Formula for sq footage of coop/run for chickens in Tractor/Freerange?


8 Years
May 27, 2011
The standard thought seems to be if you have a coop and a run you need 4 square feet per chicken in the coop and 10 square feet per chicken in the run.
But what if you have a chicken tractor that moves and allows them fresh grass constantly? Do these measurements still apply?
What if you allow them additional free ranging in addition to this?
It seems to me that the more time free ranging they have the less space they would actually need in the run and/or coop.
Is there a formula perhaps that says "For X number of hours freeranging reduce square footage in run and coop by Y"?
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Not to my knowledge? It's the space they are living in that matters the most. The time they are locked up really. So if they are free ranging for part of the day that's wonderful. It's when they go to bed at night that they need space-to prevent fighting, picking, etc...Those rules still apply..
What sonew said... The space allowed isn't really for the benefit of keeping fresh grass available (because most folks with stationary coops have no grass after a few months, even with the minimum recommended space) - it's for keeping the chickens comfortable, and allowing as much "normal" chicken behavior as possible. So just because a tractor is moved daily doesn't mean that a tight space suddenly becomes okay. The free ranging element may be a bit different...if they're just in a tight space until 8am, when you get out to let them free range, then it'd probably be fine. But if they're in a tight space until you get home from work, there could be problems. Some breeds (silkies and other very mild mannered, calm breeds) can handle tight spaces better than others, but all birds benefit from as much space as you can allow them.
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That makes a lot more sense than what I had read (on another site) regarding the rational behind the amount of space chickens need.
They're just guidelines, and never apply to all situations. Free range chickens in warm climates can be happy with lots less space in the coop, if they are only in there to lay and sleep, and especially if they gather elsewhere in a hard rain or for summer shade. Actually, while they need shelter, a coop here, in the traditional sense is not a good idea IMO. Down here, for a predator proof living space, I'd much rather see a 3 sided shelter continuous with a fenced yard, for maximum breeze. In snowed-in type climates, where they may stay in the coop for weeks at a time, 4 sq ft is not nearly enough for a contented existence.

Totally agree as my area is often 20-30 below for days. the chickens DONT WANT to come out and I can't blame them. I have about 10 sq ft per bird IN the coop throughout Winter.
Snow is not a problem for me here in Florida. Mine are tractored year round and moved every day weather permitting. I use five square feet per bird for large fowl hens and a trifle less for Leghorns. So long as I'm feeding them right and move their tractors often they have no problem with this.

For a stationary coop and yard I'd allow more space.
I do not know of any formula for that. There are so many variables that I don't think a formula will work. One important variable is the personality of the individual chicken. How to you put a formula on personality. And your specific management techniques play a big part. I also find that if I allow more space, I have to work less.

More space also gives you some more flexibility in how you manage them. For example, recently someone dropped off two dogs in the country. I lost several chickens to them. I had enough run space that I could lock the original survivors up until I solved the problem. If my run and coop space was so limited that I rely on free ranging, I would have most likely lost more birds before the problem was solved.

The 4 and 10 square feet are just guidelines, intended to keep most people out of trouble most of the time. Since they are intended for people from Denver to Miami, Perth to Inverness, there is generally some safey factor in them. Yet some people that follow them still get in trouble. There are plenty of examples where less space works well, usually where the coop space is less but the outside space is greater. The 4 and 10 are just guidelines, a good place to start talking. They are not an absolute law of nature.

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