I'm going to make this as short as possible. We started with (6) 3 week old chicks, and over the next few weeks added another, um.... 42. This week I am down to 16 after some losses and selling a good portion to make room for different breeds. Our oldest are now over 4 months old with the rest around 3 months old. We currrently have 3 roosters that will be butchered soon and the rest will be kept for eggs to eat, for our family of 5 and a few friends and family members. We have room in the coops for 80 chickens @ 4 sq. ft. per bird and enough enclosed run for about 20 birds. The birds now are allowed out during the day to free range supervised in an acre of fenced pasture, but most follow us up to the backyard and free range behind the house. We are enlarging the run every weekend to make more fully enclosed run as the predators are high in numbers (only 3 losses due to a coon and have fixed the point of entry). Now here comes the questions. When is the best time to buy more chicks? I'm finding it very hard to come by anything with any age whatsoever, and was thinking of ordering a mix from the hatchery. It seems logical that with the temps in the 90's that the brooder wouldn't need a light all day long and that they could be kept outside from the get go with little heat (just at night). However, my concerns are that they will be reaching hatching age in the middle of winter and I'm wondering if the amount of feed vs. the amount of eggs they will lay will be worth it. I've never had anything but laying hens before and never dealt with the chick stage, so I'm not sure how well they will lay in the early months. I'm wondering also if I should keep a rooster to keep the flock in line and pray that I get a broody to hatch out more babies next year to keep the flock ages stepped, so I will always have young ones to replace older ones year after year, or if I should just order new chicks every year or two. I'm all for mutt chickens as I have no plans for selling anything but eggs and maybe a few occasional chickens that I don't particularly like to the neighbor and a friend of mine that are always looking for additional egg layers. Then what do you do with the hens that are no longer laying well? Have they earned their keep and get to retire or do you get rid of anything that is no longer producing well? I have always said that they must earn their keep. I will not feed a chicken if they are not giving back to me when they should, however, I'm sure that I will get attached to a few along the way (I'm a softy at heart, but don't tell the hubby). In my head, I figure I need at least 12 chickens to feed my family (we go through 5 to 7 dozen eggs per week). Then we have friends and family that mostly want one to two dozen per week, so I figure around 40 laying hens will be sufficient. That could be poor math or just chicken math kicking in. Maybe someone has a good formula for the amount of laying hens you need for the amount of eggs you need produced. We have a mixture of barred rocks, buff orpingtons, red stars, RIR, and SLW. All should be fairly decent egg layers. And I would like to stick to breeds that lay on average 4+ large eggs per week and hubby says no white eggs (an egg is an egg when you're eating it, in my eyes anyways). And my final question is, what is the best way to keep track of costs/profits/losses? From the beginning I have started spreadsheet with cost of chicks, feed, equipment, etc. (that number got ugly real quick) and I plan on keeping track of how many eggs per day and sales, and if we ever have to buy anything to build coops or runs. Is there a line that you have to draw with numbers? Can I expect that one hen costs $X a year to keep and 80 hens costs $80x to keep? Or does it cost more per hen when the numbers are larger? I'm sorry for all of the questions, but I really would like to figure this out, and I'm sure someone else has already done the hard work for me and might be able to answer my questions. Thanks!