How many chickens should a beginner have?

Quick Answers

For most beginners, 3-5 chickens is a good number to start with. This allows you to get experience caring for a small flock, while not being overwhelmed. Some key factors that determine flock size are space available, your daily time commitment, noise and odor tolerance if you have close neighbors, and local ordinances.

Raising backyard chickens is becoming an increasingly popular hobby. Fresh eggs, pest control, fertilizer, and fun pet-like companions are just a few of the benefits chickens provide. However, deciding how many chickens to get can be a tough decision for a beginner. You want to start small so you don’t get overwhelmed, but you also want enough chickens to make it worthwhile. In this article, we’ll go over all the factors you need to consider when determining an ideal beginner flock size of chickens.

Space Requirements

The amount of space available in your yard or coop is a major determining factor for how many chickens you can care for. Chickens require a minimum of 2-4 square feet of coop space each. The coop should be predator-proof and well-ventilated. In addition to a coop, chickens need an outdoor run for fresh air, exercise and foraging. The run should provide at least 5-10 square feet per chicken. Consider how much space you can dedicate when choosing your flock size.

Coop Size Recommendations

Number of Chickens Minimum Coop Size
1-2 2 sq ft per chicken
3-5 3 sq ft per chicken
6-10 4 sq ft per chicken

As you can see, the more chickens you have, the more space each one needs. This is because chickens have a social hierarchy and can become aggressive if overcrowded.

Time Commitment

Caring for chickens requires a daily time commitment. Key chores include:

  • Feeding and refilling water
  • Letting birds in and out of coop
  • Collecting eggs
  • Cleaning coop
  • Gardening and landscaping run area

This typically takes around 15 minutes per day for a starter flock. The more chickens you have, the more time will be needed. Make sure you can realistically commit to the daily, weekly and monthly duties before getting a large flock.

Feed and Water Needs

Chickens require access to feed and fresh water at all times. You’ll need at least 1-2 feeders and waterers per small flock. Feeders and waterers come in a variety of styles including hanging, screw-on and automatic. Plan to refill feed and water at least once a day. You’ll also need to buy or store an adequate amount of chicken feed. Here are the general guidelines for how much feed chickens need:

Daily Feed Requirements

Number of Chickens Feed Per Day
1-3 chickens 1⁄4 – 1⁄2 lb
4-6 chickens 1⁄2 – 3⁄4 lb
7-10 chickens 3⁄4 – 1 lb

Purchase feed accordingly and have storage space available to buy in bulk. This will help determine how many chickens your coop setup can sustain.

Egg Production

One of the main reasons for raising chickens is farm-fresh eggs! However, don’t expect a huge surplus of eggs at first. Here’s a rough estimate of egg production to expect from common chicken breeds:

  • 1-2 chickens = 1-4 eggs per week
  • 3-5 chickens = 12-20 eggs per week
  • 6-10 chickens = 35 eggs per week

There are many factors that affect egg production including breed, diet, time of year and age. Aim for 3-5 hens as a beginner to get about a dozen eggs per week.

Chicken Breeds

The breed of chicken you choose also determines how many you should start with. Some breeds are known for being more aggressive or flighty than others, which factors into their recommended flock size. Here are a few popular breeds for beginners and the ideal flock sizes:

Beginner Chicken Breeds

Breed Temperament Recommended Flock Size
Australorp Calm, friendly 3-5 hens
Orpington Docile, laid-back 4-6 hens
Barred Rock Tolerant, hardy 4-8 hens
Easter Egger Spirited, active 3-4 hens

Stick to these mellow breeds that interact well in small groups when starting out.

Roosters or No Roosters

One of the biggest flock decisions is whether or not to keep a rooster. The main reasons to have a rooster are for fertilized eggs, breeding and their natural protective instincts. However, roosters do add challenges:

  • Aggression and fighting with each other
  • Increased feed consumption
  • Very loud crowing
  • Can be aggressive towards humans

For these reasons, most urban and suburban owners are better off skipping the rooster altogether. Hens will lay eggs naturally without one. Consider your own temperament and that of your neighbors before getting a rooster.

Ideal Rooster to Hen Ratios

Number of Hens Number of Roosters
1-5 1
6-10 2
11-20 3-4

Follow these ratios if you do decide to get a rooster to reduce aggression and injuries. Still, 3-5 hens is often plenty without the added challenge of a rooster.

Noise and Odor Considerations

Chickens can potentially cause noise and odors, especially roosters. Take into consideration how close your neighbors are and if they’d be bothered by crowing, clucking or coop smells. It’s always smart to give your neighbors a friendly heads up before getting chickens. Also check if your local area has any noise ordinances that apply to backyard poultry. In more crowded urban areas, a smaller flock size of just 2-4 hens may be more appropriate.

Local Laws

Before deciding how many chickens to get, check local ordinances for guidelines and restrictions. Many cities allow small backyard coops but limit the number of chickens. Common urban and suburban limits are 4-6 hens but no roosters allowed. Having too many chickens where you live could result in fines or even confiscation of birds if reported. Stay in the legal range for your area.

Predator Pressure

The amount and types of predators in your area is a key point to consider. Chickens are vulnerable prey for foxes, coyotes, raccoons, hawks and other predators. A larger flock size helps with safety since the birds can sound alarm calls and have strength in numbers. Areas with significant predation may warrant starting with 6-8 hens for better security. Have an enclosed, predator-proof run and coop ready before getting chickens.

Flock Dynamics

Chickens have social hierarchies and unique personalities just like other animals. A flock size of at least 3-5 birds allows your chickens to establish a natural pecking order and socialize properly. Very small flocks under 3 can sometimes lead to issues like feather pecking, aggression or excessive timidity. Monitor your chickens’ behavior closely and be prepared to expand to 5-6 hens if needed.


The costs of housing, feeding and caring for chickens adds up quickly. Estimate your startup and ongoing expenses before getting birds. Some typical costs for a starter backyard flock include:

  • Coop: $300-$800
  • Run: $200-$500
  • Chicks: $3-$6 per chick
  • Base bedding/litter: $20-$30
  • Feeder: $20-$50
  • Waterer: $10-$20
  • Heat lamp/brooder: $30-$80
  • Feed: $15-$25 per month

Review your budget and how much you’re willing to spend. Since your flock will lay more eggs over time, you may choose to start small with just 3-4 chickens.

Expanding Your Flock Later

The great thing about chickens is that your flock is flexible and expandable. Once you get comfortable caring for a starter flock, you can gradually add more chickens over subsequent years. Get the proper housing setup for a larger flock size from the start. Then you can include new chicks or adult hens each season.


For most first-time chicken owners, a flock of 3-5 hens is recommended. This allows you to get valuable experience without being overwhelmed. As you get the hang of chicken care, your flock can grow over time. Base your final flock size decision on factors like space available, time commitment, breed personalities, predator presence, laws, and budget. With just a small flock of happy hens, you’ll be rewarded with farm-fresh eggs and enjoyable pets.

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