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How Many Chickens Should I Have

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Possibly you’ve seen the memes related to backyard chicken owners, with laughable signs of poultry addiction. They’re pretty funny and can be spot on. We were like that in the beginning too: Buying chicks, adolescent hens and roos, and always keeping our eyes open for more. But how do you know when you have enough? Or is it something you should figure out in advance? Well, I’m going to help answer the question, how many chickens should I have?

Assuming you’re not a commercial chicken breeder, and you already have birds, you likely know the legal situation of owning them where you live, whether in the city or suburbs. I live in the country on only an acre. And there are no limits like they have in the cities.

woman standing in the backyard grazing chickens
Photo by Константин Поляков on Pexels.com

But if you’re interested in getting into chicken-keeping and you live in the city, a lot of cities are now embracing raising chickens. However most don’t allow roosters due to crowing. Plus, there are limits to how many birds you can keep. So, if you live in an area with restrictions, that answers the question about the number of birds you can have.

Although, if you live on acreage, you have more freedom in the amount of birds you can own. In addition, it will affect whether or not you’ll keep roosters, because then it’s solely your decision. And since space won’t be an issue, collecting too many birds will be a temptation. Trust me.

How to Decide Chicken Numbers

Before answering our question, I’m going to present some facts that influence chicken-keeping. And, in effect, they will help determine how many birds you should have.

Decide the Amount of Birds Based on Purpose:

3 black and white Polish chickens
  • Layers
  • Or show chickens

So the first way to come up with how many chickens you should have, is knowing your reason for having them. Are you getting chickens to sell eggs? Or do you want show birds for competitions?

Solution to Choosing Birds Based on Purpose:

digital art of white Silkie receiving an award
Digital Art, Courtesy of Sarah Smith

If you’re getting layers, settle on how many eggs you want a week. Also, do you have a family? And are you going to try to sell eggs? Some breeds produce more eggs, and some less.

However, if you’re only getting chickens for personal use, then starting out with 3 to 4 hens will yield ~ dozen eggs weekly.

Similarly, for show birds, think about how many birds you need to enter competitions. But if you’re new to showing chickens, starting out with 3 birds is fine, as long as they’re all hens.

Decide on Number of Chickens by Your Space:

chickens on a grassy field
Photo by Styves Exantus on Pexels.com
  • Calculate how much space you have for any and all chickens
  • And if you already have a coop with run, then measure its dimensions to determine how many chickens you can fit in it

Most experts agree that each chicken needs ~ 3 to 4 square feet in the coop. That’s where the hens lay eggs and the birds shelter at night. And if there are predators, your birds will go there to hide.

In addition, figure another 5-10 square feet per bird in the run. The purpose of the run is managed safety for the birds to get exercise and daylight. But it’s not ideal for chickens to stay in confined space. They do best when they can forage and have free access to the whole yard. However, if you decide to keep your birds confined all the time, then calculate at least 10 square feet per bird.

  • And for pasture-raised or free-range chickens, plan on 250-300 square feet per bird
coyote loping on dead grass and snow in winter
Photo by Chris LeBoutillier on Pexels.com

If you choose to have pasture-raised chickens, account for predators. So you’ll need a fence with hardware cloth to keep your chickens in and predators out. Living where we do, on only 1 acre, we don’t have that many. But we have neighbors with 5 acres who suffer coyote attacks, as well as other predator depredations to their flocks.

Determine Amount of Birds by Cost:

  • Financial commitment

Initial expenses are higher the more birds you have: if you don’t have a coop, you either need to build one yourself. Or you’ll have to buy one, or hire someone to build one. Plus, your monthly expenses on feed and bedding will be more. We spend ~ $200 a month on feed. And you’ll have added vet bills with more chickens. Not to mention, if you have electricity to your coop, that’s another expense that’s increased the more birds you have.

  • Can be labor intensive
man sweats as he's touching his head
Photo by Fabio Pelegrino on Pexels.com

Regardless of who makes the coop, they need one. Besides that and as a result of them eating, chickens poop a lot. So the more you have, the more poop you’ll have to clean out of their coop and run. Even if you clean in the recommended way, if you have 30 birds, it’s still a lot of work. Although, if you have a tractor coop and run, cleaning it won’t be as much of an issue, as I bring up here.

My 20-year-old daughter thinks we have too many birds. But I’m not there yet. Yes, we have over 30 chickens and several chicks. But some of our birds are close to retirement age with signs of a decrease in egg production, which is why I have chicks now. I’m preparing for the future.

So, How Many Chickens Should I Have

3 brown red Ameraucana hens by a wooden fence outside
From center going clockwise, Davis, Bumblecade, and Smiley.

To recap, if you live in the city or suburbs, check with your municipalities to find out their regulations. And that will give you the information you need. Though, if you live in the country, determining numbers really comes down to how many you can manage, financial and otherwise.

However, 3-5 hens is a great start to chicken-keeping no matter where you live. It’s kinda like just getting your feet wet. But the one hard and fast rule is that there has to be a ratio of no less than 10 hens to every rooster. Or else your hens will get abused by too much attention. I’ve seen it, and it isn’t pretty. Therefore, just make sure you get all girls.

If you have chickens already, how many do you have? And are you happy with that amount? Also, how did you decide on your chicken numbers? Your comments are appreciated.


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By KS

I breed pure Black Ameraucana chickens and Easter Eggers that are Black Ameraucana mixed with either Cuckoo Maran or Barred Rock. And I donate eggs to people or organizations in need.

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