How many chickens would you need to keep to supply all the meat and eggs your family eats?

Discussion in 'Managing Your Flock' started by Shadrach, Nov 19, 2019.

  1. Shadrach

    Shadrach Roosterist

    Jul 31, 2018
    Catalonia, Spain
    My Coop
    I read a lot of posts where people say they keep chickens so they can supply meat and eggs for their families.

    Take a family of four. I’m going to take an arbitrary minimum of one chicken per person per week as the point where one can still call oneself a regular eater of meat. This if managed right could supply roughly 4 servings of meat cuts per person per week, providing roughly 30 grams of protein per serving. You may be able to increase this by one more serving by making full use of the bird by making a broth/stew.

    There are various estimates depending on size and body part for the amount of protein in a chicken.

    I’ve taken 140 grams of protein per bird as a reasonable estimate if the entire chicken is eaten.

    The recommended amount of protein per day for the average adult is 50/60 grams.

    So eating one chicken per week per person will supply you with half your protein requirements for four days to five days.

    So, for one person this amounts to 52 chickens a year to cover their meat consumption (only eating chicken meat reared at home).

    For a family of four that’s 208 chickens per year.

    If you are primarily a meat eater and you want to supply your own meat and make any realistic claims about not supporting the meat industry you could be looking at 400+ chickens a year just to provide half your protein requirements from chicken meat.

    While it is possible to replace 400 chickens each year from say a hatchery the more ethical and sensible approach would be to have a self sustaining flock. This mean rooster and some stock to breed next years chickens from; say a minimum of a further 100 hens going broody each year and producing four chicks per hen, plus of course the roosters needed to fertilize the eggs.

    That gives a flock size of roughly 500 chickens to supply a bit over half a families protein from meat requirement each year.

    So, a question for those who claim they are keeping chickens to put meat on the table for their family.
    How many chickens do you keep?

    My view, the claims about providing for the family and not supporting the meat industry are self righteous delusional nonsense....unless of course you have 500 chickens.

    Yes, every little helps but the above should show just how small a contribution a backyard flock of say ten chickens makes to the reduction of commercially produced chicken meat. Basically it’s insignificant.

    There is a noticeable divide when discussions on BYC get a bit heated between those who say they view their chickens as pets and those who often try to take the higher ground by calling them livestock for providing food for the family.

    The numbers say that for people like myself who kill and eat the occasional chicken; for me I think the average is five a year, the difference we make to the reduction of commercially produced meant and all the ethical debate surrounding it is in reality non existent.

    It may be possible to supply a family of four with all the eggs they consume in a year with a small backyard flock.

    An egg a day per person works out as 28 eggs every week 52 weeks of the year. That’s 1456 eggs a year. Each egg will give on average 6 grams of protein, roughly one tenth of your protein requirements per day. That’ s rougly 6 hens capable of laying 250 eggs per year, every year for their lifespan.

    Assuming the above figures are reasonable then the claims that backyard chicken keeping has any impact on the large commercial production of eggs and meat looks unrealistic to put it politely.
    CLSranch, Lori J, Brigitt and 30 others like this.
  2. chrissynemetz

    chrissynemetz I want a hippopotamus for Christmas

    Dec 19, 2013
    Olathe Colorado
    I have 64 hens and 6 roosters. I keep my chickens mostly for eggs, partly for meat, and of course because they're super fun and entertaining.
    I'm definitely getting enough eggs for everybody but dang that would be a lot of chickens if I were trying to supply meat as well. :eek:
  3. Cryss

    Cryss Free Ranging

    Nov 12, 2017
    Northwest New Jersey
    Thank you! I just had a weight lifted off my shoulders.
    I started chickens exactly 2 year ago. The impetus was first and mainly for fertilizer for my relatively new at the time garden. Second reason was obviously for eggs. Third was meat. I grew up watching my uncles and father butcher the evening meal. These 3 reasons were presented to the family to convince them. It worked, but only until the first birds arrived. I realized I didn't have it in me to eat these sweethearts. Over the 2 years everyone has a favorite chicken they know they could never eat. I've felt guilty thinking I misrepresented my intentions, for not following through with the entire plan, and felt I was doing something wrong according to those that say chickens should be meat, not pets. Obviously I know chickens are meat since that was the plan. I now believe that, like many activities in life, you need to be a certain type of person to not make them pets. (Example: some people should/could never become a nurse).
    The numbers here show me that with my limited flock I need to settle on fertilizer and eggs. And I'm fine with that. I'm downright happy with that.
  4. Ted_Harrell

    Ted_Harrell Crowing

    Sep 23, 2019
    Pembroke North Carolina
    I am down to just two laying hens in the back yard and I am getting a couple more but I am like the above poster and if I had to supply my family with enough to sustain them for an entire year on just chicken alone I would be a very busy person. Thanks for the figures above but I can't do that much by myself.
  5. BY Bob

    BY Bob Proprietor, Fluffy Butt Acres

    Jan 1, 2016
    Hershey, PA
    Excellent breakdown on the numbers. When I was young we raised meat birds. We never had the capacity for us to raise enough meat birds to supply all of our protein needs. We did however raise enough to have a roast chicken about every other week with chicken soup to follow for several days. As you point out, we did not have enough hens and roosters to be self sustaining, rather my father bought chicks every spring and the hens raised them for us.

    As my father was unemployed, these chickens were essential to supplementing our food supply for a family of 5. However there was absolutely no way we could have built a sustaining flock to supply all of our protein needs.
    Naser, MaryJanet, Jac Jac and 15 others like this.
  6. jolenesdad

    jolenesdad Crowing

    Apr 12, 2015
    Montgomery, TX
    Was anyone thinking they are making a difference overall with their own decisions? There are billions of chickens produced in the corporate farming structure. It’s naive to think we can stop corporate farming, there are TOO many people! But, we absolutely can collectively make corporate farming practices “better.”

    it’s about making a difference for you and your family. It’s about adding up small differences from multiple people over time to create watershed moments where change starts to happen. Eventually you’re at 1 percent of people, then 2. At five percent, certain companies will take notice, and 20, a lot more will.

    the amount depends on what kinds of chicken you are raising, too. I’d need 5 plus chickens per week if they were dual purpose, but just 2 hybrid broilers.... I have not replaced all of my protein sources overall with my chicken, but, I have stopped eating any chicken but the ones what I raise. So that’s been about 100 chickens for the year for two of us and a toddler.

    eggs I have found that we could keep ourselves fed from six heritage hens IF we did something like freeze them in the summer for the molting season. We typically eat maybe not quite an egg a day per person.
  7. NHMountainMan

    NHMountainMan Crowing

    Feb 25, 2019
    New Hampshire
    My Coop
    Just wanted to say thanks for working out the math for me.... the numbers get a bit mind boggling! Look like I need to build a MUCH bigger coop!
  8. FortCluck

    FortCluck Free Ranging

    Sep 9, 2019
    Central Virginia
    I have 21 meat chicks, we are a family of 4... A family of 9 if you count the meat eating animals too.

    We plan on butchering 19 of these 21 chicks because I am keeping some for eggs. We are going to raise Quail, turkeys, and meat ducks as well. We haven't completely figured out the numbers for our family yet, but I am keeping track starting the beginning of January.

    I'll be posting at the end of next year how much our family has consumed and how much we had to buy at the grocery store.
    MaryJanet, Susan Dye, MiaS and 15 others like this.
  9. BY Bob

    BY Bob Proprietor, Fluffy Butt Acres

    Jan 1, 2016
    Hershey, PA
    Please tag me when you do post your results. I will be fascinated to see how it turns out.
  10. FortCluck

    FortCluck Free Ranging

    Sep 9, 2019
    Central Virginia
    I was planning on starting it right around Christmas time this year and posting every few weeks what's going on. I'm documenting everything from the chickens that I have crossed from my own flock to become meat chickens from weights and the amount of food they eat.

    I should be getting my turkeys in March and the quail I will be doing them January. It'll be a fun process.

    I'll even put the price of what it cost me to raise them and what it would have cost me to get it at the grocery store.

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