Newbie Questions

Discussion in 'Coop & Run - Design, Construction, & Maintenance' started by ReverendDirt, Jun 21, 2008.

  1. ReverendDirt

    ReverendDirt Hatching

    Jun 21, 2008
    Hello chicken people! My family and I own a half acre in rural south louisiana. We have been experimenting with vegetable gardening for a year now and we would like to raise a few chickens for eggs, meat, fertilizer and life experience. I would like to know how many chickens would be effecient for these purposes. We only need enough for ouselves and maybe some to share with friends. I have an idea for a small, half moon shaped coop and run. The design in my head is flexible to accomadate whatever size required. I havent drawn it out yet, as Im still letting it roll around in my head. I have read the faqs and whatnot and jotted down some of the size requirements. This afternoon I will take some measurements and try to work out a plan, but Im not sure how many birds to plan for.
  2. swimcoch

    swimcoch In the Brooder

    Jun 1, 2008
    Boonville, IN
    I would probably start with 25. Unless you are lucky, you will probably loose some to predators or disease. If you start with 25 then you will probably have enough left to learn a lot in the first year. Then you can decide how many you want to add to your flock next year![​IMG]
  3. ReverendDirt

    ReverendDirt Hatching

    Jun 21, 2008
    Wow, really? That many? I was thinking along the lines of 6 to 12...but I dont know anything about this subject.
  4. Chirpy

    Chirpy Balderdash

    May 24, 2007
    I would personally advise that you start smaller. Build a MUCH larger coop than you think you need and get only 8 to 10 chickens for your first year. Then, next year you will have the experience to know what breeds you really want and can add to your flock because you already have the MUCH larger coop! [​IMG]

    Also - if you want to have chickens for meat and eggs you need to decide if you want a dual purpose breed or meat birds and egg birds.

    I would suggest you get a few meat birds - raise them for the eight weeks needed and then slaughter them. If that works well for you the first time you will again have the experience to get more next year (or in a few months or whenever). To figure out how many meat birds your family needs you need to think about how much chicken you eat each week and multiply accordingly.

    If you want to have a possible "meal" chicken around at any time then you will want to go with a dual purpose breed that can also give you eggs until the day comes that you want to "invite it to dinner"!
  5. freshegg

    freshegg Songster

    May 15, 2008
    I just started with 8 and its enough for eggs for us (5) plus some, but as far as meat goes I dont know cause from everything I read it cost more to raise than to buy on sale.
  6. Davaroo

    Davaroo Poultry Crank

    Feb 4, 2007
    Leesville, SC
    Much depends how much chicken and eggs you will eat, and how much space you have. Neither of which you mention. SO here's some random musings, based on generalities - good stuff to know.

    - There is no set number you can allot them, no fixed value that applies across the board. Chickens don't stop at your convenience - they grow and lay eggs without you.

    Meanwhile you have to tend them, feed them, protect them and so on, full time. Whether you feel like eggs or not, whether chicken is on the menu or not. Their demand for your efforts is insatiable, part of the responsibility you face as a livestock or pet owner.

    - Feed efficiencies drop off quickly when you are feeding them and not availing yourself of their benefits. Striking a balance is your goal.

    - 25 has been a standard number for decades because that has been the minimum that hatcheries will ship with any assurance of live delivery. That has changed and some will ship fewer than that, but you pay a premium for the smaller order. If you have a local source then this doesnt apply as much, but it isnt a bad idea, though, since:
    A. You are new at this
    B. There will be losses

    - Provided you have the space, it is as easy to care for 25 as it is to care for 10, if you set up right in the first place.

    - You will hear 4 sq ft/bird of floor space as coop size and everything from 5-500 sq ft/bird as outdoor space allotment. The first value is acceptable and can be reduced, even, if they will be outside during the day as they should be. The coop is for roosting and laying.

    - Outside is a different story. They will scratch and poop their living space into a mucky, funky moonscape in a short time if they dont have proper outdoor management. This will be heightened in LA, due to the humidity and heat. Most people simply cram far too many birds into far too little space, mostly because that is how it has always been done.
    The day you go the opposite way is the day your whole outlook will change concerning chickens. I suggest you quadruple the space that you imagine for them, add 10% and use a paddock rotation plan for their outside spaces.

    - I would suggest a dual purpose breed, like the Plymouth Rock, Rhode Island Red, Wyandotte, Orpington or Australorp.

    They lay well... eggs are seasonal. You can expect an egg every two days per bird at peak. More if you do a good job of it. With 25 birds that's 12 eggs/day, roughly. Times 7 (no "workweek" in the chicken coop) = 7 dozen eggs per week.
    The season dwindles in summer and fall and will usually come close to halting in winter. This can be extended with flock rotation and coop lighting, if you wish. The hens molt for a month somewhere along the line, too, at which time they don't lay. But you get the point, I'm sure. What you can't eat, you can sell or even give away (but, there goes your efficiencies again - darn!)

    They eat well... These have been standards for the dining table, too, for a long time. The Plymouth Rock was once a preferred table bird in this country, and drew a premium at market. Ditto the Wyandotte. White and Buff varieites of these give a pale cream to butter yellow skin with light pin feathers, making the prepared carcass more appealing to some. Australorps are black feathered/shanked and so this doesnt apply to them.

    These have all been popular for decades with good reason. They have no 'frilly' qualities, but rather are solid and reliable.

    My advice? 15-25 seems a good balance.
    Last edited by a moderator: Jun 22, 2008
  7. lauralou

    lauralou Songster

    Dec 10, 2007
    Central Virginia
    I also suggest starting smaller. It will allow you to gain experience, and to enjoy each and every one of your new chickens. Also, if you are planning on a small run, it will be much easier to keep it clean, and to keep your chickens healthy.

    For my first chickens, I purchased 5 adult hens and a rooster from a local breeder. Those 5 hens give me between 3 and 5 eggs a day. But this is "the season". They didn't give me eggs during the winter, as I didn't supplement light in their coop. (A rooster is not necessary for egglaying.)

    Then, this spring, I ordered 10 pullets from Ideal Poultry. I requested that they NOT send me extra males for warmth, and all of the chicks survived shipping, and are thriving.

    I have also hatched 9 chicks this spring from my hens' fertile eggs. That gives me a grand total of 24 chickens, when you subtract the rooster, which we culled due to aggression. That's more chickens than it sounds like! I know that lots of people keep many, many more chickens than that, but to me, that's a lot of chickens!

    My chicken run is large, about 1000 square feet. If I kept my chickens in it all day, it would be terribly crowded and covered with poo. Fortunately, I have lots of land for them to free range on.

    Chickens are wonderful, practical animals to have, and are relatively easy to care for. Good luck with your project, no matter what you decide!

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