How many square feet per chicken?

Discussion in 'Coop & Run - Design, Construction, & Maintenance' started by busybeelee, Nov 15, 2010.

  1. busybeelee

    busybeelee Out Of The Brooder

    Jul 17, 2010
    Vancouver WA
    In the coop and in the run?
  2. NonnasBabies

    NonnasBabies Muddy Acre Farms Premium Member

    Sep 20, 2009
    On the Farm!
    4 sq ft for the coop and 10 sq for the run!!
  3. cafarmgirl

    cafarmgirl Overrun With Chickens

    I think that depends on what you want for your chickens and how much your willing to spend. I don't go by the minimum space requirements for my layers, I just think it's not enough space to live comfortably day in and day out. Mine have more then twice the suggested minimum in the coop and a much bigger run. If you free range you can get by with less run space. The more space you can give them the less stress and pecking issues you are likely to have.
    1 person likes this.
  4. patandchickens

    patandchickens Flock Mistress

    Apr 20, 2007
    Ontario, Canada
    I know that on BYC there is a very common, quasi-religious devotion to the numbers "4 sq ft per chicken indoors, plus 10 sq ft per chicken outdoors"... but they're just NUMBERS, and do NOT suit every situation or every goal/taste.

    If you live in Maui and your chickens free range, they probably literally need nothing more than a safe place to roost at night. That could mean as little as 1 sq ft per chicken indoors, depending on how your coop is designed. And they would be quite happy and healthy like that.

    Personally, living somewhere that is not Maui LOL (but what I say still pertains to the climates of most of the US, and definitely all of Canada), I have kept chickens at 4 sq ft apiece (plus ample run) and at everything up to 15+ sq ft (plus ample run) and they BEHAVE QUITE DIFFERENTLY with the larger space allowance. They really do. More relaxed and "natural" and individual. So personally, since I am not interested in factory-farm style "let's see how many chickens we can get away with cramming in here so's to minimize the expense per chicken", I will never keep them at less than 15 sq ft per hen indoors (plus ample run).

    If your only goal is to keep the chances of cannibalism/pecking relatively low, you can of course go with 3-4 sq ft per chicken or really whatever makes you happy with your personal feelings of risk-tolerance. But if you have any broader interests than that, it's definitely definitely worth providing them AS MUCH space as you possibly can. And allowing more than the ever-popular 4 sq ft indoors plus 10 outdoors will also *further* decrease the chance of cannibalism/pecking, plus making sanitation much easier and less work.

    Of course saying give them more space really translates, despite the "collect 'em all" consumer mentality that sometimes prevails on this forum, into "try to limit yourself to the smallest number of chickens you can feel okay with".


    Last edited: Nov 16, 2010
    1 person likes this.
  5. speckledhen

    speckledhen Intentional Solitude Premium Member

    Agreed, 4 sf is just a general rule of thumb, but if you have bantams, you can have many more birds that that and if you have huge birds, like Jersey Giants or big exhibition size Orps or Cochins, you will need more room, generally. If they are having to stay inside for long periods, the more room, the better, overall.
  6. Olive Hill

    Olive Hill Overrun With Chickens

    Apr 19, 2009
    I agree with Pat as well, for the most part. The more space the better and you need to consider your setup -- 4 and 10 are just numbers that are meant as a starting point, a guide. If your chickens will be spending more than just at night inside, they need ample space -- as much as you can give them. The only place I will disagree is in the implication that in most of the U.S. the chickens need to be spending time inside and/or the idea that a tropical locale -- such as Maui -- is required for having chickens outdoors everyday. I live in MI. We get plenty of snow, long months of cold weather. My chickens are outside every single day dawn to dusk. Wind, snow, rain, hail, ice... doesn't matter. Obviously, I choose breeds/birds that are not cold sensitive and I otherwise select for hardiness in breeding, but it can (and IMO should [​IMG] ) be done in much less than tropical conditions. Chickens are not nearly as fragile as people think. So consider your goals, your plans and go from there.

    And apply these things to your outdoor setup too. If you don't want your run worn down to dirt, they're going to need more than 10 sq ft per bird, for instance.
  7. speckledhen

    speckledhen Intentional Solitude Premium Member

    My main pen is about 2500 sf and my largest coop is around 150 sf, and currently there are only 20 birds in there. It is easier to keep clean, fresher smelling, not crowded when they have to stay inside for two days (like now in windy, stormy weather), and just overall more pleasant for them and me. At one time, there were 40 birds in that coop, and it was always lots of work to keep it clean.
  8. Judy

    Judy Chicken Obsessed Staff Member Premium Member

    Feb 5, 2009
    South Georgia
    This was a duplicate thread and I started my answer with, it depends. You've gotten some very good information here. In this relatively warm climate I have something like 8 sq ft per chicken in my coop and maybe 20 in the run, although they free range all the time, at present. I'm so glad I don't have less space, because when I have to close them in the coop/run, in hot weather they spend the heat of the day in the coop for the shade and breeze. And what was said about the coop staying much fresher and cleaner this way is also true for me.
  9. Ridgerunner

    Ridgerunner True BYC Addict

    Feb 2, 2009
    Northwest Arkansas
    I agree, the 4 and 10 are rules of thumb, meant to keep most of us out of trouble most of the time. That does not mean you cannot sometimes get by with less or that sometimes you really need more. We all have different goals, set-ups, and conditions. We have different schedules. Some are willing to put a lot more into poop management than I want to. Here's a write-up I did a while back about space requirements. It might help you decide what is right for you or it may bore you to tears. Good luck!

    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.
  10. Liamm_1

    Liamm_1 Chillin' With My Peeps

    a question about the space provided the chickens in the coop:
    I currently have 6 chickens, 13 weeks old. The coop is about 30 sq. ft., their run is about 100 sq. ft, and they free range a minimum of 2 hours/day, all day when I'm home.
    But...when they go in the coop at night, where they have 3 roosts to choose from (2 are 6 ft. long, 1 is 3.5 feet long), all 6 of them try to get onto the 3.5 ft. roost and leave the other two 6 ft. long roosts unoccupied. There is quite a bit of pecking and shuffling going on at first, until it gets dark enough and they settle down.
    my thought is: since they all want to choose the same roost, and 6 chickens occupy about a 4 sq. ft. area, what does the actual sq. footage of the coop matter? It seems to me that even if the the coop was 150 sq. ft., they'd all still occupy the same 4 sq. ft.
    Is this normal, or do some chickens like to spread out and avoid each other? I find it quite amusing that the ones that get pecked on day in/day out, still go for the same spots, day in/day out lol

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