the pastures at 8-12 weeks old.
Every bird is assigned a "tag" (a colored leg-band with a number) to identify them, these are usually assigned in groups (so Purple 1-10 are all our Blue Plymouths from this year).
With a comprehensive database of all of our poultry we could easily start a usually-complex breeding program requiring a large amount of record keeping. With photos assigned to animals, we can keep and reference images from different stages of the bird's life from chick to full laying hen and potentially breeding stock.
So, how many eggs does that mean we will get?
By our current projections, we should be producing 470 eggs per week by December 28th (from a current production of 80 eggs per week).
This means we know now how many customers we could provide for in a CSA once the farmers market season is over - about 30 weekly customers.
We would like to thank all of our customers for supporting us!
We'll post more information and a sign-up for a regular CSA option towards the end of the summer.
Update: Sep 2022 - Flock Happy App Released
After seeing the value this app provides for us and our customers, we've decided to release it as "Flock Happy".
Manage animals on your homestead, farm, 4H project, smallholding, back-yard.
Flock Happy still early-days in development, the database of breeds is still expanding. If your breeds aren't listed, reach out on twitter and we'll add it as soon as possible.
If you'd like to contact us about Flock Happy, you can reach us on twitter: @flockhappyapp