Wouldn’t it be great if chickens laid eggs like clockwork? If they did I could give you a precise answer to the question: How many chickens do you need to get a dozen eggs a week?
But the truth is, when it comes to egg laying, we can only talk about average laying rates, and then use those averages to help us make decisions about the best flock size for our needs.
Once you know the average laying rates for different breeds of chickens, it’s much easier to figure out how many chickens you need.
Some types of chicken are super productive layers, while others lag behind. Some breeds lay reliably all year round, while others stop laying over the winter months.
To figure out how many chickens you need:
- Decide how many eggs you want each week.
- Find out how many eggs (on average) a specific chicken breed will lay each week.
- Allow for production drop offs.
- Do some math.
To make things easy for you, I’ll go over the average weekly egg production and winter egg production for some popular laying breeds.
How Many Chickens Do You Need To Get A Dozen Eggs Per Week?
On average you can expect to get 3 to 4 eggs a week from most layer breeds. However, a very productive layer like a young White Leghorn chicken can do better than that, and lay 5 or 6 eggs a week during her first 2 years.
So, a simple but incomplete answer to the question: how many chickens do you need to get a dozen eggs a week, would be three to five chickens. As an example, during peak laying season, four Barnevelder hens could lay 12 to 16 eggs per week, while three White Leghorn hens could give you 15 to 18 eggs a week.
For a dozen eggs per week, plan to get a minimum of 3 to 5 laying hens depending on the breed. White leghorns lay 5 to 6 eggs per week and each chicken can lay up to 320 eggs a year, but they won’t lay all year round unless you provide additional lighting over winter.
Chickens aren’t machines, and they will take laying breaks.
When Does Egg Laying Slow Down Or Stop?
The first bottleneck in egg production occurs when chickens molt. Egg laying slows down (or stops entirely) for a few weeks each year when the chickens replace their feathers. During this molting period, the chickens are using protein and energy to grow new feathers, and this takes priority over egg production.
While 3 or 4 hens would certainly give you a dozen eggs per week during the spring and summer months, egg production will decrease during the molt in the fall. To compensate for the drop in egg production you would need another hen in your flock, bringing your total to 4 or 5 hens.
The second bottleneck occurs during late fall and winter, when daylight hours are shorter. Without the long hours of daylight which trigger laying, egg production will drop or stop altogether in many breeds. You’ll see a slowdown even in breeds (known as ever layers) that have the ability to lay throughout winter.
This presents a dilemma.
With 2 or 3 Leghorns, you’ll get a dozen eggs a week for most of the spring and summer, but the number of eggs the hens lay will drop when they molt, and they won’t lay over winter (without extra coop lighting).
You’ll still need to feed them and take care of them, even though you have to resort to buying eggs from the store.
Do you keep a few extra chickens to cover the molt period, but have too many eggs when they’re all laying at maximum capacity, and no eggs over winter?
Do you choose hens that lay fewer eggs each week but continue laying over the winter?
Or do you make a compromise and accept that winter means eggs from the supermarket rather than the chicken coop?
There’s no right or wrong answer to those questions. But they are questions you need to think about.
With that in mind, let’s look at some popular egg laying heritage chicken breeds. You’ll find out what the average laying rate for each breed is as well as notes on their temperament, hardiness, and winter egg production.
And don’t forget, you can always get more chickens later. It’s better to start small and add another couple of chickens if you need them, than to bring in more chickens that you actually need.
How Many White Leghorn Chickens Do You Need For A Dozen Eggs Per Week?
White Leghorn chickens are the powerhouses of the egg laying world, and they’re responsible for laying the white shelled eggs you find in grocery stores.
Since White Leghorns are the breed of choice for commercial egg producers, you can be confident you’ll get the highest egg production possible if you choose Leghorns.
Leghorns start laying when they’re 18 to 20 weeks old and they produce large white eggs.
Over the course of a year, depending on your climate, you can expect anywhere from 280 to 320 eggs from a productive Leghorn.
As a medium sized breed, female Leghorns weigh between 4 and 4.5 pounds. Their feed-to-egg conversion ratio is very high, and these chickens are excellent foragers too.
If you let them free range during the day, or move them around in chicken tractors, they’ll contribute to their own diet and give you a lower feed bill.
Leghorns tend to be flighty birds. This means they’re always alert to danger, which is a good thing for free-ranging chickens.
The downside of being skittish, is they make a lot of noise when they’re alarmed, and they’re not always easy to catch hold of.
Having chickens you can scoop up easily is something you’ll appreciate if your birds escape and you need to round them up, or if they’re free ranging and you want them back in the coop at night instead of up in the trees.
Do White Leghorns lay eggs over winter? Possibly. Their ability to lay during the winter months depends on temperature, how much light they get, and their diet. Younger Leghorns (pullets in their first year) are more likely to lay over winter than older Leghorns.
Leghorns aren’t known for their broodiness, so you’ll get uninterrupted laying during the most productive egg laying months.
To get a dozen eggs a week, look at getting 2 to 4 White Leghorn laying hens.
How Many Ancona Chickens Do You Need For A Dozen Eggs Per Week?
Ancona chickens are another great choice if you’re focusing on egg-laying chickens rather than dual purpose chickens or meat birds.
Hens weigh about 4.5 pounds and have a friendly, yet alert temperament. They can be skittish, though if they aren’t handled enough as youngsters.
Pullets start laying when they’re around 20 weeks old, and you can expect about 220 extra-large, white shelled eggs per year.
Ancona chickens will continue to lay over winter in the right conditions. The birds are fairly cold hardy but they still need protection from harsh conditions.
These chickens like to scratch around for food and do well foraging free range on pasture or in chicken tractors.
Anconas aren’t broody. This is a good trait if you don’t want to raise more chickens from your own flock.
When hens get broody, they tend to go off and lay eggs somewhere quiet and hidden, leaving you hunting in bushes trying to find them.
To get a dozen eggs a week, look at getting 4 or 5 Ancona laying hens.
How Many Barnevelder Chickens Do you Need For A Dozen Eggs Per Week?
The Barnevelder is a larger egg layer weighing 6 pounds. Hens lay up to 200 large brown eggs per year.
Barnvelder pullets won’t start laying until they’re about 8 months old, and some can take as long as 10 months to get started.
As a larger breed they need more food, so they don’t look as economical as Leghorns at first glance.
However, while their egg production is lower than the Leghorn, these are cold hardy chickens known for winter laying.
If winter egg production is important to you, make sure you ask your supplier about winter laying because this trait has been bred out of some Barnevelder strains.
Barnevelders are beautiful chickens with a friendly disposition. They’re easy going, they don’t go broody, and their gentle nature makes them a great chicken breed for kids to work with.
Barnevelder chickens are a little harder to find than other breeds. Cackle Hatchery breeds Barnevelder chickens and will ship chicks to your door.
To get a dozen eggs a week, look at getting 4 or 5 Barnevelder laying hens.
How Many Hamburg Chickens Do You Need For A Dozen Eggs Per Week?
Hamburg chickens aren’t the most productive layers but their value lies in steady egg production and winter laying.
By steady egg production, I mean a consistent laying rate over 3 to 4 years before production starts to decline, compared to a Leghorn who will slow down after 2 years.
Hamburg chickens are hardy birds able to tolerate cold conditions which makes them more productive layers over the winter when other breeds slow down or stop.
You might not want Hamburgs as your main production chickens, but they’ll be a fine addition to a mixed flock.
These chickens can produce up to 225 small to medium sized eggs each year. Mature hens weigh 5 pounds, and pullets begin laying when they’re 4 or 5 months old.
Hamburgs are good foragers. As long as they’ve got some freedom they can find some of their own food.
This is non-broody breed and they’re fairly flighty. Handle them when they’re young so they learn to relax around you.
To get a dozen eggs a week, look at getting 4 or 5 Hamburg laying hens.
How Many Rhode Island Red Chickens Do You Need For A Dozen Eggs Per Week?
Rhode Island Red chickens (production strains) are highly productive egg layers able to match the output of White Leghorns. These chickens are bigger birds though, so their feed requirements are higher.
Mature hens weigh 6.5 pounds, and pullets start laying at roughly 5 to 6 months old.
Rhode Island Reds will lay up to 300 large brown eggs per year under normal conditions, and with additional lighting they’ll continue to lay over the winter months.
This is a hardy breed and your hens will be capable foragers eager to scratch about for some of their food.
Hens are unlikely to go broody and they have a friendly temperament.
Rhode Island Reds are a dual purpose breed. This means they’re raised for their egg laying ability and their meat. Once egg production falls too low, a dual purpose chicken can be culled for the table.
To get a dozen eggs a week, look at getting 2 to 4 Rhode Island Red laying hens.
Some Final Thoughts
To get a dozen eggs a week from a home flock, you don’t need a lot of chickens.
You might find that 2 White Leghorns or 2 Rhode Island Reds will lay 12 eggs a week for you, although I’d be inclined to get 4 hens for more reliable laying during the molt period.
For year round laying, a good mix would be 2 Leghorns with their high rate of egg production and excellent feed-to-egg conversion rate, and 2 Anconas for continued egg laying over the winter.
But that’s just a suggestion and these laying rates are just averages.
If you’re buying chicks from a feed store, the staff probably won’t be able to give you much advice about expected egg production. The staff at a hatchery, though, will be a lot more knowledgeable, and they’ll be able to give you more guidance on the laying rates of the breeds they supply.
If you have the opportunity to buy point of lay pullets from a local source, you’ll be able to ask the breeder all about their laying rates and susceptibility to winter drop off.
I hope this article has helped you get an idea of how many chickens you need to get a dozen eggs a week. Thanks for reading!
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