How Many Chickens Should I Get?

If you are new to raising chickens you may start out by asking yourself the very simple question of how many chickens should I get or how many chickens are right for me?

    To answer this question you must first know what your intended purpose for raising chickens. There may be a variety of reasons but for most people there are two main reasons, egg production and or meat production.

    In any case, it is important to realize that chickens are very social creatures and as such do not fair well without company. In general I suggest a minimum of 3.

    how many chickens do i need

    How many chickens should I get? If raising chickens for eggs.

    Egg production is the biggest reason many homesteaders and hobbyists alike want chickens. There is just something so wonderful about fresh eggs from your own chickens that cannot be duplicated by any grocery store egg.

    The flavor and coloring is far superior to what can be found at your local grocer, and knowing what is going into your hens provides a reassurance that what is coming out is exactly what you want.

    On average, most hens depending on the breed will lay about one egg every other day or so. In some cases you may even get one egg per day.

    For most homesteaders and hobbyists, two to three eggs a day is sufficient for their needs so in most cases, three to four hens should be just about right. As a rule of thumb, two hens will produce about one and a half eggs per day. With that in mind to correctly answer the question of “How many chickens should I get?”, you should know your goal for number of eggs desired per day. 

    For larger egg loving homesteads like mine, three to four hens would not produce enough eggs to keep up with the demand. 

    how many chickens should i get

    Egg Production Equation

    We have used the following equation with great success:

    (E / .75 = H)

    Where “E” is equal to the desired number of eggs per day. ".75" is the potential for each hen to lay everyday, and “H” is the amount of hens need to achieve production goal.

    This equation may also be worked in reverse to see how well your current flock is performing (H x .75= E). Use this number to compare to your actual results.

    how many chickens should i get

    Keep in mind that due to season changes and capabilities of different breeds actual results may vary and I suggest looking at the yearly average rather than the weekly or monthly average.       

    Aside from production for our own family, we also sell our eggs to friends and neighbors. This helps us with the cost of feed and care of our small flock. While raising chickens is fun, it does also come at a cost.

    During the summer months in Idaho, egg production is at its peak and we can sell about 6 dozen eggs every week. Demand for fresh eggs is high and at times we do not have enough supply to keep up with the demand and have to turn some customers away.

    The same is true all over the world. As people become more concerned about what they are consuming, they begin to look for alternatives to their local supermarkets. This provides an excellent opportunity for homesteaders to supplement the costs associated with raising their flocks.

    Where to get chickens

    How many chickens should I get? If raising chickens for meat.

    This is an area that I will not claim I am an expert in. I have in the past raised chickens for meat and was not overly successful or happy with my results. With that in mind, to answer the question of how many chickens should I get?, this comes down to two simple answers: how much meat are you looking to get and how much money are you wanting/ willing to spend.

    Cornish Cross is the most common bird used in today's meat production. They grow at an incredible rate that at times is even too fast for their legs to keep up with.

    Males will average about 4.5 pounds dress weight at about seven weeks. Females will hit that same weight at about eight weeks.

    Meat Production Equation

    It is simple math in this case:

    ( # / 4.5 = C) 

    Where "#" is equal to the total dressed weight desired, with "4.5" being the average dress weight, and finally "C" is the total number of chickens needed.

    how many chickens do i need

    However, this equation becomes flawed with any amount of attrition which is very common in meat chickens due to health related issues. You should anticipate at least a 10% loss is smaller flocks and higher in larger flocks.  

    There is a lot that goes into raising meat chicken for it to pencil out. If you are raising meat chickens in hopes of saving money, this will be a tough undertaking. I am not going to tell you that it is impossible, but it is a tough task.

    First, there is the cost of the bird itself. Upon looking at the current rates you would be looking at an average cost of about $2.15 per day old chick. That cost could be much more depending on the number of chicks wanted as hatcheries charge more per bird on smaller orders. You must also take into account the cost of having them shipped to you. These orders come at a premium as you are dealing with live animals.

    Next there is the cost of feed. Given the opportunity, meat chickens will eat you out of house and home. You must learn to control when they are eating but also make sure that they have enough to grow at the correct rate.

    It is a delicate balance to be sure. If you can find a local feed store versus a nationwide chain, chances are that you will be able to cut some of the associated  costs.

    Finally, there is the investment of time to process the chickens. At about 7 weeks it will be time to process your flock. You will need to decide on how to do this. I have found that the fastest way is to skin the chicken rather than plucking it. It really all comes down to preference and the amount of time you are willing to invest.

    Get the simple answer for how many chickens do i need for eggs or meat.

    Overall, I have found that raising meat chickens is not for me. However, there are lots of homesteaders that are good at it and really enjoy it. They not only are able to provide for their family, but also provide additional income for their homesteads buy selling the fresh meat. If it is something that you are interested in trying, I would encourage it. Don't just take one person's advice.

    I hope that the information in this post has helped you answer the question of "How many chickens should I get?" This will be excellent starting point and it will put you on the path to building a successful homestead of your own!

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    Get the simple answer for how many chickens do i need for eggs or meat.


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