Should I start with 2 or 3 chickens? (Minimum flock size)

Discussion in 'Managing Your Flock' started by Shantiananda, Sep 29, 2013.

  1. Shantiananda

    Shantiananda In the Brooder

    Sep 22, 2013
    Brisbane, QLD, Australia
    Hi all,

    I'm a newbie here and currently in the preparation phase for starting my first chicken flock. I live in suburban Brisbane, Australia, where the council allows up to 6 backyard fowl but I want to leave room to add to the flock in a couple of years when our original girls start to slow down their laying (and am setting up the coop accordingly). I suspect that building up to 4 LF chickens (maybe with a bantam as well to make 5 total) over the next 12 months will be ideal for us, but don't want to start with four - I would like to start with 2 or 3 and see how they go with the dog / garden / etc. I will be purchasing them as pullets (heritage breeds - choosing breeds is a whole other dilemma!). So I am trying to figure out how many chickens to purchase initially.

    Some sources / books recommend starting with a minimum 2 chickens and some recommend 3. Does anyone have any experience / opinions on this?

    Also is it true that you cannot add just one chicken to a flock - that you must always add at least two at a time? (So if I wanted to end up with 4, starting with 3 wouldn't work)

    Thanks in advance for your help!

  2. Egghead_Jr

    Egghead_Jr Crowing

    Oct 16, 2010
    NEK, VT
    Chickens like a buddy to hang with but are truly social animals and you really don't have a society until there are three. Personally I'd never have less than three chickens to a flock for this reason and in case of a death there's still two to keep company until you find a suitable replacement.

    With small flocks of three or four there isn't as much pecking, creating of new flock order, as there is with large flocks. I'd not worry about introducing one bird to a small flock. With large flocks I feel introducing two birds is best so the new comers have a buddy during the initial ostracizing and harassment. It's better if they are from the same flock but the fact there are more than one new comer aids in the singling out.
    Jenjee and Shantiananda like this.
  3. CAjerseychick

    CAjerseychick Songster

    Jun 25, 2012
    Northern California!
    Also I am not sure if you are purchasing chicks or pullets-- it makes a difference as there is a bit of mortality to chicks-- even the ones that we purchased (6) at 3 weeks of age later suffered a dog attack leaving only 2 some months later. We also got day olds and only lost 1 to disease...but...things happened....
    Its why people go a little "over" with their numbers-- the saying is, everything loves to eat chicken....
    For example, if every chicken had survived we would have 23 today (6+12+4+1).. But we only have 14... Accidents happen, disease, etc....

    Oh and it was our dog that was "learning" how to tolerate chickens-- she is fine now, and they free range in a good sized area-- and its thanks to the dogs that no coyote, fox, hawk, raccoon, possum, skunk, or even other dogs have made off with any-- but we did loose a few to her learning curve (she is loose with them on 2 acres, and does not harm them, anymore- there is a lot of info on this site around dogs and chickens-- but you should not be shocked if your dog kills one initially)....
    Last edited: Sep 29, 2013
    1 person likes this.
  4. 3chickchicks

    3chickchicks Songster

    Jun 25, 2013
    N. Texas
    Start with three so that if one dies, you don't have a lonely chicken.
  5. donrae

    donrae Hopelessly Addicted

    Jun 18, 2010
    Southern Oregon
    If you want 4, I'd start with 4. Adding a bird or even 2 later just causes stress to the flock. You have to quarantine, worry about integrating the new girls, them getting picked on, etc. I'd just start with everyone and not have to worry about those things down the line. If you decide chickens just aren't for you, you can sell 4 as easy as 2 or 3.
    2 people like this.
  6. Weasleymum

    Weasleymum Songster

    Aug 1, 2008
    I think donrae nailed it-- much easier to get four birds at once, and let them form a flock together, then getting 3 at first and adding another one later. (Just see how many threads here ask, "how do I integrate a new chicken into my flock ?!?!?!" to see how difficult that can be!)

    Second-- chickens die. A lot. They get attacked by predators, get sick, you name it. If you get four birds now, and still have the same four birds alive in 3 year's time, you'll be doing better than most of us do with our first flock! Three is really the minimum flock size. Two can *sometimes* work, just depending on the individuals involved, but there are no guarantees that they'll get along. I actually had a flock of two all of last year and they did great, but that's not common... So if you want 3-4, get 4! You might lose one along the way, but then you'll still have three.

    Third-- as other posters have mentioned, it is no extra work to have 4 instead of 3 (or 2). The work of keeping chickens-- feeding and watering, cleaning out the coop-- is actually pretty constant regardless of the number of chickens, within reason; 6 chickens is the same amount of work as 2, unless they're overcrowded or something. They're more like fish in an aquarium than like dogs, in that sense!
    1 person likes this.
  7. rje ma

    rje ma In the Brooder

    Apr 18, 2013
    :rolleyes:I guess this is a good place to add my two cents. I started this year with chicks. At first I was trying to decide if I should get 6 or 7. I got 7 figuring I might lose one because I'm new to this. Well they were gar ranted to be all hens. My luck I had 3 rosters. They went back to the farm. Now I have 4 hens. Next year I' add some more. So always get more you never know what will happen. Good luck.
  8. Shantiananda

    Shantiananda In the Brooder

    Sep 22, 2013
    Brisbane, QLD, Australia
    Thanks so much everyone for the great advice! It has been very helpful in making the decision of how many pullets to order. I had not previously heard that integrating new chickens into the flock could be problematic so that gave me a lot of food for thought. After much consideration, we have decided to get three pullets, with no plans to add to the flock in the foreseeable future. (Whilst starting with four would be wonderful, there are a number of reasons why it isn't an option for us at the moment and three should satisfy most of our egg needs with the occasional dozen bought at the farmers markets. We will just have to keep our fingers very much crossed when it comes to predators!)
    I really appreciate you all taking the time to respond to my query - it was just teh advice that I needed!

    All the best!
  9. lazy gardener

    lazy gardener Crossing the Road

    Nov 7, 2012
    Just a thought re getting 3 birds: if 2 birds become best buddies, that will leave 1 loner. In my flock, 2 girls are bff, and if there was only 3, the 3rd would be ostracized. I'd recommend 4. But, what ever you choose to do, I'm sure you'll have fun. I'd also recommend making your coop bigger than you think you'll need.
  10. barnaclebob

    barnaclebob Chirping

    Sep 24, 2012
    3 is good, If 1 dies you can get 3 more chicks to raise. Then you'll have 5 and won't need reinforcements until they die or stop laying and you cull them.

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