Is it humane to keep chickens in coop 24/7?

Discussion in 'Coop & Run - Design, Construction, & Maintenance' started by Alpal, Sep 25, 2010.

  1. Alpal

    Alpal Chirping

    Sep 25, 2010
    Belfast, Ireland
    Hi, we are considering keeping chickens. We have recently moved house to get a garden for kiddies to play in and to grow vegetables and flowers. We'd also love to keep chickens but don't think we could let them range free around the garden - mostly because we don't want the plants wrecked, but also because of the quantity of poop I understand they make. I don't want my son sliding around in chicken poop each time he plays football! We live in the city, so space is precious. It is really hard to get information on whether it is humane to keep chicken in a pen all the time, and what space would be required to make it work. Any advice very welcome!
    Bdbutton likes this.

  2. BeardedLadyFarm

    BeardedLadyFarm Songster

    May 31, 2009
    Cobleskill NY
    The general wisdom is that 4 square feet per bird in the coop, and 10 square feet in the run are the basic requirements for "happy" chickens.

    They will always be happier with more space. Just make sure you select breeds that "bear confinement well" and you should be fine with even a small set up.

    Even an hour of yard time a day will help. You can observe them to make sure they aren't destroying too much.
    Bdbutton likes this.
  3. elmo

    elmo Songster

    May 23, 2009
    Just a word about terminology. "Coop" is generally used to refer to the shelter, often solid walled, that chickens roost in at night. "Run" is used to refer to the pen that chickens are sometimes kept in during the day when people don't want to let them free range.

    There's another housing option called the chicken tractor. It's a moveable pen that is used to keep chickens contained and/or secure, while allowing them to scratch and forage on fresh ground periodically. I use a daytime tractor and move my chickens into a more secure coop at night. I don't let my very small bantams free range without supervision because their size makes them vulnerable even to cats that roam around our neighborhood and can easily climb over the board fence that encloses our yard.

    You didn't mention your reason for wanting chickens, but if you're not primarily concerned with the eggs, you could consider getting bantams. Their size makes them easier to keep in a city sized back yard; their poop is smaller than standard hens, and although their eggs are smaller, too, they're also very tasty. There are many bantam breeds that are beautiful and have delightful personalities. We have Serama/Old English Game bantam crossbreeds, and some d'Uccles, too. Several of them have become so tame that they will fly up to our arms or jump into our laps when we sit down in the backyard to watch them free range.

    Bantams also tend to be less hard on landscaping because of their small size. The feather footed breeds like d'Uccles tend not to be able to scratch things up as thoroughly as the non-feathered footed ones. Any pen that even bantams are confined to daily over an extended period of time will be grazed/scratched down to the ground, but ours haven't made any noticeable damage to our yard landscaping being let out to roam for only an hour or so most days. It's just too big and they're just too small (and there's only nine of them).
    Bdbutton likes this.
  4. Pheonix

    Pheonix In the Brooder

    Sep 11, 2010
    San Jose, Ca
    Another thing, is that if you have lots of grass that your son plays on and you have sprinklers, you can just let the chickens out for a few hours at the end of the day, and wash the poop off with the sprinklers when they are done.

    Tractors are great for the city. I have it for my 6 hens. I have a 4x4 house and a 4x8 run under it for them to play in. I do end up letting them out each morning, and yes, they do poop all over, but I don't mind, I just spray it down with a hose every few days and it's back to new.
    Bdbutton likes this.
  5. silkiechicken

    silkiechicken Staff PhD Premium Member

    If you have a safe spacious coop where the birds look like they are living happily, the converse question could be asked:

    Is it safe to free range domesticated birds, reliant on your for survival, where there is danger from predators on land and in the sky which can kill them?
    Bdbutton likes this.
  6. Yay Chicks!

    Yay Chicks! Songster

    Apr 15, 2010
    Forest Grove, OR
    Suggestion: Check out the coop section for coops with attached runs. Build the run bigger than what you really need. The birds will be happy and you will be happy sitting in your yard watching them.
    Also, make sure then you give them some green. You can feed your dandelions to them.
  7. Loddie Da

    Loddie Da Songster

    Jan 14, 2007
    Troy, New York

    It is Humane to keep Chickens cooped, Most do it to keep them safe.

    You should have 4 sq. ft. (or more) per bird in the coop & 10 sq. ft. (or more) in the run.
    If you have things for them to do like a hanging toy with some greens & a bell or a small pan with sand in it, lots of roosts of many sizes & heights ect. They will be happy, even more so if that's all they have ever known.

    Just keep them well fed (which makes them happiest), Dry & in a draft free coop & they will pay you back in eggs & if you put enough time in to them when they are young Chickens make darn good pets. It's all in how you raise them.

    Plus you can always let them out to free range if you are watching or before you reseed your garden, They will help you till the land & a small amount of Chicken poop is good for the soil, any more though & you will have to compost it.

    As far as your son & the poop... chances are you won't have enough Chickens for that to be to much of an issue, If you are that worried just keep them in their Run/Coop most the time & when you do free range them just hose down your lawn after.

    If you plan on keeping them penned up most the time what ever you do don't get the breeds listed as "Flighty," Some of these breeds are:

    Leghorns, Lakenvelders (my favorite breed), Hamburgs (Freda a silver spangled Hamburg of mine like to roost 220' up in a tree at night...Some breeds of Chickens can fly for short flights. She got the name freda b/c she wanted to be free or more like Human

    Some say Polish are flighty but I haven't had an issue with them.

    Generally speaking long bodied birds are flightier then compact birds

    My sweetest calmest breeds were my Bantam Faverolles, Dorkings, also Ameraucanas (not Easter Eggers!) Dominiques, Langshan (My 2nd favorite breed), Delawares & Serama are just out right pets, not good for eggs & neither flighty or not, but they were bred for no other reason to be pets & they make mighty good ones.

    Some people say Cochin are a very tame breed as with Silkies, but in my opinion it depends more on the line of those 2 breeds rather then the breed them self.

    Let me ask you some questions that can help us help you:
    So why do you want Chickens?
    How much land do you have?
    Can you have a Rooster?
    How many eggs dose your family go through in a week?
    How many birds do you want?
    Where do you live: How Hot/Cold dose it get?
    Do you care about the breed(s) you get?
    Do you want your Chickens to look the same or to be able to tell them apart?
    Do you want Chicks or are Started & Adult birds okay?
    Do you want them to be pets or just to lay eggs?
    Are you going to eat them?
    How much time a week to you have to care for them?
    What size would you like them to be?
    Last edited: Sep 25, 2010
    Bdbutton likes this.

  8. Alpal

    Alpal Chirping

    Sep 25, 2010
    Belfast, Ireland
    Thank you all so much for your replies!
    They have been very instructive. I will get them as large a run as I can, and then let them out under supervision for at least an hour a day. As I am planning a lot of raised beds for veggies, I'll try to build a moveable run that will fit on the beds, so they can help to clear these of weeds and pests. Now the only problem is stopping myself from running out and buying them RIGHT NOW!
    Thanks again - you have all been very kind taking time to reply.
  9. Alpal

    Alpal Chirping

    Sep 25, 2010
    Belfast, Ireland
    Della, thanks for your detailed reply. All very useful.
    We live in Belfast, Northern Ireland, and are really looking for chickens to lay eggs. I think probably no more than 4 chickens, if they are laying okay. 24 eggs a week would be more than enough. We probably will enjoy them as pets - but I would want to balance this with not letting them dig up all our veggies and flowers. We are around the house every afternoon - I have just cut back on my hours to be home more - so can supervise chickens. We're also planning to get a Labrador puppy, so probably best to get the chickens first, to put the puppy in his place?
    Thanks again,
    Bdbutton likes this.
  10. BWKatz

    BWKatz Songster

    May 22, 2010
    Get the chickens firsrst and [​IMG]

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