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How to free range in a small space?

Discussion in 'Coop & Run - Design, Construction, & Maintenance' started by redfurmom, Feb 11, 2017.

  1. redfurmom

    redfurmom Hatching

    Feb 7, 2017
    We have 4 adult orps right now but we're fixing to move to a new home soon and we want to get about 18 more chickens after we move so we can have more eggs each day. We're vegetarians so we won't be slaughtering any of them or breeding. Strictly just eggs and family pets.

    Our girls right now have a coop with an attached run. Where we're moving to will have a little more space but still on the small side. Is there a way to free range in a small space while still being able to keep them fenced in somehow to keep them safe? Or just build another coop and run? The run we have now is just dirt and I hate them not having grass and fresh ground. Is there a way to solve this if we have to go with a run again? Like a certain type of grass we can plant that won't fade away, etc?

    Depending on which way we can go, what sq footage would you recommend per chicken with a coop and attached run OR coop and free range area? Our setup at our current house is 8 sq ft per chicken.
    Last edited: Feb 11, 2017

  2. KingOfTheCoop02

    KingOfTheCoop02 In the Brooder

    Feb 7, 2017
    There is no 'exact square footage' for any animal... give as much room as you possibly can and in that space have as few birds as you can. If chickens are put into a small space with lots of other chickens they will become very unhappy. In fact, three or four happy hens in a large space will give you more eggs than ten kept in the same conditions.

    As for the grass either divide your run in two and allow them in one half while the other regrows but what I do is have timber frames with stiff wire over the top. They can't scratch up the grass and can nibble the grass as it grows through the wire. Also you can plant some butterfly bushes, roses or juniper in the run. These are not poisonous and the chickens don't eat them.

    Good luck!
  3. Howard E

    Howard E Songster

    Feb 18, 2016
    Several things to consider. First is getting the terminology right. Technically, you are not proposing to "free range". You are proposing to "yard" them. True free range has no fence or boundaries. They are free to do whatever. A yard confines them to a defined area. Think school yard, playpen, prison yard........etc.

    Second is how many birds (this matters more than you might think). A good rule of thumb is 1 doz eggs per 3 to 4 birds. So decide how many dozen eggs you want per week and multiply X4 and that should give you a good number to start with. More eggs may not be a problem but more birds may be as birds require units of space.

    Another rule of thumb is 50 birds per acre or 875 sf per bird yard space. This is the amount of land you will need over the long haul to prevent toxic buildup of manures, and to allow the yard area to keep up and not be overwhelmed. Ideally, this yard area will be cut in half and the birds rotated in and out to allow half the land time to recover.

    A good plan, depending on how you want to manage the flock is to start with eggs wanted to get to the number of birds to meet that goal. Then build a coop sized to 4 sf per bird and attached run of 10 sf per bird. That way you can always confine them as needed (holidays, vacations, etc). Then fence in the allotted amount of yard area to define a boundary to keep them in and predators out.

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