Can it be too big?

Advertisement Purina Flock Layer


12 Years
Feb 25, 2011
My husband and I recently bought a house with an 8x24ft (I was guessing it was 12ft, but I was WAY off) barn in the back yard. I would like to use it as a chicken coop, but I only plan on having 3 chickens at most. Is it possible to have too big of a coop as the barn will serve only as a coop? Also, what is the difference between a nest box and a place to roost?
There is a 3-legged fox that lives next door who currently frequents the outside of the barn (the neighbour feeds it). Is chicken wire sufficient fencing material to keep the fox out?

Thank you!
Well depending on who you ask you'll need (eventually) the whole thing depending on your chicken math, but if you only want to remain firm at 3 hens then all you'll need is 12ft square minimum (4sqft/bird) Then of course a nice little run is dandy. You'll want to secure the wire with 2x4's or appropriate material. Does this barn have a concrete slab? if so then dig down along the foundation about 4" to put your chicken wire where it makes it more difficult for predators to get in. Remember we don't say fox's are clever for nothing. nice find!
I just had to giggle at your statement that you had a building that big and were only going to have 3 chickens. You may start with three, but then things will happen, and because there is room for them, somehow more will find their way into your life. Of course, that's how I've read it happens. And I know if my city ordinance allowed more than four, it would happen to me.

Anyway. How nice that you have that space. So, your question about roosts and nesting boxes - a roost is a place up high where they go at night to sleep. They will go to the highest point they can get to to feel safe. You can create a roost out of a 2 X 4. Place the 4" side up so they can nestle down to keep their feet warm when it's cold. You can sand the corners to slightly round them. Some people put up natural tree limbs as roosts.

Nest boxes should be lower than the roosts to discourage sleeping and pooping in the place where they lay eggs. These can be small boxes, or crates. You can put pine shavings or straw in them to make them cozy. Placing a golf ball or a fake egg in them will let them know that is a good place to lay.

Chicken wire may not deter a fox. You may need to use hardware cloth.

Good luck, have fun with your "three" chickens, and post lots of pictures
Thank you for the replies. Legally because of the size of our property we can have 60 chickens and a cow, but I've never had a chicken before, so I think 3 is a nice number so they'll have company out there. Also, with more chickens, what would I do with all of the eggs? It seems there would have to be some sort of inspection or license needed to take them to the local (very small) market.

There's no concrete slab under the barn. It's raised up about a foot off of the ground
No, you can't have housing too big. Big is better! Better for your chickens and better for you (less work to keep it clean).

As the other commenter explained, chickens don't usually sleep in their nest (and you don't really want them to, either, because chickens poop all night). If you put a board or tray under the roost, you can catch all those droppings so they're easy to remove from the coop. That's called a droppings board (or tray) and it's the best invention since the wheel. I use plastic boot trays that are light and easy to take out of the coop and dump the contents out into my composter every morning.

Chicken wire isn't good for predator protection. I really think they should name the product something else, like "chicken wire of death" or something that accurately reflects what is possible if you try to secure your chicken run with it. Welded wire (sometimes called hardware cloth) is much more secure.

And management/sanitation is much easier with few chickens in huge coop, and they are HAPPIER (behave in a more relaxed natural individual kind of way).

Six thumbs up to you; and please try to take with a grain of salt all the BYCers who are going to try to convince you that you "must" get more and more chickens til they are packed in to some mythical "rule of thumb" 4 sq ft per chicken. That is nonsense, they are much better off with a whole big lot more space than that, it's just a general idea of what you can get away with before risk of cannibalism gets too high.

That said, you may well want to section off part of the barn to use for other purposes, like storage or if you decide you want goats or turkeys or something.

As others have said, NO to chickenwire. You want something like hardwarecloth (galvanized welded 1/2 x 1/2" mesh) or galvanized 1x1" welded wire mesh, or even heavy gauge 2x4 welded wire mesh with something smaller-gauge added to the bottom 2-3'. You will need to SERIOUSLY DIGPROOF the edges of your run (you *are* going to make an outdoor run of some sort, yes, unless this is just a 3-sided shed rather than a fully enclosed barn?) and if the barn floor is dirt or gravel you will need to digproof its walls as well. I would recommend a 3' wide apron of 1x1 or 2x4 heavy-gauge welded wire mesh, attached very firmly to the foot of the run fence or barn wall and pinned down very well or covered with something heavy.

Surplus eggs can be eaten (you may find that just a dozen eggs a week is not enough once they're your OWN eggs), given to neighbors/relatives/coworkers, or sold to same (most states allow small numbers of homegrown eggs to be sold uninspected without problem; some states require them to be sold only on your property but others let you sell them at other venues; you would have to look it up. A temporary surplus of eggs can also be cooked and fed back to the chickens as a protein boost, which is good for them and they really like it)

Good luck, have fun, welcome to chickens

What a great building! I would divide it so I could store bedding, feed and supplies in it also. This way you don't have to carry feed from another secure location. As with the others chicken wire isn't very strong. I would use a good hardware cloth (lowes, home depot both carry it) for all openings and run protection.

Be sure you know your major predators for your area. Skunks, fox, raccoons ect. Here we have bobcat, wild boar among others we protect against.

Have fun getting it ready
i second i'd divide off part for storage

And i guess technically there is a point where too big if you have severe cold in winters becomes difficult to keep temps up with out additional heat

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