Help with 4-H report on number of chickens to keep?

sBrickmanHouse

Songster
11 Years
Feb 10, 2008
114
2
129
Hi all!

Our 9 year old daughter is in her first year as a 4-H'er (and is loving it!) and is carrying Egg Layers as a 4-H project.

We built her a 6 x 8 coop, with a 14 x 24 run in progress. She's currently having a blast caring for her 23 five week old chicks from McMurray.

4-H definitely focuses the kids on the business side of running a farm as much as the animal care aspects, and we respect that balance. She's supposed to maximize her egg income, while at the same time keep her flock healthy and happy.

Her 4-H record book requires her to record how many of the 23 chickens she decided to keep, and to discuss the reasons for her decision in the book.

We know from reading this board that "ideal ratio is 4 square feet per bird"... but being chicken newbies, we don't really know what that means translated into practical chicken-keeping.

Is that 4 square feet of inside space only? Inside plus run space? Does completely free range time enter into it? What about weather? Percentage of time able to be spent outside versus inside?

Could you tell us the factors you all consider when deciding how many chickens to keep at a time, so we can start our daughter on considering them?

All help is much appreciated!
 

MandyH

You'll shoot your eye out!
12 Years
Apr 16, 2007
3,277
23
231
Elvis' birthplace......
Good Lord that's a lot of crap for a nine year old to have to keep up with! LOL! Whew. This is MY opinion: I worry the most about how much space they have in their COOP since that is where they will sleep, eat and have to be contained in foul weather. I consider the run as a bonus. When they have access to both, on a good day, some will be inside the coop eating and laying and some will be milling around in the run scratching and taking dust baths.
 

kstaven

Crowing
Premium Feather Member
12 Years
Jan 26, 2007
5,927
70
293
BC, Washington Border
The space you refer to is "indoor" Total free range is always better if viable. Chickens will turn a run like you describe into a desert rather quickly if that is their only space to forage.

My own chickens have free range abilities no matter what the weather and they make good use of it even in the rain. It has to be getting to the depths of winter cold before they don't come out.

You can do 23 in the coop size you list. 6 nest boxes is a good number. Predator proofing is always a consideration. Ventilation and light are also considerations.

Roost size and height will vary depending on the breed you choose.

I'll stop here or end up writing a novel.
 

patandchickens

Flock Mistress
12 Years
Apr 20, 2007
12,520
336
341
Ontario, Canada
Is that 4 square feet of inside space only? Inside plus run space? Does completely free range time enter into it? What about weather? Percentage of time able to be spent outside versus inside?

When people say 4 sq ft per chicken that is usually just indoor space, and assumes a goodly amount of run space (at least 6-10 sq ft more per chicken, more is definitely better) or free-ranging during most of the day. If your chickens are likely to spend most of the day indoors for weather reasons (which admittedly you may not be able to tell ahead of time!) then more coop space would be awfully good and reduce your problems with dampness, ammonia, excessive pooeyness, and antisocial behavior of the disassembling-each-other kind.

The only sorta exception is that if you live somewhere with really cold winters, it can be advantageous to have a smallish coop so they can better keep it warm with their (considerable!) body heat. However if you ask me (not that anyone did
tongue.png
) it's still better to have MORE rather than less room in your coop even in cold areas, as you can always section off a part of it if necessary in January, but then they will still have the whole larger area *available* to minimize problems.

Could you tell us the factors you all consider when deciding how many chickens to keep at a time, so we can start our daughter on considering them?

From a business-type standpoint I think it depends on how much extra money you'd have to invest in physical facilities (coop, run) for a larger number of birds, since the cost of feed, water etc is roughly level per bird no matter whether you have 5 or 25. (Of course feed becomes cheaper if you can buy it by the ton rather than by the bag, but I don't gather your daughter is contemplating keeping 100 chickens <g>) So, take a look at what you've got, see how many chickens it could gracefully hold, then see what it'd cost you to expand.

Beyond that, it's just how many chickens you feel like caring for and how many eggs you think you can sell.

Best wishes to your (lucky!) daughter,

Pat​
 

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