How many chickens? - Page 3
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A rooster is not necessary for peacekeeping. There are many peaceful flocks out there without roosters. Sometimes the dominant hen will take over certain duties of the rooster, peacekeeping being one. But in spite of what you often read on here, once they work out the pecking order a flock is usually really peaceful anyway with or without a rooster. Each chicken has its individual personality, it’s possible you can have a hen that is an aggressive brute, but most are not. It’s during integration or when young chickens are maturing into adults and challenging the pecking order that you are most likely to see problems. Even then it’s normally pretty peaceful as long as you have room. I’m convinced the majority of behavior problems you read about on here have two root causes.
!. The chickens don’t have enough room
2. You are talking about pullets and cockerels, not hens and roosters.
People love to give you magic numbers for about anything to do with chickens. I understand someone starting out with no experience needs some guidance, that’s where a lot of the rules of thumb come in. It’s a place to start that hopefully will keep you out of trouble. But they are just general numbers that might give you a ballpark, not absolute laws of nature. Let’s use your question to examine that. It’s a decent question, by the way. I don’t have an answer.
How many chickens an acre can support will depend a lot on where you are. What is your climate, how much rain, sunshine, and warm weather do you have? What time of year is it? What kinds of plants do you have growing there, good forage for chickens or a bunch of trash plants shading out the good stuff. How well established is the turf? What’s the general quality of the forage, lots of mature grasses and weeds gone to seed or a freshly mown lawn with very little variety? What kinds of creepy crawlies are around for them to find and eat? How much do you supplement their foraging with feed or treats?
Then there is the issue of how much damage is acceptable. If the chicken density is high enough they will kill everything green in there. They eat a lot, even scratch out roots and eat them. Plus they compact the ground just by constantly walking on it. They poop a lot. If there is enough poop it is so strong in nitrogen it burns the plants so nothing can grow. What often happens in a situation where chickens have a reasonably large area to roam is that they pick out certain areas for sunbathing and keep holes dug there free of anything green. Areas where they tend to hang out, usually in shade near the coop or around feeders, are kept pretty bare but most of the area is not affected that much.
I think you can see where the answer to this could be quite different for someone in Nova Scotia or Belize that wants a pristine mown lawn to someone on the Gulf Coast or Denver that’s quite happy for them to roam an overgrown lot. I don’t know how many you are thinking about as your upper number or what your climate is like (putting your general location in your signature can help with questions like this), but in the good weather months an acre could support a really large number without much damage. In winter, not nearly so much.
TJParker60, I have no idea but probably, depending on many different things: flock make-up and relative ages, how you manage them, your climate, how much other room they have, and just many other things. You can follow the link in my signature to see some of the things I consider important in making that decision. That size sounds pretty good to me but whether it will actually work depends a lot on how much other space they have and when they have access to it. People often have tunnel vision, thinking of the coop in isolation when really it’s just one part of your facilities. It’s your system that’s important, not just one component in isolation.
Ridgerunner, I can see now that I need to be more detailed for sure! I am in Florida on the Gulf coast. We have been herw since July. It's honestly gorgeous here 80% of the time. I think the acre will be good for them. It has big oak trees for them to forage under. It was an old horse farm so there is a pile of dried horse manure that they run to everytime i open their coop in the morning. The grass did die in the winter but came back quickly with a little bit of rain. We plan to seed it once the rains are steady to keep it all winter this year. They do dig out dust bath spots right in front of their coop. We have an aquaponics garden so they get all the good green scraps from that. I give them black oiled sunflower seeds ad scratch and their organic layer feed is always full. I also sprout barley for them as a treat but am working on feeding them that in more quantity since they love it better than the layer feed. They are definitely happy. Approx 7 months old. They never lost their feathers dust to molt (maybe too young?) They are just gorgeous girls! Thanks again for your time.
Barely is not a substitute for feed. That feed has a precise balance of nutrients for good health. With the amount of forage they have, you may want to switch them to a grower or flock raiser. Layer is meant to be the sole source of nutrition, with limited treats. 7 month olds are too young to molt. The first big molt usually happens at a year to 18 months of age.