chickens in a yard

How Many Chickens Should You Buy?

If you’re thinking about purchasing chickens, a big question on your mind is probably ‘how many chickens should I get?’ It’s a good question and one definitely worth exploring thoroughly. These birds are live animals that must be carefully cared for as you would any other pet, and purchasing too many chickens can be as big of a problem as purchasing too few. So let’s talk about how many chickens you should buy for eggs and meat, what their space requirements are, and how many is probably too many.

One important golden rule to bear in mind as you get ready to get chicks: the minimum number of chickens you should have is 3. Hens and roosters alike are social creatures who rely on one another heavily in their flock setting. I never advise keeping 2 or just 1 chicken at a time.

How many chickens do you need for eggs?

eggs and chickens

Determining how many chickens your family needs for eggs is pretty easy. My personal rule of thumb has always been to assess how many eggs I purchase per week, add 30% to that number, and make a determination about the number of chickens I should get based on that number. So if your family goes through 2 dozen eggs per week, you’ll want to have enough hens to lay at least that many for you plus an extra 30%, which is about 7 eggs. So you’ll want 31 eggs per week to feed your family.

This means that you’ll want to be collecting about 5 fresh eggs every day of the week. A good egg-laying breed, like a Novogen, Welsummer, or Wyandotte, will likely provide you with an egg about every 24-28 hours, so just about every day. So to sustainably feed a family that eats 2 dozen eggs per week, you will probably want to keep 5 chickens. Of course, you can always keep a few extra and give away or sell extra dozens of eggs to your neighbors!

How many chickens do you need for meat?

meat chickens

Calculating how many chickens your family needs for meat is also pretty easy. To use my household as an example, we eat about 2 chickens per week. For years, I have raised my own cornish cross chickens for meat, which take about 7 weeks to grow to the size required for processing. The way I like to do it is to raise about 30 at a time, process them, freeze or can them, and then we have enough chicken for about 15 weeks. I take a few weeks off from raising them and then order a new round of 30 chicks about 7 weeks before we run out.

Don’t crowd your property

When you start thinking about how many chickens to buy, it can be very easy to underestimate just how much work they’ll put into scratching up your yard and property. If you have too many chickens in too small of a space, they will obliterate any grass or plant life growing, make a huge, smelly mess, and during wetter times of year, their run will turn into a muddy, mucky nightmare. Not to mention that very messy, muddy, manure-filled yards spread diseases that can harm your chickens. When it comes to the amount of space your chickens need, these are the rules of thumb:

Every chicken should have 12 inches of roosting space in your chicken coop. That means if you have 6 chickens, you need 6 feet of roosting bar for them to sleep on each night. If you have 12 chickens, give them 12 feet to roost. Chickens do huddle up together in the winter, but when it’s warmer, they need a little bit more space to spread out and stay cool.

Inside of your chicken coop, your birds need space to roam around and nest boxes in which to comfortably nest and lay eggs. Every bird needs about 3-5 square feet of space inside of the chicken coop. If you intend to have 10 chickens, your coop should be at least 30 square feet. The more space you provide them, the healthier and happier they will be. And remember: happy chickens produce the best meat and eggs.

When it comes to your chicken run, more is better. I have always done my best to allow my hens to have a full run at the yard when I’ve lived somewhere safe enough for them to free-range. Free ranging your birds will give them the opportunity to hunt bugs and pests and forage healthy food, reducing your feed costs. If you don’t want to do that and prefer to enclose them, that’s perfectly fine. The rule of thumb here is to provide them each with 10 square feet of space in the run. If you intend to keep 10 chickens, you’ll want to section off 100 square feet of space for their chicken run.

Thomas Nelson
Gardening Expert
Hi! I'm Thomas, one of the founders of The Garden Magazine. I come from a long line of gardeners who used the art of gardening as a way to live long, healthy lives. I'm here to share my knowledge of gardening with the world!