Farming forum: How to decide how many chickens are needed?

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springfield MO area (Zone 6a)
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Frillylily
Feb 18, 2014 3:47 PM CST
Is there a formula for deciding how many chickens are needed to supply a family of 5 with eggs? I know they do not lay as regular in the summer if temps are really high or in the winter when it is very cold. I do think the eggs keep well for quite a while so those slow times may be made up by storing them. So for 5 people how many chickens do I need? I guess it might depend on the kind of chicken or does that matter?
Name: Deb
Pacific Northwest (Zone 8b)
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Bonehead
Feb 18, 2014 5:56 PM CST
Last spring, I bought an even dozen chicks from the feed store. Most were from pullet runs, with a few from straight runs. I ended up with two roosters and gave one away. I was prepared to lose a couple chicks to disease or predators, but ended up with 10 laying hens and 1 rooster. My household consists of myself and husband, but we do not eat eggs every day. Our dog gets raw eggs often now.

In the summer, the hens produce about 6-8 eggs per day (this may increase this summer as they just started laying last July) but in the winter I'm only getting 2-3. I like being able to give eggs away and do so often. Thus, even though our production far outweighs our personal consumption, I do not usually have a large backlog of eggs in the frig. I have a mixed flock, some hens lay very regularly and others are more sporadic. I don't really keep tabs on who is laying and who is not. My buff orpingtons are my best layers, and one has shown definite broodiness tendencies.

There is probably a magic formula of hens:people ratio, but I don't know what that is. I've had good luck poking around on the website backyardchickens.com for specific questions, but I find the site a bit overwhelming for general use (some of their thread responses number into the thousands - who has time to slog through all that?). Another consideration is the capacity of your coop. Mine is designed for a maximum of 15.

I could probably get by with about a half dozen hens for our personal use. But, I am not into this venture as any sort of money-maker or even to be cost-effective. I like having a little flock, farm fresh eggs really can't be beat, and the chickens are entertaining little creatures.


I want to live in a world where the chicken can cross the road without its motives being questioned.
Name: Porkpal
Richmond, TX
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porkpal
Feb 18, 2014 7:51 PM CST
You might consult Henderson's Handy Dandy Chicken chart; it lists a whole lot of breeds and describes their typical behavior and egg-laying prowess. Not on the chart are the hybrids like the sex-linked breeds which actually tend to be the best layers. All hens will be the most productive in their first laying season.
Porkpal
Name: Dave Whitinger
Jacksonville, Texas (Zone 8b)
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dave
Feb 18, 2014 8:05 PM CST

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I read a long time ago that a good egg laying chicken in her prime will give you on average 2 eggs every 3 days. So 15 layers will give you ten eggs a day on average, and I've found that to be fairly true for us. We keep about 30 layers and we get maybe 18 to 20 eggs a day when they are in "laying mode."

I love the Aurucana breed. They make green and blue shelled eggs and really seem to perform well on less feed than the dual purpose breeds like Rhode Island Red or Buff Orpingtons.
Name: Tim Hoover
Elysian FIelds, Texas (Zone 8a)
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TimHoover
Mar 2, 2014 11:13 PM CST
For me, the "magic" number for home use is 2 hens per person. This would be a high quality layer such as a Golden Comet (hybrid). That would give you enough for daily use plus all the extras you would need for baking ect. From November to March, it might not be enough but usually the hybrids will continue to lay, though not regularly. I have found that most all of the "pure" breeds available these days are poor winter layers and are really only good for one season. My Golden Comets will often still be earning their keep in their 4th year. Over the zillion years I have kept chickens, only Golden Comets and Black Sex-link have a long shelf life so to speak.
Like Dave, I like the Americauna (true Aurucanas are to pricey for me). They are rather pretty birds and the first year the colored eggs are terrific. I have never gotten more than 1 1/2 season of good lay out of them (or any other pure breed as I mentioned prior).
I kept about 300 layers up until 2011. At that point, feed cost skyrocketed and my customers just would not pay more than 2 bucks a dozen. At that price, I was losing money so I quit rather abruptly. Now I just keep enough for my family. Life is so much easier now, lol

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dave719
Mar 4, 2014 2:48 PM CST
I've had good luck with production reds and buff oprintons get two years out of them our Coronation Sussex and light Sussex are not great winter layers but did get 4 or 5 eggs out of ten hens most of the winter they backed off now but I'm not feeding layer ration either will start as soon as the weather starts to straighten up . heat wave today all the way up to 41 average is 53 now grrrrrrrrrrrr
Name: Tom
Southern Wisconsin (Zone 5b)
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tveguy3
Mar 7, 2014 9:44 AM CST
Tim, I agree that some of the cross breds are the best layers. I have gotten good results from the barred rocks though, up to 3 years of decent layers. I like the "barnyard specials" best, just let the different breeds cross, and you get some really interesting looking chickens that are good layers. I have some Austra Whites that are now 3 years old, that are still laying like crazy, and they have these huge eggs too. I lost my good rooster last week, he was part White wyndotte, Rhode Island red, Barred Rock, and some Light Brahman all mixed together. He sure produced some great hens that lay like mad. Now I am going to have to hatch a new rooster from one of his daughters. I like the rose combs up here in the cold, they don't seem to freeze like the other combs.
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Name: Cheryl White
Butler, Texas
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denimangle
Apr 10, 2014 6:24 PM CST
we have 12 that have been laying for about a month now just me & DH even with eating eggs almost every day I have 6 doz ill start selling when they are ful size

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