How many will fit?
We often see on BackYard Chickens (BYC) the question, “how many will fit?”. It is a very reasonable question. It is one of many questions to be asked and answered to make chicken keeping a rewarding experience. We asked it back in 2016 when we first decided we wanted to raise chickens. We joined BYC in July of 2016 and have about four years experience with raising backyard chickens. Experts we are not. But have some thoughts as well as experience that may prove useful.

On BYC the common general rule for how many will fit is:
  • 4 square feet per chicken in the coop. (4 square feet = .371 meters) Always check my math. ;)
  • 10 square feet per chicken in the run. (10 square feet = .93 meters)

When we started to plan for chickens we started by picking a coop.* Back then the selection process included what looked nice for the backyard, ease of maintenance, and how many will fit. After much deliberation we settled on a 4’ x 8’ raised coop. We bought plans for this coop on a popular website. When the framing was done, we thought, wow this thing is huge for a few chickens. framing.JPG We don’t feel that way any more. One thing we did not consider was how many chickens/eggs did we want. Although we had heard of Chicken Math, we had not really considered the practical implications of chicken math.*

The sales pitch said of this coop:
- 32 square feet of floor space, 4’x 8′ plus nest boxes (10-12 hens.)
- removable roosting boxes keep coop cleaner.
- 6 exterior nests for egg gathering
- entire back doors that swing open for EASY CLEANING, no bending over!
- Sits 2′ off the ground for easy cleaning, egg gathering and shade for the hens.
- predator free
- draft free
- well ventilated
- two sliding windows for better light and increased egg laying, predator proof screens.
- Very attractive in back yard, adds value to landscape.
- Chicken run dimensions that fit nicely with the profile of the coop.

Some of this worked out. It is easy to clean as we can stand outside and rake out all shavings. The raised area under is where the hens spend large portions of every day. It is draft free. It has been predator free.

On the downside, the ventilation is not ideal. We added a ridge vent. And leave the windows open 24x7x365. But really they should alter the plans to allow for ventilation in the eves and increase the size of the gable vents and increase the roof overhangs. That would have been easy and would really help ventilate this design.
There is no need for six nest boxes for a coop of this size. Three is plenty.
We built the run blocking the view of the coop which detracts from the cuteness of the coop. We plan to redo the run in the spring.
They estimated it would cost about $800 to build. We spent around $1,200. But we were excited and did not consider pinching pennies.
This sales pitch says 10-12 hens. That “violates” the BYC 4 square feet per chicken. I managed to convince myself to include the 6’ of nest boxes as part of the calculation. And then decided, I could “squeeze in” a few extra hens if we liked raising chickens. So far we have not done that. And do not plan on it. If we ever plan to exceed 8 chickens, we will do an addition.

How many will fit?
In our coop 8 seems like the right number. But consider, we are into this for the long term. So now it is time for some chicken math.* We originally had 7 girls reach laying stage in 2017. pullets.JPG And the first year they paid the rent with 428 eggs between September and December. In 2018 they laid 1101 eggs. Since then we have had some losses. Two died, one disappeared and recently a hawk killed another. As an aside, this last attack has us rethinking security. That leaves us with 3 laying hens. They are 3.5 years old. They do not lay like they used to.
We got 6 new chicks this past summer. Three were killed by predators. That leaves us with six chickens in our 32 square foot coop and 96 square foot run. So far so good. This coming spring we would like to add 6 more chickens. That will require us to subtract the older hens. And still that will leave us one over the “how many will fit”. Unless one or more of the pullets/chicks dies.

I ask again, how many will fit? Plan to always have a bit more room. For us, our right number is 8 laying chickens. So were we to do it again, we would have a coop of 8’x8’. That would allow for a max of 16 based on ramblings listed above. We could start with 8 chicks. Get 4 the next spring. Assuming we could get just 4 (due to minimum order size). And 4 every year after. To stay at our goal of 8 we would plan on subtraction by either illness, predator or culling. And where our coop would be built for 16 and not 8. There is some wiggle room and be able to avoid overcrowding.

How many will fit? I’m glad you asked.


* Our coop article is here: The Coop

** Chicken math my definition
Addition due to new chicks. Note little chicks grow into big chickens.
Subtraction due to illness, predator loss, disappearance and culling.
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