I have been writing about starting out with chickens and writing on a flock of at least 20 or more. I was just thinking that many may not know how many chickens that they really need. I live on a farm and raise 50 or more chickens at a time. I sell my extra eggs to friends and family around me. So having enough farm fresh eggs for those customers is important to me.
How many laying hens do I need?
First off, if you are just wanting eggs for your household, remember a hen will lay one egg per day, depending on the breed ( to 250 eggs per year). A breed like Rhode Island Reds or leg horns average out to about 0.68 eggs per day (250 eggs divided by 365 days). They will take time off if the weather is very uncomfortable for them. They will take time off when they molt, which means they shed feathers and grow new ones. They will take time off when they are sick or stressed.
Right now here in Canada, I have a few sick chickens as the weather is so unstable. We have cold weather temperatures of -10 to -20 deg Celcius for a couple of days then it’s like spring with temperatures in double digits of +6 to +15 degrees Celcius. Those weird weather changes that are so drastic causes stress in the birds and also causes sickness.
Some of my poor hens are molting in this awful weather. Can you imagine being half naked and trying to grow new feathers in -20 deg Celcius? NASTY! I almost want to knit or crochet sweaters, booties and touques for these poor girls! Can you imagine that? My husband would wonder what happen to my brain!
So out of 45 hens I am only getting about 3 to 4 eggs per day lately due to molting and crazy weather changes. This is not a normal year for me. I have never had such a deduction in egg production. I like to have at least 20 dozen per week for my customers and my family which means I need at least 34 eggs per day (if they laid every day). So to make sure I have at least 34 eggs daily, and making sure I take molting, crazy weather, sickness, or another reason they don’t lay eggs, I will need at least 50 hens to keep me and my customers happy.
Lets say you only want to get one dozen eggs per week. You take 12 divide it by 7 you will get an approximate egg production of 1.7 eggs per day. So lets say, 2 eggs per day, average. You would need at least 3 hens to make that average. Yes, you may get 3 eggs per day for a while, but when they take their molting break, get sick, or have drastic weather changes, your egg production will slow and you may not get any eggs for a while. Plus, chickens are flock animals. They are truly happy when they have company of other birds. With extra eggs, you could give them away or sell them and make a few dollars to put towards feed.
What if I want meat chickens?
Laying hens are daily chores of raising and looking after for many years. Meat chickens are only a short time of raising before you butcher them. Usually 5-12 weeks depending on how big you want them to weigh when you butcher. My dad loves BIG HEAVY CHICKENS and when they raise them at butcher time these birds are the size of small turkeys! I need a HUGE crockpot or roaster to cook these 6-8 lb monsters. I prefer a smaller bird like 3 to 5 lbs.
If you want meat chickens and want to know how many to raise, then you will need to figure out how many whole chickens you can fit in your freezer at one time as you won’t be eating them all at once. I love fresh farm raised chicken and would love to have at least 45 chickens in my freezer so we could have chicken at least once a week. I just don’t have the freezer space or room for another freezer!
Always check your provincial or state laws to make sure you follow any laws to livestock within any area, rural or urban. Like in a recent post, not all urban areas are allowed to have chickens within their limits. If you don’t want to go commercial, there are limits of how many numbers of poultry you can legally raise without having a commercial license.
It is very important to calculate how many chickens of what type you are wanting for your needs. If you are wanting to sell eggs, you will want enough to supply your soon to be customers. It can be expensive if you have to purchase bagged feed for a lot of chickens if you don’t have enough eggs for your demanding customers! Eggs are easy to sell as farm fresh eggs are so tasty, especially if your chickens are allowed to free range for part of the day.
The more chickens you have the more work you will have. More eggs to pick, wash and carton, more space to clean dirty bedding, more feed to dish out and more water to haul. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not hard work…except hauling out dirty bedding and finding a place to keep it while it composts down for garden fertilizer. It really is worth it in the end!
How many chickens do you have? What is your favorite reason for having chickens? Leave me a comment below, I would love to hear from you!!!