How many chickens should you keep?
How many chickens does the average newbie chicken keeper really need? Or, how many chickens should I start out with? These are two common questions asked by people who want to start keeping chickens but aren't quite sure about egg laying or chicken maintenance.
The first thing I say to someone considering keeping chickens for the first time is to start small because you can always add to your flock later. Chickens are a fast growing bird and egg laying breeds are inexpensive to buy so there's no rush needed to buy up big just to develop good laying stock – it's easy to add another hen if you feel it's required later. However, it's not always as easy to get rid of chickens once you have got them and feel burdened by keeping too many.
If you are wanting to keep chickens purely for eggs in backyard suburbia then look at the ratio of one bird equals one egg; although this measure may not be completely accurate, it is a good gauge. Chickens bread just for egg laying are amazing producers and can produce up to (or more than) 300 eggs per year! Therefore, think about how many eggs you currently buy now each week and then simply do the math.
4 x good laying hens have the potential to produce over 2 dozen eggs per week. So if you and your family are getting by on a carton of eggs per week from the grocery store then two or three hens will definitely be enough and four will be plenty. If you have a sharing relationship with family, friends or neighbours and know you can regularly give away eggs you might be happy enough to produce slightly more than you need – why not. However, if you intend to be the only one/s eating your eggs then it would be a waste of feed and other resources to keep more hens than you require.