Conflicting information on coop space. Help please.


8 Years
Feb 27, 2011
I'm designing our first coop, and have been reading and reading and READING! I keep reading ambiguous information regarding the recommended floor space for chickens. Here's my question: When it comes to allowing proper floor space for the chick-chicks, what constitutes floor-space? Total house and run? Just the house?

I live in the Sacramento Valley of Northern California. It's never terrible weather here, with only a few days in the 30Fs, then up to a few days at about 108F. No snow to speak of. They'll be able to wander around the whole run year-round, and also roam around the whole back yard (3/4 acre) as a treat sometimes.

My plan for the coop is to have a total hard-clothed in area that is 18'x6'. On one end of that will be a raised house 8'x6'.

So, although I'm only planning on having about 6-8 chickens, what is my total allowable chicken possibility (at 4sqft per chicken)? 18x6=27 chickens or 8'x6'=12 chickens?

I want to make sure it's large enough that I could add some chickens if I wanted to later.
All you'll hear on this forum is 4 square foot per bird in the coop, and 10 foot in the run. That's for standard sized chickens Jersey Giants need more room, bantams need a little less.

It's easy to fill up a house to capacity, but the chickens will be happier if they have more room.

so 8 foot by 6 foot is 48 square feet. That's 12 hens and your run is 18 by 6 108 square feet which is 11 chickens. It'll do for 12 birds. As you say they can also run around your garden.

Just having 6-8 chickens is a good number to go by, although you'll want more....chickens are addictive.

EDIT: Welcome to the forum!
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The minimum recommendation is just that, a recommendation, but it is best for chickens to have more rather than less room.

For our area, coop space is mostly for roosting and nesting; the chickens spend most of their time outside.

Coop floor space does not count for feeders or waterers on the floor, or nest boxes there, either. Those reduce the available square feet.

8 x 6 = 48, gives coop space for 12 chickens. With a large enough run, more chickens can "fit" into the coop because they aren't in there all the time. Even in the crappy weather we've had lately, my chickens were outside using tree cover sometimes.

Not much info, but I am vague for a reason.... Your mileage may vary!
The rule of thumb is 4 sq ft per chicken in the coop and 10 sq ft per chicken in the run as a minimum. It's just a rule of thumb, they always like more, and sometimes you can get away with less without behavior problems. And it's not enough where snow keeps them in -- but never mind, doesn't apply.

That said, it depends whether the coop is inside the hard-clothed area (the run) or attached to the end of it. If the coop is inside, that leaves 10x6 for the run, or 60 sq ft, or 6 chickens. If the coop is in addition to the run, that's an 18x6 run, which does not equal 27 chickens, it equals 10 or 11 chickens, because the math for the run is 10 sq ft per bird.

For the coop, 8x6= 12 chickens. So if the coop is attached to the end of the run, 10 or 11 would be the correct answer, as whichever is the smaller of the two is what it is safest to go by.

Also, the 4 sq ft per chicken in the coop means 4 sq ft of floor space available to them to walk on. Nest boxes on the floor have to be subtracted. Nest boxes maybe 18" off the floor so they can walk under them do not. Some roost designs take away from floor space, some not.

Whether fewer would be better or more would be safely possible is another discussion. My take is always, the more space, the better. The more yours ill have the whole back yard, the better. I'm just trying to help you with the math here, and I hope this was clear!
The 4 square feet per chicken is INSIDE the coop and doesn't include the run. With an 8x6 house that gives you space for 12 regular sized chickens. You mention that your coop will be raised off the ground. If there's enough space for the chickens to wander underneath it you can count the entire run. At 18x6 that's enough space for 11 chickens. So your coop and run match pretty well.

Some people will say that you're fine to add more than 11 or 12 chickens, but those of us who've been there, done that, will tell you it's not worth crowding chickens. They'll fight, pick at each other, pull feathers out, etc, if they don't have enough space. All that said, though, if you're in a climate where your chickens will never need to spend a full day indoors (like for snow or steady rain when they won't want to come out), you might be able to squeeze a few more than 12 in the coop.
I also have done extensive reading through many different posts in "Coop Design". Bottom line seems to be 4 sq ft in coop, and 10 sq ft in run. Many posts fudge on the 4sq ft rule if there isn't a "cold weather confinement" issue. Here in North Idaho that's definitely an issue. There also seems to be sentiment that chx are more likely to be able to endure (occasional) temps down to around +20, with less damage, than temps above 80 or 90. Use of the phrase "LOTS OF VENTILATION" (but not draft) is CONSTANT!!! I have seen one reference to the fact that chx wear a down comforter year round. Makes sense.

"Two things are sure, One is this project won't just fall together, and Two is, it very well may just fall apart" ...Steve Reilly
Depends what you're reading. On this forum people are berzerkly religious for some reason about 4 sq ft per chicken indoors PLUS 8-10 sq ft per chicken outdoors. On other forums or in other real-life circles, you'll hear anything from 2 sq ft per chicken *total*, to way WAY way more than any of the abovementioned numbers.

I think it is a huge mistake to think there is a single rule of thumb to follow.

My plan for the coop is to have a total hard-clothed in area that is 18'x6'. On one end of that will be a raised house 8'x6'.
So, although I'm only planning on having about 6-8 chickens, what is my total allowable chicken possibility (at 4sqft per chicken)? 18x6=27 chickens or 8'x6'=12 chickens? I want to make sure it's large enough that I could add some chickens if I wanted to later.

There is no magic number. I'm sorry, I do UNDERSTAND why people want there to be, but there isn't.

Basically your setup will have 48 sq ft indoors (assuming all the floorspace is usable by the chickens) and 108 sq ft outdoors. If your area is good n shady most of the time -- and if it gets up to 108 F in your area, it had BETTER be -- then chances are they will spend most of their time outdoors. If you want to give them 10 sq ft apiece outdoors, then that would mean having 10-11 chickens and it would give them a little over 4 sq ft apiece indoors which would be reasonably ample especially if they're not in there a whole lot anyhow.

I would not personally suggest putting any MORE chickens than that in there, but certainly you can DO it and just see what happens and cross your fingers. They will not be as happy, they will not be as natural-acting, it will be more headache to deal with the sanitation angle, and there will be more chance of social frictions (i.e. cannibalism) which cannot always be fixed just by removing the offending bird(s).

Myself, having seen how chickens act at 4-sq-ft-apiece-plus-ample-run AND at 15-sq-ft-apiece-plus-ample-run, I would never keep them at less than 10-15 sq ft apiece plus run... at that stocking density, modified to account for yours mostly only wanting to be indoors to lay and sleep, I would not keep more than half a dozen chickens MAXIMUM in your size pen. But, that's me, everyone has different ideas of what matters.

(edited to clarify: this has nothing to do with my climate. In fact I have never kept chickens at 4 sq ft apiece indoors during winter; my experiments with different stocking densities were all in *summertime*. Even if I was back in North Carolina, I would still not give them the kind of small space allotments that are popular on this forum, unless they were free-ranging or had a seriously ginormous run, like a hundred-plus sq ft per chicken.)

Because your pen is not especially large, I would suggest that if you thinkk you might want more chickens in future, it would be worth planning ahead to how you would enlarge it (and perhaps the coop as well), rather than planning on putting more chickens in this setup.

JMHO, good luck, have fun,

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I would only use the 4 sq ft per chicken of interior floorspace for bantams, myself. Think of it as each chicken being in an invisible 2'X2' box, and then being only a little ways away from each other chicken even if they were equidistant from each other. But winters here are snowy and my birds hate snow, so they stay inside all winter long
. I would suggest doubling that, because a 2'X4' box is much better to be in than the smaller 2'X2' one. This would reduce the number of birds you can keep, but they will be much happier. Also, give them as much run space as you can. If they can year 'round, then they do not need a very big run. About 8-10 sq. ft per bird is about perfect.

Edit for spelling fail.
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