Should I start farming with pigs, chickens, or both? – A Case Study – Grass Fed Life – Episode 41

Today we are going to take a look at a common fork in the road – chickens or pigs or both.

Chickens and pigs are the two common starter enterprises for people getting into livestock.

There’s a lot of similarities… they both have a relatively low cost to start up, you don’t need a lot of land, the time commitment isn’t huge, and they are scalable.

And there are a lot of differences – infrastructure, feed, processors, market perception, and price points of the finished products.

Both enterprises make a lot of sense for a beginning farmer, or for an existing farmer ad an add on enterprise. But it’s the subtle differences and how those differences fit your context, your life, and your land which make all the difference, often times leading to a clear choices.

Given these subtle differences, if you are starting out, how do you choose?

That’s what we will explore today, with Darby going through a consultation with person interested in farming.

That person has 10 acres in West Virginia. Half of it is wooded, half of it is pasture. And they are trying to decide, should they start with chickens, pigs or both, given their context…

And uh, that person from WV is played by me…

Pro’s and Con’s of Pastured Poultry:


  • Easy animal to manage.
  • Low initial capital investment cost to begin.
  • Relatively low risk animal.
  • No permanent infrastructure required.
  • 500 chickens only require about 1 acre of land/year.
  • Fast ROI (8-9 weeks).
  • Added benefit of free nitrogen on pasture.
  • Physically easy to manage if they get loose.
  • Offers even the youngest among us the opportunity to be involved.


  • Requires scale to make it worthwhile (400-500 per batch is best).
  • Extremely labor intensive.
  • Must be cared for 2-3 times per day, 7 days per week.
  • Very high priced compared to conventional food equivalent (300-400% higher than most grocery stores for conventional, 200% higher for “organic”).
  • Butchers can be difficult to locate and/or very far away.
  • Some equipment is one use and very expensive (i.e., chicken crates).
  • Extremely seasonal and limited to 6-9 months out of the year in most regions.
  • Very influenced by the weather and volatile during extreme heat/humidity or cold/rain.

Pro’s and Con’s of Pigs:


  • Easy animal to manage with proper infrastructure.
  • Modest initial capital investment cost to begin.
  • Relatively low risk animal if raised during the warmer months.
  • Can be raised nearly year round in most climates.
  • Day to day maintenance labor is extremely minimal and can be conducted by any adult.
  • Extremely profitable animal:
    • One pig retail equals roughly 80 chickens retail.
    • One pig wholesale equals roughly 45 chickens retail.
  • Much closer to – and sometimes equivalent with – retail costs of pork in a grocery store, especially “organic” or “natural labels”.
  • Butchers are usually very easy to find and you may have many options.
  • Value added retail products are limitless and can really pad your bottom line.
  • Can be marketed profitably wholesale to either individuals or stores.


  • Can be nerve racking to work with when young, especially training to electric fence.
  • A loose pig can be a nightmare!
  • Feed costs can pile up over the 5-6 months you manage them.
  • Extremely labor intensive when rotating into a new paddock using portable infrastructure.
  • Permanent infrastructure is best but can be very costly.
  • Slower ROI with a 5-6 month turn around time.
  • Require a much higher learning curve than poultry.
  • Can injure a human being if you aren’t careful.
  • Require larger equipment such as a livestock trailer and possibly small tractor.
  • Can catch pneumonia easily in the cold weather months and drop dead with little notice.
  • “Can” be extremely difficult to load into a livestock trailer.

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Interested in transitioning into full or part-time farming?

If so, then check out Darby’s Farm Business Essentials 3 Day Intensive Workshop

Do you want to transition into livestock farming on a part-time or full-time basis? 

Or are you currently farming, but it’s stressful and challenging to manage the farm and life?

Or are you currently farming, but you are struggling to make the enterprise profitable or generate enough on farm income to farm full time?

The Farm Business Essentials Intensive was created to help addresses those concerns and challenges.

In this three day workshop we will take an in-depth look at where you are currently at, where you want to go, what do you need to put in place to get there, and what are some of the next action steps to turn the ideas into reality.

The workshop will take place on March 2-4, 2017 outside Indianapolis, Indiana.


Connect with Darby Simpson

Simpson Family Farm

Simpson Family Farm on Facebook

Have questions for Darby? He does consulting…

Whether you are simply someone looking to raise some or all of your own meat on a homestead, or are looking to follow your dreams of full time farming Darby can help you be a success and reach your goals. Your one on one consultation is tailored to fit you – not anyone else. It’s all about your farm enterprise or homestead, and will answer your questions on a myriad of farming related subjects. LEARN MORE.


Listen to all of the previous episodes right HERE

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