Expanding flock need help.

Discussion in 'Coop & Run - Design, Construction, & Maintenance' started by Pasha1, Mar 24, 2011.

  1. Pasha1

    Pasha1 Chillin' With My Peeps

    191
    1
    101
    Mar 17, 2011
    South Geaorgia
    We have a 8'x4' wood coop attached to a 10'x10' wire yard (half of which is covered). Plan on tripling the yard leaving a 5'x10' covered area for weather. How many chickens can I keep in this set up. I have room to do 2 roosts 8' long (it will be tight) or 4roosts 4' long (giving more space but same footage. Right now we only have 1. We have 5 buff orpington hens and 1 ee rooster in it now. Just hatched 12 ee/bo mixes and have 40 more incubating. Plan on selling some off and slaughtering some roosters. But would like to have about 12 to 18 birds in our flock. Do I need to expand the coop or can I get by with this set up and just add roosts?

    Some books say four square feet per bird. Is that just inside? and Day Range Poultry say 1.2 per bird inside and 5 outside (According to them I could keep 25 chickens right now).

    Any ideas?
     
  2. OkChickens

    OkChickens Orpingtons Are Us

    1,498
    15
    163
    Dec 1, 2010
    Owasso, Oklahoma
    Well rule of thumb for a small flock is around 4 sq ft inside and 10 sq ft outside. In a 4x8 coop would hold 8 large fowl birds with a 10x10 run. There is not a magic number but the more the better. I have a 20x30 coop with 8x8 space for 40 chicks about 4 weeks old and the rest of the 20x30 for about 30 large fowl chickens that usually free range.

    Nate
     
  3. Ridgerunner

    Ridgerunner Chicken Obsessed

    20,143
    3,357
    496
    Feb 2, 2009
    Northwest Arkansas
    This is one of the hardest things to get down because there are so many different things involved. How you manage them is extremely important. Living in South Georgia gives you more leeway than a lot of people have, but it does not solve all your problems.

    The normal recommendation given on this forum is 4 square feet in the coop along with 10 square feet in the run per full sized chicken. This is a general rule of thumb intended to keep most people anywhere in the world out of trouble. It is not an absolute guarantee that you won't have problems if you follow it, but most people will not. One of the basic assumption is that they will be locked in the coop after they wake up for some time but that they will not be locked in the coop (whether due to weather or you not getting up to let them out) for extremely long periods of time.

    I don't know what Day Range Poultry has as far as management options, but it sounds like it assumes they are free to range as much land as they want and the coop is only used as a safe place to sleep. They would never be locked in there while they are awake and food and water would probably not be inside. That is not very practical for most of us. There are times I want to lock mine in the coop for various reasons. With one that small, I would not risk it.

    You will find that commercial operations do provide a lot less room than we recommend. Most of us do not automatically trim the upper beak to reduce the risk of cannibalism, which can be a real problem when chickens are crowded. We do not practice the biosecurity measures the commercial operations do. We do not control the length of days with artificial light or provide the forced air circulation. We just do it differently.

    Another issue is that the smaller you make it, the more you have to manage the poop. I find that providing more room not only improves the attitude of the chickens but makes it easier for me to manage them.

    I'll provide a write-up I did a while back on coop space that may prove interesting, but for your situation, I would probably expand that coop to a 8' x 12' coop and at least double the run area. For information, my permanent laying/breeding flock is targetted at 1 rooster and 7 hens, but I raise my replacement chickens and eat a lot of them. I sometimes have over 30 chickens of various ages in the flock at any one time. My main coop is 8' x 12', my run is 12' x 32', and I normally free range mine. Here's the write-up.

    As long as you have enough height for the roosts to be noticeably higher than the nest boxes, height does not matter to chickens. They are basically ground dwelling birds, so the ground area is all that really matters space wise. I said it does not matter to the chickens. It does matter to me if I have to work in there. It matters quite a bit.

    If the nest boxes are high enough off the ground that the chickens can easily get under them, then nest boxes do not take away from the space available. The tops of the nesting boxes does not add to the living space either although they may occasionally be up there. Ground level is what counts.

    Some of the things that make up the space requirement are, in my opinion:

    1. Personal space for the birds. They have different personalities and different individual requirements. Some are very possessive of personal space and some can share.

    2. Access to feeder and waterer. The general recommendation is that they all be able to eat at one time, but access to the waterer is also important. Part of this is that they seem to like to all eat at once but not necessarily drink at the same time. Part of it is that a dominant bird may keep others from eating or drinking, especially with limited access.

    3. Being able to put the feeder and waterer where they will not poop in it when they roost.

    4. Roost space. They not only need to have enough room to roost, they need to have enough room for them to sort out who gets to sleep next to whom and who gets the prime spots. They also need enough room to get on the roosts and get off them. When they get on, they may jump from some midway support or fly directly to the roost, but either way, they like to spread their wings. And some chickens seem to enjoy blocking the entry points if there are limits. And when they get off, mine tend to want to fly down, not jump to a halfway point. They need room to fly down without bumping into feeders, waterers, nesting boxes, or a wall.

    5. Poop load. The larger area they have the less often you have to actively manage the poop. They poop a lot while on the roost so you may have to give that area special consideration, but mucking out the entire coop can be backbreaking work plus you have to have some place to put all that bedding and poop. In my opinion, totally cleaning out the coop is something that needs to happen as seldom as possible.

    6. How often are they able to get out of the coop. The more they are confined to the coop, the larger the personal space needs to be. The normal recommendation on this forum is 4 square feet per full sized chicken with a minimum of 10 square feet of run per bird. This additional requirement outside is sometimes not mentioned. How often they are allowed out of the coop may depend on a lot more than just weather. Your work schedule, when you are able to turn them loose, what time of day you open the pop door to let them out or lock them up at night, all this and more enters into the equation. The 4 square feet recommendation assumes they will spend extended time in the coop and not be able to get in the run. What that extended time can safely be depends on a lot of different factor so there is no one correct length of time for everyone.

    7. Do you feed and water in the coop or outside. The more they are outside, the less pressure on the size of the coop.

    8. The size of the chicken. Bantams require less room than full sized chickens. This has to be tempered by breed and the individual personalities. Some bantams can be more protective of personal space than others, but this is also true of full sized breeds.

    9. The breed of the chicken. Some handle confinement better than others.

    10. The number of chickens. The greater the number of chickens, the more personal space they can have if the square foot per chicken stays constant. Let me explain. Assume each chicken occupies 1 square foot of space. If you have two chickens and 4 square feet per chicken, the two chickens occupy 2 square feet, which leaves 6 square feet for them to explore. If you have ten chickens with 4 square feet per chicken, each chicken has 30 unoccupied square feet to explore. A greater number also can give more space to position the feeders and waterers properly in relation to the roosts and provide access. I’m not encouraging you to crowd your birds if you have a large number of them. I’m trying to say you are more likely to get in trouble with 4 square feet per chicken if you have very few chickens.

    11. What is your flock make-up. A flock with more than one rooster may be more peaceful if it has more space. I don't want to start the argument about number or roosters here as I know more than one rooster can often peacefully coexist with a flock, but I firmly believe more space helps.

    12. What is the maximum number of chickens you will have. Consider hatching chicks or bringing in replacements. Look down the road a bit.

    I'm sure I am missing several components, but the point I'm trying to make is that we all have different conditions. There is no magic number that suits us all. The 4 square feet in a coop with 10 square feet in the run is a good rule of thumb for a minimum that most of the time will keep us out of trouble, but not always. I do believe that more is better both in the coop and in the run.
     
  4. patandchickens

    patandchickens Flock Mistress

    12,521
    87
    341
    Apr 20, 2007
    Ontario, Canada
    It depends SO much on what your goals and priorities are.

    As a minimum, you need to give them 1-2 sq ft apiece (total). That would be, like, battery-hen conditions.

    Beyond about 30-50 sq ft apiece indoors plus more room outside, I am not sure that adding *extra* room makes any difference.

    In between, there are good rationales for any of a wide variety of "rules of thumb".

    In an always-beautiful never-a-nasty-day climate, where they will TRULY be spending all their daylight hours 365 days a year outdoors, all you really need is room enough for them to roost. So a 4x8 coop couldaccommodate at least 20 chickens on that basis.

    OTOH if you do not live in the aforementioned Hawaii-like climate but your main priority is just to avoid excessively large likelihood of cannibalism, 3-4 sq ft apiece (indoors, plus run) is generally adequate unless your weather is such that they're likely to want to spend a lot of days indoors. (In S GA you should be ok on that).

    OTOOH, if you live somewhere with nasty winters (you don't) or if your priority is to allow low-stress natural-type behavior, it really does make a difference to allow more than the BYC favorite of 4 sq ft apiece (plus run).... I have found that my chickens (several breeds) really act a lot different at 10-15+ sq ft apiece (plus ample run), and I'm talking about summertime when climate is not an issue up here, and will not personally go back to more crowded stocking densities. But, obviously this means keeping fewer chickens for a given size of coop, and if your main priority is cheaply-produced eggs then this is less practical obviously.

    It just depends what's most important to you... there will always be a tradeoff between how "happy" they are and how many you can keep in a given space.

    Good luck, have fun,

    Pat
     
  5. Pasha1

    Pasha1 Chillin' With My Peeps

    191
    1
    101
    Mar 17, 2011
    South Geaorgia
    Thanks for the help. Definately need to work on expanding the coop then. As for run space... the only reason we pen them is the 5 evil dogs on our property (2 are mine and 3 my parents who live next door) who stand at our coop thinking "Chicken... it's what's for dinner." I can make the pen as large as I want. We are actually looking into a tractor pen so we an move them around. We have 47 Acres. As for the coop... It is never shut not even at night. We have a secure coop and run next to our house protected from predators by 5 evil dogs. lol The deer don't even come to eat our veggie garden. So I have no concerns about the outside. They are out there from dawn til dusk 7 days a week. The only time they go in is during hurricane conditions. lol Most of the time they stand there in the rain, ut they also have a covered area. So I am guessing a 10 x 10 coop would be perfect for my meeds and keeping my smaller one for hatched birds.
     
  6. Ridgerunner

    Ridgerunner Chicken Obsessed

    20,143
    3,357
    496
    Feb 2, 2009
    Northwest Arkansas
    Keeping the smaller one for separate use is a great idea. You'll probably find many more uses for it than just for young chicks.

    As far as dimensions of the new one, I'll mention that most building materials come in 4' or 8' dimensions. You might be able to build an 8' x 12' building for less money since you hagve less wasted material and with less cutting and trimming than a 10' x 10'. You'll never notice the difference in a 96 square foot building versus a 100 square foot building. Just remember when designing the building that the 8' and 12' dimensions are outside dimensions, not centerline.
     
  7. Fred's Hens

    Fred's Hens Chicken Obsessed Premium Member

    Having two coops or multiple pens in a barn is ideal. Using one for growing out young chicks, separate from the older flock keeps harmony, distinctive breeding programs, whatever. Very useful.
     
  8. Pasha1

    Pasha1 Chillin' With My Peeps

    191
    1
    101
    Mar 17, 2011
    South Geaorgia
    Quote:Thanks. Good advice. Not very up on building knowledge.... or power tool usuage. But I am the planner. So need to draw it the best I can. This might be a good time to look into buying a wood shed/barn thingy. I want a cow.
     

BackYard Chickens is proudly sponsored by