Obviously the answer is yes…. If you have a quadrillion chickens, that is definitely too many. I am sure everyone would agree that there is an upper end to how many chickens you can have. That upper limit is dependent on your situation and the way you should answer the question of “how many chickens” is reliant on several factors.
- How much land do you have to be available to the chickens? Smaller amounts of land equal smaller number of chickens which can be housed without a seemingly exponential increase in cost and labour.
- What will you feed the chickens? Will they free range in an area, or will you provide store bought food? The cost of this will need to be considered and will impact the amount of livestock you can keep.
- Why do you have the chickens? For egg production? You need to ask yourself how many eggs will you need and work out the number of chickens that will be required. Some people want meat production, which requires a Rooster (the purchase of fertilised eggs or new hatched chicks can negate the need for the Rooster) and will need extra care due to the chicks you will need to protect.
- Finally, how much time do you have to devote to caring for the chickens? When you have more time, you can compensate (a small amount) to cutting costs, moving the chickens on to fresh ground, etc. When you have less time, you must make some decisions which (should you have a larger flock) may be considered as short cuts.
What do I mean by short cuts? I don’t have a huge amount of time when I return home from work each week day. In order to cut the time demands of my chickens, I allow them to free roam throughout my garden (except for crucial growing areas, such as my vegetable garden). I don’t put them into a coop at night, instead allowing them to roost in my orchid. As the chickens are free to roam, I feed them in an area so that they can spread out to eat and not be forced close to each other (which can cause friction, such as fighting).
A family living on a tiny suburban lot may have three chickens, any more may be too many for their needs. A Pastured Poultry farmer may have two thousand chickens, and they are satisfied that is all they need for now. When I look at my situation, which is that I have a small amount of land, little money for feed, a small amount of time to care for them and too many chickens, you get into a position where mistakes can be made. I started out with a small number of Australorp chickens at my home, I believe I had two females and one male. From these I incubated several dozen eggs before selecting a number to keep for my own flock. I ended up with the one male and (around) six females, which provided me with two-three dozen eggs per week. As the Rooster I owned was the father of the majority of the flock, and he was an incredibly bad-tempered chicken. He was so awful that he would attempt to attack my family on a regular basis. After I removed him from circulation, I bought a new Rooster from a different bloodline (whom we named Reggie). Reggie was a great Rooster, caring for his girls with a high level of attentiveness, yet never being aggressive to my family. Reggie fathered many chicks, the majority of which were sold. When I removed Reggie from the flock, I decided to hatch a last batch of fertilised eggs. It seems that several of my hens decided they would do the same thing, as I ended up with 24 chickens. While I worried I had too many, I didn’t mind it too much.
Over the course of a few weeks I noticed the condition of my lawn starting to degrade. With the approach of winter, my chickens were causing significant damage to the sodden ground. They were also causing problems with just moving through my back yard, as they crowded around when they were hungry. This meant that a short 10 second walk to my shed would take a minute as I navigated through the flock. It was when I noticed that I was going through significant amounts of fodder each day, and the chickens were still hungry, I had to make a quick decision to reduce the size of my flock. The decision? I decided to sell 5 of my younger chickens. This netted me a nice bit of cash (to put back into chicken feed), yet I had to deal with the people on Gumtree. I won’t go into Gumtree right now, just know that the majority of interest is from time wasters.
After selling 5 chickens I am down to 19 chickens… two of which are males (so they will be dispatched eventually), and a couple of the older females are now around three years old… which means their egg production is going to dry up. After some culling which I plan in the early Spring, I should be down to around 12 chickens. I hope to gather around five dozen eggs a week, which will allow me to provide all the eggs my family needs, and some additional to be sold to help cover their feed costs. The number for me, at the moment, will be 12… yet this number may change with our needs.