how much space per chicken

Discussion in 'Coop & Run - Design, Construction, & Maintenance' started by ninny, Oct 4, 2007.

1. stormysarOut Of The Brooder

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I have a 4x8 raised coop and a 9x18ft. run. How many hens, maximum, could I keep? Do hens like roosts outdoors - would they "play" on them, or even sleep on them at night instead of in the coop if the weather is nice? The run is completely enclosed and they will have access to it all the time.

2. JkioneilChillin' With My Peeps

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Apr 29, 2010
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Okay ya'll, I did flunk basic math as I have a math disability. I thought I had this chicken coop/run math down but now I am not so sure.

I have a run that is 4ft wide and 10 feet long how many birds can I have in it comfortably? 4? My coop is a large model kids playhouse and the coop and run come apart so the run works as a tractor too, but our yard is small... do not know size but i can move them to about 4 spots around yard. Is the run big enough for 4 large ladies? what if i don't move tractor around?

3. fiddlebansheeChillin' With My Peeps

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Mar 11, 2010
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Quote:
4 chickens in 40 sq ft. That's fine. The coop needs to have 16 sq ft minimum (4 sq ft per bird).

It doesn't matter if you move the run or not, the only thing is that the spot it sits in will be bare dirt in about a week. So if you don't mind that, and you supplement your birds' feed with greens it's just fine to leave it where it is.

Last edited: Apr 14, 2012
4. fiddlebansheeChillin' With My Peeps

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Mar 11, 2010
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the coop can accommodate 8 large fowl, the run 16. I would go with the smaller number.

5. mike001Out Of The Brooder

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Apr 6, 2012
I'm new to chickens, so before deciding on my coop, I spoke to a lot of local chikcen farmers. The people who keep lots of chickens and sell their eggs usually say 1 to 2 square feet per chicken of indoor space (usually 1), and they don't even build runs, they just let them free range and if a predator gets one, so be it, they replace it. The people who keep chickens as pets/layers recommended 2 to 3 square feet per chicken.

Then I came here and saw the 4 square feet per bird thing and I thought...whoah, what gives? I have 15 chickens, 11 big ones and 4 bantams. Of the 11, one is a rooster, of the 4, I don't know, because they are teeny. Following local wisdom I built what I thought was a palatial coop, 8x4 with 6' ceiling and 8' of nest boxes bumping out another 14" (haven't partioned them yet so I'm not sure how many I'll make. I'm also building a 15'x15' run, not including the area under the coop which is also accessible and protected.

If I followed the formula recommended here, I would need an 8x7 coop, another 3'x4'. That doesn't sound unreasonable. I could also add a second floor/loft to my coop that will give me more room than that. The thing is, the local chicken keepers think I'm crazy when I bring up 4 square feet per bird. They say "What the hell does a chicken need with 4 square feet?"

One of them, who is internet savy, said something interesting: "The idea that a chicken needs four square feet of coop space is built on a semantic mistake. When those numbers were firsted introduced, people were talking about the henhouse and run as being the 'coop.' Now the hen house is the coop, and people think that needs to be 4 square feet per bird. A large henhouse can actually be bad for the health of the birds because chickens heat their coops with body heat, and a tight space is more easily heated. A hen house that is too large will be too cold in some climates."

What are your thoughts on this?

6. DavarooPoultry Crank

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Feb 4, 2007
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The coop is for nesting and protection while roosting. It is not meant as palatial accommodation. The 4 sq ft rule interests me for two reasons...
A. I cannot learn it's precise origin
B. I strikes me as a mediocre compromise.
That so many folks accept it as gospel is also intriguing.

None of my old books make mention of its de facto status.
Most, in fact, suggest something quite a bit less... As little as 1sq ft per bird.
The simple reason for this is that chickens dont belong in the coop, except for a small part of their day.
Their place is outside. You are much better off arranging secure and spacious henyards, while keeping the coop accommodations to a requisite minimum.

Last edited: Apr 14, 2012
7. fiddlebansheeChillin' With My Peeps

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Mar 11, 2010
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Quote: This, sir, depends on where you live. I know a lot of folks up north that have their birds cooped up for most of the winter. That's even what happened with us in Maryland. They'd spend only a few hours outside when it was cold and the wind was blowing.

When I watch my flock in the coop, I cannot imagine having more birds (14 in 56 sq ft). I think more crowded conditions invite fights, featherpicking and boredom. And mine weren't even fully grown when I observed them spend most of the day in there.

I can see the need for a commercial farmer to have more birds per sq ft for business viability reasons, but for most of the folks here on Backyard Chickens, it is a hobby; notice the word "backyard" in there? And these birds grow into pets that we would like to lead a good life. You could argue that a dog could be held in a 3x5 kennel without exercise all day, but would you?

8. DavarooPoultry Crank

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Feb 4, 2007
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Consider the Rhode Island Red. It was developed when "cooping" wasnt common. It was expected to be hardy out of doors even in winter.... which can be severe in the NorthEast. Of course you dont want your birds out in a blizzard. Your point is well taken. At the same time we often treat them like they are our dottering grandmothers... some people's chickens live better than their owners!
Are you familiar with the concept of the fresh air chicken house? As the name implies, it is more shelter than proof against the elements. It was a common feature of the chicken business a century ago.
The one exception to all of this is the purpose kept winter laying flock. These birds require control more than anything and that is best given during the harsh winter in an enclosed area. Even then it does not have to be a shut up tight structure.
But as you note, this is most important if we are to make a profit from them. As a hobby, well.... we put more into them than they really need. So it goes with hobbies of all kinds.

9. dgroverNew Egg

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Mar 22, 2012
Sorry Dave... I didn't mean anything personal with my comment about yourmath skills....

10. JkioneilChillin' With My Peeps

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Apr 29, 2010
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Thank you so much for the math. my coop is 4ft by 4 ft so it is perfect for my four ladies. yay!