How flexible is the coop sq. footage per bird?

Discussion in 'Coop & Run - Design, Construction, & Maintenance' started by AccidentalFarm, Mar 31, 2007.

  1. AccidentalFarm

    AccidentalFarm Songster

    Mar 29, 2007
    Ok, tomorrow we start the coop, hopefully to be completed this weekend.
    I am using a shed that is 16' x 8', but will have to divide it down to either 6' x 8' or 8' x 8', which makes 48 sq. ft and 64 sq. ft, respectively, for the coop. The remainder of the shed gets turned into a greenhouse.

    The outdoor fenced area will be in an "L" shape around 2 sides of the shed and will be a total of 304 sq. ft. It is sandwiched between a 50' x 100' garden, and the coop/greenhouse shed.

    Currently, I have 5 hens. I am *almost* positive that 2 are Black sex-links and 3 are White Rocks and are 5-6 weeks old. I would really like to place an order with McMurrays for the 'rarest of rare' collection, but don't really want an additional 25 hens (26 counting the 'mystery chick'), plus a roo...but that is another issue altogether. [​IMG] (That Gotta-Have-More-Chickens-itus you chicken people carry is waaay contagious!!)

    I know that the outdoor area can accomodate a ton of birds, but I worry about the coop area. I live in South Texas and have very mild, short winters so the birds will likely not spend much time indoors. Sooo...

    Question #1:
    Does the coop square footage need to be approx. 4 sq. ft. per bird as well as the outdoor space, or do I combine the 2 square footage amounts? In this case it would be a minimum of 352 sq. ft. or a max. of 368 sq. ft. (indoor + outdoor areas). Ideally, I'd like to accomodate 15-16 birds and have the coop 6' x 8'. Is this do-able?

    Question #2:
    I read that hens need approx. 14 hrs of light a day for the best health/egg production. Is this sunlight? Artificial light? I ask because we will be re-roofing the shed with clear corrugated fiberglass panels (greenhouse side) and wonder if I should also roof the coop side with the same.

  2. Llysse

    Llysse Songster

    Mar 11, 2007
    Birds need about 4 square feet of indoor coop space each. They can do with less if they have substantial range and if they won't have to spend a whole season "cooped up" (har har) together indoors because of bad winter weather weather. With a 6 x 8 coop, you could probably get by with 16 birds, considering your climate and your outdoor run. Personally, I would be leery, just because if picking does start it's so hard to stop... and also because stressed birds are more likely to get ill, carry parasites... the coop will need much more frequent cleaning to maintain a healthy atmosphere and so forth. You'd be much better off just going for the 8 x 8, IMHO.

    As to the light question, the hens need about 14 hours of natural light for the best egg production. I think giving them a little skylight (if they have a place in the shade) is a neat idea; they'd probably love it. They actually like to have their nests in dark, out-of-the-way places, though... so maybe the skylight could be over their feeder/waterer, while their nesting area could be in the dark to encourage them to lay and to prevent egg eating.
  3. wynedot55

    wynedot55 Songster

    Mar 28, 2007
    personally i go by the 1.5 to 2ft of coop space pre bird.i to am in i let them out early morning 730 to lock them in coop when its dark.tduring the day they are in an out of the henhouse is a 12 by 12.
  4. George in NH

    George in NH In the Brooder

    Mar 18, 2007
    I also go below 4 square foot per chicken. It is very-very rare that all of my chcikens would be on the floor at once. Normally during the day most are outside. If they are in the coop there are a lot of roost and I find about half will be on the roost while half are on the floor except for night when they are all roosting and because of the numerous roost they are quite content. If it snows I shovel a large area in the run and they come and go from coop to run as they would at any other season. My run is also on the southwestern side of of the property (slopes) so water runs off and dries really fast. The sun also shines on the run most of the day and usually melts the snow so that pretty much the run is the only spot bare of snow for most of the winter.

    It is funny, I have raised chickens for years and the only serious problem I ever had raising chickens was when I raised them exactly by the book. I figured if I was having such darn good luck going by gut feeling that I'd be incredibly successful going by the book. I built a 10 x 16 coop with a large run and kept 38 chickens. The result was that I had the most miserable chickens, feather picking throughout the flock and frozen hens in the winter and chickens that would lay rarely. I was also miserable. The more I read and followed the rules the more horrible things became. I finally went back to raising chickens my way and relying on my gut feelings as to what was wrong and right and everything turned out perfect again, which made the whole chicken raising process enjoyable again for both the chickens and me. The one problem I had always encountered no matter how many chickens I had, was that the top hats breeds got their head feathers picked; the solution was to not keep top hats.

    I can't say that my way would work for everyone because there are most likely many things not noticed that play a role in the success of raising poultry and my way is more labor intensive. I love raising poultry so the time I invest in cleaning, feeding, watering and observing is enjoyable to me. I do think most of my success raising large numbers of chickens in less than four square feet of space per chicken is that I have extra roost, have a large run, have a good feeding and watering (fresh water each morning and night) routine and I clean the coop a lot more than recommended including scraping poop from roost, walls and floor. I also rake the run when I it needs it. I also have a camera in my coop so that I can watch what goes on when I am not at the coop and when I am at the coop I spend time looking at the birds. I don't do a quick glance, I actually stand and watch the chickens and if I see one that seems ill I will seperate it from the flock until I feel it is safe to return it to the flock.

    I'm not saying you shouldn't try to raise chickens by the recommended methods, the chances are good that many people have great success raising chickens by the book; I am just not one of those people. My greatest success comes with using what my grandparents and parents taught me about raising chcikens, and then using some of my own common sense and that is what works best for me.

    One important thing I have learned is ducks don't belong in the chickens coop unless you have no problem with extreme moist poop. Trust me, a few times of cleaning the coop only to have the ducks make it a slick mess in two days will make just about anyone build another place for the ducks. I have had turkeys and peacocks live with the chickens with no problems but the ducks were the pits.

    Good luck with your chickens.

    Eggswithleggs likes this.
  5. AccidentalFarm

    AccidentalFarm Songster

    Mar 29, 2007
    Thanks all for the help.

    George's reply brought up a point I had not considered: The roost space. I was going by floor space only in the 4sq. ft. per bird equation, but it's logical that the birds, while in the coop, will not ALL be on the floor. Provided there is ample roost space, it seems safe to be slightly shy of the standard recommended square footage.
    I have enlarged my yard space from the previous plans to 712 sq. ft. roughly 80% of which will be covered. (The area not roofed will have wire netting, to safeguard against predators).
    This, in addition to the indoor coop area of 48 sq. ft. (or 64sq. ft., still undecided) should be adequate for quite a few birds. Taking into account that winter is almost non-existant down here, the birds will likely be out from roughly 7-ish in the morning and through the day until dark year round. There is an automatic waterer, straight from the well, both inside and outside of the coop, so no worries about that. I am considering how I might go about rigging the waterer so that the birds are not able to get above it and subsequently "muddy" the waters. [​IMG]

    Does anyone else consider the roosts as additional square footage? Or, do you calculate by floor space alone? I am very curious about this now.

    Thanks again for the help all! The mcmurray min. of 25 doesn't seem so impossible now. And btw, I added a Rhode Island Red to the flock today, she's just about a week old and I can't wait to see how pretty she turns out!
    Last edited: Apr 1, 2007
  6. kstaven

    kstaven Crowing

    Jan 26, 2007
    BC, Washington Border
    I find more issues with not having enough roost space than not having the recommended floor space. Mine wintered with about 2.5 sq. ft. per bird and lots of roosting area and where more content than smaller numbers of birds with less roosts in the same area the previous winter. Just my thoughts and observations.
  7. George in NH

    George in NH In the Brooder

    Mar 18, 2007
    More than anything, with having more chickens per square footage than recommended, will be the amount of droppings. I have found the easiest way to keep up with the droppings is a horse stall rake (I don't know what it's called) it is basically a giant kitty litter scoop. It is shaped somewhat like a blueberry rake with a regular rake handle. I got mine at Agway. The teeth are close enough to let shavings (not straw) fall through with a little shaking. This acts as a large sifter, keeping the larger manure in the rake while allowing the shavings to fall through the gaps between the teeth. I sit a cart outside the door; when the shavings are sifted out I pitch the manure into the cart and wheel it to my compst pile.

    Neglect of cleaning the coop will catch up to you fast so it is important to be commited to cleaning the coop when it needs it and not when you feel like cleaning the coop. If you feel like you have heavy weights on your feet when you leave the coop then you're behind on the cleaning.

    Also, just a reminder about waterfowl, they will foul your coop and run. If you keep the two (chickens and ducks) together you'll soon be very frustrated with the wet-slick droppings of the waterfowl. They also play in the water and this creates too much moisture in the coop and run and during a very cold spell the bedding freezes and is next to impossible to break apart for cleaning. If you like a clean chicken coop like I do then give the waterfowl their own building and pen and be prepared to spend more time cleaning their area than the chickens. I'm doing my best to save you from the frustration I went through LOL My muscovies aren't ducks, they're pigs.
    Eggswithleggs likes this.
  8. AccidentalFarm

    AccidentalFarm Songster

    Mar 29, 2007
    Yeah, I understand about the cleanliness issues. I'm hoping the droppings pit under the roost area will help with that. I don't plan to keep any other birds..just chickens- not sure where the duck/waterfowl came into the I've heard enough about how awfully messy they are to keep me from going that route!
  9. Jake

    Jake In the Brooder

    Jun 21, 2007
    Eastern Tennessee
    Yeah someone else on earth has some black-sex link chickens!!!!![​IMG]
    1 person likes this.
  10. MaMawD

    MaMawD Hatching

    Jun 14, 2008
    Douglas, GA
    Quote:When I bought my lil chicks, all I knew was that I had two black chicks. As they started growing, at first we thought we had bought buzzards or turkeys by mistake. Then my uncle stopped by and told me they were sex-links. One of them is really, really big. We call her Tyson. [​IMG]

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