Help needed with chicken math

Ryooki

Chirping
May 27, 2020
41
25
51
Medford, Oregon
Hi! I’m new to raising chickens, and I’m already suffering from chicken math. I currently have 11 chicks aged 5-7 weeks of 4 different breeds. 3 Easter eggers, 3 black cooper Marans, 3 blue laced red Wyandottes, and 2 olive eggers. I can’t keep any roosters in my city limits, but don’t have a limit to the numbers of chickens. My original intention was to keep 5-6 for their varied eggs colors, and I have back up plans for the roosters and any extra hens. But, I love watching the chicks so much, and now I want more! We want some silkies for sure. I need advice about how many hens I can safely keep in the set up we’re putting together.

We have built so far a run that’s about 90 sq ft, which we intend to connect via a 5-6 ft chunnel to their main coop / run. The coop we’ve designed to be 4 x 5 ft with 10 ft of roosts (14 if you include the bar in front of the nesting boxes) with 3 nesting boxes which are not included in the 4x5 space. It will be permanently open to the main run that’s about 165 sq ft. Food and water stations will be in each run only. I don’t know if it matters, but we’ve installed just over 12 ft of roosts in the current run where the chicks will spend their time until the main run / coop are finished. (We take the younger chicks in at night when it’s going to be colder than 60 right now.) We intend to install some roosts in the main run, too. The plan is to let the girls “free-range” in our backyard when we’re home, and they will reliably come when called. We’re in zone 8A, and we rarely get snow at our home, maybe lasts 2-3 days a year. I imagine they’ll be able to leave the coop year round. We may install an automatic door to their run & allow then access to a restricted portion of the backyard that would add 400ish sq ft. I’m not worried about ground predators in our area in the middle of town, but I do worry about hawks. We’re covering their runs, and have put hardware cloth about 6 inches into the ground just in case. (Husband is certain it’s overkill.)

The numbers above are mental estimates so not accurate, but probably within 10%, with the exception of the coop which I’m sure about. I’m pretty certain the space is more than enough for 6 hens. But can I have 4-5 more bantams and maybe a 2-3 more standard hens?
 
Nov 28, 2017
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UK
A 4x5ft coop is big enough for 5 chickens, at the absolute max, I’d keep 7 in it. Your 90sqft run is big enough for 9 chickens. 11 chickens in this setup is already pushing it a lot, so adding another 8 means you’ll need to make your coop/run much bigger. You should aim for 3-4sqft per chicken in the coop and 10sqft per in the run. In your coop, your 11 chickens have less than 2sqft each.

Too many chickens in a coop can lead to stress, stress causes lower egg production and feather pecking. Be sure you have plenty of ventilation as well.

And this isn’t me trying to disgruntle anyone, it just shows why it’s important to research space requirements before buying too many chickens and falling in love with them all, I know too well how easy that is lol.
 

aart

Chicken Juggler!
Premium Feather Member
8 Years
Nov 27, 2012
95,220
126,272
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SW Michigan
My Coop
My Coop
Yes, chicks are adorable, but they get bigger than you might imagine.
But can I have 4-5 more bantams and maybe a 2-3 more standard hens?
Not until next year...you're already overloaded, and it's always good to get thru your first winter before learning about how to add more birds..
Is your run predator and weather proof?
Pics would help here.

Oh, and.... Welcome to BYC! @Ryooki
Where in this world are you located?
Climate, and time of year, is almost always a factor.
Please add your general geographical location to your profile.
It's easy to do, and then it's always there!
1590926678213.png
 

Tre3hugger

Let Your Freak Flag Fly
Mar 21, 2020
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NW Massachusetts
Slow down! I'm afraid you are already going to be pushing the limits of your 4x5 coop. Please don't add any more birds yet. Chicks are chicks for like 2 months, but pretty soon you will have lots of grown up chickens.

I don't think there is anything wrong with getting bit by the chicken bug. I myself am expanding quite rapidly, but I survive chciken math with this formula... FIRST build your set up, make sure it is the right size, THEN get more birds IF you have enough space and your current system is working.

Just my 2 cents. Have fun.
 

Acre4Me

Crossing the Road
Nov 12, 2017
6,047
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Western Ohio
Maybe you can get your chick fix by hatching and selling chicks. Or buying chicks to raise to a certain age to sell started pullets (close to laying age), but that would take more room than chicks.


For your own flock, you coop is the limiting factor and Interior roost space. You have plenty of run space for the coop, but your coop limits you to fewer chickens. However, you are blessed with great weather it sounds like. With 10 ft of roost space, you could go to 8-9 regular size chickens if they only sleep in there. If they are let out early for all day access, you could be ok- or convert run to be Fort Knox with 24/7 run access.

So, you have 11 chicks - you might need to re-home 2-3 by around 12 weeks before they really cram into the coop. For a small flock, I’m not sure I’d put in bantams with regular size birds. They could get picked on for being a lot smaller and different than the others.


I successfully manage my flock in less than 4sqft per bird coop space, but I have more thanenough roost space -they only use 1/2 the roost space, and a very large covered run, so lots of room and access even in wet or snowy weather. We also have visual disruptions, so chickens can get away/out of sight of one another, and roosts here and there in the run.

good luck!
 

Ridgerunner

Crossing the Road
12 Years
Feb 2, 2009
27,293
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Southeast Louisiana
Let me put this down so I can think about the numbers and conditions. You currently have 11 chicks around 6 weeks old. You may or may not get rid of an unknown number of them. Your plans include a shelter for sleeping only that has roosts but no food, water, or internal nests. That shelter will be open to the main run 24/7/365 and you expect to have weather where they can access outside space every day of the year. This shelter is 4 feet x 5 feet. For talking purposed, that main run is about 16.5 feet x 10 feet, about half the size of my main run. That helps me visualize it. In addition you have an area about 9 feet x 10 feet that may or may not be open 24/7/365. You have 10 feet of roost space. You have a four feet bar in front of the nest openings, not sure how high this is compared to the roosts. I personally would not want them roosting on this if it is close enough their butt could hang into the nests when roosting. And you have various perches in the runs. Since that free range in your back yard space is not always available it doesn't count.

This is not a traditional coop where they will be locked in it when they are awake. The behavioral concerns for them being overcrowded don't apply. I don't know how high the roosts are or how much open space that 4 feet bar is taking up, but they probably don't have a lot of open space to get up to or down from the roosts. That's one concern and maybe a good reason to make it 6' x 5' instead of 4' x 5'. I understand the coop is still in design phase. I envision a 4x5 being a small elevated coop. I'd probably make it a 6x6 walk-in just so I had good access but a lot of that is personal preference. I like walk-ins. Another possibility to give them room to get up and down would be to reduce your 11 to 8 or 9 maximum and rearrange the roost so you have two only 4' long. That should give them an extra foot to get up and down.

One of the issues of crowding them into a small area is that they poop a lot. The more the poop builds up the more you need to manage it. During the day that probably won't be much of an issue. At night they are not moving around so expect it to build up under the roosts. No matter how big that roosting area is you'll be managing that anyway. With a smaller coop you have fewer options on how to do that but make sure you have good access to handle that.

I anticipate you may have issues with training them to all sleep together in that shelter even if you did not have all those other perches. You never know how this will turn out. That's something nice about a larger shelter, you have more flexibility in locking them in there to help train them where to sleep. You can manage that with your set-up, but I can see you out there after dark moving them into that shelter and being up at first light to let them out until they learn to go in on their own.

I don't know if you bought them as pullets or as straight run. At that age if you take individual photos showing a close-up of the head so we can see size and color of the combs and wattles and a second photo showing legs, posture, and profile we might be able to make some pretty good guesses on sex.

All this so far is just about the ones you already have. If you get rid of enough of the ones you have you will have room for more. But when you integrate your need for room goes up during integration. With your separate runs you would not be in horrible shape for most of that, but getting them to sleep in the same shelter could be a challenge.

My suggestion is to tear up that Chunnel and restrict your current flock to that shelter and the 165 square feet run. That's enough room for them. Build a separate shelter for that other run for your new birds and use that other run for them. Keep two separate flocks. To me that is the simple solution. Even them you'll have to learn self-control. In restricted space you can only handle so many.
 

Mrs. K

Free Ranging
11 Years
Nov 12, 2009
8,895
11,148
636
western South Dakota
Chicken math is real. Chicks are darling, and it is fun to watch them. But what is MORE than enough room for chicks, rapidly becomes not enough room for chickens.

There are a couple of misconceptions that leads to wrecks with this hobby:
  • if I let them out to "free range" a couple of hours that will make up for overcrowding the rest of the day. That doesn't work. It is not exercise they need, it is space for society 24/7. Your smallest area is what determines the successful number of birds. In the op's situation -5-7 birds would be best.
  • if birds are raised together, they will be like a family and get along, even if they do not have quite enough room. Chickens really do not think this way. Chickens that have gotten along well for weeks, but are growing in size, will reach a point, that they become very aggressive if they do not have enough space.
A peaceful flock is the best flock. A flock of fighting, manure cased, feather picking flock is not that much fun.

Mrs K
 

Ryooki

Chirping
May 27, 2020
41
25
51
Medford, Oregon
It sounds like people say consistently that I can have 5-7 chickens, which was my original plan. That info will help me resist Chicken Math. Lol

We have a combo of female & straight run. As I mentioned in my opening post (which was long & packed with info), I have plans to get rid of all roosters and down to 5-6 hens. I know for sure we have 1 rooster, and I suspect another 4 in the bunch. So we’ll more than likely be at 6 hens without giving away the pullets to friends.

I do have a ladder to the roosts in the coop. I can make it at most 4x6 as an elevated coop given the shape of the land which is on a hill. I’ve copied elements of the Carolina Coop design and intend on using deep litter method for poop management. We’ll have way more ventilation than their coops.

If I redo the coop design as 4x6, how many chickens could I potentially have? Everything I’ve read seems to rely on chickens being stuck in the coop a lot needing 4ft sq per, which I don’t think will be an issue given our weather. I really do they they can be outside pretty much 365 as there are very few days that aren’t outside friendly.
 

Mrs. K

Free Ranging
11 Years
Nov 12, 2009
8,895
11,148
636
western South Dakota
When you have chicks, it is just hard to imagine how big they are going to be. Overcrowding causes horrible problems.

Mine are outside every day, I have additional shelter out in the run. They only sleep and lay in the coop. The problem is winter, not the cold, but the length of night. By early December, mine are roosting up a little after 4:00 in the afternoon, and staying there until a little after 7:00 in the morning. That is a long time to be too crowded.

Georgia, you are farther south, you might have shorter winter nights. However, the best advice is NOT to over fill your coop this year. Chickens sometimes die or are killed, and adding a single bird is very difficult. It is better to have a bit more space than not enough.

Do the math in reverse, if you want a dozen hens, then build for 15. If you want 8, then build for 12. This gives you wiggle room, that you can add 4-6 chicks if you need too. If you build a walk in coop, you can cheat a little bit. You can get some experience, it allows you to add a different breed later on, you can build a multi-generational flock.

The thing with chicken math is it has to work both ways. You can add new birds, but you need to be able to subtract birds too. If you can do that, get rid of birds, well then you can try more things, and when it does not work, you reduce the flock. A lot of people just beginning are very uncomfortable with culling birds.

Beware - very ugly chicken behaviors happen with over crowding. We won't need to tell you, your chickens will tell you in unmistakeable and often bloody ways. Start with less, add as you see it works is very good advice.

Mrs K
 

Ryooki

Chirping
May 27, 2020
41
25
51
Medford, Oregon
Thanks for the thoughtful answer. We’re actually in Oregon, but have very temperate weather in our valley. I see what you mean about the length of night. I didn’t think about that.

I’m curious why a walk in coop would be better than an elevated coop that’s 5 ft tall? Everything I read about is based off floor space / roost space.
 

MANNA-PRO

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