Do you need more than one chicken?

February 14, 2020

Raising chickens is a rewarding and exciting experience.  It’s easy to think of chickens as pets, especially if you interact with them frequently.  Chickens are social creatures and can form a real relationship with you.  It’s not uncommon for chickens to seek out your attention and want to follow you around.  It’s also easy to get carried away and end up with a surplus of chickens.  If you’re wanting to raise chickens for eggs, can you just have one hen?  One hen can lay an egg almost daily, surely you don’t need more than one, right?

Is one chicken enough?

It’s perfectly acceptable to have one dog or one chicken, so can you have just one chicken?  No.  Chickens are social animals and do best when they have other chickens around them.  Chickens thrive on social interaction with their own kind.  Most of the activities that chickens spend their day doing are communal activities, meaning they do them together as a group.

Chickens are busy-bodies and their days are filled with foraging, dust bathing, scratching, pecking and laying.  Dust bathing is almost as much of a social event as it is a hygiene event.  Many owners that have one chicken state that their lone chickens do not dust bathe.  This is due to the fact that dust bathing makes chickens vulnerable to attacks from predators.  As they are rolling around in the dust, they aren’t paying attention to their surroundings, making them much more likely to suffer from predator attacks.  A lone chicken won’t dust bathe frequently or at all.  This makes them more susceptible to parasite problems and health issues.

Chickens that are out foraging do this in groups.  Rarely do chickens break off from the group and forage alone.  This again goes back to the fact that chickens are prey animals.  They are wired to work together to avoid predator attacks.  While they are out foraging for food, there is usually one or two chickens that are keeping an eye out for potential predators.  When a chicken is alone, it spends much less time foraging, and more time scanning the area for predators.  Lone chickens will spend less time out of the coop and may become reluctant to leave it.  If you want to raise chickens that are free-ranged or pasture raised, you’ll need more than one chicken.  Attempting to raise just one chicken on pasture will lead to slower growth rates and even underweight and nervous birds.

How many chickens is enough?

There isn’t an ‘ideal’ number of chickens.  The number of chickens that is right for you will depend on your situation.  If you want to raise chickens as pets, don’t get any less than four hens.  Four hens are a good number for both egg-laying and socializing.  You don’t have to have a rooster in order to have eggs.  A rooster can help protect your flock and give you fertile eggs if you’re interested in that.  Adding a rooster to the flock changes the amount of chickens that you’ll need.  A good rule of thumb is six hens for every rooster.  There is some variance according to breed, but that’s a good place to get you started. If you want to raise truly happy chickens, don’t get just one.  Chickens are the most happy and healthy in a group.  If more than one chicken isn’t right for you, then consider another pet

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More about Shelby DeVore

Shelby is an agricultural enthusiast that shares her love of all things farming with her husband and two children on their small farm in West Tennessee. She is a former agriculture education teacher and is also the author of the blog Farminence, where she enjoys sharing her love of gardening, raising livestock and more simple living. You can see more of Shelby's articles at:

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