How big should the coop be?


Crossing the Road
13 Years
Feb 2, 2009
Southeast Louisiana
Some rules of thumb used on this forum are 4 square feet per full sized chicken in the coop with 10 square feet per chicken in the run. Use 1 nesting box for every 4 hens.

The size for coop and run makes a lot of assumptions. The right answer can be different for each of us as we have different climates, different set-ups, different goals, and different management techniques. Below is something I wrote up a while back on space requirements. It may help.

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 they run.


Love My Chickens
13 Years
Jul 28, 2009
Floyds Knobs, Indiana
My Coop
My Coop
Okay...if I were building a coop for potentially 34 standard breed chickens, I'd build a 12 x 12 house, or a 10 x 14. If you're NOT totally free ranging, then go for a 340 sq. ft. run, which could be around a 16 x 20 or 10 x 34, or a 14 x 25....something along those lines. Depending on how many hens you end up with (straight run?)'d potentially need 8 or 9 nest boxes. Elevate your nest boxes so that you're not taking up valuable floor space. If you're in a warm weather year round area, you could get by with a slightly smaller house. But more room is always better. Ridgerunner's info. is a good guideline.

4-H chicken mom

14 Years
Aug 3, 2007
Oberlin, OH
The bigger the better. Chickens are like chips no one can stop at just a few.

Nestled Chickens

12 Years
Mar 3, 2010
Pacific Northwest
I'm starting to get obsessed too... we have had two chicks perish right off (I think they were trampled on the way home), so now we are down to a measly 23 (5 amerucana and the rest are buff orpington). And I want more!

We live in Washington, Puget Sound area, and have pretty mild weather. We are planning a large run. My husband read (somewhere) that we can get away with a smaller coop since they will have so much space to run outside (I think we are starting with a 25 by 25 yard). But I do think the chickens will be happier inside if they have more room to flap around on their roosts...


10 Years
Sep 9, 2009
Olympia, WA
Here in the PNW you need to give a lot of thought to the run too. Drainage is important and if at all possible cover all or at least part of your run. They will have minimal interest in staying out in it when the rain comes down for weeks on end if it is muddy and they're getting soaked. You'll also have a lot of really dirty eggs because they'll track all that mud into the nest boxes. Mine freerange and spend most of the rainy days in the barn and lean-to areas and I still plan on adding some gravel and sand to the run and covering the first 10' or so next to the coop this summer. I'm hoping that will cut down on the mud in the coop.

Nestled Chickens

12 Years
Mar 3, 2010
Pacific Northwest
Thank you Kittymomma! That is good info! Luckily they will be in our "upper" pasture that is currently thick thick grass, but I'm sure it won't last long! I'll tell DH that part of their runs needs covering...

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