ONE OF THE MOST DIFFICULT CHALLENGES I FACE is providing enough soil amendments for my raised beds. I can’t make nearly enough compost, and I really hate to pay for soil amendments.
Farmers have solved this dilemma with livestock since the beginning of time. And chickens are probably the most common animal kept for this purpose. Vegetable gardeners like chickens both for their high-omega-3 eggs as well as their nitrogen-rich manure.
Still a chicken in suburbia is a rare and noteworthy sight. There’s no denying that there’s still a certain stigma attached to small-scale, suburban livestock. As a result, keeping chickens in the suburbs is almost a lost art.
I’m not sure I want to make the significant commitment that comes along with raising chickens, but I know I’d like to know more about what’s involved. To better understand what I would be getting into I’m reading Harvey Ussery’s book called The Small-Scale Poultry Flock*. It focuses on raising chickens and other fowl with an eye on building soil fertility, replacing purchased feed and working with poultry when you have a garden.
How many chickens?
One of the first questions that comes to mind about raising chickens is how many should you keep. Ussery has an easy to understand formula for determining the right number. You start with the average number of eggs your family consumes per day.
Let’s say, for example, you have a family of four that consumes on average one egg per day or seven eggs per week. For every three laying hens, you get an average of two eggs per day. So three hens would be enough for 14 eggs per week. But there are a couple of other points to keep in mind:
1. There will be more eggs in the spring and summer and fewer eggs during the rest of the year.
2. Once you start eating great tasting, fresh eggs, your family will likely want more.
So it’s better to estimate for the minimum rather than the average. That way you’ll probably have enough. It’s also important to keep in mind that chickens are social animals and they do better in a flock than solitary.
The other point that Ussery makes is it’s always better to start small and work your way up than to start big and maybe get overwhelmed.
Are you raising chickens in the suburbs? How many do you keep and why? Let us know by commenting below.
*If you purchase using this link, I make a small amount of money that helps me continue to keep writing this blog.