Is an acre of land too small

To have some chickens and maybe a rooster?

Is It Normal?
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  • First off, I think you should consider carefully whether you want a cockerel (or rooster, if you insist on being Puritanical). Many people who've never had chickens don't realise that you don't need a male bird in the flock to get eggs. Just like every other animal, female chickens ovulate from the time they reach sexual maturity, regardless of whether they're having sex. The only reason to have a cockerel in the flock is if you want fertile eggs because you believe they're better for some woo-woo reason, or if you want to raise chickens to sell.

    Cockerels can be a pain in the backside. They can be very aggressive towards people, they're noisy, and if there aren't many hens in the flock, you can have a situation where they're being almost constantly hassled and mounted by the horny cockerel.

    You don't say how many chickens you're thinking of getting; that's obviously a major factor in deciding what size of enclosure you need. Chickens naturally spend their days wandering around eating greenery and scratching at the ground looking for little critters to eat. If the density of chickens in an enclosure is really high, you can end up with a bare-dirt mess, which looks horrible and isn't good for the chickens.

    If you're not planning on going into egg production in a big way, but just want, say, half a dozen hens so you can have eggs for yourself and maybe to give or sell some in an informal way to family, friends and neighbours, a acre will be way more than enough. Many people in the UK keep two or three chickens in their back gardens, which look like postage stamps compared to typical American suburban backyards. If they're allowed to free-range during the day, they do rip up the lawn and scratch away in flower beds, but most people can accept that's a reasonable price to pay for the amusement value provided by the chickens.

    We had a tiny flock of four hens when we lived in Italy (and also foolishly got a cockerel, which is why I'm so negative about them), and they free-ranged on our 17 acres of land. Although they could go wherever they wanted, they tended to stay fairly close to their coop, so it's not like chickens have an instinctive need to roam.

    We live in the UK now, and we have friends who are sheep and cattle farmers who keep a flock of about twenty hens. I guess their enclosure is about half an acre, and they all seem very happy wandering around that and doing their amusing chicken things. They've excavated their own dust-baths, and the area nearest to their coop is pretty scraggy-looking, but a lot of the area is rough grass which the farmers have to periodically weed-whack to keep it under control.

    I'd suggest that what you should be focusing on at this point is how you'd house your birds. Chickens don't really need much in terms of comfort (and I saw some really horrible, filthy, ramshackle coops when we lived in rural Italy), but you should provide a place where they can roost above the floor at night, that's protected from the worst of the weather, and where they won't be bothered by rats (any mice going for stray chicken feed in the coop tend to get eaten by the chickens, so you don't need to worry much about them).

    One thing you absolutely must consider is how you're going to make the coop fox-proof. Foxes are just about everywhere, and they are a huge danger to chickens; a fox that gets into a chicken enclosure or coop will slaughter every bird in a matter of minutes. The fox's reputation for intelligence and sneakiness is justified, and you must accept that, once you have chickens, someone will need to lock them in the coop every evening. If you slip up with this or if a chicken gets left out overnight, it's virtually guaranteed that you will lose birds.

    Foxes tend to hunt at night, but a really hungry fox will also hunt during the day, so you should think about that too. We were never bothered by foxes in Italy, but I'm sure that was because, along with free-range chickens, we always had at least two abandoned dogs we'd adopted, and they were free-range too. They seemed to very quickly come to see the chickens as part of their pack and were very protective of them.

    If you live in a place where there are large raptors, you'll also need to think about providing at least some cover for the chickens. Even if the birds of prey aren't big enough to actually take something as large as a chicken, the instinctive response of a chicken who sees a large bird flying above her is to run for cover under a tree or bush or something. If the chickens are in a completely open area, the absence of protective cover will stress the birds.

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  • an acre is definitely plenty of room, i use to live at a house with an acre of land and had about 25 chickens roaming around

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    • How many chickens would supply just single family usage? A single chicken or would I need a larger flock?

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      • boojum put it pretty nicely, to add on if you have a large family (let's say 2 adults and 4 children) I'd say 20 chickens would be enough, keep in mind not every chicken will lay every single day. if it was a smaller family 15 chickens would probably be enough.

        ISA brown, australorp, leghorn, rode Island red are often considered the best breeds for egg laying, although I'd definitely recommend to look into different breeds yourself to find the one that best suits you and your environment (some breeds do better in colder places and vice versa)

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      • Obviously depends on the size of the family and how much they like eggs.

        A healthy chicken will usually lay one egg a day for at least five years. However, egg-laying is triggered by how much daylight they're exposed to, and they don't naturally lay in the winter. You can trick them into a longer laying season by having a light in their coop that's on a timer so it comes on before dawn and after dusk, so they're exposed to at least 15 hours of light every day.

        Hens typically live for ten years, although some can go on much longer. After the five year point, the frequency of egg-laying gradually decreases; it's not like they just suddenly stop. I've heard of chickens that are much older than ten years still occasionally laying a tiny egg.

        High-intensity egg-producers typically get rid of their hens when they're a couple of years old because their production begins to drop at that point. But those birds are treated like shit and constantly stressed by their environment. The only thing that matters to the agribusiness farmer is the numbers on a spreadsheet. Once a hen hits her Best Before date as determined by the statistics, she's out the door and on the way to be turned into pet food.

        If you want some really cheap chickens, hens from a commercial egg producers can be a good source. I've read lots of stories about people getting very scruffy, pathetic-looking hens who have spent their entire life in a little wire box from such businesses, putting them in a more natural environment, feeding them a good diet and letting them do their natural chicken thing, and being amazed at how they're transformed over a few months and go on to regularly lay for many years. If you're at all interested in animal welfare - or just animals in general - this might be something you consider doing. Once you have chickens, you may well find that eggs aren't the only thing you get from them; they are quite amusing animals, and it can be fun just watching them and trying to figure out what's going on in their tiny bird-brains as they wander around muttering to each other and occasionally squabbling.

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        • I'm just intrested in homesteading as a lifelong goal. Keeping a somewhat sustainable farm, not because I think society will collapse but from a personal intest in sustainability. But I'm somewhat lazy so low maintenance animals like bees are on the top of the list for husbandry.

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          • We've had bees for nearly fifteen years. They don't require a huge investment in time and energy for us now, but the learning curve in the early years was pretty steep.

            It's not like you can just buy a colony of bees, stick them in a hive and collect honey from them once or twice a year. (Well, you can _try_ that approach, but you'd most likely discover that you didn't have any bees in the hive after a year or so.)

            Setup costs for beekeeping can also be significant. It's possible to knock together a perfectly adequate chicken coop from scavenged lumber if you have rudimentary carpentry skills, but the components of conventional beehives are very precisely milled and constructed. The equipment to harvest honey also isn't cheap, and only the most experienced beekeepers will ever go into a hive without any protective clothing.

            There is something called "top-bar beekeeping" which doesn't require anything more than a box of the right size and some strips of wood for the bees to build their comb off of. That can be done very cheaply and it's a method commonly used in places like rural Africa where beekeepers can't afford anything more. But that approach will only be successful if you start with a good understanding of the principles of beekeeping.

            Bees are fascinating critters, but they're also complicated and sometimes simply refuse to do what the beekeeper wants them to. It's far from the best-ever book on beekeeping, but Beekeeping for Dummies is a good general introduction to the topic.

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            • Theres these hives that are designed to be drained of honey. Yes I wouldnt have honey the first year but I would have honey after the first winter. It's this system where it removes the back half of the honey capsules so it drains down the back into a spout. The downside is that you cant collect the beeswax. So idk may get that or get the hybrid system so I could collect the wax too.

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  • An acre's big. And also you've got to consider the area because you need to keep them away from the neighbors' or they'll complain about the smell.

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  • That is plenty of room

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  • Look into poly culture and vertical farming.

    An acre is perfect. A lot of people go big and get too much to manage.

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