Coop square footage for free ranging chickens

Discussion in 'Coop & Run - Design, Construction, & Maintenance' started by rowfarm3, Feb 6, 2016.

  1. rowfarm3

    rowfarm3 Out Of The Brooder

    Jan 31, 2016
    Working on our coop so that we can get our chicks outside, and need help with size. I've read that there should be a minimum of 4 square feet per chicken. We plan to keep 12 birds total, and they will only be in the coop at night, free ranging during the day. Does that change the minimum requirements? The coop will be mobile and it will be moved from pasture to pasture to follow behind cows. Thanks for any input!
  2. Pork Pie Ken

    Pork Pie Ken Flockless Premium Member

    Jan 30, 2015
    Africa - near the equator
    I guess thats a rule of thumb, as there may be times when the chickens remain in the coop to get out of bad weather, for example. If there's insufficient space for the flock and they have decided the weather is too crappy to be outside, then it can result in aggression (pecking etc). Also, during these times, you may need to put water and food in the coop also.

    If its possible (both practically and financially) to build your tractor even bigger then thats better - you are bound to get the chicken maths bug and want more chickens!

  3. Phoenixsw

    Phoenixsw Chillin' With My Peeps

    Mar 1, 2015
    Colorado Springs, CO
    I agree with CTKen. I only have 5 girls, but their coop is 28 sq ft and they have a large covered run. On nice days they spend most of their time free ranging in my backyard. But right now, there is about 18" of snow back there,plus it's pretty chilly, so they have to spend more time indoors. I'd say they need AT LEAST 3 sq ft per bird, but I would go with the 4 sq ft if you can.
  4. junebuggena

    junebuggena Chicken Obsessed

    Apr 17, 2015
    Long Beach, WA
    Free ranging does not change coop size needs. If the coop is the only shelter your flock will have access to, bigger will be better. They will stay in the coop during very windy, rainy, or snowy weather, and they will spend time in the coop on very warm days, if there is no other shade for them. It also needs to be big enough for 12 adult birds to move around in comfortably. You'll need at least 1.5 feet of roosting space per bird. And they need room to maneuver up onto the roosts. Medium sized breeds, like Leghorns or Andalusians, need about 4 sq ft of coop space per bird. Larger, dual-purpose breeds need at least 5 sq ft per bird. Jumbo sized breeds need even more.
  5. Triplecross

    Triplecross Chillin' With My Peeps

    Jan 6, 2013
    Southern Michigan
    I've always read 4 sf per chicken so that's what all my coops were built with in mind. Now I live in Michigan and regardless of the weather they always want out of the coop at daybreak! If it's freezing or snowing they may hide in trees and bushes but they LOVE being outside [​IMG]

    On a few negative degree days I kept them in the coop and everyone was fine but bored. Even with the correct amount of spacing. Things like treats helped them stay busy on cold days tho.

    Good luck with you coop!
  6. Ridgerunner

    Ridgerunner True BYC Addict

    Feb 2, 2009
    Northwest Arkansas
    You can get a lot of different opinions on here about how much space you need. If you follow the link in my signature you can see some of the things I think are important to consider. I’m not going to give you specific numbers. Your situation is different from mine and we ae both different from someone keeping six hens all the same age in a small suburban back yard. Our needs are different.

    I don’t know how you plan to handle predator protection. You might look up Joel Salatin and see how he follows cows with mobile tractors. Again, his situation is different from yours but he is probably closer than I am.

    I’m always an advocate for more space instead of trying to shoehorn them into as small a space as I can get away with. That doesn’t mean I always provide a lot of space, just that I know I should and understand I’ll pay the price when I don’t. I find I have fewer behavioral problems to deal with, more flexibility to deal with issues when they do occur, and I don’t have to work as hard when I provide more space. I’m looking at my comfort and convenience more than what chickens need.

    There are different models that might work for you. Some of that will depend on where you live, your climate and how much room you have. Is this planned for year around or only the good weather months, if that matters where you are? Are you planning on being out there every day of the year about the time they wake up to let them out or do you occasionally sleep in a bit. For predator protection will you be locking them in a secure coop at night or would you be happy with an open coop and them protected by electric netting? Will you be feeding and watering in the coop or outside? Chickens don’t understand the concept of room in the coop, room in the run, or anything like that. They understand the concept of how much room do I have when I need it, whether that is coop by itself, coop plus run, or just the great outdoors. Will you be integrating new chickens or have a broody hen hatch and raised chicks with the flock? These take more room.

    There are so many variables that I can’t come up with a magic square feet per chicken that covers everyone on the whole planet regardless of their situation. If I knew a lot more about how you plan to manage them, your climate and what time of the year you plan to have them in this tractor, and many other things I may be able to tell you how I’d do it, but I’m not going to just come up with a number out of the blue.

    Good luck!
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