So how many chickens should you start with?
I would suggest that if you are completely new to keeping chickens to start with just two or three hens to begin with and see how you get on. Chickens like to live in groups (birds of a feather and all that) so never keep less than a pair.
If laying properly, three hens will provide a family of four with enough eggs to keep the fridge stocked and the poached eggs flowing, so to speak.
Just how many eggs can you expect?
According to the International Egg Commission, the UK average egg consumption per person is approximately 180 eggs a year, or just under 3.5 eggs a week. So, on paper a family of four would eat about 12 to 14 eggs a week, which is exactly what you would expect from three happy and well-fed hens.
You should also know that egg production does vary depending on what breed of chicken you keep. For example, a Light Sussex may lay up to 220 eggs a year, while a showier breed such as the Orpington may only produce 80 eggs a year.
Also, egg production does vary between winter and summer. During the summer months, most hens will lay an egg a day, but in winter, they will lay fewer, and may even stop altogether. Egg production will also decrease when a hen moults which can happen at any time but is most common at the end of summer. As hens get older, their egg production also slows.
What I have found since keeping chickens is that we seem to get through a lot more eggs at home than we used to. Maybe it’s because in the past it was just another item on the list to pick up at the supermarket and now it’s just a short walk in the garden. And it’s a conscious thing; I find myself frying up a quick egg whenever I’m in a rush and feeling a bit peckish.
The girls also bake a lot more, as we don’t want to let any extra eggs go to waste!
Yes they will. A hen will lay eggs whether a rooster is present or not.
In fact, there is very little reason to have a rooster around if you only keep a handful of chickens for eggs. We would advise against it unless you have more than 6 hens, then maybe there is more of a reason to have one. Obviously if you want baby chicks then you must have a rooster with your hens to fertilise their eggs.
Your hens will produce eggs hopefully on a regular basis and their production won’t increase or decrease because you have or don’t have a rooster about. So in the back garden, hobbyist world they serve little purpose!
Hens don’t have teeth (hence the phrase, rare as hen’s teeth), so they ingest grit into their gizzards, where it helps break up their food. (It’s the same reason you see birds pecking at the side of roads.) If your chickens don’t have access to natural grit in the ground, you should provide some.
Grit with added oyster shell has the benefit of a higher calcium content which helps create stronger egg shells.
You can have some in a small container next to their feeder or you can mix it in with the feed. The hens seem to peck at it as and when they need it.
Your bird is most likely fine.
It is very common for hens of any breed to take a break from laying. If your hen is just not laying but acting like normal then she is fine and taking a break. Healthy birds have shinny feathers, and bright eyes. They will fight over food and come running to you when they see you holding the food dish. If this is the case the eggs should start coming in again soon.
Hens will also normally slow down or cease egg production when moulting and also during the winter months so don’t be concerned as long as they are acting and appearing as normal. Some diseases cause egg production to cease, so if your hen is decidedly off-colour,a more detailed investigation is necessary.