How Many Chickens Do I Need For My Homestead?


One of the first animals people want to get when they move onto their homestead is the chicken.  Why not?  They are easy to manage and provide so many benefits.  But how many chickens do you need and what kind of chickens should you get to start raising?

For egg production, a homestead needs at least two chickens per person, which will provide between 4 to 7 eggs per week. For meat production, between 18 and 36 chickens at any given time will yield about 2 chickens per week.  This depends on the breed of chicken.

Not all chicken breeds are created equal however.  Some birds are best as egg layers, some as meat birds.  Others are great dual purpose birds. It is important to choose the right breed that not only produces eggs or meat, but can fit in well with your homestead.

Let’s dive a little bit deeper to find out not only how many chickens you will need for your homestead, but what varieties and how to care for them as well.


Related: If you’re looking to raise chickens, why not hatch your own eggs. It’s a great way to grow your flock and the kids love it! Here’s a link to one I have used and has worked great for me.

Egg Incubator: Fully Automatic 9-12 eggsOpens in a new tab.


How Many Chickens Does a Person Need?

This is a very common question and it is a great one. When getting chickens for your homestead, you always need to account for how many people are in the homestead. That is why it is a bad idea to just read random numbers found on the internet.

You also need to remember that you will have chickens with two very different purposes. Some will be egg-laying chickens while the others will be used as meat. While a lot of chickens can be used for both purposes, I find it best to have separate chickens for different purposes.

Meat Chickens

In order to come to a real number with this, we need to consider how much chicken you and your family will eat. For the sake of this article, we will assume that you have a normal size family and that one chicken is enough for a meal.

To make sure that you have a constant supply of chicken to eat, you need to have enough to last about 18 weeks depending on what chickens you have. A broiler can take about 7 weeks to mature but most other chickens take around 18 weeks. So, if you eat 2 chickens a week, you would need 36 chickens.

It is best to know which of your chickens is the oldest and which is the youngest that is ready to be harvested. This is because you don’t want the chickens to get too old as they might become tough. Having a good cycle is recommended.

In theory, a good cycle means that when you remove one chicken, it is ready to be replaced with a new chick. So, if you eat 2 chickens a week, try and replace both with new baby chicks.

Schedule For Meat Birds
Weeks 1-18Weeks 18-36Weeks 36-54Year 2: Week 54-72
Begin First Cycle of Baby ChicksHarvest First Cycle for Meat: 2 per week
Begin Second Cycle of Baby Chicks: Week 18Harvest Second Cycle for Meat: 2 per Week
Begin Third Cycle of Baby chicks: Week 36Harvest Third Cycle for Meat: 2 per week
Begin Fourth Cycle of Baby Chicks: Week 54…

How it really works is that you will most likely raise 2 to 3 cycles of chicks per year, with the first birds from the first cycle harvested for meat at week 18 up until the last bird at week 36. 

The second cycle starts with a new batch of chicks at week 18 with the first bird from the second cycle harvested for meat at week 36 up until week 54.

The third cycle begins at week 36 with the first bird ready at week 54 and so on from there.

This leads to almost 50 chickens sharing the same coop for a brief amount of time while the birds from the previous cycle finish off and the current cycle comes of age.

Egg Layers

When it comes to egg-laying chickens, things are a lot less complicated as they are with meat chickens. The reason for this is, it is easier to calculate how many chickens you need relative to how many people there are.

Having at least 2 chickens per person in the homestead is recommended. This will almost ensure that everyone has two eggs ready to be eaten every second day. It is good practice to have at least one or two more in total, just in case you need eggs for baking and so on.

Not every breed of chicken is equal in egg production.  Some breeds lay almost an egg a day, while others may only produce 3 or 4 a week.

It is also important to remember that the reproductive system of chickens does not work all year but I do have a small hack for you further down in the article. This hack will help you trick your chickens into laying eggs all year.

What Breeds Are Best For Hot Weather?

Some breeds of chicken do better than others in certain climates and that is definitely the case for hot weather climates such as Hawai’i. Do not worry though, I have a list of meat and egg-laying chickens that do well in the hot weather.  In fact, they thrive.

Chickens generally do not do too well in the cold or in the heat. They like mild climates. Making sure that you have the right breed of chicken for your climate can make things a whole lot easier for you. 

Below is a list of chickens that do well in hot weather:

Egg-laying chickens

  • Rhode Island Red
  • Barred Rocks
  • Araucanas
  • Black Minorca

Meat Birds

  • Cornish Cross
  • Brahmas
  • Jersey Giants

Related: Best Chicken Breeds for Hawai’i

Best Chickens for Hot Weather: Egg Layers

Now that we have a small list of chickens that are great for homesteads in warm climates such as the tropics, I think it is a good idea to talk a little bit about each one. This section will be great for anyone who is looking to start raising chickens.

Some things that we will discuss include:

  • How long each chicken takes to mature into egg-laying chickens.
  • Where they are from.
  • Their temperament
  • Their annual egg production

So, for everything you need to know about these chickens, keep reading.

Rhode Island red

The Rhode Island Red is one of the most popular chicken breeds in the world and it is often used in film, TV, and cartoons due to how iconic it is. The Rhode Island Red was bred in the eastern United States, first in Rhode Island and then in Massachusetts but it does well when raised in the tropics.

For Egg Production, this bird is one of the best as it lays around 260 per year. The eggs are also Large and are considered to be premium. The egg color is brown. This bird can also be used as a meat bird if you so choose. Their large size makes them perfect for larger families.

The temperament of this bird is hardy, in fact, they have been known to endure almost every climate condition due to their hard attitudes and strong wills.

The Rhode Island Red takes around 16 to 20 weeks to mature.

Barred Rocks

This is another popular American chicken. The Barred Rocks was also bred in the USA and also in Massachusetts. The chicken has a distinct look as it has black and white feathers that form a pattern. The pattern almost resembles a speckled Zebra.

The Barred Rocks lays around 280 eggs a year. The eggs are medium to large and are also considered to be premium eggs. The color of the eggs is brown.

The Temperament of the Barred Rocks is calm. They have a lazy demeanor and will go about their day without causing much fuss.

The bird takes around 16 to 20 weeks to start laying her eggs.

Araucanas.

The Araucanas was bred in South America, more specifically in Chile. The bird is medium-sized and has very unique features. It has what resembles a little beard just underneath its beak.

This bird only lays around 180 per year but the eggs it does lay are unique. They are small eggs with a light blue shell. So while these birds might be the best on this list for quantity, they are great if you want to be unique.

These birds are extremely friendly, especially when you compare them to other breeds. They won’t cause much hassle and as far as chickens go, you won’t really have to worry about one of them attacking your kids.

To mature, these birds take around 14 to 18 weeks.

Black Minorca

As its name would suggest, the Black Minorca is a pitch-black chicken with a cool looking red mohawk on its head. It also has two large white earlobes on the side of its head making the chicken easily distinguishable. The bird is a descendant of the Spanish Minorca chicken.

The Black Minorca only lays around 120 eggs per year. The eggs are relatively large and they are white. The Black Minorca might not be the best on this list in terms of egg production.

In terms of mannerisms and temperament, this bird is extremely skittish. It has a rather anxious look to it as it is always scanning its surroundings. The Black Minorca is also a very loud bird and will sometimes wake you up in the morning with their noise.

These birds take approximately 16 weeks to mature into egg-laying chickens.

Chicken BreedOriginTemperament Time to MatureAnnual Egg Production
Rhode Island RedMassachusetts/Rhode IslandHardy16 – 20 Weeks260 (brown)
Barred RockMassachusettsFriendly, Mild16 – 20 Weeks280  (brown)
AraucanasChileFriendly, Flighty14-18 Weeks170 (blue)
Black MinorcaSpainNoisy/Skittish16-18 Weeks120 (white)

Best Chickens For Hot Climates: MEAT BIRDS.

Growing vegetables is great and all, but chickens are able to convert non-edible food into something delicious.  If you are trying to achieve a truly regenerative system on your homestead, eating chicken is an important step on that path.

Most of the chickens that we mentioned in the egg-laying section can be used as meat birds as well, but I find it best if you have separate chickens for meat and eggs.  Sometimes being organized is key, especially if you want things to run like clockwork.

Some of the things that we will be discussing in regards to meat birds are:

  • Their size
  • How long it takes to mature.
  • Origin
  • Mannerisms

So, here are our favorite chickens that are used for meat, in the tropics.

Cornish Cross.

The Cornish Cross is a very popular meat bird. They are white with yellow beaks and red mohawks. Their broad, sometimes protruding chest is what makes them perfect as meat chickens. This bird should not be confused with the “Broiler” chicken as it often is.

The bird is also perfect for homesteads as they only take 8 to 10 weeks to mature enough to be harvested. This means, less time raising and fewer chickens needed at any given time.

This bird was bred in England and is bred from Plymouth White and Cornish chickens. Even though it originates from the cold climates of the UK, it has adapted well to different climates.

The Cornish Cross is a friendly but clumsy chicken. They are often fun to have around the homestead because of this.

Brahma.

The Brahma Chicken is a large and strong-looking bird. It comes in a variety of looks. You get a goldish brown one which is the most common, a black and white one, and finally, a plain white Brahma. They are fluffy with yellow beaks and red ear lobes. They also have relatively long legs, for a chicken that is.

Brahma chickens can take about 3 years to fully mature but they can be harvested in a few months rather than 3 years. This makes the Brahma the perfect dual-purpose bird as they lay about 3 eggs a week. So, why not use their eggs while waiting for them to mature?

This bird was bred in the United States but its ancestors were shipped over from Asia.

Their mannerism is calm so you won’t have to worry about the bird being too high maintenance around the homestead.

Jersey Giants.

The Jersey Giant is a very large pitch-black chicken with a red mohawk. It almost resembles the Black Minorca except the ear lobes are red, not white. Its large size makes it perfect for a large family dinner but their harvest time might throw you off.

Again, as with most large birds, this one takes some time to mature into a harvestable size. The Jersey Giant can take up to 9 months to mature but they will at least lay eggs for you during that time.

It was bred in The USA, New Jersey. It has adapted well to the tropics through its resilience.

This bird, like the Brahma, is calm and requires very little attention while it goes through its day to day life.

Chicken BreedOriginTime to HarvestSizeMannerisms
Cornish CrossENG8-9 WeeksMed-LargeClumsy, Friendly
BrahmaUSA5-8 MonthsLargeCalm
Jersey GiantUSAUp to 9 MonthsExtra LargeCalm

Other Breeds of Chicken for Homesteading Across the World.

Let’s take a quick look at some other breeds of chicken that are great for the hot weather and even in other climates.

Orpingtons

This is a large chicken that is bred in England, they lay around 190 eggs per year and can be used to produce eggs or as meat.

Leghorn

The Leghorn Chicken is a small to medium chicken that lays a lot of eggs. They lay around 280 eggs per year and are great for this purpose.

The Broiler

This is one of the most commercially farmed chickens in the world. They only take a few weeks to mature and are a great breed for meat birds on a homestead.

Do chickens lay eggs all year?

Chickens do not naturally lay eggs all year but you can use certain techniques to trick them into doing it. The key is to trick their reproductive systems into thinking that it is time to lay eggs.

You can trick a chicken into laying eggs all year by making them think it is not winter. You do this by setting up their coops with warmer lighting. If their reproductive systems do not think it is winter they will continue to lay eggs.

However, I feel it is important for a chicken to have time to rest from producing eggs.  If you think about it, everyday a hen has to pass this HUGE egg!  They deserve a break.

You can also achieve or assist this process via their food. We will get into this later on in the article, so, keep reading.

How much space do chickens need?

When considering how much space you would need, you need to consider the health and safety of the birds. If things are too cramped it can cause the birds to stress. This stress can lead to other problems and your entire chicken operation can be at risk. Here is a quick guideline for you to follow.

For outside of the chicken coop, you want each chicken to have at least 8 square feet. For inside the coop, each chicken should have at least 3 square feet of space. This is just a guideline as to the minimum amount of space per chicken that is recommended.

If you are able to provide more space for the chickens, that would be best. Remember, the happier and healthier the chickens are, the better the quality of their eggs and meat will be. I recommend at least 3 square feet in the coop and 9 to 10 square feet outside of the coop.

A few years back I switched my chickens from a coop to running free range 24/7.  This drastically increased their health and saved me food bills.  In fact, I barely purchase any supplemental feed at all anymore.

When To Introduce Chickens Into The Homestead.

The short answer to this question would be, whenever you are ready. That said, I will give you a good answer for when you should introduce chickens to your homestead.

hickens do not require a lot of maintenance, you could check in on them twice a day. If you have at least 2 people on the job, you don’t have to spend more than 20 minutes a day on them. If you plan on keeping them in a coop, you can introduce chickens to your homestead as soon as you like.

Getting chickens on your homestead sooner means that you will end up spending less time and money on buying eggs and chicken from the shops. The sooner you get it done, the sooner you will be self-sufficient.

However, if you plan on free ranging your chickens you may want to think twice about introducing chickens too soon.  They can wreak havoc on young plants in the garden and can even tear out newly planted trees in some places.  

The only reason my chickens can range free now is because my system is well established and able to withstand the damage that chickens can cause.

How Much Does It Cost To Raise Chickens

We can’t talk about the best chickens to raise in hot climates without talking about how much it costs to raise chickens. There are a few things to factor in when thinking of the cost. How many birds will you have, how much will the chicken coop cost, and how much you will pay for the chickens.

For backyard chickens, you could build an enclosure for anywhere between $300 to $1000. The chickens will cost you around $3 per week per chicken for food and maintenance. So, after building the enclosure, you should budget at least $30 per week for a flock of 10 chickens.

Obviously, you could cut costs if you have some of the materials already and maybe you are good at building stuff.

In the long run, it is well worth the money. Not only will you end up saving money but you won’t have to rely on others for your eggs and meat.  Plus, you get the healthiest eggs and meat from chickens that lived happy lives on your homestead.

What Should You Feed Your Chickens?

If you want healthy chickens so that their eggs and meat can be of the best quality, feeding your chickens the right food is key. But what should you be feeding your backyard chickens? 

Purchasing your own chicken feed is a great way to feed your birds, but if you want to be more self-sufficient, consider making your own.

Any sort of grains will be the best, Any sort of fruit and vegetable is also great. Pretty much any kitchen scraps will do too.  You can make your own chicken feed by mixing all of this together. There are a few things that you should not feed your chickens though.

  • Do not feed your chickens any processed foods.
  • Do not feed your chickens and dairy products such as cheese.
  • Do not feed your chickens and junk food.
  • And definitely do not feed your chickens sweets and chocolates.

All of the foods listed above should be avoided. You do not want any of your chickens to get ill as it might spread from chicken to chicken.

How Much Food Do They Need?

Chickens are natural born scavengers so when it comes to food,they can manage pretty well with finding what they need.  But if they are confined, you have to supplement more of i

About 1.5lbs of food per chicken is eaten every week.  Chickens should have a constant supply of food as they will only eat when they are hungry and stop eating when they are full. As long as they have food in their feeding pens, you don’t have to worry about them.

This is part of the reason why chickens are so low maintenance. You only need to make sure that their food is available to them throughout the day instead of only feeding them at specific times.

Stimulate egg-laying chickens with food.

I did mention that I have a little trick for you regarding your chicken’s egg-laying cycle. Knowing what foods to feed them is key to this.

To get your chickens to lay eggs for longer periods of the year, you want to feed them these foods.

  • Oats: Make the Oats should be uncooked.
  • Cabbage is another great one.
  • Worms: For this to work, you want to give your chickens mealworms as a treat.

Using the foods mentioned above is a great way to assist the process of tricking your chicken’s reproductive systems.

Conclusion

Wow, this article was really in-depth and we had a few goals while writing it and putting everything together.

The main goal was to help you choose which chickens are best for your homestead in tropical climates. We did more than that and you can use most of the information in this article for whatever climate you are in.

For egg-laying chickens, you want the ones that will produce the best quality eggs while producing a good quantity as well. You want good quality eggs because part of living on a homestead is to be healthier and happier than you would be in a city.

For meat birds. The Cornish Cross has to be the favorite due to its quick harvest time. Not only that but it has great quality meat, especially if it is raised right.

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Sean Jennings

Sean has been living simply Off-Grid in Hawai'i for over 18 years. He lives debt free on Hawai'i Island with his family and over 40 chickens. When he's not tinkering around the homestead, he's off exploring the shorelines for fish & surf.

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