Permanent Run Size


In the Brooder
May 8, 2020
Hi there! So I have looked all through the internet, books, and threads trying to get an idea on what the average square footage per bird is in a permanent run that they will spend a majority of their lives in if not all of it. I am unable to free-range and as an animal science major the downsides to free-ranging seem to outweigh the pros to pasture-raising. So, although I do not currently have the set up I plane to have once I am able to purchase my own property, I am always thinking of set ups. How large of a run would you make for 20 laying hens? I would like todo two connected runs so I can rotate but I am having such a hard time trying to come up with enough space for one run! Everything seems so small! So please, all comments are a help!

I am also new to this, and currently have a flock that size (albeit young, and a different mix, including 8 Pekins, the NH Reds, and the Cornish) in a fenced outdoor enclosure of about 1,000 sq ft, with a small shallow pond in the center, eating about 80 sq ft of it (yes, I know ponds and chicks are potentially dangerous and actively discouraged - its a risk I take due to the ducks and the need to provide a central collection area when the rains wash down the hill) . Another 8 birds will be joining them next month, once they are moved out of the brooder/grow out box.

Based on everything I've read, that should be WAY more than adequate space for them (the hen house is raised 3' off the ground, adding just over another 100 sq ft), yet I **feel** like the space is too small. Mine actually free range most of an acre, any day the weather will permit it.

The central pond keeps them moving in a circle, but even with "all that" space, their constant scratching, poking, and just walking is pretty hard on the variety of fresh green shoots I try and keep growing in there to provide some diet variety and attract tasty insects.

My advice, make it bigger than you think it needs to be, and be ready to make it bigger still - particularly if you look at those hen houses for sale, and immediately think they made a gross error in the number of birds they are meant to home.

he Internet "rule of thumb" for full sized birds seems to be 4 sq ft/ in the house, 10 sq ft/ in the run for active breeds, less for more docile breeds and bantams, with particularly small flocks wanting a little more space than calculated to allow for feeders, waterers, etc, and particularly large flocks needing less space per bird. But hey, its the Internet, where popular scores more highly than accurate. My Storey's book used a smaller figure, and my "...for Dummies" book uses 4/10 as the top end of its suggestion, with a "more is better" caveat.
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I really think the "10 sq ft in run" minimum is too minimal, so I'd aim for 15 to 20 sq ft each. If you have the budget and space for bigger, yes, go bigger. I currently have 40 sq ft per bird and wish I'd gone bigger, mostly so I could jam in even more stuff for them to interact with.
I’ve read 10 sq ft per bird as the minimum, but the more room the better. I can‘t let mine free range either, and I’ve got 250 sq ft (run and open coop combined) with 13 chickens now (and soon three new chicks will join them), so will be about 15 sq ft per chicken and I still wish they had more room. If you add stuff to entertain them (more perches/chicken jungle gym/chicken swing), that can help. Good luck!

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