Beginner Flock Size

Discussion in 'Managing Your Flock' started by Ashley Pederson, Dec 22, 2014.

  1. Ashley Pederson

    Ashley Pederson In the Brooder

    Dec 22, 2014
    Portland, OR
    Hello! I hope I'm posting in the correct place, this seemed to be the closest subsection to my question.

    I am about to start my first backyard flock and the only question I'm having a hard time answering with all my research is: How many chickens should we start with in our flock? We would like enough eggs for my family of four (two adults, two small daughters) and my parents. We all eat a fairly average amount of eggs.

    I have done the research into what my city allows and this is not a factor. The house we recently bought already has a large chicken run in the backyard that we will reinforce as needed. There is a large area next to the run for us to build our coop-- it has not yet been built, so it is also not a limiting factor in flock size. I am a Stay At Home mom, so the chickens will also get daily supervised ranging in our fenced backyard.

    We have not had chickens before, so we would really like a "guesstimate" on how many chickens it would take to supply eggs for six people without going totally overboard and getting overwhelmed before we get the hang of tending the flock. The breeds we are really interested in are Brahmas, Sussex, Rhode Island Reds, Wyandottes and Plymouth Rocks, although I've recently heard a lot of good things about Sex-Links (not really discussed in A Chicken In Every Yard, which is the chicken book we've read). We want a mixed flock, so it would hopefully combine some/all of these.

    Thank you so much for any advice! Again, sorry if this is the wrong section. Let me know if there is one better suited to my question and I will happily move along :)
  2. cityfarmer12

    cityfarmer12 Songster

    Oct 18, 2014
    about how many eggs does your family eat a week?? That would help in estimating.

    Sex-links are a great bird, and are egg laying machines, but most of the others you mentioned are quite impressive too. Brahma's, i must say, are one of my favorite birds. They are friendly, curious, and just plain adorable. [​IMG] They also lay in the winter when most others don't, but they don't lay as many eggs as the others :) They are really cool birds.

    I love mixed flocks, they are super fun!! I have like 15 or more different breeds around here :)
  3. Fancypants1

    Fancypants1 Chirping

    Apr 2, 2014
    Central Massachusetts

    We just started in the chicken adventure too back in May. We got 7 chicks in May and they started to lay about 2 months ago. Because it's winter here we have 4 birds still laying, our polish have slowed down some. With our 4 winter layers we are averaging an egg a day. The breeds you are interested in will produce and egg a day. We have a Barred Rock, Buff Brahma, Egyptian Fayoumi, Buff Orpington and 3 polish.

    So guesstimate an egg a day - how many eggs do you eat a week? Since they started laying we have had 6 dozen eggs.

    We have a small run 10 feet x 4 feet (so we added some more space for them) and a coop that is kinda small. Because we get bad winters I added some tarps around/over the run for them.

    We could have had about 9 chickens but only got 7. Just make sure you have lots of roosts for them to sleep on at night.






    Also, I would post this under this forum, you might get a better reply.

    BYC ForumRaising BackYard Chickens › Chicken Behaviors and Egglaying

    Took me a while to get the hang of this site too. If you need anything else please let me know :)

    They are so fun and they are pretty easy to care for. The right feed, good treats and plenty of exercise and you will not be disappointed!
  4. donrae

    donrae Hopelessly Addicted

    Jun 18, 2010
    Southern Oregon

    I'd look at 6-8 hens to start. I'm an advocate of mixed breed flocks, so I'd say get one of each breed you're looking at, and then throw in some Easter eggers cause the kiddos love blue or green eggs and the hens are pretty.

    With that many birds you can have a coop of 32 square feet as a minimum and a run of 80 square feet minimum. More space is always, always better so go bigger if possible. Things to consider are your climate and predator load. Those things can both cause the birds to be confined to the coop/run and not free ranged.

    Something else to plan for down the road is how to rotate your flock. Your birds bought in say spring 15 will start laying in fall 15 and lay until fall 16, when they'll molt and usually take the winter off laying. You can look into supplemental lighting to encourage laying in the winter, or allow them a rest. If you're going to let them rest, you'll likely want to start new chicks in spring 16, to have new layers starting when your older girls are tapering off. Your older ladies will start back up in the spring, then you'll have an abundance of eggs through the summer. Adding new birds in this manner means you're going to need more space, though.
  5. ocap

    ocap Crowing

    Jan 1, 2013
    Smithville, Missouri
    I vote for 12 hens
  6. Mrs. K

    Mrs. K Crowing

    Nov 12, 2009
    western South Dakota
    I vote for 6 hens. Generally speaking you should get 4-6 eggs a day, and that is about 3+ dozen of eggs a week, and I would think that would be enough to even give some away. If you owe someone a favor at work, and you bring them a dozen eggs..... they are thrilled.

    If this is your first time, I vote go with the variety, and no rooster. It helps to get a little experience under your belt. And I have been in for more than 8 years, and surprisingly enough, sometimes you don't really like a breed that you think you will, and sometimes you like a breed that you thought you wouldn't.

    This is a wonderful hobby and welcome to the forum.

    Mrs K
  7. ShockValue

    ShockValue Songster

    Jan 10, 2010
    West Sound, Washington
    We started with 8 chicks, and ended up with 5 layers (1 was a roo, 2 were eaten by dog.) With a family of 4 (2 adults, 7 year old and 3 year old) who eat quite a few eggs 5 birds can barely keep up IF they're all laying at full tilt. Now, we don't have "super layers" like sex-links or leghorns, but a mix of traditionally decent-to-good layers. However our hatchery birds are also on the small side, as are their eggs. So we end up eating MORE in number to make up for the quantity....

    Now if you factor in broody, molting, short days, egg hiding, etc etc etc.. We're still having to supplement our eggs with store bought (*YAWN* I'm spoiled on backyard eggs.)
    This spring we're going to hatch out some more heavy-laying breeds (Australorp and Leghorn) so we won't have to go without as often.

    It seems to me that you either have to choose between too many eggs (not really a problem if you like to sell them or give them as gifts) during high-production times, or, you have to be willing to go without during the slow times if you want a smaller flock. Seems to me that the numbers vary so wildly that it would be dang near impossible to have "just enough all the time".
  8. We started about a year ago when we bought this farm. Our original plan was to get 5 or 6 sex-links just for eggs for ourselves. But, while doing our research, we read several articles about mixed flocks and decided to try that instead. Chicken math (never having enough chickens) kicked in during the ordering process and we ended up with 5 each Columbian Wyandottes, Silver Laced Wyandottes, Barred Rocks, Partridge Rocks and Blue Andalusians. Our experience over the past year has been very positive with these breeds. The Rocks lay eggs like it was their religion. We have not had a single day that we did not get an egg each from all of them. The Wyandottes seem to be about the same but do take a day off now and then. The Andalusians, while beautiful birds that lay white eggs, tend to be a bit more aggressive and less friendly than the Rocks or Wyandottes. As you can see from our signature file below we did not stop there and went on to get ducks, geese, bantams and meat birds. So, lesson number one, watch for chicken math.

    Out of the 22 surviving hens we have yet to get fewer than 10 eggs each day and during the summer we hit several days where we got 22 eggs from 22 hens. While this is more than you would need given your stated purpose, I think that with similar breeds you could expect an egg a day from each bird on average. Both the Rocks and Wyandottes are calm and very friendly. The Wyandottes do tend to go broody which interrupts egg laying.

    If you are getting your birds from a hatchery pay attention to the so-called free bird and/or packing peanuts. While you will probably order pullets those "free" chicks often turn out to be males (surplus to the hatchery). If you live in an area that allows chickens (hens) but not roosters this could be an issue for you. Murray McMurray offers the "free" rare breed chick. Ideal Poultry will add "packing peanuts" to an order to keep the chicks warm during shipping. These are almost always males. You can request that they not be included but you may have to purchase insurance for the shipment if you do. Check carefully with the hatchery before finalizing your order.

    You are about to embark on a great adventure. Keeping chickens is fun, rewarding and sometimes a challenge. So, don't be shy as you move forward. That is what BYC is here for. They helped me in the beginning more than any book I read and many BYC'ers have become real online friends. Ask questions, remember the only stupid question is the one that did not get asked.
    Last edited: Dec 22, 2014
    1 person likes this.
  9. Mrs. K

    Mrs. K Crowing

    Nov 12, 2009
    western South Dakota
    With young hens, they should lay pretty good that first year. After that they will molt, take a break and if the daylight is too short, take a break then too. They are not machines.

    "Seems to me that the numbers vary so wildly that it would be dang near impossible to have "just enough all the time"." as ShockValu says is true. I freeze when I get extra and use them for scrambled or baking, keeping fresh ones for breakfast. Muli age flocks over the years help too, but the best laid plans (pun intended) can go awry with predators, winter, and molt.
  10. If you have to order. I generally use their minimum order as a guideline. I'd rather get birds for my money than pay a lot extra in shipping fees. I started with 15. Now I have 25....chicken math [​IMG]

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