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Terri Matthews
Post     Subject: How many birds do you eat in a year?

I read an account by someone who had 50 laying hens, and the eggs were sold at her antiques booth (Fewer laws in the 70's).

Basically, she ordered 100 chicks every year. When the roosters were old enough for her to tell what they were she would start eating them. Because they were small she ate more than one bird a week and she also like to have friends visit in the summer and so there were more people to ear the roosters in the form of chicken salad sandwiches or whatever.

Fall came and then hens would start to stop laying for their moult. At this time she would start catching chickens with pale combs (pale combs is a sign that they are not laying) and she would make stewing hens out of them, and also the replacement pullets would be starting to lay so she would still have eggs to sell. She sold some of the meat (Fewer laws in the 70's) and she and her guests would eat up the stewing hens in the form of chicken stew as they stopped laying.

She got a price for the eggs that was half again what the grocery stores got (In the 70's people thought that fertile eggs were more healthy, and she had a rooster. Also she had hens that would lay big, impressive-looking eggs).

The eggs that she sold paid all of her chicken expenses and a bit more, and the meat, dozen eggs a week for her house, and the manure were her profit. So, every year FOR HER PROFIT she got 50 stewing hens to eat or to sell, 50 young roosters to eat, and about 2 dozen eggs a week.

Instead of asking how many birds a year *DO* we eat, a better question would be how many birds a year *CAN* we eat, without getting turned off of chicken. For example I had a bumper crop of zucchini one summer and I really should make an effort to use more dried zucchini shreds. After soaking the zucchini it can be added to baked goods and it will pretty much disappear. I do not usually eat 30 cups of shredded zucchini, but I *CAN* eat 30 cups of shredded zucchini over the course of a year if I put a bit here in this dish and a bit there. More importantly the family will not get tired of zucchini even though they are eating more of it .
Cj Sloane
Post     Subject: How many birds do you eat in a year?

Jonathan Leigh wrote:"How many chickens does one chicken need to produce over it's lifespan before I can slaughter it for food?"

You can slaughter anytime you like, regardless of how many chickens it produces. You don't want just one chicken though - no resilience in that set-up.

There are so many variables including where you live, and what is there for the chickens to eat, and how much experience you have. Not to mention how much you like chicken. 1 chicken per week is reasonable for 2-4 people.

This summer I purchased 25 dark cornish chickens, a dual purpose bird. I choose them because they are cold tolerant and heavy, around 8 lbs. My last choice was chanteclers which are also cold tolerant but only about 3lbs and will fly right over electric fencing. They also hide eggs so every now and then 12 baby chicks appear from nowhere after a massive drop in egg production.

The dark cornish are slow growing but I should be able to harvest 12 males this spring. 2 roosters and 12 hens will yield plenty of eggs for eating directly or hatching out. 2 rounds of chicks and harvesting the culls will be enough chicken for the year.

Don't over think it on your 1st attempt.
Jonathan Leigh
Post     Subject: How many birds do you eat in a year?

I originally came across this thread by googling the permies site for questions using the search term "how many chickens". I am doing some calculations right now trying to figure out exactly how many chickens one would need to be self-sustaining. I could not find a good answer on google or on the permies website, so I decided to do some investigating and figure out the math myself. Everyone is going to have different facts about their different breeds, and I have absolutely no experience raising chickens; however, I am highly skilled in mathematics having done my masters degree in computer science so I'd still say my two cents is worthwhile advice (especially since I've taken my facts from chicken raising expert sources). I'm going to share my calculations, but keep in mind I am leaning very conservatively in my calculations. Most people should produce MORE chickens than estimated, but some will inevitably produce less because of unexpected consequences. Let's start by laying out the ASSUMED numbers and the facts.

1. Chickens lay about 2 eggs per 3 hens twice a week on worst case average. Again, I'm being VERY conservative (because some people would see this as absurd with their breed). This comes out to 1 chicken producing about 1 and 1/3 an egg every week.
2. A family of 4 eats about 2 chickens a week (some say 1 chicken, I'm being conservative and saying 2 chickens because I know my family eats at least 2 chickens a week and I only have 3 people in my family).
3. You can mate about 10 hens to 1 rooster (again an arguable number but this is the one I chose to use).
4. It takes about 1 month for an egg to develop into a chick (incubation can take as early as 21 days I've read, but again we're being conservative).
5. It takes about 6 months for a hen to fully develop and start laying eggs.
6. Eggs have a poor incubation rate of about 25% success on average (meaning only 25% of eggs incubated turn into baby chicks).

Okay, so now we have some numbers to work with. Now let's do some math. Let's assume we want to go off grid next week. We need to answer the serious question:

How many hens/roosters do we need to purchase up front to ensure for the next year (52 weeks) our family will have enough chicken to eat?

At first I thought you would need to buy at least 52 chickens if you wanted to start eating and breeding right away because you would need to slaughter at least 52 in the 6-7 months in order to have chicken to eat while the little ones were raised. Now that I actually am writing about this problem of self-sustaining chickens, it seems it would be easier to buy chicken from the market until you could build up a self-sustaining population. Therefore I will assume for the rest of the calculations we need to figure out how many chickens we need to raise 7 months from now (1 month for eggs to hatch, 6 months for bird to develop) in order to sustain our chicken population to slaughter for food and then go from there.

So I am going to start by looking at the finish. We need to produce 104 chickens a year (2 chickens a week) to slaughter for food. Thus the calculation is becoming simpler. Now, seemingly, the only question we need to answer is "How many eggs will it take to produce 52 chickens in 7 months"? And we'll round 7 months to 6 months just to make the estimating easier (because we've been so conservative with our numbers). However, it's more difficult than that because we're slaughtering our breeders as well and a chicken can lay an egg that can hatch at a later time period than the ones we are going to eat. I have no idea what the successful fertilization rates are for roosters mating hens, but we do know about 1/4 eggs hatch when incubated so we know if we incubated 208 eggs about 52 of them would turn out to be chickens in 6 months. In order to lay 208 eggs we would need about 157 hens to each lay us an egg in 1 week (seems strange but 208 eggs divided by hens laying 1 1/3 eggs on average a week comes out to be 157 hens). Over the period of 6 months, the hens would lay many many more half year supplies of eggs thought if we started with 157 hens at week 1, so now our question gets even narrower. The question now becomes "How many chickens does one chicken need to produce over it's lifespan before I can slaughter it for food?"

If we take the 1 1/3 egg per hen metric, let's say in 3 weeks we will get 4 eggs from 1 hen. Let's say over 6 months we will get (4 eggs x 18 weeks =) 32 eggs. With a little luck, 1/4th of them will hatch and we will get 8 chickens over the 6th month span before we slaughter the hen. Wouldn't it be great to get 8 chickens for 1 chicken we raised over a 6 month period? It would be, but I am very skeptical about the theoretical numbers I am coming up with on this. At least we are closer to the answer that 1 hen could produce about 8 hens in 6,7,8,9,10,11,12,13,14ish months. I bet in reality though, 1 chicken probably produces closer to 2-4 chicks per 6 months. What this means is that in order to meet 104 chickens a year, we really only need about 26 breeder chickens in our flock at any time just for breeding. After we're done with the breeding we can slaughter them because they will have produced enough for the next 6 months. Thus about 3 or 4 roosters and 26 hens would be sustainable.

I know my math doesn't exactly make 100% sense, but this is all the time I have to ponder about it and it seems to be in line with all the other forums I've looked at. I may revisit this post after I read up more or want to crunch out the numbers again. I felt it still constructive to post this unfinished, first draft, unrevised post about self-sustaining chickens. Thank you for not being too critical of me, but please feel free to add any math or opinions.

Kathleen Sanderson
Post     Subject: Re: How many birds do you eat in a year?

We eat chicken probably two or three times a week, but it amounts to one chicken a week for the three of us -- cook one bird, then have left-overs for a couple more meals.  Ditto for rabbits

I think if you are figuring out what you need to grow in order to raise all the food for your family, you have to start with what you CAN grow, and then work from there. 

For instance, right now, we buy beef and pork, but on our one-acre lot, we really can't raise our own (not and raise all the food for them, anyway).  So in order to raise all of our meat here, we have to stick to 1.  Rabbits (pretty easy, and we can raise all the food for the seven hole rabbitry I have); 2.  Chicken (if we are raising all our meat, we'll only have chicken maybe once or twice a month from butchering surplus cockerels and old hens); and 3.  Goat (if we have six goat kids a year in the spring, and butcher three or four of them late in the year, we should get around twenty pounds of meat from each, for a total of 60-80 lbs. of goat meat for the year).  Add a few fish, either from our own fish tank/pond or from the nearby river, and we would have a fair amount of variety in our diet, although we'd be eating a lot more rabbit than we do now.  I can raise most of the feed for the goats if we can water our whole lot.  In any case, add in eggs and dairy products and we'd have plenty of protein and fats, and can focus our gardening efforts on vegetables, herbs, berries, and fruits, and on animal feed. 

Dan DMan
Post     Subject: Re: How many birds do you eat in a year?

Thanks! That looks interesting.

Well, Im off to plant my part of over 24,000 seeds for corn, spelt, and aztec amaranth... This scale of garden IS work   But I enjoy it..
Chelle Lewis
Post     Subject: Re: How many birds do you eat in a year?

Excellent stuff.... Thank you.

There is a collection of Free eBooks on Small Farming and Self Sufficiency    here........ You just sign up for the Ezine and get the required code each month. Quite a wide selection.


Dan DMan
Post     Subject: Re: How many birds do you eat in a year?

Ok, last one.. Basic Kenyan Diet with income, a 3 bed model learning system:
Chelle Lewis
Post     Subject: Re: How many birds do you eat in a year?

Thanks Dan! Got me some more good reading! That Bio-Intensive Book looks really good too 

Dan DMan
Post     Subject: Re: How many birds do you eat in a year?

Here is the direct link to purchase the #14 booklet:
Dan DMan
Post     Subject: Re: How many birds do you eat in a year?

"The Complete 21-Bed Bio-Intensive Mini Farm" can be bought from:

I have not been able to locate an online source for it.  In all reality though, you only need that basic book and the "how to grow more veggies than you ever though possible" book.  It explains the whole process and what it takes, and I did find a copy of the 6'th edition of this book online at the same place at the "one basic" book. Here it is:

Chelle Lewis
Post     Subject: Re: How many birds do you eat in a year?

Interesting little booklet. A good find. Thank you.

Takes what can look impossible down to do-able practical basics. I recognise everything listed except Acorn squash.... but pretty sure that a couple of extra plants from the squash family would serve as well.

Include Moringa and the soursop and you are really smiling. 

Do you know where we can access "The Complete 21-Bed Bio-Intensive Mini Farm" by John Jeavons .... that he speaks about? He says it is booklet #14

Sustainability looks really practical now......

Dan DMan
Post     Subject: Re: How many birds do you eat in a year?

Well, we eat a bird twice a week.. As to how much food it takes.. Well, it takes about 4000 square feet of garden per person growing 60/30/10 grain/potatoes/veggies to feed a person well and to produce enough organic matter to compost for feeding the bed the following year.  All we add from the outside is some sea 90 sea salt that has 92 trace elements.

What you grow depends on where you live because you really need to grow only what grows well for you.  I would suggest reading this to get a feel for what it take to produce all your own food and even what it takes to feed an animal: .
Alison Thomas
Post     Subject: Re: How many birds do you eat in a year?

It's quite scary when you work it out for the year isn't it.  We have 5 'pet' hens but now feel brave enough to get some others for the table and let them free-range in the fields.  We had to ask the same question - and were gobsmacked at the answer!
Birdman McCoy
Post     Subject: Re: How many birds do you eat in a year?

one more thing most of the calculators do not include meat (do to the idea of long term storage in an emergency, as what the calculators are designed for)

your best bet may be to just make a record of what you use in a months  or over a quarter if a year and multiply it out for a year, and work off of that,  or a combination of the calculator and the actual use list,
Birdman McCoy
Post     Subject: Re: How many birds do you eat in a year?

a lot depends on first how much meat do you eat?
and what kinds of meat do you like and eat?

do to the fact we never raised pigs or had access to live animals in the past we hardly ever at pork,  except for may be a ham or two on special occasions,  and on some rare occasion some pork chops, maybe once a year, if we can continue access to hogs I think I would want 2 a year, we got a 1/2 we split with my SIL,

we did have access to beef, and when the kids were home we basically went through one beef a year,  now that it is just he two of us we us very little now a beef will last us  a number of years of the same size,

we started to raise meat chickens a few years ago and would raise a number for other as well,  (my wife like to bake chickens),  we had 100 last year we keep 25 and the rest went to others, for cost, they helped in the butcher of them, these were large chickens (close to the size of small turkeys)

I think garden produce is much harder to figure as (at lest for us having a clue of what will produce and how well, our garden is about 40 by 120 it produces most of our vegetables, we buy most fruit, the wheat we grow in the field, (in our area one gets about 30 bushels an acer for wheat), and since wife is allergic to corn we seldom have corn,

I would go to some survival or preparedness  places and see what they recommend for a years worth of storage per person, and do some back figuring,

I think most of these are going to say about the same thing, but just because it may say X pounds of some thing if your allergies to it or some other problems you will have to adjust,
also whole grains are not the same a s flour  even when ground,  also these are the minimums if you follow pre selected recipes, and watch the out go very close,
Emil Spoerri
Post     Subject: How many birds do you eat in a year?

was a question that was posed with a friend last night, when imagining how many birds we should grow, for market or not.

the reply, once a week, which in find i agree with...
that's 50 birds a year.
so 100 chickens got blown out of the water, because that would only be enough for he and I...
would need more like 300 at least

but a more in general question is, how much of everything do you need to live and be self sufficient?

how many pigs do you eat in a year? cows? how many feet of rows of greens and vegetables? how much fruit? how much bread?