how many chickens do i start off with?

Discussion in 'Managing Your Flock' started by jensonroberts, Oct 20, 2015.

  1. jensonroberts

    jensonroberts Out Of The Brooder

    Oct 19, 2015
    I'm thinking of having a small backyard flock and then,if I like the hobby I will expand to
    More. Does anyone know what number of hens I should start off with?
  2. Ridgerunner

    Ridgerunner True BYC Addict

    Feb 2, 2009
    Northwest Arkansas
    What are your goals? Why do you want chickens? There may be something there that would help with a specific number. Do you just want a few hens for eggs or maybe pets or are you looking at raising chickens for meat? Will you be raising pure breeds for show or maybe selling hatching eggs?

    Do you have legal limits as to number or sex that you can keep? If you are urban many face restrictions. Some allow no roosters, some do not allow you to butcher. Many localities have rules on how close to a property line you can build or what kinds of facilities you can have.

    Where would you get your chicks? If you order online you will be faced with minimum numbers they will ship so they can keep each other warm during shipment. Many feed stores that sell chicks have a minimum number they will sell. There are ways to get around these restrictions but they will require more work from you. It’s harder to get sexed chicks when you go below the minimums. If you get started pullets instead of baby chicks you avoid a lot of this but started pullets are more expensive and some people just want to raise the chicks themselves.

    What you are talking about is certainly reasonable. Try it before you dive in too deep. One of the issues though is your facilities, coop and run. The bigger your coop and run the more expensive they are to build. If you build for your initial number of chickens you will need to expand it or build something bigger later. A lot of people do that but it’s not the most efficient way to spend money. Some of that depends on the ultimate size of your flock. It’s hard to evaluate everything to make a suggestion without a lot of info on what your plans actually are. Do you have to build facilities from scratch or do you have a coop and maybe run available?

    Other than the size of the facilities I don’t see a lot of difference in taking care of four chickens or fourteen. You will keep the same schedule as far as feeding and watering and locking them up so time is not really an issue. One of the issues, especially if you are limited in space, is that they poop a lot. The more chickens you have the more poop you’ll have to manage. If you have lots of space that may just be in the coop under the roosts but if you pack them a bit tight that could be the entire coop and run.

    Chickens are social animals. They really do a lot better if there are more chickens around to form a flock. I suggest the absolute minimum you start with is three. That way if something happens to one the others still have a companion. Many feed stores sell a minimum of six. That may be a practical place to start.

    You can get sexed chicks but depending on where they come from you always have the chance to get males. Do you want males? If not, you may want to get an extra chick or two just in case you need to get rid of a male or two. Again, getting started pullets instead of chicks avoids this potential problem.
    1 person likes this.
  3. lindalouly

    lindalouly Grd Ctrl 2 Major Tom

    When I first got my chicks I just winged it. I went to our mom and pop shop and ask the gal how many chicks do I need to keep a family of seven in eggs... Ended up with five but added more a couple months later.
  4. comptonkids

    comptonkids Chillin' With My Peeps

    Apr 5, 2015
    When I first started, it was for a backyard in a rural area

    We left TSC with 6 plus 2 ducklings
    That QUICKLY grew cause it was spring and 'omg, they are so cute'
    I wound up with 26 before my dogs got into them

    I'm going to be starting over in a few weeks and I've got about 23 I'm going to order
  5. MysteriaSdrassa

    MysteriaSdrassa Chillin' With My Peeps

    May 26, 2015
    Central Wisconsin
    As Ridgerunner pretty much covered all the hows and whys I'll just add this.
    If you are just looking to supply you and your family with fresh eggs, there is a little formula you can use to tell you how many chickens you might want/need. Start out by figuring out how many eggs you will want/use per day on average. I say average because some days you may bake and use more, and some days you might not have them for breakfast and use less,,, but there should be an average number per day in there somewhere.
    When you have that number the rest is easy. Just plug the number into this formula and it will give you the number of chickens you will want/need. (Eggs needed per day) times 3 divided by 2 = (number of birds you will want).
    It's not an exact science since some birds lay better than others,, but it will get you close to what you will want/need.
  6. teria

    teria Chillin' With My Peeps

    Apr 26, 2015
    Salem Utah
    You can also order chicks on line, but, I caution you that if you only order a small number (Ideal will ship smaller numbers of chicks) they will include "packing peanuts" (extra chicks) to keep the ones you ordered warm. We ordered 8 specialty chicks, and they included 6 more packing peanuts. I was able to find a home for them, but, there are no guarantees that anyone will take them off your hands.

    Also, if you aren't really, REALLY, sure you want chickens at all, then, I would wait, research, and visit someone that has chickens to see what you are getting into. We just jumped into it, and while it worked out fine for us, there were bumps along the way we thought we were prepared for, but,weren't. For instance, we thought we would just get 4 or 5 chicks to start and that the little playhouse we had that the kids weren't using would make a great coop. Well, we got 6 chicks, and it did work great. Until we found out that two of the six were meat chickens, and 2 of them were roosters. One of the roos and the two meat hens went to freezer camp, and the other roo was rehomed, so we replaced the four with four more, but by then I knew I wanted specific breeds of chickens that weren't available from the local farmers supply stores, so I ordered 8 more from Ideal hatchery, which, as I said, came with 6 little packing peanuts. I learned the hard way that having chickens leads to having more chickens, at least for someone like me that falls in love with them.

    Sooooo, our cute little playhouse/chicken coop is now too small, and our 8 little additions are getting big enough that there will be problems finding roosting spaces for everybody without World War C (for chicken, tee hee), so, this week we are having to upgrade to an 8' x 12' shed that we will convert to a shed/coop combo, mostly coop for our once 6 chickens, now 14 chicken flock. Yes 14, not 16, because you will also learn what it means to lose some of your flock to predators, in our case, the family dog that never bothered your older chickens, but, is obsessed with chasing and tackling the younger ones.

    Oh, and we also added two turkeys so poultry fanaticism knows no species boundaries.
  7. tmarsh83

    tmarsh83 Chillin' With My Peeps

    Oct 16, 2015
    I'm only about 5 weeks into this chicken owning thing, so I'm no expert, but i'll give you my thought process and maybe it lines up with what you are looking for.

    It's just the wife and I, and I wanted to just get a few birds to keep us in eggs. A guy I went to school with up the road has loads of birds (chickens, geese, turkeys, ducks) and I talked to him about getting some pullets that were about ready to start laying. At this point, I had been lurking around on BYC for a while trying to understand what I was doing. I was raised around horses, cattle, and hogs, but never been around poultry at all.

    Ended up building a small coop to house 3-4 birds, and got four birds from my buddy. Had our first egg in 7 days, so that was lucky.

    But after three days, I knew we didn't have enough birds, the coop was too small, and rectifying this situation has become what my wife would probably classify as an unhealthy fixation.

    I've said all that to say this, here's what I've learned.

    1) Starting will pullets rather than chicks is a double edged sword, but one I'm glad I did. The birds I got were raised free range/wild. They are not cuddlers, not that I wanted them to be, but they are not interested in being part of the family like hand-raised birds might be. So if you go with pullets, the way they were raised may not fit what you are after. That said, the learning curve is shorter because you aren't dealing with the growing process. Plus, eggs sooner. So bonus. My advice, for round one, is started pullets.

    2) Your coop won't be big enough. Either because you want more birds, or you want more flexibility, or you want to manage things differently. Think of it like closet space in your home. Ever have enough? Didn't think so...

    3) That first coop will come in handy. As you start learning about things like broody hens, transition brooders, breeding pens, etc., that first coop that you kick yourself about for wasting time to begin with, will suddenly become a very handy, valuable thing. Most cost efficient? Maybe not, but practical? I think so.

    4) It's addicting. Maybe different for me because I was raised with stock, was in 4-H, worked on a farm, and not having that myself now makes having chickens my own little farm hobby, but the first week I just sat there and watched them "chicken" and it was the most relaxing therapeutic thing I'd done in months.

    Not that I know anything, but those are my thoughts...

    3 people like this.
  8. oldhenlikesdogs

    oldhenlikesdogs Spring Dreaming Premium Member

    Jul 16, 2015
    central Wisconsin
    My advice is to get a decent sized shed for a coop and keep as many as can comfortably kept, I think 8-12 is a decent number to start with, places like MPC, and Meyers sell as few as three based on your distance, or as few as 8 if you are more rural.
    1 person likes this.
  9. song of joy

    song of joy Chillin' With My Peeps

    Apr 22, 2012
    Central Pennsylvania
    I absolutely agree. I started off with a 3 x 4' coop for four hens . . . and then there was chicken math. Things can escalate pretty quickly, and BYC was no help whatsoever in curbing my chicken-keeping hobby. [​IMG]

    I was so happy to be able to get a 10x14' coop, which is working great for my flock of 15. Part of it is partitioned for various purposes (feed storage, broody hen area).
  10. song of joy

    song of joy Chillin' With My Peeps

    Apr 22, 2012
    Central Pennsylvania
    Start with 6 to 8 pullets or pullet chicks of a variety of breeds, and start off with a much larger coop than you think you'll need. A 10 x 12' or 10 x 14' shed works great.

    If you do start off with a smaller coop and find you don't have enough room, you'll find that the smaller coop will come in very handy as your hobby expands. It can be used for broody hens, raising chicks, isolating sick chickens, housing over-amorous cockerels, etc.
    Last edited: Oct 20, 2015
    1 person likes this.

BackYard Chickens is proudly sponsored by