If you’re trying to work out how many chickens you need to supply enough eggs for a family of 4, the golden rule is three chickens per two members of a household. So that means 6 chickens would be plenty. There are a number of factors to take into consideration, however.
How Many Chickens Do I Need To Feed My Family?
Keeping backyard chickens is awesome. Maybe I’m a little biased, but what other “pet” provides so much fun AND delicious breakfast food?
OK, chickens aren’t your average pet. I know that. Most people raise them specifically for the fresh eggs, and sometimes for their meat, too.
If you’re looking into keeping backyard chickens to provide enough eggs for you and your family - and maybe even your friends and neighbors - here’s how the basic math works out:
Disclaimer - there are many different breeds of chicken, and they lay different amounts and sizes of eggs. For the purpose of this question, I’m going with the average of the most popular breeds, such as ISA Browns, Plymouth Rocks, Hybrids, etc.
What Is the Minimum Number of Chickens You Should Keep?
Regardless of how many are in your household, the minimum number of chickens you should raise together is three.
Chickens are social animals, they need to be part of a flock in terms of forming their own little hierarchy and having other chickens to interact with.
And who can blame them, right?
Three is the ideal number. This is because should something happen to one of them, you still have a pair to spend their days together scratching around for grubs and chattering.
Three chickens also happen to be the perfect number of at least two people. During the summer months when they’re laying eggs at their peak, you can expect anywhere between 12-15 eggs per week.
That’s a lot of eggs!
So, How Many Chickens for a Family of 4?
As I mentioned earlier, the number of chickens a family of four typically needs to keep ahead in terms of the number of eggs they need is 4-6 chickens.
In reality, if you have a good laying breed of chicken you‘ll have plenty of spare eggs. Four chickens are likely to provide around 15 eggs per week. Six chickens will provide around 23 eggs per week.
Unless you’re an avid baker or you all eat eggs for breakfast daily, six chickens will provide more than enough eggs for the average family of four.
How Many Meat Chickens for a Family of 4?
If you’re raising chickens for meat, it’s a little more difficult to give you an answer as to how many chicks you need to raise.
Chickens are usually ready to eat at around 3-4 months of age. By 8 months old, the meat starts to get a little tough.
So, you need to work out how many chickens you expect to eat in say, a 6 month period. Then raise that number of chickens to hit the age of 3+ months in that period.
If we use the example of eating two chickens per month. That means you’ll need 24 chickens in a year (obviously).
So, you need to put some thought into raising say flocks of six, spread out starting each quarter. Or, you could simply raise flocks of 12 twice a year.
How Many Chickens Do I Need for a Dozen Eggs a Week?
A lot of people just want a dozen eggs a week. So, if you have a breed that lays 200+ eggs per year, such as a Leghorn, Sussex, Rhode Island Red, etc, you could get a dozen eggs from just two chickens.
As I explained earlier though, you should really keep 3 chickens as a minimum. So, I’d recommend having 3 chickens, this way you can either raise breeds that don’t lay as often or become really popular with your neighbors giving away eggs.
How Much Space Do Chickens Need?
If you’re going to start raising backyard chickens for eggs, you’re going to need adequate space to keep them.
As a rule of thumb, it’s pretty much universally agreed upon that a minimum of 2-3 square feet per chicken inside their coop, and 8-10 square feet outside of their coop is the minimum.
The more room and more freedom you can give them to roam free-range, the better. Chickens love nothing more than wandering around foraging for bugs and things to eat.
As long as you have a coop set up with all of their basic needs, such as nesting boxes, a bar to roost on, and so on, you’ll find eggs in their nesting boxes in the morning.
It’s important you don’t underestimate the amount of space they need. Cramping chickens is one of the major causes of stress, cannibalism, fighting, pecking, and can even result in death.
Remember, chickens with plenty of space - ideally free-range - are happy chickens. Happy chickens are healthy chickens. Healthy chickens produce the best eggs and are the most fun to interact with.
Whether you’re living a homestead of self-sufficient lifestyle or want to keep a few chickens in your backyard to provide your family with eggs, it’s a fun and rewarding thing to do.
If you keep just 4-6 chickens in your yard, you’ll be sure to have more than enough eggs to feed a family of 4. Plus some leftover for giving away to friends and neighbors!
Image credits - Photos by Jordan Whitt and Rebekah Howell on Unsplash