Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Keeping Chickens at Home - How many chickens should I keep?

Keeping Chickens at Home - How many chickens should I keep?

Keeping chickens at home UK
Before you think of how many chickens and what breed you want, you need to think of a couple of things.

Firstly, how many eggs do I want? The really good layers will pop one out almost every day. If you had six hens, that could mean 30-40 eggs every week. Is that too many or maybe not enough. You may be a keen cook and need the extra eggs. You and your family of four may love boiled eggs every day for breakfast. Only you know the answer.

Having said that, having spare eggs to give away to friends and family is great. You can even use them to 'barter' for other things from your neighbours. I personally have a 'Golden Rule'. Everything must pay for itself. I sell my surplus eggs and this pays for the feed and bedding for the chickens and effectively, I get my eggs for free. I have the same rule for all my animals. If keeping chickens is only going to be a hobby and you don't mind spending a bit of money on your favourite hobby then all well and good. You don't need to worry about it.

So get as many chickens as you think you need for an adequate personal supply of eggs. Six is normally a good number for most people.

The next thing to ask yourself is the most difficult question of all. Do you want to keep chickens just for eggs or do you also want to have the occasional roast chicken on a Sunday? Most people think the idea of eating one of their chickens is just plain horrible. Don't get me wrong, there is nothing pleasant about killing and preparing a chicken for the oven, but, unless you are a vegetarian or ONLY buy organic chicken, I think it's something you should seriously think about.

Avoiding the issue and continuing to buy battery farmed chicken from the supermarket is at best, hypocritical.

If you have a go at hatching some chicks (which is definitely recommended. I will cover this topic at a later date), you will be faced with the dilemma sooner rather than later, as inevitably, you will have boys as well as girls. The boys (cockerels) can't stay with the other hens as all sorts of problems occur. They will continually fight each other for dominance over the ladies.

You can of course sell them on, but most people have the same problem and they are hard to get rid of. The other (and best in my opinion) is to have the surplus cockerels for Sunday lunch. Like your eggs, they will taste fantastic and you know that they have had a great quality of life. I will show you how to kill a chicken and prepare it for the oven in a later post.

But if you simply want to avoid all this gore and heartache, just simply get some hens and collect the eggs each morning.

Do I need to have a cockerel? Contrary to popular belief, hens will quite happily lay eggs without a cockerel around. But a cockerel will keep the hens in order and stop them squabbling amongst themselves. Chickens always need to create a 'pecking' order and a cockerel does help to maintain peace. They also stop them wandering off and getting into trouble.

The biggest problem with a cockerel in an urban setting is the noise. A cock crowing at 3am in the morning will do nothing to help neighbourly relations and is the main reason people who live in towns don't have them. But if you do have the space and great or no neighbours, I think a cockerel is a great asset. And if you do want to hatch some chicks, you will have to have one, as chickens may lay eggs without a cockerel around, but they will not be fertile. That's the cockerels job.

You could 'borrow' a cockerel from someone and let him stay with your hens for a week or two. This will give you enough fertile eggs to hatch your own chicks without having to keep a cock.

So, have a good think about all the things I have mentioned and then you will be ready to decide what type or breed of chicken you want to get. Not as easy as it sounds and we will cover this in the next post.

Keeping Chickens at Home


Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Comet said...

I was thinking about getting chickens. I live in the city so i only want a few. If i get two chickens will it effect their egg laying or their personality. My mom has a concern that they like to travel in flocks, so is three of them nessisary?

Comet said...

Thank you so much for your blog. I have almost talked my family into getting chickens thanks to you!
Thank you!

Peter Skuse said...

No Comet, having two hens is fine. I keep a couple of hens in my back garden, in additional to the 20 or so at my smallholding.

Keeping a hen by themselves is not advised, as they do require company.

Best of luck :-)

Fats said...

I would really like to get rare breed hens and would like the best option for eggs and possibly eating, i would prefer to have small to medium sized hens.
we need easy keepers as this is our first time keeping hen. We will only need about 5 hens

Peter Skuse said...

Check out the post on this blog about chicken breeds. Best to choose one breed for egg laying and one breed for meat. You may also want to consider bantams (mini-chickens!). Pete :-)

Michael said...

How about in Vegas. Is it to hot for hens.

Peter Skuse said...

Should be OK Michael as long as you give them plenty of shade and plenty of fresh cool water. Pete :-)

Anonymous said...

how do you find out how many hens you can have on your property?

Anonymous said...

i typically keep 3 pens 25'X25' and rotate them every so often , I prefer free-range it makes for much better meat and eggs, i keep 25 hens to one rooster,when im ready I start collecting the eggs and put them in my incubator and hatch up a batch usually in the spring and late summer...i typically hatch about 50 ....my ratio is typically 50/50 hens roosters i slaughter the roosters when they get old enough and a few hens for Sundays. i rotate my layers and my rooster when they get old or past laying prime and to the freezer they go, if you do not have an incubator keep an eye out for a few good setters...bantams i find are good even if it isn't their eggs if you are having trouble put some plastic easter eggs under her and shes'll do the rest or get eaten..lol hope any of this helps or reaches ya , you just want to keep your chickens moving and eating and happy

Mary said...

I'd love some feedback: I live in a suburb that does not allow chickens...however, I am determined to have a few anyway. If I had 3-5 hens that had a portable enclosed pen, how much noise/nuisance would it be to my neighbors? I know the majority would welcome chickens, but I'm afraid one neighbor would not be happy. Our yard is enclosed and wooded....uggg, I'm just concerned and would really just love some encouragement :)

Peter Skuse said...

It only takes one person to complain Mary. Hens do make a noise, especially just after laying or when they are agitated, so the neighbors will hear them. The problem most people have with chickens in my experience is a health one. They think they attract vermin, which isn't the case if they are looked after properly. Vermin aren't attracted to the hens, they are attracted to their food, which is easily managed. Hen houses can also start to smell in the summer if not cleaned out regularly, but again easily remedied. If you decide to go for it, I would only get three. An offer of free eggs normally get's a neighbor on your side. Mine can't wait for us to go on holiday so they can look after the chickens and collect the eggs themselves every day ;) Pete

Anonymous said...

How safe will they be from predators? I personally would start with 4-5 hens. Then you have the chance to keep the strongest birds for laying and they love to travel in groups.

Anonymous said...

Hi there,
do you have any advice for keeping chickens indoors? I have an enormous apartment, plenty of light, shade and easy going neighbours.
How much space do they need, could I build one of those large coops/aviaries indoors?
What do you think?
Kind regards,

Peter Skuse said...

Hi Sarah. The biggest problem you would have is the smell as chickens poop all the time and it stinks even when they are outdoors. It's possible but I wouldn't recommend it. Pete :-)

Web keepingchickens.blogspot.com