Confusion on coop size


In the Brooder
7 Years
Oct 11, 2012
I know four square feet per chicken is a general rule of thumb for coop size, but does the coop itself need to meet that if you're building a spacious run? Or is the four square feet meant for the overall coop and run space?
4 square feet is the rule for a coop where the chickens have ADDITIONAL access to a run or free range. If they are going to be shut into a given space all the time it is 10 square feet per bird. About 4 chickens per nest box and each chicken needs about 10 inches of roost space.
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It depends. My chickens do not like to go outside much during the winter (even with a large covered run) so they need 4 sq. meter each in the coop to keep the peace. Crowded chickens tend to peck each other and stress out. Also keep in mind the watering station and feeder often consume space. Also chickens need a roost with plenty of space for everyone at night.
Wow, didn't even consider that they might hang out in there when it's cold and wet. That's a really good point. We've already had a bullying issue so I want to be very cautious that we provide enough space. There's just so much conflicting information out there.
Not sure where you are or how extreme your winters are, but you could consider covering part of the run or additional dry space.

I would always error on more room than you think. Overcrowding is a serious problem with chickens.
I personally don't believe in magic numbers, whether that is coop space, run space, roost space, hen to rooster ratio, age to put them out of the house into the coop, or about anything else to do with chickens. We manage them in so many different ways under so many different conditions, there is no one answer that is right for all of us. I understand if you don't have experience with chickens that you need a starting place and the rule of thumb of 4 square feet per chicken in the coop along with 10 square feet in the run is as good a starting place as any. It will keep most people out of trouble even with a wide range of management techniques though occasionally someone will come up with some way to get in trouble. Some people are pretty talented.

What counts is total space available to them, whether that is coop, coop and run, coop and free range, or trees to sleep in and a total free range condition when they wake up, or some other combination. If you allow them out of the coop when they are awake, you don't need that much space in the coop. If you basically just use the coop for a place for them to spend the night and they are allowed out about as soon as they awake, 2 square feet will work. If you trim their beaks and keep the lighting fairly low, you can even keep them in 2 square feet for all their lives. Many commercial operations have proven that, but I'd like to think we do better for our chickens.

If you like to sleep in in weekends and leave them locked up for a few of their waking hours, 4 square feet in the coop may be a little tight. My suggestion is to not look at it as how many can I squeeze into a certain space but more how much space can I give them.

The main problem with them being too crowded is that you can get behavioral problems, anything from feather picking to cannibalism. At what point do you start to see these problems? That varies with each different flock. Each flock has its own dynamics. We manage them differently. Some flocks have multiple roosters while some are all hens. Extra space comes in real handy when you integrate new chickens or you have a broody raise chickens with the flock. If you have weather days where they cannot get out of the coop, more coop space is really good to have. These different variables are why I say there are no magic numbers.

I suggest giving extra space for a couple of other reasons. I find the more I crowd them, the harder I have to work. Poop management is an easy example, but there are others. I haven't cleaned my coop out in three years.

The other reason is that extra space gives you more flexibility if you have problems. If you are committed to them free ranging every day all day and you have a predator problem, you can't leave them locked in the coop while you deal with the problem if you have a tiny coop. A bad weather day or a day you are too sick to get out of bed could be a problem.

The 4 and 10 is a good starting place. Until you get experience, I don't suggest you go any smaller. And if you can start out larger, I'd recommend it. You'll probably be happy you did.
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