How Many Chickens Do I Need for Eggs?

Many factors are going to come into play when deciding how many chickens you should get for eggs. So, this post will help you decide how many chickens to get and which breeds are right for you.

Location

The first thing you really should do is research the zoning laws in your area.

There might be a law that limits the number of chickens you can have in your backyard. Or there might be a limit on how many chickens you can have before you need to get a permit. These laws might make your decision on how many chickens to get super easy.

Rule of Thumb

If you want plenty of eggs, a very basic rule of thumb is to get two to three hens per family member. Or you can get four chickens if your family and friends really like eggs. It’s always nice to have a surplus of eggs to give away.

If you don’t plan on using that many eggs for your family or giving some away, then two to three chickens for every two people will probably do the trick.

Just keep in mind that chickens are social birds. They don’t do well if they’re alone, so you want at least two chickens together at all times. Three works best, because if one dies then they’ll still have a companion.

On average, a good laying hen will give you about five to six eggs per week in warmer seasons (egg-laying naturally slows down or sometimes stops in the winter time). So if you have three to five hens, you can expect about fifteen to thirty eggs each week in spring and summer.

Space

The space you have on your property for a chicken coop, a run, and free-ranging (optional) is going to affect the number of chickens you can have before they become unhappy and unhealthy. Unfortunately, most people unknowingly don’t give enough space to their chickens.

If you’re going to keep your chickens in their coop and run, you should aim to give a minimum of 2 to 3 square feet per chicken inside the chicken coop, and a minimum of 8 to 10 square feet per chicken in an outside run.

Keep in mind that bantam breeds are smaller chickens and need less room than regular sized chickens. But if you get heavy breed chickens, they’ll probably need more space.

The measurements below are the bare minimum of how much space chickens should have.

Chicken Breed SizeChicken CoopChicken Run
Standard to Large2 to 3 square feet per bird8 to 10 square feet per bird
Bantam1 square foot per bird4 square feet per bird

Chickens favor free-ranging to being confined in a coop and run all the time. Yet, sometimes it’s necessary to have them enclosed in their coop because of weather or predators. But, I still think free-ranging your chickens makes them happier.

A rule of thumb for free-range space is 250 to 300 square feet per chicken.

If you’re thinking of building your own coop and run, you might want to check out my favorite do-it-yourself chicken coop eBook called “Building a Chicken Coop” (especially if you’re not an expert woodworker like me).

Time

If you work full-time or you’re away from your home a lot, you probably don’t want to spend your entire weekends cleaning out a big chicken coop. If this is you, stick to three chickens for now and then you can always add more chickens later once you see how much work keeping chickens involves.

Having three chickens is also a great way to test out how much kids will chip in with the chickens. Some kids are amazing chicken keepers and can take care of six or more, while others seem to lose interest pretty fast.

Winter

Another thing you want to keep in mind is that egg production will slow down, and sometimes stop completely, during winter. And egg production also dramatically drops in fall.

Cold weather + shorter daylight time = less eggs.

Then, in spring when the warmer weather starts and the days start getting longer, chickens will start laying regularly again.

So, you might decide that you want to get an extra chicken or two to compensate for the lack of egg production in the colder months. You can keep eggs in the fridge for two to three months or you can freeze them outside of their shell.

Breed

Some chicken breeds are best for meat, some for eggs, some are for both, and some just make great pets.

If you want chickens with the best egg production, then you definitely want to check out the table below. Here I listed the best (and my favorite) egg-laying breeds.

BreedEggs/YearSizeColor
Isa Brown300LargeBrown
Lohmann Brown 320LargeBrown
Golden Comet250-300Large
to Extra Large
Dark Red-Brown
Rhode Island Red
250Large
to Extra Large
Brown
Leghorn 250-280Medium
to Large
White
Sussex250Large Brown
to Creamy White
Australorp 250LargeBrown
Ameraucana 250MediumShades of Blue
Plymouth Rock
200LargeBrown
Ancona200LargeWhite
Buff Orpington 180-280LargeLight Brown
Barnevelder 200LargeSpeckled Brown
to Dark Brown
Marans 180-220
LargeRich Dark Brown
Hamburg150-200Small
to Medium
White

Keep in mind that some breeds do better than others in cold weather and hot summers. And some chickens are more social and better with kids, while others are more of the anti-social type. So make sure to research the type of breed you’re thinking about getting before you bring chickens home.

Age

Some of my hens have been laying for over a year and I noticed that their egg production has started to drop.

Chickens are in their prime egg production period when they’re younger than about two years old. Then, production drops so many people replace their chickens every two to three years to keep getting a good amount of eggs.

Unless you have your chickens as pets (or you get super attached to them like I do), it can be a good idea to replace a third or more of your flock each year. You can always keep those that still seem to be producing a good number of eggs, or keep your favorite chickens as pets. They’ll still produce some eggs for a few years, just not as much as they used to.

Start Small

If this is your first time raising backyard chickens, I recommend you start with a small flock. You’ll soon get an idea as to whether you have too many or too few chickens when they start laying eggs. From there, you can make a more practical decision on how many chickens are perfect for you and your family.

Personally, I like having five to six chickens because I like having extra eggs at the end of the day so I can give some to my extended family and friends. I also cook almost everything I eat from scratch, so I need more eggs than someone who buys a lot of already made food.