Deciding on the number of chickens to get is an exciting step, whether you’re starting a small backyard flock for fresh eggs or simply seeking some feathered companionship. No matter the reason, one of the initial questions you’ll face is: “How many chickens should I get?” The answer isn’t one-size-fits-all and depends on various factors, figuring out how many chickens to get involves a few considerations.
Things to Consider When Deciding How Many Chickens to Get
1. Space Availability:
Before deciding on the number of chickens, assess the space you have for their coop and run. Adequate space is crucial for their health and well-being. Each chicken needs ample space to roam, stretch its wings and roost. A general guideline is to allow at least 2-3 square feet per chicken inside the coop and 8-10 square feet per chicken in the outdoor run area.
2. Purpose of Raising Chickens:
Your goal for raising chickens plays a significant role. Are you aiming for fresh eggs, meat, or just pets? If it’s eggs you’re after, consider how many eggs you’d like daily and how often your chickens will lay. On average, a hen lays around 5-6 eggs per week, but this can vary based on breed, age, and environmental factors. For a small family or just a couple with no children a small flock of 6 hens may be sufficient.
We are a large family and we keep about 30 hens. For the most part, 30 hens provide plenty of eggs for our household of 12 people. Unfortunately, if we don’t put a light in the coop in the winter we end up buying eggs! Right now we are only getting about 8 eggs a day! Read about caring for chickens in winter here.
There are many dual-purpose breeds but we have found that we prefer to raise Cornish Cross chickens for meat. The dual-purpose breeds are nice for when it’s time to cull the flock. Whereas a chicken like an Americauna has very little meat.
3. Time and Money:
Consider the time you can dedicate to caring for your chickens. There is also time and money to invest in the initial setup. Water is crucial and having enough waterers for a larger flock can get pricy. While chickens are fairly inexpensive to keep, building or purchasing a large coop can be expensive. Larger flocks demand more time for feeding, cleaning, and monitoring their health. If you have limited time and finances, starting with a smaller number of chickens might be more manageable.
4. Local Regulations:
Check local ordinances and regulations regarding the number of chickens allowed in your area. Some places have restrictions on the number of birds you can keep within residential zones. Also, many local ordinances will not allow roosters.
5. Social Needs of Chickens:
Chickens are social animals and thrive in groups. They establish a pecking order and form social bonds within the flock. Having too few chickens can lead to loneliness and behavioral issues. Aim for a small but cohesive flock to promote their well-being.
Introducing more chickens after the initial flock is established can cause some strife at first. However, the chickens will soon work it all out.
6. Future Expansion:
Consider your future plans for expanding your flock. Starting with a smaller number allows you to gain experience and gradually increase the size if desired. Overcrowding can lead to stress and health problems for the chickens. We have seen this first hand. When we try to have over 45 chickens in our current coop, we start to see more of them dying, or getting sick.
7. Breed Considerations:
Different chicken breeds have varying space requirements and egg-laying capabilities. Some breeds are more prolific egg layers, while others are better suited for meat production or as pets. Research and choose breeds that align with your goals and available space.
8. Keeping a Rooster or Not:
You do not need a rooster to have hens that lay eggs. The rooster is a nice addition as they act as a protector over the hens and also they fertilize the hens so that their eggs could be hatched if you desire. However, if you live in a neighborhood, many times a rooster will not be allowed.
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Good Books for Beginner Chicken Keepers
- Fresh Eggs Daily
- The Backyard Chicken Keeper’s Bible
- The Homesteader’s Natural Chicken Keeping Handbook
In conclusion, the ideal number of chickens varies depending on your space, purpose, time commitment, local regulations, and breed preferences. Starting with a small flock of 3-5 chickens is often recommended for beginners. This size allows you to manage them effectively while gaining experience in poultry care. Remember, happy and healthy chickens are the key to a successful flock, so prioritize their well-being when determining the number that’s right for you. Chickens are delightful creatures that can bring joy and utility to your life. Start with a number that fits your circumstances and be ready for the rewarding experience of raising these feathered friends!