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How many chickens should I buy?
of you may be starting chickens for the first time this year, in which
case the question on your mind is probably "How many chickens should I
get?" If you're raising broilers for meat, the answer is pretty
obvious --- you should raise about as many broilers as you plan to eat
that year. But what if you're starting a laying flock?
The chart above is excerpted from Success With Baby Chicks, by Robert Plamondon (which is a great book to get you started with chick-raising.) To find your recommended laying flock size, skim down the first column until you find the number of eggs your family eats per week, then follow that row to the right until you reach the column with the type of hen you plan to buy. Modern hybrids include Golden Comets, Production Reds, and all of the other varieties that won't breed true but will provide you with the most eggs for your feed costs. Old style commercial hens are the varieties that used to be raised commercially before hybrids came on the scene --- mostly Rhode Island Reds, White Longhorns, and Barred Rocks.
Many people new to chicken-keeping pick the prettiest hens out of the hatchery catalog, or opt for "easter-eggers" that lay green and blue eggs. But as you can see from Plamondon's chart, you'd need twice as many Cochins as Golden Comets to lay the same number of eggs. If you're pinching pennies, perhaps it's worth it to focus on productivity and stick to hybrids.
One more word of wisdom before you decide on your flock size --- your family might double or triple its egg consumption once fresh eggs are available. We barely ate eggs except in baked goods before getting our flock, but now we could easily eat two dozen eggs a week between us. Real eggs sure are tasty!
Our chicken waterer is a great way to get your chicks off to a healthy start.
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