Chicken calculations


Free Ranging
Premium Feather Member
Jul 24, 2019
Boston Area, MA
My Coop
My Coop
I need help with some chicken math, but not THAT kind of chicken math :p

I'll be getting my first chickens next spring, building the coop now. I want to hatch them from eggs though. So I'm trying to figure out how many hatching eggs I need to order, how to factor in various risk factors, so that I can arrive at a target number of chickens. The things I can think of so far to factor in are:

- Some eggs may break during shipping
- Some eggs may not hatch
- Some chicks may die young
- Some will be roosters

I'm aiming for 3 hens and 1 rooster as the final flock. I know that there's a wide range of possible outcomes on any of those points... If I order 12 eggs I may end up with 12 chickens, or I may end up with 2... and pretty much any ratio of males to females... But still, can you guys give me some rough numbers to start with? How many eggs should I order? What's the rough likelihood of any of the above issues happening? (like, is it common for chicks to die young if you care for them well... etc.) I'll be ordering my eggs from Papa's Poultry, and he has a good track record of egg fertility and packing eggs well to prevent breakage, and sending extras.

Also, being that I will likely temporarily have more chickens than I aim for, exceeding the capacity of my coop, is it okay to start out with more, until I narrow it down to the target flock size (after finding out which are roosters), given that they'll be smaller when young so hopefully won't feel too packed...? My coop will be able to hold 8-9 full-size birds. I'll be getting orpingtons.

I don't know if anyone can give you a good formula for this. Generally speaking, 50% hatch rate on shipped hatching eggs is good.

Where is Papa's Poultry? I tried looking it up and found one in CA. That is a long way from you. I ordered hatching eggs from Florida and out of 13 eggs, I had one chick hatch. They were packed very well, and I allowed them to rest 24 hours. My incubator was working well (it was new). I think the issue is they were jostled around too much in shipping. It took USPS 5 days to get them to me via Priority Mail.

My one hatched chick is most likely a pullet, and thank goodness for that 13th egg. haha

My next question is, why do you want a rooster if you are planning on limited flock? Do you have a particular need for fertilized eggs? Normally you need about 10-12 hens for 1 rooster, although I have heard of people who had success with fewer hens. If he is particularly active he could really tear up your hens by over mating.

My general advice would be to find a hatchery closer to you, and then get at least 12 eggs. If you end up with too many chickens (I strongly doubt it would be 12) you can grow them large enough to be a nice dinner and cull the excess birds. If it were me planning a flock of 4, I would want all hens.

Good luck!
@ValerieJ thanks for the quick response! Yes, Papa's Poultry is the one in CA. He said he has shipped to the East Coast before with minimal, if any, breakage. I've read about people receiving eggs from him long distance on BYC as well, with good hatch rates. That's why I was hoping it would be okay. The reason I want to order from him is because he specializes in different color orpingtons, and his birds are truly gorgeous :D I've settled on orpingtons, because of their fame as friendly, docile, kid-friendly chickens. My chickens will be family pets for the most part. And since they'll all be orpingtons, I wanted some variety and different colors... that's all... but everybody else seems to be focused on buffs and not much else.

You're right, that may not be enough hens for one rooster. No particular need for a rooster, just wanted the full experience - eggs, hatchlings, chicks, hens, rooster... mostly for the benefit of my kids experiencing the full range of chicken-keeping. Also for nostalgic reasons - I grew up around farm animals and really love the sound of the rooster's crow (though my neighbors may disagree!) I also think it would be really fulfilling for the kids to experience one "home hatching" the following year - our own eggs, set under a mama hen, where we have both the mama and the daddy there and "our own" babies. For just a couple of eggs, since I do have capacity for more than 4 total birds. And then after that I wouldn't really need the rooster anymore. Of course, this is all best case scenario - if the neighbors don't complain, if the rooster doesn't rip the hens up... I can start out culling all but 1 rooster, and at the first signs of trouble he's dinner....
I always go big or go home, if you have too many it’s easier to get rid of them than it is to get ahold of them. Why not head out and buy some chicks? They can (sometimes) be sexed, and you can buy as many as you need without the worry of them not hatching or being roosters (sometimes.)
I want to hatch from eggs for the benefit of my kids observing the whole cycle of life. These chickens will be family pets, to give my kids the experience of living with animals. So the hatching bit is important... We watched chicks hatch at the zoo and my kids are beyond thrilled to hatch their own!
Yay for Orpingtons! :ya They are my favorite chicken as well. They are very gentle and beautiful birds. They lay an egg nearly every day of the year. And yes, the colors! I have Australorps (black orpingtons), Buff and now Lavender Orpingtons. And yes, I had my eggs shipped across country because I wanted Orpingtons. Wish I had known about Papa's Poultry. :th

I think your plan of giving the chicken experience to your children is brilliant. In that case I might want a rooster too. Hopefully you will get a nice one. I have never had great success with them, even at an 11 to 1 ratio, but 2 of my chicks atm are most likely cockerels so I will try again. Having the mama hen raise the chicks is the best!

Once you have the rooster for a year, and if you get a broody hen, and if you get chicks raised by mama, then I would assume you got that far because you have a nice rooster. In that event, good luck trying to cull him at that point. There is such a thing as chicken love. :love And by that I mean your kids will fall in love with him.
Aww haha... Well, if I've gotten that far, it means that the rooster didn't bother anybody, and in that case he can stay forever! I totally believe in chicken love. When I was growing up we had lots of chickens - like 40 or so - and I knew them all by face and gave them all names. Every loss was mourned, but I also loved mom's chicken soup :lol: That's another thing I want to teach my kids... Appreciate where your food comes from. It's not just a sealed package at the store, it's something's life. So eating some of the chickens will need to be part of the deal (mostly because hatching means extra roosters and I'll just have to cull... but it comes with a teachable moment).

If for some reason I end up unable to keep any roosters (neighbors, aggression etc.) then we'll still have the mama hen experience, just with "adopted" eggs. Once I have a nice selection of colorful Orpingtons, I wouldn't mind adding a couple of buff ones sourced nearby. I have friends and neighbors with chickens (and roosters), and lots of Orpingtons, and can easily find a couple fertilized eggs for the mama experience.
Buying hatching eggs from someone local would give much better odds of the eggs actually hatching. Shipping is hard on eggs and they are likely to be more expensive. It's also possible that the local person may take extra chicks if they all hatch.. ;)
I know... that would be the most practical thing to do by far... I just fell in love with those fancy colors, and I can't find them anywhere local :(

Just look at these beauties! :love


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