keeping chickens confined- housing advise

Discussion in 'Coop & Run - Design, Construction, & Maintenance' started by katiebob, Dec 13, 2010.

  1. katiebob

    katiebob Out Of The Brooder

    Nov 22, 2009
    Nor Cal, CA
    Hi All,

    This is similar to my earlier post, however I changed subject title to be more specific and added more detail to this post. Thanks to those 3 earlier replies- I appreciate them.

    If anyone who has experience with the following situation, I would appreciate your thoughts.
    I live in an urban setting where my neighbors are very close, i.e. houses are about 15-20 apart. Though chickens are not allowed, our county does not inforce this law unless a neighbor complains of noise or smell. I want to get 3 chickens but unfortunatley there will be days they will need to be cooped up most of the day. They will definitely need to stay in until after they are done with their egg song, I hope the girls lay mostly in the morning. I plan to let them roam the backyard while I am home which is often most of the day however there will be days that they will only be out for at about 2-4 hours per day- worst case scenario. More often they will be out all day. Though, there might be times when we are gone for the weekend and then they would have to stay cooped up for 2 days, but this would not happen very often. Thia is what I am concerned about.

    I plan to use our daughters deluxe playhouse as a coop as she dosen't play in it any longer. The playhouse has internal demensions of 7'3 x 7'3 and tall enough for me to walk inside- I am 5'7. It is insulated, 4x4 constructed with dry wall and siding. It has a 'living roof' ( 6 inches of dirt on top )where we plant flowers. There is a door with a screened glass window, as well as a 34"x34" sliding glass window with screen as well, in addtion it has electricity and AC.
    I plan to partition off the corner at an angle to accomodate the door that swings in as well to provide space to put my air purifier. With the the partioned part I still have just over 43 sf of space on the floor. If I don't partition then they would have just over 50 sf. Nest box will be off the ground to allow the chickens maximum floor space. I plan to bed with shavings that I spot clean every couple of days. I plan to hang a couple of treat balls stuffed with cabbage to keep them occupied. I also just planted wheat grass seeds in 3 plastic 'under bed storage containers' that I plan to rotate. These tubs will provide the hens with fresh grass in their coop even if it is only lasts a couple of hours, this is my attempt to enrich the girls quaility of life while cooped up. I also will have a special light bulb that replicates natural light- UVB and UVA rays (these can be found in the reptile section of a pet store). Because of the fact this house it right up against the fence and our house it has excellent insulation. It always at least 10-15 degrees cooler than the outside temp. If it gets too hot I will turn on AC on and set the temp just enough to keep them comfortable.

    By the way- my Barnevelder and Sussex chicks just hatched and it is 3 girls from this group who will live in the playhouse. I choose these breeds because I was told they are very docile and run a little on the lazy side too. Should the girls be discovered or are obviously too unhappy with these conditions and I have to find new homes- I have more than 3 people, including my sister, who are happy to take them and are aware that they are my back up home.

    So do you think 43 sf is enough for 3 hens to live in, on occasion, for 20 hours of the day or if I can't let them out that day at all? I want them to be happy enough. These chickens will be treated as pets, but, they are also indended to give me eggs. Definitely beasts of burden.

    Thank you very much.
  2. TigerLilly

    TigerLilly I failed Chicken Math

    Jul 18, 2010
    Central Florida
    The general rule of thumb is 4 sq ft of coop space per chicken & 10 sq ft per chicken in the run. If they are going to be cooped periodically (periodically ONLY), I would say that is enough room.
    Has anyone ever explained chicken math to you? [​IMG]
  3. sharol

    sharol Chillin' With My Peeps

    Jun 13, 2010
    Admire, KS
    Don't tell my girls about your girls' house, or they might want to come live with you. [​IMG]

  4. katiebob

    katiebob Out Of The Brooder

    Nov 22, 2009
    Nor Cal, CA
    Quote:Thanks so much for your reply. So, you read my post, I want to know what you consider 'periodically'. Do you have any experience with having to keep your birds 'cooped up' like my situation? If yes, how did it affect them?

  5. patandchickens

    patandchickens Flock Mistress

    Apr 20, 2007
    Ontario, Canada
    Quote:That is about 14 sq ft per chicken.

    For whatever it's worth, my chickens have pretty much that amount of space indoors plus their run, but I have kept them indoors for a week or more at a time (like when I've gone out of town and the sitter could only come once a day), and in fact honestly the Sussexes don't go out a whole lot on cold sideways days like today even if their popdoor is open. It works pretty well for me. No guarantees on other chickens -- some are more high-strung -- but I don't think it's at all unreasonable, especially since you WILL get them outdoors some.

    I have even, a couple times, due to space constraints, raised chicks up to about 24 wks old with just that amount of space and no run, and nothing bad happened; although it is not something I'd do by choice, it has only happened due to bad planning of broodies or incubator settings [​IMG]

    (as far as dire comments about "keeping chickens cooped up" like this, note that 14 square feet is exactly what you get when you apply the much-beloved BYC 'rule' of 4 sq ft per hen indoors plus 10 sq ft per hen in the run. Now, it is true that {X+Y} square feet all in one place is not quite as good and socially-buffering an environment as having X ft indoors plus Y outdoors; but it is not THAT much of a difference and the o.p. is proposing to ALSO let the chickens out to additional space most days)

    Good luck, have fun,

    Last edited: Dec 13, 2010
  6. Cargo

    Cargo Chillin' With My Peeps

    Sep 28, 2010
    Farmington, NM
    Do you have any experience with having to keep your birds 'cooped up' like my situation? If yes, how did it affect them?

    When hens get cabin fever they are more likely to peck and resort to cannibalism.

    Your playhouse does have plenty of room for 3 hens. They only thing that concerns me would be that they really want a ton of outdoor time with sun, fresh air, bugs, plants to destroy etc.
    Big chicken operations keep chickens inside their whole lives so you could do the same if you really want to. Most of us at BYC are against it though. That's why it is hard to get a straight answer to your question.
    You can do just what you have described. We just don't want you to.

    Also your hens will probably not cooperate with your plan. It really would be best if you were to ask your neighbors if they mind you having some chickens. Explain that they are pretty quiet most of the time but they squawk a bit around laying time during daylight hours only. If you can get them to say ok you should be free and clear to keep your hens outside the coop during the day where they will be happier.​
  7. TwinWillowAcres

    TwinWillowAcres Out Of The Brooder

    Oct 8, 2012
    My birds have about 1.6 sq ft each. They are 12 weeks old. They do not have access to the outside. They are completely happy, still doing chicken-type things--dust bathing in the pine shavings, running, flapping their wings, etc. They have always been tightly confined. There are about 50 here in this 80 sq ft shed.

  8. drumstick diva

    drumstick diva Still crazy after all these years. Premium Member

    Aug 26, 2009
    Out to pasture
    That's too confined for me, I would get highly claustrophobic. Glad I'm not a chicken, I feel dizzy already
    1 person likes this.
  9. TalkALittle

    TalkALittle Chillin' With My Peeps

    Dec 15, 2014
    I think the OP will be fine with the amount of space considering they will only be housing 3 hens in it. I certainly can understand people's apprehension towards the suggestion that these birds will be at times, primarily "indoor" chickens. The mental picture of a flock of chickens foraging around the barnyard in the sunshine is so deeply ingrained in what our impression of the ideal life of a chicken should be that it is hard to put that aside and objectively examine if the proposed housing situation meets the biological needs of the birds.

    This is something that zoos struggle with daily. I recall reading (wish I could remember where) that a certain zoo redesigned their primate enclosure. The previous enclosure was archaic--a remnant of the days when the focus of enclosure designs was to maximize viewing angles so the zoo patrons could ogle the animals and little to no thought was given to whether the enclosure was actually appropriate for the animal. The zoo had done the best they could to modify the existing enclosure and tried to make it look like less of a cage by adding logs and plants (none of which were actually native to the primates wild habitat) but decided it was time for a serious remodel. They built a new, more expansive enclosure that had elaborate climbing structures and platforms constructed of wood and steel that would stand up to repeated use, selected to maximize opportunities for natural movement, would reduce the chance of animal injury, and maximize the ability of zoo staff to efficiently clean it.

    Almost immediately upon being put in the new enclosure, the animals began to engage in more species normal behavior. Social conflicts were reduced, stereotypic behavior like pacing the fenceline and repetitive/obsessive swinging on the bars were all but eliminated, the animals spent more time moving about the enclosure using all the available space, and their overall health and body condition improved.

    Zoo staff was thrilled with the enclosure. Zoo patrons were not. They felt the structure was too artificial looking and they missed the plants and logs from the previous enclosure. They felt the zoo should have paid more attention to providing more "natural" elements to the animals in the enclosure. The zoo went back and painted wood patterns on the structure and added a fa├žade of real wood to some parts and brought in some more greenery and approval ratings of the enclosure went up. The "natural" additions did nothing to change the behavior of the animals but people were happier because it somehow "looked" more like they thought it should.

    The take home message is that when keeping animals in captive, the best housing will provide for all of the animals' biological needs. Facilities that meet their health needs and allow for the animal to engage in species specific behavior will be good facilities. That may not look even remotely like a "natural" setting, but the behavior of the animal will indicate whether the housing fulfills those needs.

    A chicken doesn't need to forage outside, but they DO need access to the nutrition they would get if allowed to forage outside AND the opportunity to engage in the instinctive behavior that would normally be associated with that activity. It sounds like the OP has that covered. Chickens don't need to dust bathe beneath a shady tree but they DO need a substrate in which to dust bathe and engage in normal preening activity. If not already planned for, the OP should provide this. They don't need to sunbathe in the grass while a gentle breeze ruffles through their feathers but they DO need exposure to full spectrum light and natural light patterns, proper ventilation, and an adequate amount of space to engage in those activities. Again, the OP has it covered. One thing I don't recall reading about was the OPs plans to provide roosting space, but it likely will be provided for. I think the OPs housing will more be more than adequate and their birds will probably live a better life than a lot of chickens out there.
    Last edited: Mar 13, 2015

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