New 8x12 coop, how many hens?

Discussion in 'Coop & Run - Design, Construction, & Maintenance' started by SueMuffin, Oct 23, 2010.

  1. SueMuffin

    SueMuffin Out Of The Brooder

    Jul 30, 2010
    Hudson Valley, NY
    I am in the process of building a new 8x12 coop, I now have 6 Buff Orpingtons and will use 4x8 of the coop for storage. How many more can I add to my flock and still have them be comfortable in their new digs? Thanks for any help on this. I learn new things everyday on this site thanks to all of you!
  2. Ridgerunner

    Ridgerunner True BYC Addict

    Feb 2, 2009
    Northwest Arkansas
    How many chickens in an 8' x 8' coop. That depends. In your area I expect you will have windy snowy days. Will they have a protected area so they can go outside practically every day or will they spend most of the winter locked in their coop? I find that the cold does not stop mine from going outside but the wind and snow will.

    The regular rule of thumb used on this site is 4 square feet per full sized chicken along with 10 square feet per chicken in the run. That can vary a lot either way depending on climate, how much time they can spend outside, management techniques, and many other things. If you have adequate outside area accessable most of the time, you can total 16 chickens in that space. If they are going to be stuck in there most of the winter, 6 may be plenty. If there is a lot of outside space always available and you use the coop only as a safe roosting area with nest boxes, you can easily get even more in there. I know this is not how you phrased it and I'm saying it this way to make a point. I look at it as how many chickens do you need to meet your goals then provide plenty of space instead of looking at how many chickens can I squeeze into a certain area.

    I'll emphasize thinking ahead as to how many you might have at a future point. My normal laying/breeding flock is one rooster and 7 hens. I currently have 32 chickens of various ages. I raise them for meat as well as eggs and I raise my own replacement egg layers and roosters. Some are 3 weeks old, some are 10 weeks old, some are 10 months old, and some are just old. By spring, I'll be back down to 7 hens and one rooster, but I planned for a lot more.

    I did a write-up on my opinions on space requirements a while back. I'll copy it below. They may help you make a decision. Good luck! I think it is an excellent question and commend you for thinking ahead.

    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.
  3. SueMuffin

    SueMuffin Out Of The Brooder

    Jul 30, 2010
    Hudson Valley, NY
    Thanks for that informative reply it has given me lots to consider! I do have lots of space for them to roam outside, we have 8 acres, and we do get snow, but I will let them out as often as they want this winter. This is my first winter with chickens so I assume they will let me know if they want to get out or not. I have a 8x15 covered run so they will have a place to scratch outside even in the cold weather. Thanks again for the reply.

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