Need advice on proper coop size for 6-8 chickens

Discussion in 'Coop & Run - Design, Construction, & Maintenance' started by Firekracker, Feb 21, 2017.

  1. Firekracker

    Firekracker In the Brooder

    Apr 19, 2015
    Mechanicsville, VA
    My Coop
    I am getting baby chicks for the first time in a day or two and am planning on getting a coop for them by April. What size would comfortably house 6-8 hens? I will be buying dual purpose hens more than likely.

    Also, I want to raise them as organically as posible but cannot free-range them 100%. so am going to consider a portable pen as well. What size would be good?

    Any advice is greatly appreciated! Thanks!

  2. eggbert420

    eggbert420 Songster

    Feb 15, 2017
    Hello welcome to BYC
  3. Firekracker

    Firekracker In the Brooder

    Apr 19, 2015
    Mechanicsville, VA
    My Coop
  4. 3riverschick

    3riverschick Poultry Lit Chaser

    May 19, 2009
    The classic measurements are 4 sq.. f.per bird inside the coop and 10 sq., ft. per bird in the outside yard.
    so times the number of birds you have by 4 and that's how many sq. ft. you need in the coop.
    A 6 ft. by 6 ft. coop would be just fine. If you make the run 6 by 14 or 15 you're just fine for 8 birds inside and out.
    Last edited: Feb 21, 2017

  5. Ridgerunner

    Ridgerunner Free Ranging

    Feb 2, 2009
    Southeast Louisiana
    In Virginia you have many options. That’s a nice climate for chickens.

    Some people consider certain numbers magic when it comes to chickens, I don’t look at it that way. There are many factors that come into play when considering how much room you need. You can follow the link in my signature below to see some of the things I consider important. All of them will not apply to you but some will.

    A few basic points. Do not think of coop size in isolation. Chickens have no concept of coop space versus run space versus free range. To them space is space, either they have it when they need it or they don’t, wherever it is. Your management techniques have a lot to do with that. Your future plans have a lot to do with it. Are you going to have a broody hen raise chicks with the flock? Wil you be bringing in replacements when they reduce laying? Those require more room than letting a flock of hens live out their life forever and die of old age with no new chickens coming in.

    Your comment about “Organic” reminded me of something else. You really don’t want parasites to infest your chickens, organic methods of treating some problems aren’t always the most effective. Prevention is extremely important. The higher your chicken density the more the poop builds up and the more likely you are to have certain parasites. I’m not specifically talking about in the coop, you can use droppings boards and such to reduce that poop load, but I’m more talking about outside in the run. The bigger the run the less the poop is concentrated and life is much better in many ways.

    If you are buying certain building materials new, plywood, paneling, and the less expensive lumber normally comes in 4’ and 8’ dimensions. You can usually build a coop with those dimensions with less cutting and waste, thus providing a bigger coop for the same amount of money. Just pay attention to out-to-out dimensions, not centerline dimensions. If you are using materials with other dimensions, obviously use those.

    If 8 hens is all you will ever have, you can get by with a 4’ x 8’ coop, provided it has a decent run attached they can access most of the time they are awake. But you need to be able to reach every place inside that coop, so plan your access. Any bigger than that, I suggest something with enough room you can walk in there and work. A 6’ wide is not horrible, you need a sloped roof so water runs off it and overhang really helps you provide ventilation up high. Ventilation is important. So use 8’ materials on your sloped roof. If you ever plan on adding more than 8 chickens in the future, I suggest you go bigger.

    One approach you might consider is to have a permanent coop set up for the winter months and a tractor for the good weather months when grass and such are growing. As always there are many different ways to do a tractor. In my opinion, 8 hens is a lot for a totally enclosed tractor. I tried that once with 8 chickens, I had to move it often. If the weather was wet, often every day. In drier weather I could maybe go 3 days before I moved it. Chicken density was just too high even with 64 square feet in that tractor.

    Another way is to build a coop for predator protection at night but surround it with electric netting during the day. You still have to move that but not nearly as often. The netting does not stop flying predators but it will stop practically anything ground based or climbing.

    I suggest you move your schedule up on building a coop. Those chicks grow awfully fast and you may want them out of your house sooner rather than later. Life has a way of getting in the way of schedules.

    Good luck and welcome to the adventure.
    1 person likes this.
  6. Folly's place

    Folly's place Free Ranging

    Sep 13, 2011
    southern Michigan
    Welcome! I see the 4' sq. ft. coop interior size as a bare minimum, and recommend building bigger if at all possible. Two reasons; more space means less stress, always a good thing, and 'chicken math' often strikes, so more birds could creep in at any time. "But mommy, they followed me home' is weak, so try a different story. Besides, who counts? Mary
  7. 3riverschick

    3riverschick Poultry Lit Chaser

    May 19, 2009
    This is not my run. It is built by the same methods I discuss below. Very study.

    scroll down to run construction. Note these folk used 2 stories of horizontal panels.
    It would have saved them time and money and effort if they had just made
    5x6 vertical panels and carriage bolted them togther, especially at the corners.

    Here's what I did that worked really well and very easy to build. That run handles rain, snow wind, just fine, it took an 80 ft. pine tree to smash the run. It missed the house.
    A 6x6 coop ( you pick the height) is easy dimensions to build from bought lumber.
    Building the run, I used an easy panel system,. I highly recommend a walk-in run. the first time you have to crawl thru chicken poop in a low ceiling run to retrieve a chicken you want to inspect, you will understand why, Been there, done that, yuck!
    1. The sides: I made 2x4 panels that were 5 ft. long and 6 ft. high. I put in a horizontal cross bar 1/2 way up the panel. Since I had bought 8 ft, lengths of 2x4, I cut the 2ft. left from the verticals into 2 of 1ft. long pieces. Then I mitered them at 45 degrees and screwed then across the panel corners to add 45 degree stabilizers to each panel. Use a vertical 4x4 to mate the corners together and use carriage bolts on corners instead of screws.
    2. The chicken wire: I stapled chicken wire to them. Raised them up in sections and carriage bolted the vertical sides together.
    3. The "Apron" : When I stapled the chicken wire on, I left about 18 inches hanging off on the bottom edge. After I had set the panels upright and secured them to each other, I dug down outside the run and buried the chicken wire about 18 inches down to discourage anything trying to tunnel into the run. Others call this a "wire apron" around the run.
    4. The door: For the door to the run, I took one of the 5x6 panels and made a smaller wire covered pane to fit snuggly inside it. Added hinges and a secure latch. The nice thing about this system is that you can easily add another 5x6 section. It's modular.
    5. The roof: A 6 ft. wide run is easy to roof.
    If you want a flat roof, just put in some cross beams and staple it down. Overlap the roof chicken wire on the to top of the horizontal beams by about 2 inches to make it harder for varmints to rip.
    If you want slant to the roof for water or snow runoff, put in your cross beams. Then run a 2x4 down the middle of your "roof" , the 4" side being vertical. Miter and screw some 2x4 "rafters" from that center beam to the top edges of the 5x6 panels. If it was me, I would cover the run with chicken wire before I put in the beam and rafters.
    Putting a solid cover on the roof is easy.
    Solid surface:
    After all is done, find a solid cover for the run. I used two different ideas. A neighbor had a fiberglass sided above ground pool she was selling. I got it for about 25 bucks, pump and all. I cut the fiberglass sides into proper lengths and screwed them down to the roof with screws and wide washers. Lasted till the tree smashed it.
    Tarp: Later, I added a 5x6 addition to the run. I didn't feel like adding a slanted roof so did the cross beam and roofed with chicken wire. When I roofed the addition I left a 2 ft. wire "apron" on the side of the roof which was mating to the slanted roof and secured the apron snugly to the slanted roof.
    Then I got a stout tarp, about 6x8. Positioned it over the addition with overlap on each side. Went to Walmart and got 6 of those bungee cords with the red ball on the end. The tarp would be fastened to 2 verticals n 3 sides. I put a big nail in each upright far enough down the upright so the bungee had to stretch, but not to its limit. Looped the bungees thru the grommets in the tape corners and pulled them down and around the nails. This gave me a nice roof that "gave with the wind instead of tearing because of the "give" in the bungees. W had some really stiff winds but it didn't tear.
    The overlap of the tarp which was under the slanted roof, I affixed snugly to the underside of the slanted roof so any moisture coming off that slanted roof, would not leak into the poultry yard.
    That's pretty much it. Modular to build, easy to construct, simple materials. Sturdy.
    Last edited: Feb 21, 2017

  8. Poppy Putentake

    Poppy Putentake Chirping

    Aug 5, 2015
    Hi FireKracker,

    You wrote,

    Quote: I got my first chickens last year and I'd be glad to share my experience.

    Regarding dual-purpose birds -- I had envisioned using the same breeds of birds for both meat and eggs, but I also got two Cornish cross cockrels (pure meat birds) in addition to five laying pullets (all different breeds). As things turned out, by the time the pullets reached a decent weight, they were at an age to start laying, so butchering them seemed like a waste. In contrast, the Cornish was three times the weight of any of the laying pullets by two weeks and stayed at three times their weight, reaching three pounds by 6 weeks and over 9 pounds by 12 weeks. So, I would tend to recommend getting Cornish Crosses for meat and other breeds for eggs. They are different kinds of animal.

    How many eggs do you want your birds producing? Plan on 5-6 eggs per week per bird the first year. If you start with a relatively small number of laying hens, the next year you can get a few more and have a flock of staggered ages, which will somewhat smooth out production fluctuations through the yearly cycle.

    Regarding housing -- chickens need several kinds of space.

    1. Nesting boxes -- maybe one for each 3-4 hens, but slightly more than that for a small flock. The usual recommendation is a cube roughly 1 foot or slightly more on each side.) I tend to like somewhat deeper nesting boxes -- mabe 14" wide x 12" high x 16" deep. It is also very convenient to have an outside access door for colecting eggs on the back or the top.

    2. Roosting poles -- 9"-12" length per chicken, about 24" off the ground or the floor of the coop. The chickens actuall tend to hudle together, so they don't use much space.

    3. Bad weather daytime space -- where they will be confined when it is rainy -- I'd say 4-5 square feet per chicken minimum, but about twice that would be better.

    4. Good weather daytime space -- about 10 square feet per chicken minimum, but more (several times that) is better. However, this daytime space does not need to be as secure to predators or as weatherproof as the spaces described above, so it can be of cheap and light materials.

    I myself built a 5' wide by 10' long A-frame type tractor with three built-in nesting boxes for five laying hens. In retrospect, I probablly would have done better to get just 3-4 pullets the first year and add more pullets each year thereafter. The larger tractor is good in the winter because the birds are snowed in sometimes and it is good for them to have extra space. It was also good when I went on vacation and could move the whole thing to a neighbor's place for a week. Rethinking things, for summer, I think the ideal would be a very predator-secure tractor half the size, plus another adjoining larger enclosure for them to use in the daytime when I want them enclosed. (I free-range them most of the time -- they stay close to home and always come marching into the tractor to roost when it gets dark -- then I lock them in for their safety.)

    You can make a chicken tractor or a coop with with a floor for bedding below the roosting poles, or else with no floor so that when you move it, you just leave the droppings behind. However, making it predator-secure is somewhat harder with the dirt floor.

    Either way, I recommend making the enclsure movable for a number of reasons. (Note: in some jurisdictions, zoning laws require a permit for any building, however small, but exempt moveable structures.)

    BTW, for brooding baby chicks, I recommend looking inro the thread on this forum about "Mama Heating Pad", a good alternative to using a heating lamp.

    If you want more details, please feel free to message me backchannel.

    Good luck with your chickens!

  9. Firekracker

    Firekracker In the Brooder

    Apr 19, 2015
    Mechanicsville, VA
    My Coop
    Thanks so much for all the advice! Since I posted this, I got my chicks. Six Cornish Rocks :) They will be a week old in 2 days and are growing like weeds.

  10. Percheron chick

    Percheron chick Crowing

    Apr 12, 2013
    Boulder, Colorado
    I hope you are aware that you bought meat birds that you will need to process by 4 months or they will start dropping dead on you.

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