It’s happening my dear readers. Soon a magnificent flock of majestic foul will be joining our small homestead. Today’s task is to discover the right amount of birds for our small homestead.

There is no book, no chart, no guide for deciding how many birds is the correct number of birds. Especially for a homestead as small as ours. If you recall we live on just .2 acres, and if too many chickens are introduced they will lay waste to our land. They have potential to introduce too much nitrogen rendering the land useless.

All of the information I am finding so far is for people that are managing 1-5 acres. Do not lose hope though. We must simply employ a bit of math to uncover the correct number.

We know at the outset that any calculation based on meat birds would be folly for our mission. The reason being that meat birds generally only exist on a land for about eight weeks. Then they go away from the land for an extended period. We will however be dealing with bonafide butt nugget generators which are a constant on the land.

For the start we turn to the land. Ours is shaped as a triangle. 70′ wide running 220′ “technically” actual mileage may vary. This leaves us with 7700 sq feet. Next we need to subtract for the house which is appropriately 1300 square feet. I don’t think that factors in the barn so let’s say 2000 square feet on the house.

What we are left with is 5500 square feet.

The number that I’m seeing pop up most is 50 hens per acre. 80 square meters per hen. What I cannot seem to find is how this scale moves when external feeding (grain) is factored in. Lets assume for our purposes here that feeding will not factor in. since ignoring the introduction of food only benefits the chickens spacial needs by relieving some burden on the land, and alleviating the chickens need for constant forage.

When we take the 5500 square feet of remaining property, convert it to meters and we are at 510.96 meters. We’re going to round that to 511 in the interest of not having fractions of chickens. Then we divide it by the 80 square meters per chicken we are left with 6.3875 chickens. So much for fractions of chickens.

This number roughly aligns with the math when 50 chickens per acre is divided into tenths of acres. With that method I come up with ten birds.

So I think our golden number is 6-10 birds. Next, coop needs must be addressed. Our math above assumes the chickens are outside all the time. The coop needs are a bit more clear at 4 square feet per bird in roost space and 10 square feet per bird in pen space.

Assuming an initial flock of six birds we could build for that, but there would be no room for expansion without renovating the coop. Let’s build the coop with a hypothetical 8 bird flock in mind. This will provide ample room at 6 and the least crunch at ten should we ever expand the flock.

At eight birds we need a 32 square foot coop. When faced with this, a four by eight coop seems very alluring. Construction will be easy and could be based from pallet wood. It will also allow the coop to be Mobile and towed from one area to another on the property. This allows me to employ the flock for bed prep in the gardens.

So at this point I think we have established our numbers. 6 hens and a 4×8 coop.

Now to find graph paper and a ruler…

Until next time…

Hi! I have some tips for you!

Coop needs varies based on how much time your chickens are expected to spend in the coop. 4sqft per bird assumes they will spend a substantial amount of awake time in the coop or that outside space is highly limited. If the coop is only a place for them to sleep, then you only need to consider roost bar space (about 8″-1′ per bird). So 8 chickens can easily fit into a smaller coop under some circumstances. Also, space needs do not scale smoothly. Four chickens in a 4’x4′ coop is very different than 100 chickens in a 70’x70′ pen. Chickens form groups and bundle together. 100 chickens in a 70’X70′ pen will leave large swathes of open space and you could easily add 10 more chickens to it, whereas a 2’x2′ space with a single birds feels crowded when you add even just one more bird.

Pen space has similar problems. 4 chickens in a 6’x6′ pen can be just fine sometimes but miserable others. If you have a foot of deep litter they may be quite well off. Things become very different than when you have sand or bare ground. They might be exceptionally bored from a bare space, or your pen might have enrichment items in it. Breaking up lines-of-sight is one of the most important factors in animal welfare in small spaces. Making sure that there are different places to go, things to see and perspectives to have is more important than providing more space. A chicken in a 4’x4′ pen will benefit more from having perches and a tunnel added to the pen for enrichment than upgrading to a 5’x5′ pen.

I think the most important factor to consider is actually feed costs, enrichment, and making sure you’re getting the right number of chickens to give you the eggs you know you will use. I would think about how many eggs you will need each day, and base how many chickens you get and what you build off of that number first because it’s going to be much more relevant than making specific measurements.