Space per Bird question/Building Chicken Coops For Dummies

Discussion in 'Coop & Run - Design, Construction, & Maintenance' started by billfields, Sep 16, 2010.

  1. billfields

    billfields Chillin' With My Peeps

    Aug 29, 2009
    East Tennessee
    I'm working on my coop. Got my plans I came up with on my own but I'm really interested in looking at to other designs and getting ideas I can use. the I bought the new "Building Chicken Coops For Dummies Book" and enjoyed it (learned some stuff too!) but it raises a couple of questions for me. The book has several plans, the biggest being one they call "The Walk-In". It's 8x8 so 64 feet. The authors say "The Walk-In's 64 square feet can easily accommodate 30 chickens...." Well I am looking at a 8x12 coop with two rooms, a store room that is 4x8 and the coop space that is 8x8, the same 64 sq ft. as this coop. I've planned my space for about 12-18 chickens. Most of what I've seen says around 3 and even up to 4 sq ft per chicken. Isn't slightly over 2 sq ft per bird a little cramped? Can you really keep 30 chickens in that size coop? Same coop shows a battery of nesting boxes which are one cubic foot---12 inches square by 12 inches high. Again isn't that a little small? And they are planning 1 nest per 3 birds. Is that right? I was looking at one nest per 5 birds but slightly bigger, about a 18 inches square. And just to round it out, they are showing four roost poles (made out of 2x3s) 58 5/8 inches long stair stepped nine inches apart on a slope from just under 20 to just over 30 inches.

    The book is great, I just wonder about the estimates for how many birds you can get in a 8x8 coop
  2. Shellyb

    Shellyb Chillin' With My Peeps

    Apr 25, 2009
    From what I've read, I stick to the 4sq ft per bird idea. I have a 6x6 coop, so 9 chickens can "fit" but when they are in there during the winter months I wonder if even that is too cramped for them.... Had some feather plucking issues this year after the winter so not sure if I'll do that many again. Not sure about the nesting boxes, but I have three and my girls used all of them. One went broody and then the others used the other two. GL
  3. Ridgerunner

    Ridgerunner True BYC Addict

    Feb 2, 2009
    Northwest Arkansas
    There are a lot of things that go into space requirements. The rule of thumb on this site is generally 4 sq ft per full sized chicken in the coop and 10 sq ft per bird in the run. This is a simplistic generality that is intended to keep out of trouble people with a few laying hens in an urban backyard or a self-sustaining flock in a rural setting. Some are pets and some are livestock. It is used from Anchorage Alaska to Miami Florida, from Perth Australia to Inverness Scotland. You have to have a number to start with and this is a good one. There are plenty of people that use less space and do not have any problems. Occasionally, people get in trouble even if they follow these guidelines. There are management techniques you may be able to use get by with less space. For example, if you just use your coop as a safe place to lock them up at night, never leave them locked in the coop while they are awake, feed and water outside, and they can get to a large space outside every day of the year, you really don't need much space in the coop. If you live in a climate where they are stuck inside most of the winter, 4 square feet may not be enough. I'll copy a write-up I did for another post on this topic. It is just my opinion, but maybe it will help.

    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.
  4. billfields

    billfields Chillin' With My Peeps

    Aug 29, 2009
    East Tennessee
    Quote:Thanks, lots of great advice. I'm sticking to my original plan, 64 sq ft for about 15 chickens. I'm in the hills of East Tennessee BTW---sounds like you know the place! [​IMG]
  5. NellaBean

    NellaBean Graceland Farms

    Mar 4, 2009
    Broodyland, TN
    My Coop
    On a sidenote to what they said: I used to have an 8x8 coop attached to an 8x8 pen, for 12 birds. They spent a lot of time in the coop even though they had access to the outdoors. Where else could they go? [​IMG]

    I now use the same 8x8 coop, attached to a half acre yard. Not sure how many chickens are in it......between 40 and 80 usually. They go in when it gets dark and come out in the morning. There is enough room for everyone to roost who wants to. Some of the younguns stay on the floor still. They are only in there to roost and spend ALL DAY outside. Hardly any birds choose to be in the coop during the day except to eat or go into the nestboxes. They have plenty of other places to go.

    Seems to work fine for birds stay out all year long.
  6. WhiteMountainsRanch

    WhiteMountainsRanch Overrun With Chickens

    Jun 19, 2010
    San Diego, CA
    I have a 10 x 10 coop and 25 x 25 chicken yard. I know I could fit more comfortably, but not if they had to spend any length of time in the actual coop. Then it would be too small and it would have too much poop and smell and I think they would start to fight. JMHO. [​IMG]

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