How many chickens should I get?

Easter Egger
An “Easter Egger.”

Figure out how many eggs you want per day. Multiple that number by two and get that many hens.

Most of the year, you’ll have more eggs than you need.

That’s the simplest approach.

Below, I’ll go into several other approaches. I’ll also answer other questions you may have about how many chickens to get.

How many chickens do I need for a family of 4?

Suppose I eat an omelet about 3 times a week. The omelet has 2 eggs in it. My children rarely eat eggs, but occasionally, they like to have French toast. This takes about 3 eggs. My wife uses 5 eggs per week for baking.

Tallying up the eggs needed for an average week:

  • 3 x 2 = 6 eggs for the omelet
  • 5 eggs for baking
  • 3 eggs for the children

Total: 14 eggs per week

This amounts to 2 eggs a day.

So I should buy 4 hens. More likely, I would get 5, just to have an extra.

What if I’m just starting out?

If you haven’t ever raised chickens before, it can seem a little daunting. Chickens aren’t difficult to raise, but raising them is a little different than pets or other animals that you might already be raising. You may be a little unsure of how it’s going to go.

If that’s the case, start small.

Gain some experience with a small flock, then scale up to a larger flock as you become more comfortable with it.

How many chickens do I need per person?

According to a very short article on the US Dept. of Agriculture website, Americans ate 245 eggs per person per year in 2011.

That comes out to an average of 4.7 eggs per week per person.

Some of your best egg layers can produce 5 eggs a week or more, at least during peak season. But if you’re like most flock owners and keep your chickens for 3 or more years, they’ll gradually lay less and less. That’s partly why I figure 3 1/2 eggs a week per hen (or 2 hens to get 7 eggs a week, as discussed in earlier examples).

Based on that, you’d need 1.3 hens per person. 2 hens if you don’t mind extra eggs. 1 hen if you don’t mind running short at times.

But not everyone eats 4.7 eggs per week. You’ll have better results if you make a more accurate estimate (like the one above) based on how many eggs you actually use.

Your suggestions seem high. Don’t Chickens Lay Every Day?

During the peak egg laying season, hens may lay as much as once a day for awhile, on average. Particularly if they are first year layers.

But my experience in central Texas has been that they will not lay well during hot summers. And if you live in a colder climate and have extreme winters, you may find that yours don’t lay very well during winter.

Basically, any type of stress will tend to reduce laying. Stress from heat, cold or other sources.

Also, as hens approach their second year of laying, in the fall as the days get shorter, they’ll go into a molt. During the molt, they will stop laying.

Egg laying is seasonal. Chickens tend to lay best in springtime. Larger heritage breed chickens tend to lay well during winter and spring, but not as well in summer. Smaller breeds like Leghorns and ISA Browns (Red Stars, Red Comets, Cinnamon Queens, etc.) lay better during warm weather.

Hens are very sensitive to the number of hours of daylight that they receive. Commercial egg laying operations often use lights to artificially give the hens more “daylight hours” to maintain laying.

I say all this to say, most home flock owners don’t get record numbers of eggs. If you want eggs as close to year round as possible, you’ll need to get extra chickens and always have some first year layers in your flock.

How many eggs do chickens lay in a year?

Roosters, zero eggs.

Hens, it varies. Breed, age, feed, care, stress, weather, and other factors affect how many eggs you’ll get.

You and I may raise exactly the same breed at the same time and get different results. But here are some rough estimates:

  • Excellent layers, such as White Leghorns, can lay 250-300 eggs per year in ideal conditions, possibly more.
  • Very good layers can produce 200-250 eggs per year.

I count on an average of about 1 egg every other day, as mentioned above.

Sometimes that gives me too many eggs. Sometimes too few. But overall, it works out well and is an easy rule of thumb to remember.

How long do chickens lay?

They’ll produce eggs for 3-5 years or longer. I’ve even heard of a 13 year old hen laying an egg.

But that doesn’t mean it’s practical to keep them that long.

As your hens get older, they tend to lay less. I plan on getting about 80% as many eggs each year as the year before from the same hens. By the time your hens are finishing up their third year of egg laying, you may be only getting about 65% as many eggs as you did during their first year of laying.

For this reason, I make an effort to replace about one third of my laying hens each year. This keeps the average age of my flock young and ensures that I’ll have a few first year layers.

How many chickens should I have in a flock?

Chickens are flock animals, meaning they do better if raised in a flock. For this reason, I recommend that you keep a minimum of three hens.

In the 10-foot x 10-foot portable hoop coops that I use, I keep up to about 15 hens.

Do I need a rooster to get eggs?

No, not if you’re just planning to eat the eggs.

If you’re planning to hatch the eggs, then you will need a rooster so that the eggs will be fertile.

If you live in a rural area and can have roosters, they are good to have since they help to protect your hens. But your hens will lay just fine without roosters.

I recommend at most one rooster per pen. Sometimes two roosters who were raised together can get along, but usually they won’t. They’ll fight and injure each other.

If you need to keep more than one rooster for breeding purposes, I recommend keeping him (or them) in a separate pen.

How many chickens can I have?

That depends on where you live.

If you live out in the country, you can likely have as many as you want.

If you live in a subdivision or inside city limits, the number of chickens may be restricted. Some cities limit you to 3 hens. Other places allow 5 hens. It varies.

Try a Google search like one of the following:

Example 1

Search for:

how many chickens [CITY NAME]

(Example: how many chickens dallas tx)

How to find info on number of chickens you can have

Example 2:

Search for:

[CITY] [STATE] chicken ordinance

(Example: dallas texas chicken ordinance)

Search for chicken ordinance

That will usually show you the appropriate regulations.

Most cities that I’m aware of have a “no rooster” policy, at least in part because of the noise of them crowing.

The housing authority for your area may have further restrictions. These are all good things to check into before buying the chickens.

Bonus question: If a chicken and a half lays an egg and a half in a day in a half …

A riddle, of sorts, that I used to hear when growing up:

(Obviously, please ignore the fact that half chickens don’t lay eggs or half eggs …)

If a chicken and a half lays an egg and a half in a day and a half, how many days does it take one chicken to lay one egg.

The answer isn’t difficult but it is counterintuitive. Most people answer it incorrectly the first time.

Leave your answer in the comments if you like.

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