How Many Chickens Can You Have in Your Backyard?

Raising chickens isn’t difficult. In fact, they are one of the easiest livestock species to manage. You may wonder then how many chickens can you have in your backyard to make the endeavor worthwhile. In this article, we’re here to help you do just that.

Let’s get started!

Why Consider Raising Chickens

The obvious reason for having chickens is to provide food for your household with the satisfaction of taking care of what you bring to the table. You control everything from the feed to the nutritional content to the conditions that your birds exist.

You know everything behind the Oz curtain when you raise them yourself, which is crucial if you have concerns about food intolerances, taste, and nutritional value of the foods you eat.

It’s also an excellent teaching experience for your children. You can have them take part in the daily chores of raising chickens so that they can learn about animal husbandry first-hand. 

Legal Considerations Regarding How Many Chickens You can Have

Here is the most critical of decisions of how many chickens you can have in your backyard. Municipal and country restrictions trump everything.

Most concerns rest with the diseases that poultry may carry. There are obvious ones like E.coli, West Nile virus, and salmonella. Less common ones also exist like histoplasmosis. Chicken guano is a risk factor because of the spores that harbor the fungus can persist and infest humans far from the source.

It’s for these health reasons that many communities restrict the number of chickens you have, if at all. Sometimes, these regulations extend the number to the type of enclosure, spacing, and other aspects of husbandry. You may also have to get a permit or license.

We strongly urge you to research this part of the question before committing to raising any fowl. Make it easy for yourself and find out before you lay out any cash or start constructing a chicken coop. Don’t risk getting fined when a simple phone call would save you the hassle.

Why Do You Want to Raise Chickens?

That is an essential question to consider because it plays a direct role in how many chickens you can have in your backyard. Some people raise them just for the joy of having the birds around the yard. Others want the eggs or the meat.

Chickens will satisfy you on any front.

But you must be honest with yourself. Raising fowl is an investment in time and labor. They require daily care, including cleaning out the coop. You must also take steps to protect them from predators like opossums, foxes, and coyotes. Otherwise, you’re wasting your time.

So, you must balance the amount of effort you want to put into this venture with how many chickens you can have in your backyard. Let’s delve a bit more into what that will mean for you.

The Life of a Chicken

Chickens, like many birds of its kind, are social animals. They prefer the company of their kind. That means you must get more than one, preferably more like four to six to keep them happy. You can get chicks at your local farm supply store or from a local farmer.

You must also relate the number of birds you get with the available space you have for them. They need a chicken coop if just to keep them safe at night and to have a place to lay eggs if that’s your reason for raising them.

You should plan on about 3 square feet of enclosed space per bird. With keeping with our numbers, that means 12 to 18 square feet for your chicken coop. So, the time and effort to construct a coop are other factors when deciding how many to keep.

It’s also a good idea to give them a run or space in your backyard for them to wander around and forage. However, make sure to set boundaries for your feathered friends, especially if you have a garden. You can let them in the space after the harvest to do clean up for you but not before you’ve taken your fill.

Believe us. They will love your tomatoes and peppers just as much as you do.

Chickens will feed on insects and worms, so it’s like having an on-site pest control service in your yard. Plan on about 60 square feet for six birds to give them plenty of space.

We’d suggest you get your birds on a routine with returning to their chicken coop at night. Food is an excellent motivator. It’s a critical factor when considering how many chickens can you have in your backyard because you don’t want to keep replacing the ones you lose to predators!

Some breeds are easier to handle in this regard than others. Easter Eggers, Rhode Island Reds, and Bantam Brahmas are all outgoing birds that are friendly. If you’re raising chickens for pets, they’ll make great avian companions.

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Laying Hens

Another vital consideration when deciding about how many chickens can you have in your backyard is what you’re getting in return. Think of it like being stuck with a bushel full of zucchini or tomatoes at the end of harvest.

Healthy, happy chickens will reward you with eggs—and lots of them!

You can plan on about four to six eggs per week, depending on the breed. Some breeds are more prolific than others and will lay several more per week. It all depends on their living conditions and how comfortable they feel where they live.

Other considerations include:

  • Noise and traffic
  • Confinement situation
  • The temperament of the bird
  • Characteristics of the breed

Chickens lay eggs instinctively based on the photoperiod or the amount of daylight or just light. It’s nature’s way of telling them that food and water are abundant, so your chicks will have the best start in life.

That factor gives you some control in their production and thus, can play an important role in how many chickens you can have in your backyard. Some people put light bulbs in their chicken coops to encourage laying. 

Research has shown that the optimal light-dark period is 12 hours light; two hours dark; four hours light; and six hours dark. You can control these times using a smart plug or bulb.

Breeds that many consider as excellent layers include:

  • Black Star
  • Black Copper Marans
  • Australorp
  • Golden Comet

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Raising Chickens for Meat

Likewise, you’ll find a lot of variation with the breeds of chickens and their meat production. They grow relatively fast. Of course, there is a lot of care involved with diet and living conditions before it’s time to cull them. You can kill most birds between 16 and 20 weeks, some as early as six.

You can expect them to dress out anywhere between 4 and 7 pounds, depending on the breed.

That means you have to factor in the time frame between getting birds, slaughtering them, and eating the meat. A fresh whole chicken will last about one year in the freezer for peak quality.

Some chickens are better suited for meat than others, although you’ll see many dual-purpose birds. Some breeds to consider include:

  • American Bresse
  • Dorking
  • Cornish
  • Red Ranger

Other Considerations

Your satisfaction with the number of birds you keep depends on their care and particularly, feed. You can feed them a commercial chicken feed. For actively laying hens, it should contain at least 16 percent protein to ensure strong eggshells.

For broiler chickens, you should ramp up the protein to at least 22 percent. You’ll find feeds that specify the ultimate use of the bird to help you pick the right one.

Chickens aren’t the neatest when it comes to eating. We urge you to get a feeder to keep their foodstuffs clean. The same applies to their water. And plan on changing them daily.

Other Dietary Needs

They will also need a source of calcium, preferably oyster shells. That will also help with the quality of egg production. If you keep your birds in their coop, you’ll also have to provide them with a source of grit. They will use it to break down their food in their gizzards since they don’t have teeth to chew it.

If your chickens aren’t producing enough eggs, their diet is the first place to look for making adjustments to ensure that it’s meeting their nutritional needs.

You can supplement their diet with table scraps too. It’ll provide them with extra nutrients and cut down on food waste. After all, the chickens will recycle whatever you give them.

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Final Thoughts

Raising livestock is a rewarding experience that you can share with your children. It’ll teach them valuable lessons about animal husbandry and responsibility. And there’s no denying the satisfaction of fending for yourself.

Chickens are an excellent segue into this lifestyle. They are relatively easy to care for and will produce an abundance of eggs or meat to satisfy your entire family.

When deciding how many chickens you can have in your backyard, the most vital consideration is use. How many eggs will your household consume each week, and do you have friends that will take your leftovers?