How Many Chickens Should I Raise?

How many chickens should I raise? Whether you want to raise backyard chickens to lay eggs, produce meat, or for some other reason, that question doesn’t always have the clearest answer.

Like people, chickens get lonely. So raising more than one chicken not only provides them company but keeps you stocked up with eggs. In general, if you’re raising backyard chickens to lay eggs, you will want to keep at least four or five hens for maximum egg production.

However, if your goal as a backyard chicken keeper is to raise them for meat, as pets, or to hatch your own baby chicks, that number might be a bit different.

How many chickens you raise will depend on what breed you raise, whether you want them to lay eggs for hatching, how many square feet you have available in the coop, and many, many other factors.

If you haven’t raised chickens before, you might not know where to start. In this article, we’ll discuss how many chickens is an excellent number to begin with, the factors you need to consider when deciding on the size of your flock, and which breeds can be raised together. 

how to decide how many chickens to raise

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What is a Good Number of Chickens to Start With?

how to decide how many chickens to raise

Chickens are flock animals. Raising at least two together helps keep them socialized. However, most experts recommend raising at least three. Chickens are relatively easy to raise, so even if you are just starting out on your journey of raising chickens, three chickens shouldn’t be too much to handle. 

If you’re raising chickens for just your family, you may be able to handle a flock as large as five or six chickens. 

This many chickens should provide your family with enough eggs for the week, as well as some extra. Stash them on the counter in an egg collector like this and they should last for almost a month (or you can always sell the extra). 

How Many Chickens Should You Raise Together? Factors to Consider

how to decide how many chickens to raise

When deciding on the size of your chicken flock, there are a number of factors you need to consider.

Zoning Laws

The town you live in might have zoning laws and ordinances in place outlining the types of animals you can own. For example, some areas don’t allow you to raise chickens at all. Others may have a limit on how many you can raise in your backyard. 

For example, some towns may limit your flock to five or six hens. They may also dictate whether you can own a rooster and how far your chicken coop needs to be from your neighbor’s property.

Other areas may require you to own a permit to raise chickens. They may even require you to obtain a building permit for larger chicken coops. 

Amount of Space You Have

The amount of space you have not only dictates how many chickens you raise but also the breeds you raise. Experts recommend leaving three square feet of floor space in your coop for each medium-sized chicken you own. 

In addition, they also suggest leaving eight to ten square feet of outdoor space for each medium-sized chicken. As with humans, the more area they have, the happier and healthier your chickens will be. 

One more space aspect to consider is whether your chickens will be free-range or not. An average-sized chicken will need at least 200 square feet of pasture. Therefore, the more land you have, the more chickens you can raise. 

How Busy You Are

Like any pet or type of livestock you might own, chickens do require both time and effort. In general, raising chickens takes less time than some other animals, but the more chickens you have, the longer it may take you to do some of the basic chores. 

Chickens are morning creatures. You have to let them out of their chicken coop pretty early (or use an automatic coop door opener). 

Sometimes – as soon as the sun rises. 

You will also need to provide them with fresh food and water each morning. Here’s a post on the best types of chicken feed, if you’re still shopping around. 

You will also need to scoop their droppings from the floor of their coop, collect their eggs, and make sure you monitor them for any signs of disease or illness. 

Overall, these chores shouldn’t take too long. However, there are other tasks you have to do a few times a week or a few times per year. 

With each added chicken, the time throughout the day you spend scooping their poop, monitoring and feeding the birds, and collecting their eggs also increases – and that’s even before your chickens start laying and you get a return on your investment!

Why You’re Raising Chickens

There are a number of different reasons why you may want to raise chickens. 

For example, if you raise chickens for meat, you’ll need a different number of chickens (many more, in fact) than if you’re raising them for eggs. The same is true if you’re planning on raising them for breeding or companionship. 

As discussed earlier, if you’re planning on raising chickens for companionship, a flock of three to four chickens is sufficient. Raising chickens for breeding and eggs will be discussed in more depth below. 

Those are some of the most important factors to consider when deciding how many chickens you should raise. However, you may want to consider others, including the climate you live in or the breeds of chickens you wish to raise. 

While how busy you are and the reason you’re raising chickens is essential, the two most significant factors you need to consider when planning your flock size are your area’s zoning laws and how much space you have. 

The Hen to Rooster Ratio

how to decide how many chickens to raise

If you’re planning on raising chickens to breed, you will need at least one rooster. In general, the standard ratio is about one rooster for every ten hens. However, there are a number of different factors that will affect this ratio. 

With a lightweight, active breed, you can have a ratio of 12 hens for each rooster. More mellow birds, such as Orpingtons or Silkies, should have one rooster for every six hens. 

If you’re not raising your chickens to breed, you may not need to have a rooster at all. In fact, if you only have three or four chickens, it may be better not to have any roosters at all. 

Can I Raise Different Chicken Breeds Together?

how to decide how many chickens to raise

Yes, you can raise different breeds of chickens together. 

However, if you’re going to have a mixed flock, the breeds you choose must have the same temperament. For example, you don’t want to mix a calm, docile breed with a more dominant, aggressive breed. 

Having mixed flocks of different egg laying chickens results in colorful, diverse feathers and a unique egg basket. Some breeds that mix well with other breeds include:

  • Brahma: these fluffy giants tend to help keep the peace in a flock. 
  • Orpington: these gentle egg-laying chickens should be mixed with other gentle birds.
  • Jersey Giants: this breed gets along well with most other breeds. They also like to keep a peaceful flock. It is also a great option if you want to allow your backyard chicken flock to free range.
  • Silkies: this egg-laying pet breed of chickens is friendly and fun. It gets along well with most other chicken breeds. 
  • Delaware: this hardy breed can withstand almost any climate, and its calm demeanor makes it a great addition to virtually any flock. 
  • Easter Eggers: their friendly temperament makes them an excellent mixer for your flock. In addition, they are playful and lay multi-colored eggs. They can lay up to four eggs per week.
  • Polish: this quirky bird has a calm and gentle demeanor, making it readily accepted into almost any flock. Although it isn’t the top contender when it comes to laying eggs, it’s still a great option to add to your flock.
  • Cochins: this larger breed makes a great mixer bird because they are friendly and quiet. 

These are not the only breeds of chickens that mix well with other breeds. You’ll want to consider how well your chicken breed mixes with others when you are determining your flock size as this can sometimes play an even bigger role than how many square feet are available in the coop, how many nesting boxes are available, and how many eggs per week you want to get.

As always, it’s essential to do your research. Not only do the breeds you choose need to work well with others, but they also need to be able to handle the climate where you live. 

How Many Chickens Do You Need for a Dozen Eggs Per Week?

how to decide how many chickens to raise

One of the most popular reasons you may decide to raise chickens is to give you a fresh supply of eggs. So whether you’re a baker or just enjoy scrambled eggs at breakfast, you can save a lot of money raising backyard egg-laying chickens. 

In general, three backyard egg-laying chickens can produce about a dozen fresh eggs a week. Most chickens can produce three or four eggs a week. However, you may need more backyard chickens to get a dozen fresh eggs a week, depending on the breed.

Others are bred to produce fresh eggs and may produce more than three to four fresh eggs a week. Such excellent egg laying breeds include: 

  • White Leghorns
  • Barred Rocks
  • Rhode Island Reds

Many chickens that lay eggs are considered dual purpose chickens, meaning they can also be raised for meat. The Rhode Island Red chicken breed is one such example. As a heritage breed, the Rhode Island Red can be used to lay eggs, as a meat chicken, or even as parent stock if you want to hatch your own baby chicks.

Ornamental breeds may be fun to have as pets, but you may need four or five hens in order to get enough fresh eggs. These breeds include:

  • Polish
  • Bantams
  • Silkies

Regardless of the reason you decide to raise backyard chickens, whether for breeding, companionship, for baby chicks, or for egg production, you will again want to make sure your flock size meets local ordinances. Some areas, especially suburbs, may limit how many backyard chickens you can have. This can be a major determination in the number of chickens you decide to have.

Your town may also limit the size of your chicken coop or how far it needs to be from your property line. If your town limits your chicken coop size, it is essential for you to know that most backyard chickens require around three square feet of floor space in the chicken coop and around two feet of roosting space. 

How large your property is may also affect how many chickens you can have. Most chickens require about eight to ten feet of outdoor space each. So the smaller area you have for them to wander, the fewer chickens you should raise. 

If you want to breed chickens, you will need a rooster. With a smaller flock, you probably only need one rooster if you have fewer than ten hens. However, as the size of your flock increases, you may need to get an additional rooster.

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It’s also important to note that calmer breeds, such as silkies have a lower hen to rooster ratio. Therefore, if you have more than six hens, you may need more than one rooster. 

Raising Chickens: The Right Number

how to decide how many chickens to raise

No matter the size of your flock, it is important that all your chickens get along well together. You can either make sure all your backyard chickens are the same breed or raise a few breeds together in a mixed flock. 

If you raise a mixed flock, you want to make sure you don’t raise aggressive breeds with calmer breeds. The temperament needs to match. Not only does this protect your backyard chickens from being bullied or pet, but it also makes it less stressful for you. 

A few breeds that mix well together include Brahmas and Orpingtons, Jersey Giants and Delawares, and Cochins and Silkies. You can also raise these breeds with other breeds because they tend to be calm and like to keep the peace. 

Chickens are social creatures and need other chickens to help keep them company. You should not raise just one chicken. Most experts recommend raising between three and six chickens and limiting this number to four if you are a beginner.

Remember that it’s always easier to start with three or four chickens and then add some more later on than it is to start with a larger flock and downsize if you decide you can’t handle that many. 

Before you start raising chickens, you want to make sure you have enough food, a large enough chicken coop, enough space, and enough time to raise these friendly animals successfully. The wonderful thing about chickens is that they are not only low-maintenance, but they can be as loyal as dogs. 

Do your research and consider the following factors when you are deciding how many birds to keep:

  • What size coop do you have available?
  • Do you want egg layers that can lay an egg every single day, or does this not matter as much to you?
  • If raising chickens for eggs is not the goal, do you want to raise them predominantly for meat?
  • Do you need birds that can withstand cold or hot climates?
  • Do you plan on hatching your own baby chicks?
  • How will you address the pecking order when you mix breeds?
  • How many weeks old will the chickens be when you buy them?
  • Are you prepared to handle everything that your chickens need, from food to medication to space in the coop, to ensure that you raise healthy chickens?

So if you’re ready to start raising chickens but aren’t sure how many chickens need to be kept in order to be productive, hopefully, this guide has helped you in your search. From laying hens to meat birds, there’s a chicken breed (and flock size!) out there for everyone.

Get your chickens as soon as you make the decision about how many birds you want in your backyard flock – and good luck!

How many chickens are you thinking about raising – what size flock works well for you? Let me know in the comments!

Want to learn more about farming? Be sure to take a look at these other articles.

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Author: Rebekah PierceI'm a writer and small farm owner, and lover of everything outdoors. I'm hoping to share my passion for farming, gardening, and homesteading with you on my blogging journey.

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