The magic number??

Discussion in 'Managing Your Flock' started by Firefyter-Emt, Sep 11, 2007.

  1. Firefyter-Emt

    Firefyter-Emt Songster

    Help me out here. Come next spring I want to be ready for some birds for our home. I am wondering if I should re-think my "flock". I had planned on 15 layer and 10 meat but now I wonder if that is too many layers. A little background, we have 4 children so food can go quick, but I don't really need a dozen eggs a day either. I did note an artice about freezing the eggs in custard cups (2 eggs per cup) and keeping them in a zip loc bag for winter cooking. I could do that to offset the "down time" in the winter.

    Right now I am leaning towards RIR & Barred Rocks (and maybe a silky for the boys) Might be some Buffs too, but not locked in stone yet.

    A smaller flock means I can build the coop smaller, less feed, maybe less waste. I don't want to really be feeding the neighbors do to poor planning, ya know? So what do you think, what is a good flock size based on this? If I dropped back to 10 meat and just 6 layers I can down size my coop from 8x12 to 8x8 which would save quite a bit. I know it's not perfect math, but that might still push 3 dozen eggs a week (peak), right?

    I will be awaiting your thoughts on this, I would rather do this right the first time. [​IMG]
  2. Davaroo

    Davaroo Poultry Crank

    Feb 4, 2007
    Leesville, SC
    I would rather do this right the first time.
    Close to impossible. All sorts of things can happen and there is probably no perfect number, regardless of what the books say.

    Things that go wrong:
    Predators eat your birds
    Birds Die
    You like them and want more
    They stop laying

    You should plan around the chickens, not expect them to conform to your plan.

    For most people 10 meat birds would be a waste of time. You feed them and care for them and butcher them and for what? 10 birds. Is that per year? A family of 5-6 could easily plow through those in a month. I suggest you drop the meaters and buy your chicken when its on sale.

    You wont get an egg a day either. That is best case scenario. 15 hens will give you something like a dozen eggs every two days, in peak. At other times you will get very few. You are right - you can get sick of eggs. You CAN freeze them and there is nothing wrong with supplying the neighbors or selling your surplus. It's good relations and community building.

    A coop of 64 sq feet is good for about 8 birds, maybe a few more. ANd were talking open floor space. What about outside area? They need a lot more than you think. Toss that 4 sq ft in the coop rule out the window and go with about 100 sq ft per bird for outside.
  3. 2mnypets

    2mnypets Songster

    Apr 11, 2007
    Galesburg, IL.
    I tend to agree with elderoo. I did the math calculations for the meat birds and unless you have a lot of time to give to them, it's not worth it. This is how I broke it down given 100 meat birds with 4 families going in on the total cost including the price of the birds.

    Price of chicks with S/H = $102
    Price of food for 8 weeks = $320
    Cost of 10 rolls of freezer paper = $20
    Freezer tape = $5
    Breezer Bags = $6
    Grand Total = $453
    Break down per family = $113 for 25 birds
    Cost of each bird = $4.52
    Cost per bird at store = $4.20 per 6lb. bird @ 70 cents per lb. of bird
    Cost difference per bird = 32 cents in the negative

    I didn't even take into consideration any growth supplements or the like to help their bones handle the fast growth and weight. Now granted you were talking like 10 meat birds. Do you live in an area that has city water or do you have well water. We have well water so I didn't take that consumption into the equation as far as any negative or postive amount. I was told they require an insane amount of water. Also, the electricity to keep them comfortable. You will require separate housing for the meat birds. Have you ever dispatched a bird before? We did five this summer and although it went according to plan without any difficulties and it was quick for the birds, it wasn't the highlight of my summer. I'm not trying to tell you not to do it because there is nothing better than your own home grown and raised meat. I just want you to be aware of the total picture before you venture into it.

    That being said, telling you how many chickens is a "good, safe" number is hard to define. That's more of a personal choice. Do you live inside city limits, how close are your neighbors and such. Are you planning on getting banty's or standard breeds? You might as well say you will need 9 square feet per standard bird inside a coop. More like elderoo said for the outside. As for my family, we started out with 10 and are now up to 51. We said the same thing. We've found out how much fun they are as well as good therapy for all of us. They don't care if you didn't brush your teeth. They see you coming and they are all making a mad dash to be the first one to you. Talk about a self pick me up. I wish you all the best in your decisions and I hope your family has as much fun with your flock as my family does with ours.
  4. Country Gal

    Country Gal Songster

    Feb 2, 2007
    Capac, MI
    One other thing to keep in mind... if you buy a bunch of layers and determine it's too many down the road, you can always cull them for meat. I just culled 11 of my hens and 1 of my roosters, and I figure I've got dinner set for the next 12 Sundays!

    They're not super meaty like the cornish x birds, but one bird feeds my fiance and I, and they're small enough that I can put two of them in the rotisserie at a time if I need to.
  5. Davaroo

    Davaroo Poultry Crank

    Feb 4, 2007
    Leesville, SC
    Yeah, I wanted to go there, but ran out of time.
    The cost breakout from 2mnypets illustrates very well the many costs associated with doing meaters. On a small scale, it is almost prohibitive. You DO get a better quality table fowl, though.

    Another alternative to the straight pullet order mentioned, would be to take a standard order of straight run chicks (25) and separate the males at 8 weeks. Grow them out and by the time the femmes are laying their first eggs, its time to butcher. Then you are left with a dozen or so hens to lay eggs.

    Another point well reiterated is the need for more space than you think. Chickens are active creatures and need room. This cannot be stressed enough. You'll end up with trouble if you try to stint them on that.
    Last edited by a moderator: Sep 11, 2007
  6. Firefyter-Emt

    Firefyter-Emt Songster

    Well, some great info there guys... This is what I wanted to hear to be honest.

    We are rural, and on well water. Neighbors are close on one side but no problem at all. I had planned to have a local meat packer process them @ $2.00 a head. However, given the cost breakdown, I have to agree that it's just not worth it just for better tasting chicken. I have no problem doing it myself one at a time, here and there, but if I planned ten at once.. I will pay someone $20.00 to do that! [​IMG]

    Don't get me wrong about sharing the eggs with neighbors, I just don't want to be feeding a flock that is supplying us with say 50% more eggs than we need ourself. While it's a nice thing to do, IMHO it's poor stewardship of my paycheck to have twice as many as we need.

    It's looking more like ten or twelve layers only now. That does free up quite a few things as well, like splitting the coop in two, seperate feed, feeders, waterers ect..

    Well, so far so good... Feel free to keep them comming!!
  7. silkiechicken

    silkiechicken Staff PhD

    I agree with the other posters. Growing meat birds on your own at a small scale is a loss. It costs me about $2 a lb per meat bird with the cost of the chicks and feed in this area. I don't even calculate in the electricity, water, or housing for them! That's just chick and feed costs... it does beat the "free ranged/organic" chickens at the supermarket which are $6-8 a lb ON SALE!!!

    I say for the spring though fall on the first year of production, figure 3 birds = 2 eggs a day. Then for the second year, 4 birds = 2 eggs a day... and down from there. When I was producing more. I would slowly replace my flock of production red's on the third year. Meaning every year I replaced out a third of my flock to keep an even rotation and a good supply. In the winter though, if it was bad weather, I was getting as few as 1-2 eggs from a flock of 16 birds. In the summer though, over a dozen eggs. I also recommend that if you do go strictly egg, go for a production breed like the red or black star. They lay like crazy. Or if you want to save even more and don't mind white eggs or flighty birds, get leghorns. They weigh about half of a production red or black, and lay eggs incredibly well. If you ever get into breeding the leghorns too, their ability to have high production remains high and breeds true... which will not be the case with any sexlinks. By hatching out your own chicks every spring, you don't have to purchase the chicks and you'll have 50% of roosters to make stew out of. (skinny birds in trade of eggs)

    You can always have your kids sell eggs to people too. I sold eggs when I was in school.
  8. mom'sfolly

    mom'sfolly Crowing

    Feb 15, 2007
    Austin area, Texas
    I was just going to comment on the cost ratio for raising your own chickens for meat; but I think silkiechicken beat me to it. I think the comparison should be to "natural chicken" or "free range". If this is what you are buying, you will probably save money raising your own, if you are eating regular grocery store chicken, you will lose money.
  9. WoodlandWoman

    WoodlandWoman Crowing

    May 8, 2007
    Mom'sfolly, that's a very good point and it goes for eggs, too. What do our eggs cost us? What do the cheapest eggs at the cheapest store cost? What do organic, pastured eggs cost? How do our eggs and chickens taste, compared to those from the store? How much healthier are pastured products, compared to confinement products? These are things to consider, also, for a hobbyist.
  10. silkiechicken

    silkiechicken Staff PhD

    Yeah, there is no way someone on a small scale can beat the 59 cents a lb, whole fryer, if you buy two, specials from the grocery store.

    Edit: Or the costco special on 120 eggs for 8.99 or something like that.
    Last edited: Sep 11, 2007

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