Am I overcrowding?

Discussion in 'Managing Your Flock' started by Mallory8502, Aug 1, 2014.

  1. Mallory8502

    Mallory8502 Chillin' With My Peeps

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    My first coop has 25sqft of floor space (plus roosting space up high) not including the 6 nesting boxes on the side, and the second coop has 15sqft of floor space, also not including the nesting box, and areas to roost as well. There is plenty of run space so I am not worried there. I have 14 hens and 1 rooster currently. 9 are smaller breeds (EE/cream legbar mixes) and 5 are larger (RIR). The rooster is pretty large as well. I was considering adding 3-4 more hens to the flock, but not if it will mean I am overcrowding. It is tempting because one of my cream legbar mixes has been hellbent on hatching eggs and I am almost starting to feel bad taking eggs from her every day.

    My main concern is winter. I am in WV, and depending on the year, we can get 4 months of real nasty winter weather. I admittedly have always been a little confused about how much space they need in the coop, and how much time they spend in the coop during winter since this is my first year with chickens.
     
  2. Den in Penn

    Den in Penn Chillin' With My Peeps

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    You total floor space is 40 sq. feet. That at 4 sq. ft. per chicken is room for 10. So yes you are pushing the coop space now. Come the winter confinement there may be problems.
     
  3. Mallory8502

    Mallory8502 Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Well right now they have 2.6 sqft per bird and if I added, let's say, 2 hens, it would be 2.3. I think I was going off of something I read that said 2 sqft was ok.. but maybe this doesn't apply to places that have winter. I also don't understand if the square footage means floorspace only or if the roosting areas count at all.
     
  4. lazy gardener

    lazy gardener Flock Master

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    Square footage refers to floor space. I don't know where you got the 2 s.f./bird from. It is generally accepted on this thread that chickens should have a minimum of 4 s.f./bird inside and 10 s.f./bird outside. IMO, that is an absolute minimum. My flock of 5, last winter had about 48 s.f. in their coop loft with perches, and nest boxed hanging outside. Under the loft they had 96 s.f. that was enclosed in poly/tarp which gave them a "sun room" that would get up to 50 degrees if the outside temp got above 20 degrees. Then they had a run that was 15 x 30' with an 8 x 8 greenhouse. Even so, one of them started a feather picking habit last winter. She's still a picker, and will be culled as soon as I am able. In a more crowded situation, I'm guessing that there would be more behaviors to deal with.
     
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  5. Mallory8502

    Mallory8502 Chillin' With My Peeps

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    I checked around on the internet and there are quite a few reputable sources recommending anywhere from 2ft to 4ft per bird. Backyard poultry mag says 2-3. I don't think I'll be getting more hens now, but the ones I have should be fine with 2.6. If I have any issues I know my neighbor will give them a home.
     
  6. AudreyRockz

    AudreyRockz Out Of The Brooder

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    You are pushing it a bit. You should build some more room onto your coop or get rid of some of your chickens.
     
  7. Den in Penn

    Den in Penn Chillin' With My Peeps

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    I think the square feet per bird starts with how many behavioral and health issues the keeper can tolerate. The commercial operations do not care very much about. Cramming as many hens into as little as space possible and still have good production is the goal there. The USDA recommendations I think at one point, said 1.5 sq ft. was the space. The more the concern for those issues leads to the belief that more space helps. This site has more who think of the chicken as pets and so the tendency here is for more space. Is the amount of space set in stone? No, because each keeper below a large commercial operation can have a different situation. Some will tolerate things others might not in their flock and never see a problem with less space. Ultimately what is the best amount of room, I really can't pin it down. But for the novice and those who want the minimum amount of problems I will always say more is better.
     
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  8. aart

    aart Chicken Juggler! Premium Member

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    If you haven't been thru a winter yet, I would advise doing so before adding to your flock without providing more space.

    I have 7.2sqft of floor space per bird (and another 2sqft per bird of roost board) this winter, a brutal winter that they spent a lot of time in the coop all day, and it was OK but I can't imagine having less space. It definitely changed my plans for having a larger flock in that space.

    Also keep in mind that you will need extra/separate space to integrate new chickens into your flock, unless your broody hatches some in the existing coop....often broodies need a separate space to incubate without the other birds interfering.
     
  9. Mallory8502

    Mallory8502 Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Luckily my broody hen abandoned her nest yesterday so I just removed the eggs. I agree I should not expand the flock. Hopefully the existing birds will be ok with the square footage they have. Last winter was the worst I have ever experienced... I hope this year is more normal. Unfortunately I can't afford to build another coop before winter because I just built the second one to accommodate the growing RIRs which are 17 weeks old now. If I have issues over the winter my neighbor has said he will take any hens I can't keep.
     
  10. PalmRoyal

    PalmRoyal Chillin' With My Peeps

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    According to my 4-H handbook, it is 1ft2 per chicken is needed. However, I have always thought that 1ft2 is a bit small. Ideally, you would like as much room as you give them. It is just some food for thought. I would wait to expand your flock, just because I think it would allow your birds to live healthier and happier.
     

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