Coop Size vs. Chickens - 4 square foot rule?

Discussion in 'Coop & Run - Design, Construction, & Maintenance' started by tulie13, Jan 20, 2010.

  1. tulie13

    tulie13 Chillin' With My Peeps

    Feb 12, 2009
    NW Florida
    OK, I have seen the recommendation of 4 square feet per bird. Is that COOP or COOP + RUN? I have a coop (wooden, enclosed, with a roof) that is 8 x 16. That's 128 square feet. PLUS, I have an attached run with free access (they have an always-open pop door) that is 8 x 24, another 192 square feet.

    How many birds can I "comfortably" house in these quarters? Is it 32 (based on 128 square feet of coop divided by 4) or is it more? [​IMG]

    Also, would that ratio/recommendation change with additional run size? I have a friend who has an 8 x 8 coop, with an 8 x 16 run attached. How many birds should she be able to keep, and would that number change if they increased the RUN size (but not the coop size)??? [​IMG]

    Just need to clarify before ordering more chicks this spring - THANKS!!! [​IMG]
  2. Mahonri

    Mahonri Urban Desert Chicken Enthusiast Premium Member

    May 14, 2008
    North Phoenix
    My Coop
    I've fudged almost since day one. I have 22 birds in an 8 X 10 coop and they do fine.... and my run is a tad small too. I had 26 in there once... that was TOO MANY.
  3. flakey chick

    flakey chick Chillin' With My Peeps

    May 3, 2007
    For standard sized birds, it is a minimum of 4 sq ft. indoors and 10 sq ft of run per bird.
  4. speckledhen

    speckledhen Intentional Solitude Premium Member

    I can tell you from experience that 4 sf per bird (standards) interior space is a good suggested size. I have crammed about a fifteen more than that in my main coop at one time and wow, even with fabulous ventilation and daily poop scooping, it built up ammonia very quickly due to the dampness from their poop as well as their respiration, was a pain to keep clean and was unpleasant when they had to stay inside during bad weather. When I went from over 50 birds to just around 30 in my 8x20 coop (there is 150 sf in there since there is a jog around an oak tree in the back), it was so much more pleasant and we could go in there with the birds without stomping all over them. I knew there were too many, but it was a temporary situation that illustrated why it's best not to crowd.

    With some or all bantams, you can certainly go less than 4 sf per bird, of course.
  5. tulie13

    tulie13 Chillin' With My Peeps

    Feb 12, 2009
    NW Florida
    Quote:So for my coop, even though I have 128 square feet of coop = 32 birds worth of coop space, I only have 192 square feet of run space = 19 birds worth...??? So I should top out at 19 birds? I was hoping to have close to 30 in my flock. [​IMG]

    What about my friend - with 8 x 8 coop she's at 16 based on the coop, but her run is only 8 x 16, which should be about 12 birds worth of run. Is her max about 12 birds? [​IMG]
  6. briteday

    briteday Chillin' With My Peeps

    Dec 16, 2008
    Northern NV
    We currently have 20 standard egglayers in an 8 x 10 shed with a run of 60 x 30. It is very spacious for them, plenty of room. We were very thoughtful when planning the interior of the coop (nesting boxes protected by poop boards but fill up space under roost, food and water is piped into the feeders in the coop but bulk storage is outside, ...) so that most of the space is open for the birds to enjoy. I can fit an entire 3-string bale of straw in the center of the coop for them to play in. However, there is rarely a day when our birds cannot go outside due to weather and, we live in a very dry climate. I will admit that even with the dry climate I only do the deep litter method to an extent. I still have a poop board under the roosts and clear out most of the manure every morning. When we had a few weeks of heavy snow, and I gave up hauling the bucket of manure to the compost pile that I couldn't find, that coop really smelled like ammonia...plenty of ventilation but I got a taste of life with humidity in the form of snow.

    Since you are much more humid I would stick with stated indoor measurements and more than plenty ventilation, but you could probably have some leeway overall since your birds can be outside almost every day. I'm guessing they would only be confined if there was a hurricane.

    Another thing to consider when wondering how many birds to have is the many 5-gallon buckets of manure are you willing to haul, where are you going to dump the manure, how close is a hose for drinking water and cleaning, how many water jugs can you carry, how much food does the feeder hold, how often do you have to fill the feeders, how far is the feed store, whre will you store feed bags...For instance, if I plan correctly I can haul enough feed, bedding, and general chicken supplies to last 10-12 weeks. The feed store is not close (25 miles one way) and in bad weather I may not be able to get there for a couple of weeks straight. So if I stock up just before winter (mid-Dec) I can almost make it to Spring if we have a series of un-ending this year!

    So I would encourage that while you think about space you also consider logistics.

    And as far as your measurements for your space...8 x 16 coop = plenty of space (if the birds can be outside almost EVERY day)=30 for 8 x 24 would be REALLY pushing it hard for 30 birds, I would have a difficult time with 20 in that space...but I believe in giving them lots of stimulating environment like bushes, trees, plants, pools with fresh water, shade/sun, places to hide, dust baths...I have the luxury of acreage though too. In your case I wouldn't start with more than 15-16 and see how it goes.

    Friend...8 x 8 coop = 16 birds ....and 8 x 16 run = 12 birds...I'd stick with 10 birds and see how it goes for a while. I started with a 4 x 8 run and 6 Rhode Island Red hens. It was tight. Twice the run space but twice the birds would still be tight.

    And I don't think either of you should consider heavy breeds. Stick with standards or bantams.
    Last edited: Jan 20, 2010
  7. mediazeal

    mediazeal Chillin' With My Peeps

    Feb 26, 2009
    I have an 8 x 16 coop/run. It is 3 sided enclosed for 8 feet, then all wire for 8 feet, with standard roof. California climate.
    It is 128sq feet. I planned it for 10 sq feet per bird because they do not free range everyday and only free range when I can be there with them.

    If they ONLY slept in the coop and had other space to frolic, I could have up to 32 birds in there.

    I would suggest using the entire space, indoor and out, in your square footage calculation if it is coop and run.
    And try to stay at 4 sq ft per bird for the indoor sleeping coop.
    So you could go up to 32 birds in the 8 by 16 sleeping area, but that would be maxed.
    The problems that come with overcrowding; pecking, feather pulling, unhappy birds.... are not worth it.

    I have 9 in my coop right now, plan on going up to 12 eventually.
    that's my 2 cents.
  8. Chipper

    Chipper Chillin' With My Peeps

    Jan 12, 2009
    Washington County, NY
    briteday made some very good points.I would follow the advice and save yourself alot of extra work and problems.Give your chickens more room then they need and your chickens and you will both be alot better off for it and life will be good.It really never comes down to how much room do I have in the coop and how much room do I have in the run.There are to many other things to consider as briteday talked about.Hope this helps and good luck with your chickens. [​IMG]
  9. PunkinPeep

    PunkinPeep Chillin' With My Peeps

    Mar 31, 2009
    SouthEast Texas
    Just remember those are guidelines. Your chickens aren't going to be out there counting off the square feet for your and forming a picket line when you're a couple short of the recommendation. There are lots of elements that go into how much space YOUR flock is going to need. There's the physical (humidity, temperatures, chance of weather emergencies keeping them indoors, etc.), and there's the flock dynamics. Different breeds, different mixes of breeds and ages, individual temperament of individual chickens, all make a difference.

    I would recommend that you both start small, get to know your flocks, and add on as you feel comfortable that there is enough room for all of your chickens to be healthy and happy. If you're watching them (and experience the smell in the coop), you'll be able to make responsible decisions about how many chickens is best for your flock. Of course, you could also do it in the opposite direction - get as many chicks as you want, and as they grow up and get crowded, you thin out the right number to keep your flock comfortable. That might be logistically simpler for your - especially if you have friends who don't mind taking your "extra" chickens.

    I don't know whether you're just getting started or already have a flock, so i'm sorry if some of this doesn't make sense to your situation, but i'm sure you get what i'm trying to get across.

    Use your best judgment.
  10. gsim

    gsim Chillin' With My Peeps

    Jun 18, 2009
    East Tennessee
    Quote:So for my coop, even though I have 128 square feet of coop = 32 birds worth of coop space, I only have 192 square feet of run space = 19 birds worth...??? So I should top out at 19 birds? I was hoping to have close to 30 in my flock. [​IMG]

    What about my friend - with 8 x 8 coop she's at 16 based on the coop, but her run is only 8 x 16, which should be about 12 birds worth of run. Is her max about 12 birds? [​IMG]

    Those figures are minimums. Crowding causes pecking, excessive fighting, stress, bad unhealthy air, etc. All will be to the detriment of egg production, quality of life, and length of life of your chooks. Urban situations or any other reason for lack of space are not good for large flocks. Best way might be an expandable design so as to learn by your own experience what works for you and your flock. I have around 80 sq ft/bird outside and 5 sq ft per bird inside, and mine are standards. I have 1 sq ft permanent-above-the-walls ventilation for every 4 chooks. [​IMG]
    Last edited: Jan 21, 2010

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