Do I really need 4sq/ft per bird?

U_Stormcrow

Songster
Jun 7, 2020
736
1,329
196
North FL Panhandle Region / Wiregrass
Your free rangers **WILL** jump the fence. In both directions. Even my 8 wk old Silver Laced can jump a 4 foot fence. If they don't like being in, they will leave. If my dog comes out to chase them, they jump right back in - by way of the gate. They don't otherwise go up and over the fence. Its a two step process. Up to the gate (4' 4"), out to the yard - or back by the same method.

The question is "what is the purpose of your fence"? If its to keep the birds in, you must go higher. If its to keep something else (in my case, the planned addition of goats to my acreage) out, then the answer depends on on what that something is....
 

noabtz

Songster
Dec 12, 2017
107
144
116
Texas
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.
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.
Your free rangers **WILL** jump the fence. In both directions. Even my 8 wk old Silver Laced can jump a 4 foot fence. If they don't like being in, they will leave. If my dog comes out to chase them, they jump right back in - by way of the gate. They don't otherwise go up and over the fence. Its a two step process. Up to the gate (4' 4"), out to the yard - or back by the same method.

The question is "what is the purpose of your fence"? If its to keep the birds in, you must go higher. If its to keep something else (in my case, the planned addition of goats to my acreage) out, then the answer depends on on what that something is....
Well, looks like that is a hurdle I will need to deal with... My Silkies and dogs sleep together sometimes... not worried about that. However, may need to just build large run for these full-sized Easter Eggers.

I read that yesterday... very helpful article giving different factors, but I wish it quantified those factors.
 

ChocolateMouse

Free Ranging
Premium Feather Member
Jul 29, 2013
4,565
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Cleveland OH
I wish it quantified those factors.
Problem is, you can't. Chickens are like people with individual needs and flock dynamic change a lot. The amount of space you need from your in-laws is VERY different from the amount of space needed from your local grocery store cashier, and that's different than the space you need from your partner or sister or child.
Chicken are the same - if everyone gets along great, they're small birds, you have a pop door that opens first thing in the morning, they can get VERY crowded indeed without fighting. I put nine easter eggers and leghorns in a 4x4 coop one winter and no feathers were plucked, no fighting took place, and no injuries were had.
This year I have a broody hen that needs 9sqft all to herself because she VICIOUSLY attacks anyone who comes within a foot of her even if her chicks aren't anywhere near. So one foot for the the chicken in the middle, and every square foot in a radius around her for her zone of attack must be free and clear from other chickens at all time, or she MAKES it free and clear of other chickens. If I tried to keep her in a 8sqft coop with one other chicken she'd kill them.
You just can't quantify that. There's too much individual need to take into account. So better to err on too much space than too little.
 

Panhandler80

Songster
Feb 11, 2020
344
400
118
NW Florida
I currently have 21 full size layers in a 64' coop with zero obstructions on ground, 32' of roosting bars and five external nesting boxes. So far zero bullying, almost every single egg has been laid in boxes, and the poop has been manageable. Put two bales of pine shavings in back in late May and just stir it once a week or so.

Sounds like that's a bit tight, BUT (and as others have said), they have 24 hour access to a predator proof (so far) 500 square foot run. So they fly down and fly up when they feel like it. They never spend a minute in the coop against their will and there is ample roosting space.
 

noabtz

Songster
Dec 12, 2017
107
144
116
Texas
Problem is, you can't. Chickens are like people with individual needs and flock dynamic change a lot. The amount of space you need from your in-laws is VERY different from the amount of space needed from your local grocery store cashier, and that's different than the space you need from your partner or sister or child.
Chicken are the same - if everyone gets along great, they're small birds, you have a pop door that opens first thing in the morning, they can get VERY crowded indeed without fighting. I put nine easter eggers and leghorns in a 4x4 coop one winter and no feathers were plucked, no fighting took place, and no injuries were had.
This year I have a broody hen that needs 9sqft all to herself because she VICIOUSLY attacks anyone who comes within a foot of her even if her chicks aren't anywhere near. So one foot for the the chicken in the middle, and every square foot in a radius around her for her zone of attack must be free and clear from other chickens at all time, or she MAKES it free and clear of other chickens. If I tried to keep her in a 8sqft coop with one other chicken she'd kill them.
You just can't quantify that. There's too much individual need to take into account. So better to err on too much space than too little.
I get it. Complex creatures... The article was a big help, as I realized some advice I was reading was for people with harsh winters. Thanks for explaining further. Relived me in some ways of how I currently am raising the chickens.
 
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3KillerBs

Crowing
Jul 10, 2009
2,839
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North Carolina Sandhills
The problem with pushing the space boundaries is that it leaves you no room for problems.

There will be days where you CAN NOT free-range/let chickens out into an unroofed pen -- most recently in my case because we had heavy equipment being operated within 15 feet of the coop.

There will be days when the chickens WILL NOT go out -- most recently in my case being yesterday when the winds exceeded 30mph.

I'm a little overcrowded right now myself (still trying to sell Dumpling), and I'm having to manage the bedding more aggressively than I like to. If my coop were not so generously ventilated I'd probably be seeing more issue from that.
 

noabtz

Songster
Dec 12, 2017
107
144
116
Texas
The problem with pushing the space boundaries is that it leaves you no room for problems.

There will be days where you CAN NOT free-range/let chickens out into an unroofed pen -- most recently in my case because we had heavy equipment being operated within 15 feet of the coop.

There will be days when the chickens WILL NOT go out -- most recently in my case being yesterday when the winds exceeded 30mph.

I'm a little overcrowded right now myself (still trying to sell Dumpling), and I'm having to manage the bedding more aggressively than I like to. If my coop were not so generously ventilated I'd probably be seeing more issue from that.
Great points. I have decided to build a 100 square foot coop so that I have room for growth. Decsion was easy after hearing from all of yall on this site and reading other posts. Not worth the risks.
 

3KillerBs

Crowing
Jul 10, 2009
2,839
4,974
436
North Carolina Sandhills
Great points. I have decided to build a 100 square foot coop so that I have room for growth. Decsion was easy after hearing from all of yall on this site and reading other posts. Not worth the risks.
Good decision.

I forgot to mention that my over-crowded chickens have started knocking their waterer over about once a week. (Prodding DH to build the feed/water shelter so I can get it out of there).
 

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