SELECTING THE RIGHT AMOUNT OF CHICKENS
There are a few considerations about the number of chickens to start with.
If you live in a city, there may be ordinates that limit the quantity of chickens you may care for.
Space cures so many health and behavior concerns. The less space, the more frequent you will need to clean.
Ensure your coop has 1 nesting box per 3 hens. Each hen needs a minimum of 9” of perch space to sleep on at night. The bare minimum is 10 sq ft run space per chicken.
UNDERSTANDING EGG PRODUCTION
Think about the answers to these questions. How many eggs do you want a week? Will you harvest when egg laying declines or keep as a pet?
Typically, the first 6 months of raising a chicken is a100% investment opportunity. They will not lay eggs until mature. Most breeds are 6 months of age when they start laying and will lay smaller eggs (pullet eggs) at first. Egg laying frequency and size will continue to increase over the next months. Egg production is highest in earlier years ranging from 3-4 eggs a week. After 3.5-4 years, egg production declines resulting in cost of feed being more than value of eggs produced. However, they do not stop all together. Hen breeds that start to lay later, live longer and have more egg laying productivity overall. These breeds are an excellent choice for those wanting pets.
Production breeds begin laying 5-6 eggs a week in as early as 4.5 months. Prime laying occurs between 1 - 2 years of age. After 2 years of laying, production decreases to 80% with a steady decline of 10% per year. Additional egg production decrease can be caused by stress, improper diet, and the need of 14 hours of day light. Once day light drops below 12 hours, production will decrease or stop. Most homestead families will harvest a chicken once cost of feed versus egg production ratio declines. For production breeds this is around 2- 2.5 years of age. These breeds are good for those that need a lot of eggs quickly and plan to harvest.
DOING THE MATH . . .
Determine how many eggs your family needs a week. Divide by how many chickens you are able to care for. This is the number of eggs you will want your hens to lay on average. Example: Your family of 4 enjoys waffles (1 egg) and scrambled eggs (8 eggs) every Saturday. Bond while eating French toast (3 eggs) and an omelet (8 eggs) every Sunday. Delight in a weekly dessert (1 egg). The weekly egg consumption for the family is 21. Perhaps the city restricts your hen capacity to 6. This results in an need to have your hen average 3.5 eggs/week.
Check out breed choices to view a side by side comparison of each breed's egg production.