Skip to content

Posts tagged ‘chicks’

Understanding Chicken Math

It may not be logical but it does make sense, chicken math is the back-of-the-envelope calculating that takes place when managing a flock of chickens. Now the trick to chicken math, from what I can tell, is foresight. In performing chicken math, consideration and adjustments need to be made for gender, predators, illness and age — have I forgotten anything?

So for instance, let’s say you’ve decided that you want to keep chickens for eggs and your coop/yard can comfortably support 8 chickens. Assuming you get a chicken breed known for egg production, you can estimate 5 eggs per week per hen, or roughly 40 eggs a week from the flock. This number is important because it becomes your target goal, your inventory, what you plan for and maybe even sell against.

If you decide to raise your birds from (ordered) chicks, a straight run gives you a 50/50 chance that your birds will be female. Knowing this, you should order 16 birds to start with assuming half of them will be males and good for the pot. In other words, if you want 8 laying hens, it actually makes sense to start with 16 birds – that’s chicken math.

Now if instead of starting with baby chicks you go the route of started pullets where gender can be guaranteed, it would probably still behoove you to add a couple of extra birds to the mix in order to guarantee against predators, weather and/or illness. In this scenario, ordering 10 pullets will get you to a stable flock of 8 laying hens in a couple of months; again, chicken math.

And as that flock ages and time, weather and the elements impact egg production – younger birds need to be introduced into the formula to offset decreased productivity – foresight will require you plan to add even before you actually need to add to give those younger birds time to reach egg-laying maturity. In this case, 6 older birds and 4 younger birds may get you the target egg count you’re aiming for. That’s right, 6 old and 4 young roughly equals the productivity of 8 peak laying hens – chicken math.

To read more about chicken math, there are some interesting threads and posts online, check out some of these articles listed below, it’s fascinating to see how others’ do chicken math:

 

 Photo credit: http://www.sherylkirby.com

Thinking of Starting a Flock of Your Own?

Easter is right around the corner and most pet and feed stores – as well as many hardware and farm-supply stores – will be selling the cutest little baby chicks you’ve ever seen in your life. So cute in fact, that you just might be tempted to buy one or six and start a flock of your own.

And while caring for chickens is a pretty straightforward task, it’s still a commitment that deserves some serious thought and consideration. As it turns out, Mark (Eggzy co-founder and my hubby), is teaching a two-day class on what it takes to start a flock of your own. We decided to share his outline here, and while we’ve had to edit out quite a bit, it’s still a good overview for beginners.

As always, we welcome your feedback and input and if you think we missed anything major that a newbie should know please do drop us a line or post a comment below.

First things first, do you even know if you can keep a flock of your own – does your town and/or city allow chickens? Hopefully the answer is yes, but check with your local authority, there may be ordinances you need to follow. Sadly, there is no single national service that lists all pro-chicken municipalities but urbanchickens.org does keep a current list of ordinance laws.

Next you have to ask yourself why you want to keep chickens. Answering that question will help to guide several other decisions down the road, like what kind of chickens you want and how many you should get. We think one of the best reasons for keeping chickens are those healthy and delicious eggs that they produce, but there’s also services they provide such as bug control and the creation of excellent fertilizer, to name a few.

Choosing which breeds to start with depends on your purpose for wanting to keep chickens, as well as your location and/or climate zone. Since most folks we know keep chickens for their eggs (and not their meat or for heritage conservation), we’ll assume that eggs are also your primary reason for wanting a flock. And unless you’re ordering your chicks from a hatchery, chicks for sale at local retailers would probably already be vetted for regional appropriateness – note some birds are considered hardier for cold weather than others. You can also refer to our breeds guide and resources page for additional breed information.

When deciding how many chickens to have in your flock, keep in mind that even the most prolific breeds produce no more than one egg every 25 hours. So if your family eats 1 doz. eggs a week, you need enough birds to lay 1 doz. a week. The general rule of thumb in terms of productivity is:

  • 2 commercial layers (~6 eggs/wk/bird) or
  • 3 heritage breed layers (~4 eggs/wk/bird)

 

Lastly, if you are starting with baby chicks, you’ll need to keep them indoors, in a safe and warm environment for between 4 to 6 weeks of age. You’ll need; feeders & waterers,  and, if starting baby chicks, a brooder, a heat lamp & thermometer, and safe bedding material. All this can probably be purchased at the same place you buy your baby chicks, if not, again check out our resources page for a list of hatcheries and suppliers. We recommend that you plan for the chicks before you bring them home … think of it as a nursery for the chickies.

Once you have them, you’ll need to feed them starter feed up until about 4 weeks old, then grower/developer feed once they are pullets, which is 5 to 18 weeks old. And make sure to check on them daily and give them lots of fresh water. This stage is the hardest part of having a flock of your own; we’ve planned weekends and spring breaks around new chicks, but then again they are just so cute, who would want to leave their side anyway?

And if all of this just sounds way too overwhelming to you, can always rent some chicks to give the family a fun Easter peep experience before making a full-blown commitment of your own.