Do I really need 4sq/ft per bird?

noabtz

Songster
Dec 12, 2017
107
144
116
Texas
Howdy,

I currently have 6 Silkie hens in a coop at about 4sqft/bird. I have 10 more female silkies, 10 easter eggers, and 2 cream legbar hens on the way. I am getting a big coop for these new chickens, and am questioning the 4sqft often cited on this forum.

I am in Texas so my chickens are never 'cooped up' (pun intended) during the winter. I also am on a few acres and my chickens forage all day and only go in the coop at Sunset and come out of the coop right at dawn. In a situation like this, wouldn't less square footage be ok since the coop is only a location to sleep, lay eggs, and hide out from the occasional rain storm?

Please give all advice.

Thanks!
 

DobieLover

Easily distracted by chickens
Premium Feather Member
Jul 23, 2018
24,538
186,849
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NY Southern Tier
My Coop
Howdy,

I currently have 6 Silkie hens in a coop at about 4sqft/bird. I have 10 more female silkies, 10 easter eggers, and 2 cream legbar hens on the way. I am getting a big coop for these new chickens, and am questioning the 4sqft often cited on this forum.

I am in Texas so my chickens are never 'cooped up' (pun intended) during the winter. I also am on a few acres and my chickens forage all day and only go in the coop at Sunset and come out of the coop right at dawn. In a situation like this, wouldn't less square footage be ok since the coop is only a location to sleep, lay eggs, and hide out from the occasional rain storm?

Please give all advice.

Thanks!
Is your pop door on a timer to let the birds out at dawn?
I've run as tight as 2.7 sq ft per bird and am currently running at 3.2 but 5 of them are bantams. But I never close the pop door to my 368 sq ft predatorproof run. That makes all the difference in the world. The run is just an outdoor extension of the coop.
 

noabtz

Songster
Dec 12, 2017
107
144
116
Texas
Is your pop door on a timer to let the birds out at dawn?
I've run as tight as 2.7 sq ft per bird and am currently running at 3.2 but 5 of them are bantams. But I never close the pop door to my 368 sq ft predatorproof run. That makes all the difference in the world. The run is just an outdoor extension of the coop.
I plan to have two setups...

My silkie Bantam coop (current setup):
The door from run to coop always open. The door from run to free-range opens on a timer. Sounds similar to your setup. 3.5/sqft for 6 bantams.

My new big coop:
Automatic coop door that leads to the yard. No run this time.

Should I consider a run for this new coop as well? I am open to it, but just feel like it is pointless in some ways since the chickens are free-range. Though, I have noticed my Silkies sometimes sleep in their sandy run if it's hot outside.
 

MarkJr

Change in America begins at the dinner table
Premium Feather Member
Jun 15, 2020
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Elkton, OR
I had 14 full size and 12 six week chicks in my 49 sqft coop. The poop load was causing respiratory issues. The rule I couldn’t break was 18” of roost per bird. Although they didn’t use all of the roosts, if they didn’t have it available to them, things were ugly.
4-5 sqft is a good measure to keep birds healthy. I have since shrank my flock to one broody and 8 of her chicks (9 weeks old now)
 

Cinnamon Roll

Chirping
Premium Feather Member
Aug 14, 2020
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Cheyenne, WY
It really will depend on your weather. If there are multiple days in a row when your chickens won’t go outside, I would stick to the 4’ rule. That will reduce the stress of being cooped up. If you have nice enough weather that they will go out every single day, you can probably get away with less space, keeping in mind the ammonia issue.

I wonder if instead of a complete fenced run you could put up some small 2 or 3-sided shelters for rainy days so the chickens can get out of each other’s way if they want to. Even something as simple as an overturned cattle mineral tub with a hole cut in the side can be useful for a chicken to get away from a bully. (Just check for eggs sometimes!)
 

Acre4Me

Free Ranging
Nov 12, 2017
5,270
13,786
747
Western Ohio
Particularly in warmer areas not hampered by winter storms and snow. Yes you can go lower on sqft but pay attention to flock dynamics.

a run for new coop? Yes, a good idea for when you have predator pressure. They can be safe while you deal with the threat or outlast their interest.
 

noabtz

Songster
Dec 12, 2017
107
144
116
Texas
@DobieLover, @Acre4Me, @Cinnamon Roll, @MarkJr, @duckiemum - thank yall for all the insight. I think I will aim for 3.5-4 sq/ft per bird.

One other question... I have only had Silkies which cannot jump to save their life. My fencing is 4-foot horse fence (has chicken wire between slats). Should I be concerned about my larger Easter Eggers jumping over fence when free-ranging?
 

duckiemum

Crowing
Sep 30, 2020
2,188
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Georgia
@DobieLover, @Acre4Me, @Cinnamon Roll, @MarkJr, @duckiemum - thank yall for all the insight. I think I will aim for 3.5-4 sq/ft per bird.

One other question... I have only had Silkies which cannot jump to save their life. My fencing is 4-foot horse fence (has chicken wire between slats). Should I be concerned about my larger Easter Eggers jumping over fence when free-ranging?
When I used to have a fence, which was 5 feet, my chickens always jumped over it, even the heavier breeds. Clipping their wings prevented mine from jumping over.
 

ChocolateMouse

Free Ranging
Premium Feather Member
Jul 29, 2013
4,528
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Cleveland OH
Yeah, you can go lower than 4 per bird if you have a door that opens VERY early every morning and closes at the last minute every night, or very small birds.

Also, the more birds you have the more wiggle room there is. If you have four birds, the chances of all four birds wanting space at the same time are pretty high. But birds flock, so if you have 20, the chances of them using all that space at the same time is lower. So you can fudge it a little, assuming you don't have anyone seriously bullied and especially if you have enough space to start giving hiding spots to the birds in the coop like you would in a run. At some point the extra space per bird is just not used if they're going out first thing every day.

My easter eggers jump 4' easy, but they won't try to jump over my 4' bird netting. They will jump UP TO, but not OVER things in my experience. I suspect the horse fence will look sturdy enough to jump up to, though.
 

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