How much space???

Discussion in 'Coop & Run - Design, Construction, & Maintenance' started by equinehugger3, Dec 19, 2010.

  1. equinehugger3

    equinehugger3 Overrun With Chickens

    Apr 14, 2010
    This spring, we're hopefully building a new coop and getting more chicks!!! Even now, four chickens is more than I planned for, so my chickens are kinda cramped. This time around, I'd like to make sure all my chickens have enough space, and some. So, how much space is needed per hen? Thanks!!!! [​IMG] [​IMG]
     
  2. teach1rusl

    teach1rusl Love My Chickens

    Especially in your area, where they will spend quite a bit of time indoors over the winter time, you'll want a minimum of 4 sq. ft. per chicken for your housing, and 10 sq. ft of run space. But if you can do more, that is much better. And remember, if your nest boxes aren't elevated, and you keep feeders inside, then that takes away from floor space. Coops that seem pretty roomy for chicks, or in the warm months when rarely occupied, become cramped when the birds are grown, or when the birds stay inside quite a bit... Have fun with your new building project! [​IMG]
     
  3. equinehugger3

    equinehugger3 Overrun With Chickens

    Apr 14, 2010
    Quote:Yay, thanks! I was just looking at some coops with elevated nest boxes and they all had their food off the ground too... I feel so bad because my poor chickens are stuck in their cramped coop for the rest of the winter! Well, some treats and a chicken palace this spring will make up for it! [​IMG] [​IMG] Thanks again!!!
     
  4. patandchickens

    patandchickens Flock Mistress

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    Build it as large as you can stand to build it. Really really. Your chickens will be better off and happier, and management will be easier. And should you ever decide to add more in the future you will at least not be starting as close to crowdedness than if the coop were built smaller [​IMG]

    Personally (living in an area with reasonably cold winters and on a property very exposed to the wind) I don't like to give them less than 15 sq ft apiece indoors (plus run), or certainly not less than 10; just 4 sq ft apiece is going to have a pretty significant chance of Bad Things Happening over winter unless you have a roofed well-windblocked run and chickens that happen to enjoy spending most of their time in it.

    Good luck, have fun,

    Pat
     
  5. Ridgerunner

    Ridgerunner Chicken Obsessed

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    Northwest Arkansas
    As you can probably tell real quickly, there is no one right answer for all of us. With your climate you probably need to be more generous with space than I do and I give mine plenty, not quite as much as Pat in the inside but a lot more on the outside. Mine can get to the outside a lot more than her's can in the winter and my management techniques are different, based on some of her posts. We all have different circumstances.

    I'll include a write-up I did on space which might or might not help you. If you can get anything useful out of it, great. A couple of comments based on what I think your situation is. If you can give them some space outside protected from snow build-up and wind, they will be better off. Don't forget snow load if you build something with a roof. And with only a few chickens, you need to be a little more generous with space per chicken than someone with a lot of chickens. That comes under the thought that you have to have enough chickens for the average to mean something. Good luck with it.


    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.
     

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