No one eats like Gaston
March 23, 2017 5:45 PM   Subscribe

How many chickens were employed, at minimum, to provide a steady supply of eggs for Gaston's breakfasts?

I am told that when he was a lad, he ate four dozen eggs every morning, to help him get large. As an adult, though, he ate five dozen eggs for breakfast. What's the smallest number of chickens that would have been needed to provide a stable supply of eggs for Gaston's breakfast habits, both when young and as an adult? Serious answers only, please. I am a busy man.
posted by DoctorFedora to Food & Drink (14 answers total) 58 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Well, for starters: not every chicken will lay every day, so you'll need a number somewhat larger than the minimum 'four dozen' or 'five dozen'. Also you've got to factor in age (too young or old to lay), plus disease etc. And too: are these free-range chickens or caged/in an enclosure? That might make a difference simply in how many you can find each day.
posted by easily confused at 5:57 PM on March 23, 2017

Response by poster: These are all factors that I shall leave it to the chicken experts to take into account! I am no chickenologist. I simply wish to know the minimum number of chickens solely dedicated to Gaston's nutrition.
posted by DoctorFedora at 6:02 PM on March 23, 2017 [11 favorites]

Best answer: Well, we gotta think about the type of chickens that were available in provincial French towns during the 1600-1800s. That will determine output as well as egg size -- it's not quite as big a feat to eat 5 dozen eggs if they're all quail egg sized, yes?
posted by Hermione Granger at 6:04 PM on March 23, 2017 [4 favorites]

Best answer: So this article suggests that with ideal conditions and young hens, you can expect about a 75% rate of eggs to chickens per day. Which I think would take 75 hens for 60 eggs, and 60 hens for 48 eggs. But I am no historical chickenologist (sadly).
posted by the primroses were over at 6:13 PM on March 23, 2017 [5 favorites]

Best answer: I can tell you about a Gaston of this era, not that era, because I only know modern chickens.

Maximum? Modern laying hen when they're at the end of their life will lay maybe once a month or so in my experience. Basically, infrequently enough that you're surprised to find an egg. Let's call it 31 ancient chickens. So that's 31 chickens to get an egg a day. 31 x 60 = 1860. Round it to 2000 for good measure. Some of those chickens might get stolen by raccoons.


- Chickens have been bred a lot since that era to produce more eggs.
- Chickens these days are usually killed after a year or two because they stop laying so many eggs. A white leghorn will lay an egg a day for most of the year.
- Chickens typically stop laying in the winter.
- I had a young Appenzeller Spitzhauben who sometimes laid more than one egg a day.
- I'm not sure why you'd have a flock of 2000 elderly hens.
- Only hens lay eggs. If you want to know the maximum number of chickens who would have had to have been born, double that number to account for roosters.
posted by aniola at 6:19 PM on March 23, 2017 [12 favorites]

P.S. w/r/t winter non-laying

I don't know what they did back in the day, but these days, I have been known to put away CSA eggs in the fridge and use them slowly enough to get me through the winter.
posted by aniola at 6:31 PM on March 23, 2017

Best answer: Well, I can tell you how many of my chickens. Each one lays 4-5 times a week, which is about average (they are Swedish Flower Hen x Rhode Island Reds), unless they are molting or it's winter.

Young Gaston would need a flock of at least 84 of my chickens. Adult Gaston would need a flock of 105.

But from October - February, I have no idea.
posted by soren_lorensen at 6:40 PM on March 23, 2017 [6 favorites]

Best answer: Assuming 5 eggs a week per chicken. Which is the high end of average chicken production at peak feed & light conditions

You need for 4 dozen a day for a week you'd need 4*12*7 336 eggs.

336/5 = 67.2 So say 70 chickens to allow for the odd off day.

Now if he was eating that through winter, you'd need extra so you could store them. Eggs can be stored a pretty good length of time if you waterglass or wax/grease them (or in our times freeze them also uncleaned eggs last a surprising about of time just in a basket on the counter). Assume 3 months of almost no eggs and another 3-4 months of low egg production for moulting & going into fall (chickens lay less as days shorten). And you'd need almost twice that many chickens to make up for that.

So I'd say 120 - 140 if you are putting eggs aside for the slower and none laying seasons.

This assumes you are buying in chickens on point of lay & not having to hatch your own & raise them to point of lay.

Because then some of your chickens are off being broody & raising babies, unless you go the incubator route. Your chickens could probably last a year or 2 at that sort of egg laying numbers before tapering off so you'd have to have a steady stream of say 50% a year replacement coming through ready to lay as soon as you dispatched the layers that were slowing down.

I tended to round most of the estimated numbers up as in those days their wasn't the special chicken feeds there are now days, most chickens free ranged & had grain & scraps only as a food supplement. Which is fine, but would reduce egg numbers produced and also you would not get every egg with free range chickens as they will lay all over the damn place. I'm also not allowing for disease & predators thinning a free range herd.

I have totally over thought this.
posted by wwax at 7:16 PM on March 23, 2017 [16 favorites]

Our chickens started laying in October and have laid faithfully through a miserable New England winter. We get an even dozen a day from 14 chickens (what was I thinking, we get too many fucking eggs). So you could get away with 70.5 chickens to get your 60 daily eggs, conceivably. But my chickens are pretty hardcore.

Btw, our chickens are named Thorin, Fili, Kili, Ori, Nori, Dori, Oin, Gloin, Bifur, Bofur, Bombur, Dwalin, and Balin. And since the hatchery threw in an extra one, Bilbo.
posted by lydhre at 7:17 PM on March 23, 2017 [39 favorites]

Hermione Granger makes a good point. You need to look at the chickens available to the historical Gaston. If advances in animal husbandry have produced genetically enhanced chickens vis-a-vis egg productivity that would seem different than increases due to industrialization.

Does steady supply mean minimum number of chickens to supply Gaston with an average of five dozen eggs every day or does it mean five dozen eggs and no less? The later needs to take the following into account: chicken stress/sick days, fox in the henhouse situations, delivery logistics/all your eggs in one basket, avian coop death, failures of leadership (not so cock sure are you?), omega rebellion and ennui.
posted by ActingTheGoat at 10:44 PM on March 23, 2017 [2 favorites]

I have left out any bantam or broilers, of the specifically French hens around in the 1800s, Ardennaise hen lays approximately 180 white eggs per year, the Bresse Gauloise and Crèvecœur laid slightly fewer. The Faverolles maight have laid slightly more.
posted by Sophie1 at 7:27 AM on March 24, 2017 [5 favorites]

Also, does Gaston ever eat eggs at different times of the day? Say in a delicious cake or dinner omelet? Or perhaps after breakfast he couldn't face anything else eggy?

Does he also eat bacon?

Poached? Fried? Scrambled? Or just chugged down raw?
posted by freethefeet at 1:43 PM on March 24, 2017 [3 favorites]

Response by poster: Have you seen him? He gulps them down whole, shells and all, like a duck or something
posted by DoctorFedora at 9:58 PM on March 24, 2017 [5 favorites]

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