Question about Number of Chickens in Coop

Discussion in 'Coop & Run - Design, Construction, & Maintenance' started by myfivegirls, Feb 3, 2010.

  1. myfivegirls

    myfivegirls Songster

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    I have a 4'x8' (outside dimensions) chicken coop that now houses 5 chickens. I'm planning on getting some new chickens once it's warmer, but I'm confused as to how many chickens would fit into the existing chicken coop. Some sources say 3 to 4 sq. ft. per chicken, which would equal 10-11 chickens in a 4x8 coop. However, I've seen several different websites advertising their 4x8 chicken coops can house 15-20 chickens. And their 4x6 coops say they house 12-15 chickens. So, how many chickens would you put in a 4x8 chicken coop. During good weather, the chickens have access to big fenced-in area and only spend time in the coop for sleeping, eating and laying eggs. Only during the winter do they spend most of their time inside, except for when it's warm enough for them to go out.

    [​IMG]

    (This one is of the chicken coop before it was used; the inside has been changes quite a bit.
    They are no longer using the wire floor, just bedding on the actual floor. Plus, they have different waterers and feeders.)
    [​IMG]

    Here's my girls:
    [​IMG]

    Also, I'm thinking of the older ones and new ones "sharing" the coop, while being separated by chicken wire until they get used to each other. That is, I'd move the chicks to the outside chicken coop once they are 4 to 5 weeks old, as suggested by BYC, but they'd be separated from the bigger ones until they are older or get used to each other.

    I mention this because I'm thinking about getting anywhere from 10 or 12 to 15 chicks (depending on if I can find someone to share an order of 25) , and they have to share space with 5 other chickens until the new ones start laying their eggs. Then, the 5 older ones would be culled. But, I'm not sure if I have have enough room in my existing chicken coop, and how much I'd need to add on if I didn't. (I thought of adding 5' long section to the left of the nesting boxes, but I'm not sure.)

    I'd like your imput.
     
  2. Ridgerunner

    Ridgerunner Free Ranging

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    I wrote this up for another post a while back but I'll copy it for you. I am convinced there is not one correct answer for everyone but maybe this will help you determine what is a good answer for you. SinceI wrote it for another post, it may read a little strange, but maybe you will get the pertinent points.


    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. More than one at a time needs to get to the feeder especially, but access to the waterer is also important. Part of this is that they seem to like to all eat at once but 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. 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.

    5. 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.

    6. Do you feed and water in the coop or outside. The more they are outside, the less pressure on the size of the coop.

    7. 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.

    8. The breed of the chicken. Some handle confinement better than others.

    9. 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.

    10. 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.

    11. 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 they run.
     
  3. mdbokc

    mdbokc Songster

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    If one is going to err, err on too much space per bird. The difficulties with too little space is just not worth it and it can become an unpleasant experience in the long run...for you and the birds. You don't state where you are from; how long and hard your winters are to deal with.
     
  4. myfivegirls

    myfivegirls Songster

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    Quote:I'm in zone 4/5 - upstate NY - we've had several days of below zero weather and wind chills of -'teens', although the chickens were kept warm with two 100 watt light bulbs - averaged 20 degrees warmer than outside. We usually have snow starting November and ending anywhere from late March to mid-April. But, we can't start growing anything tender until beginning of June, as the nights are still pretty chilly. The frost dates are more like a zone 4, but the coldest temps are more like zone 5, so even though most places call us a zone 5, we're have the frosts of zone 4.

    I'm thinking that I should at least add on a little bit more room, since I don't have much more room for any other roosts, and like you've said, I don't want them to be cramped. The five girls have plenty of space now, and they only use 1/3 of the roosting space, but they'd need more if I'm to get more.
     
  5. patandchickens

    patandchickens Flock Mistress

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    Quote:Actually, 4 sq ft per chicken would be "just" 8 chickens in there.

    However, I've seen several different websites advertising their 4x8 chicken coops can house 15-20 chickens. And their 4x6 coops say they house 12-15 chickens.

    They mean, "can physically fit into there", i.e. provide sufficient linear feet of roost for everyone to have a seat assuming they're all friendly. This is not an unreasonable way to size the coop if you live in, like, Oahu [​IMG] -- but if you live somewhere there will sometimes be long chunks of time when the chickens may not feel like going outside, that is not a particularly smart stocking density IMHO, particularly if it would be distressing to have problems arise and require chicken-and-dumpling-izing the entire flock and starting over.

    So, how many chickens would you put in a 4x8 chicken coop. During good weather, the chickens have access to big fenced-in area and only spend time in the coop for sleeping, eating and laying eggs. Only during the winter do they spend most of their time inside, except for when it's warm enough for them to go out.

    Honestly, having seen how they behave at 4 sq ft per chicken and at 10-15 sq ft per chicken, I would not personally feel right about expecting more than 3-4 chickens to live in there, *max*. But, everyone has different feelings about things, and different winters, and certainly you can have a reasonable shot at escaping major problems using 4 sq ft per chicken, esp. if you do your best to winterize your run and encourage them to *want* to be outdoors in any weather. Trying to winter more than 8-10 chickens in that size coop is a great big kick-me sign for serious problems to begin, though -- and it will be EXTREMELY difficult to avoid humidity/frostbite problems with that many birds in that tiny and poorly-ventilate-able a volume of air.

    I mention this because I'm thinking about getting anywhere from 10 or 12 to 15 chicks (depending on if I can find someone to share an order of 25) , and they have to share space with 5 other chickens until the new ones start laying their eggs. Then, the 5 older ones would be culled. But, I'm not sure if I have have enough room in my existing chicken coop, and how much I'd need to add on if I didn't. (I thought of adding 5' long section to the left of the nesting boxes, but I'm not sure.)

    The most basic constraint is roost space. You will need roost space for 15-20 full-grown chickens at the same time, which, assuming these are normal size chickens not bantams, would mean you need a *minimum* of somewhere between 12 to 20 linear feet of roost, depending on the actual number of chickens and their breed size and how friendly you want to bet on them being. 20 linear feet of roost is not really very feasible in a 4x8 coop; 12 is doable; the most you can gracefully fit in there is about 16 linear feet and it will make cleaning kind of obnoxious.

    Have you thought about how the timing of this is going to work, though. It would be pretty risky to introduce the new lot to the existing 5 hens until the new lot are pretty much full size, around 14-16 weeks (ish), meaning that you will need SEPARATE accommodations for those 10-15 new chicks RIGHT UP TO VIRTUALLY ADULT SIZE. If you don't have such accommodations, and try putting them in there as soon as they are out of the brooder at 6-8 wks, you are likely to have a massacre or at least many severe injuries; if you *do* have such accommodations, then they could just stay there til they start laying, no?

    Just a thought, good luck, have fun,

    Pat​
     
  6. Round down. Yes, you *could* put 8 in but they can't use the floor space under the roost for the nest boxes, under their food/waterer or under their roosts. Honestly, I wouldn't put more than 6 in a 4x8. I have an 8x8 and had up to 9 in there and can tell you that 9 was plenty even though my set up is more floor-friendly than yours. If you must have more, consider giving them some covered run that they can be outdoors in through the winter.
     
  7. Keri78

    Keri78 Songster

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    I agree with the last post...I can comfortably fit 4 large chickens in my 4X8 ft. tractors but even with that they get antsy and want to get out and free range. When they are younger and not full grown you can easily fit more! Banties are another option if space is an issue! I would do one of these options:

    1. Build a seperate coop for your new chicks

    2. Add on to your existing coop and build a seperate addition for your new babies

    3. or free range you older chickens and just let them live in a large dog house...think craigslist! (with a door so you could lock them up at night?)
    and WAHLAH...use your existing coop for your new chicks!

    I would not be push my luck and end up with overcrowding issues unhappy chickens and you being stuck cleaning up alot of poo! I have two tractors and a barn and it's nice to have them free range it cuts down on the amount of feed and poo I'm dealing with. Oh, I'm telling everyone now that I added cheapy laminate stick floor tiles to my nesting areas and roosting areas and clean up has never been easier!!! Here's some pics!

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    Just be creative and ask around...people on here are great for suggestions!
     
    Last edited: Feb 3, 2010
  8. myfivegirls

    myfivegirls Songster

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    It would be pretty risky to introduce the new lot to the existing 5 hens until the new lot are pretty much full size

    I know that from the research and reading other posts on here. What I was trying to explain was that they the two sets of chickens would be separate from each other, even though they would be able to "see" each other, but not have contact.
    Here's my idea: Add on to the existing chicken coop, so that, the baby chicks have their own separate space from the 5 adults. Somewhere in the joining of the two structures, I would make a hole that would later become a doorway between the two, but while the chicks are growing, there would be chicken wire across the hole, so they couldn't "get at" each other. Plus, by the time the chicks were full grown and the older ones were ready to retire, the old and new section combined would be plenty of space for the chickens.

    Thank you for all your help, so far.​
     
    Last edited: Feb 4, 2010
  9. myfivegirls

    myfivegirls Songster

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    Oh, one more thing I want to clarify, and that is, my chickens are often let outdoors, even during the winter. It's only been the last week or two that they haven't had a chance to outside much, because of the cold temps. But, during most of the winter, they get a chance to hang out in their covered run, where they can take dust baths under the coop and walk about. They don't seem to mind the cold too much, even when they're outdoors. During the summer, they love being outdoors so much at sometimes they wanted to roost outdoors. Also, I try to give them plenty of litter, especially in the winter, to keep them happy and scratching. They usually seem to be busy and pretty happy, or simply resting on the roosts. At night, they love to cuddle up to one another on the roost. I guess that's why I thought I could fit more in the chicken coop, becuase they seem so happy and have more than enough roost and floor space. I figured that I probably couldn't fit 15, but at least a couple more.

    Also, several people mentioned not taking into account of the nesting box space as part of the floor space. I didn't include it because it's outside of the 4x8 structure. Also, the roosts are high enough that they walk underneath them just fine. Their food and water containers take up abt. 4 sq. ft combined, as they are on decorative blocks. Occasionally, I'll add another container with scraps or oatmeal in it, so that takes up more space, but they definately don't seem cramped. (I'm just explaining that, becuase some people didn't think that more than 3-4 chickens could fit in a 4x8 coop.)
    I guess it also depends on how the 4x8 structure is laid out.

    Well, anyways, here's some more of my thoughts.
     
  10. bmelanco

    bmelanco In the Brooder

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    Sounds like we live in the same part of the world (I'm outside of Camden). We have a 8'X14' shed with no covered run for 17 ladies and they are more than happy. I'd say the 4 sq. ft. per bird is a good rule, but I think you can squeeze a few more birds in if you have a small flock (less than 20). It's when you have 50, 100 brids that the sq. ft. per bird really matters.
     

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