The question is, how many chickens do I need to feed a family of 4? In this guide, we will answer that question, along with various tips and techniques to ensure success in growing your backyard chicken for meat.
Thinking of growing your backyard chickens to supply your household? The good news is, many people keep their own chickens and have successfully supplied their families with meat and eggs.
However, in achieving this purpose, knowing how many chickens to keep at one time is very important so you won’t break the bank instead. I’m assuming your reason for keeping your backyard chicken-besides your passion- is to save a little bit of money. So, we have to ensure the “profitability” of this project.
Chicken Meat and Eggs To Feed Family of Four
Let’s assume we have a family of four, each member is going to eat at least one chicken per week. While there’s no such thing as an average chicken and they can range between 2.5 lbs to over 8 lbs, let’s assume that your average chicken is 4 lbs, for the sake of mathematics.
The average adult needs 50 to 60 grams of protein and 2,000 to 2,500 calories per day to maintain their weight and health. So, how much protein is contained in a whole chicken? Below is the protein content of different cuts of chicken:
- Breast: 54 grams of protein, or 31 grams per 100 grams
- Thigh: 13.5 grams of protein, or 26 grams per 100 grams
- Drumstick: 12.4 grams of protein in one drumstick, or 28.3 grams per 100 grams
- Wings: 6.4 grams of protein in one wing, or 30.5 grams per 100 grams
So, let’s say our average chicken can provide 170 grams of protein, divided by 4 people, it’s 42.5 grams of protein per person.
Obviously, however, this family of four won’t only eat chicken, and so we can assume that each of them will eat one chicken per week, which will supply them with around half of their total protein requirements.
Meaning, this family of four will need 4 chickens every week or 208 chickens every year.
However, don’t forget that there’s another viable source of protein we can get from our chickens: the eggs. One chicken egg will give us 4.9 grams to 8.2 grams of protein. So, let’s say the average is 6 grams.
If each family member consumes an egg every day, then that will translate to 28 eggs per week, or 1456 a year.
So, is achieving those numbers actually viable in your backyard? Let us discuss the technicalities.
Choosing Your Chicken Breed
Since as mentioned, we are going to need both the chicken meat and eggs, here we will discuss two different chicken breed types: meat-only (standard), dual-purpose (meat and egg production), and egg-layers.
Standard Broilers Breeds for Meat
1. Jersey Giant
A purebred originated in the U.S. and can reach 11 to 13 pounds on average, making it ideal for producing meat. However, they grow relatively slow (16-21 weeks harvest time) and need large amounts of food. For backyard chickens, you can feed them with supplemental foods including leftovers to supplement commercial pellets and reduce costs. However, not recommended if you are aiming to build a commercial meat business.
2. Cornish Cross
The Cornish cross breed is extremely popular if you are raising your backyard chickens for producing meat. Why? Simply because they can reach 12 pounds of weight in just 6 to 8 weeks. A recommended choice for both commercial meat businesses and backyard chicken growers.
Expensive and relatively small, only up to 7 pounds and take 16-20 weeks before you can harvest the meat. However, famous for producing the most delicious meat and also for their tenderness.
Dual-Purpose Breeds for Meat and Egg
1. Brown Leghorn
It’s important to note that brown and white leghorns are essentially the same breed. The only major difference is their feather colors. Leghorns are famous for their egg production quality and can produce 280 eggs a year (so can easily meet the need of a family of four. The males can reach 6 lbs in 16 weeks, and their meat is decent in both taste and tenderness.
Buckeye chickens are a great choice if you live in colder climates, for example in the northern U.S. The males can reach 9 pounds in 16 weeks, and can produce up to 200 eggs per year. A decent dual-purpose choice if you want a steady meat and egg production all-year, even during the winter.
3. Egyptian Fayoumi
Relatively fast growth although they have fairly small sizes. The males can reach 5 pounds in just 14 weeks. Also, pretty decent egg production with 150 eggs per year. What they are famous for, however, is that both their meat and eggs are high-quality.
Dual-Purpose Breeds for Meat and Egg
Again, white and brown leghorns are similar except for their feather colors. Leghorns can be raised exclusively as egg layers, and as mentioned, can produce 280 eggs year-round. However, if you are raising leghorns for eggs, keep in mind that they are better as caged birds than free-range (more on this later below). Leghorns produce white-colored eggs (even brown leghorns)
One of the best egg-layers around, and great if you want free-range eggs. It can lay between 250 and 300 eggs per year, so it can easily supply a family of four assuming each member eats 1 egg every day. Keep in mind, however, that the golden comet produces brown-colored eggs. So, if you prefer white eggs, they are not for you.
Free-Range VS Coop: Benefits and Disadvantages
When raising our backyard chickens as the food supplier for our family, we have two main methods: caged (using chicken coop) or free-range.
“Caged” chickens refer to any chickens contained in a coop cage without any access to the outdoors, while we can label chickens as “free-range” when they have outdoor access at least some of the time.
If you are going to sell your meat and eggs, there is an increasing demand for meat and eggs that are free-range, since there are growing concerns about living conditions in battery coops. However, even if you are going to consume the chicken meat and eggs yourself, there are some benefits and disadvantages to each method, as we will discuss below:
Benefits and Disadvantages of Coop Chicken
- It’s easier to raise caged/coop chicken, the mortality rate of free-range chickens are double that of caged chickens
- Easier to manage since you can use devices like chicken feeders and other food and water devices.
- Coops can keep chickens separate from their waste and unfresh feeds, so it is easier to keep them free from diseases
- Obviously, the overall cost for coop systems are (much) lower than free-cage
- Cramped coop cages are, simply put, unnatural. So, it might prevent behaviors like nesting and dust-bathing
- Caged chickens can be more aggressive
- Physically caged chickens are weaker with reduced bone strength
- Higher feather loss on caged chickens
Benefits and Disadvantages of Free-Range Chickens
- Free-range chickens are generally happier since they get extra exercise, with stronger muscles and bones
- Better and tastier products (both meat and eggs). Eggs from free-range chickens are richer in omega-3 and have less cholesterol than caged eggs. The eggs are also richer in vitamins A and E.
- Extra exercises will mean the chickens are less aggressive and prevent destructive behaviors produced by stress and boredom like being aggressive to each other, feather picking, and playing with their food
- Your chickens will be more vulnerable to natural predators like stray dogs and foxes, so might not be a good idea if you live in areas with these animals
- Your chickens are more vulnerable to diseases and viruses
- They might lose their way and never come back, so you have to install fences and/or other parameters around the areas they can wander
In general, free-range chickens produce better eggs and meat, but they are much harder to manage. There are more risks associated with free-range like the risks of encountering predators, the chickens eating unhealthy scraps, and so on. So, free-range is generally much more difficult and expensive since you’ll have to install parameters and other required equipment.
If, however, you live in an area without too many predators around and you can manage the hygiene and security, it’s going to be worth it.
So, is it possible to raise your chickens to feed a family of four? You’d need at least one chicken per family member per week and one egg a day. This, will translate to 208 chickens and 1406 eggs every year. Are the numbers viable?
The answer is a sounding yes. However, you must choose the right breed and also implement proper growing management in place. If you want to achieve a steady supply for your family (and probably sell the rest), then raising them in a cage or coop is much easier and affordable. However, if you prefer better tastes and/or if you want to raise your chickens in a more humane condition, you can certainly try raising them free-range.
Below is a Pinterest friendly photo…. so you can pin it to your Chicken Board!!