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How many chickens ?

 
David Livingston
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A simple question . I just want some chickens for eggs for two people and maybe a few more to give away or trade I am not interested in rearing meat birds at the moment not doing anything remotly commercial . So how many birds should I have taking into consideration that this is a bird that likes to be in a flock ,a social bird that needs the company of others.
I was thinking three or four . Enough to be a flock and keep them happy yet not too many for feed and house.
I was going to use a 4m2 ark that I would move about the garden plus feed them on left overs and stale organic bread from the local shop .
What do others think of my plan and rational .

David
 
Renate Howard
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Sounds good. If you want to be sure of enough eggs, plan on the chickens laying 2 eggs every 3 days. Many will lay more than that, but that's a pretty good estimate of what it will take to get over any humps (like one deciding to go broody). So 3 hens should be able to provide 2 eggs per day. More than that will give you some to share.

If you get chicks this year they may not start laying until next spring (around February where I've lived). It may be better to find someone who sells them ready to lay, but find ones that haven't been debeaked if possible - that makes it hard for them to forage. I'd look on Craigslist in the Farm/Garden section (post a Want ad, many have some they'd sell but aren't really trying to sell them).
 
Jennifer Whitaker
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That makes me think of another question then. If I want eggs AND chicks do I just pick one box and not collect from it and one of them will hatch them all out? Will the other boxes continue to fill or will the chickens decide that must not be a safe spot since the eggs keep disappearing and start laying elsewhere?
 
Peter Ellis
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David, I am in pretty much the same boat, except I have had my three hens now for about 9 months. They have been consistently producing on the order of 12+ eggs a week during the warmer (longer daylight) season. This winter they stopped entirely for some time, and are just now picking back up laying.

Depending on what your needs are, three or four hens may be enough during most of the year, but you will probably find yourself short in the depths of winter.
 
Su Ba
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Jennifer, I haven't yet allowed a hen to hatch out eggs, though I plan to try it this year. But you'll need one of the hens to go broody for it to happen. This means that the hen herself has decided to set on the eggs and brood them. Not all hens or chicken breeds will go broody. Some don't go broody until the second year. But without a broody hen, the eggs will not be properly cared for and will not hatch.

Next, you need a rooster living with the hens for the eggs to be fertile. Without the rooster being there daily during the egg laying process, the eggs will be infertile. They won't produce chicks.

Another thing from my experience. The hens tend to all use the same next box if they can. It's not uncommon for me to find 12 eggs in one nest and perhaps an egg or two in another, if at that. I've gone out to find 3 hens crammed into one nest with perfectly identical empty nests on either side.

You should try having hens. They are enjoyable, have their own unique personalities, always make me smile, and give me a bonus of eggs.
 
Renate Howard
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The other hens will keep laying fresh eggs on the nest where one is trying to brood. This happened behind a hay bale last summer. There were 35 eggs. Since not all of them got the 3 weeks it takes to hatch before some chicks started coming out, many were abandoned when the first dozen hatched.

 
Bev Huth
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If you want chicks, you have two choices to avoid a pile of rotten eggs that get abandoned. Separate the hens and, collect from all but the brood hen that is kept separately or, collect all of the eggs and get an incubator, build a small brooder for the chicks and rear them yourself.

 
Anna Hopping
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about eggs under a broody hen;

one way to know which eggs are original and which ones are new is to put a pencil X on the eggs for the hen to set on. then check her nest. my grand mother kept eggs to put under broody hens to make out a full nest. the number of eggs depends on the size of hen. she kept these eggs on the counter not in the refrigerator.

some hens are triggered to set when they have a nest full.

some have put a wooden egg in the nest to keep them laying in the nest so they will not think their eggs are being stolen. i have gathered a few wooden eggs as a child till i learned to pay attention.

eggs in winter are possible if you have young pullets they will lay through the winter. they are just beginning to lay in the fall. i have a friend who keeps hers laying through the winter, with less eggs; by giving them warm water. she swears by it.
 
Peter Ellis
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Anna Hopping wrote:about eggs under a broody hen;

one way to know which eggs are original and which ones are new is to put a pencil X on the eggs for the hen to set on. then check her nest. my grand mother kept eggs to put under broody hens to make out a full nest. the number of eggs depends on the size of hen. she kept these eggs on the counter not in the refrigerator.

some hens are triggered to set when they have a nest full.

some have put a wooden egg in the nest to keep them laying in the nest so they will not think their eggs are being stolen. i have gathered a few wooden eggs as a child till i learned to pay attention.

eggs in winter are possible if you have young pullets they will lay through the winter. they are just beginning to lay in the fall. i have a friend who keeps hers laying through the winter, with less eggs; by giving them warm water. she swears by it.


Anna, it seems a highly variable thing. My hens are young, this is their first winter. They shut down completely for several weeks when the days were shortest.
I am sure that nutrition matters, as it does at all seasons. I am also pretty sure that all the research showing that hens produce more in winter if they are given longer days through artificial lighting are on to something.
 
Natalie McVander
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Warm water, huh? I never tried that.

But an extra light bulb for a few hours will increase their lay as well.

They lay about every 22 hours I believe, and it's sometimes feast or famine.
About Dec through mid Jan, or something like that, they get very slow and you'll be buying eggs.

One rooster for two hens is a small ratio. I wouldn't recommend any less than 6 or 8 hens if you get a rooster.
Those roosters can get rather... forceful. It can kind of spoil dreamy state of mind we get in, imagining our sweet little chickens, clucking away, peaceful and contented.
You will find yourself jumping off your chair and running over chasing him off while your poor hen bleeds.

And if you don't want more than 2 or 3 hens, I'd not bother with letting one set.
They don't usually set with only a few, so you'd have more than you wanted and then wonder what to do with 8 roosters and 5 hens.

I do love having chickens.

 
Anna Hopping
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thank you for the number per rooster. i know the difficulties of not having enough hens per rooster. i had thought i would start with 5. but maybe i will need to increase that number.

i have read that ducks lay all winter. so a few could produce during the lean time.

i plan of having both chickens and ducks for different reasons. they fill different niches.
 
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