Square foot per chicken in winter question

Discussion in 'Coop & Run - Design, Construction, & Maintenance' started by novillero, Dec 24, 2008.

  1. novillero

    novillero Hatching

    Dec 3, 2008
    Monmouth County, NJ
    Hi, I'm pretty new here, but have been lurking and making a few posts. I plan on building a coop this winter and getting a few chicks in the spring.

    Okay, now for the newbie question:

    Everyone talks about how much sqare foot per chicken one needs in a coop. But it seems that people in different climates may need more or less than that. Maybe a guy in Florida that grazes his birds all day needs less coop space than a person in Alaska whose bird will be in the coop out of inclement weather.

    I'm in NJ and it's cold here now, well at least a day or two ago it was... anyway, I would assume that during some of these cold spells that the chickens will not be going out, but will be cooped up - perhaps days or weeks on end. So, does the four square feet per bird take winter into account, when the flock will have nowhere to go? Or is this what they need just when housed over night? Or both?

    And this square foot number is just the floor plan, and does not include a space for a waterer, feeder, roosting space (or a dropping pit?), nesting box, etc., right? (am I missing something else?)

    I plan on getting 4 chickens, but may be able to squeeze a couple more (this is based on what I figure I can share in my back yard between birds, kids, St. Bernard, garden).

    Any help much appreciated... I've been doing a lot of reading here, and elsewhere, and sometimes the most simple things seem to have skipped over by the authors (or most likely by me).
  2. morelcabin

    morelcabin Songster

    Feb 8, 2007
    Ontario Canada
    I use the 2-3 square foot per bird when free ranging during summer. They generally use the coop for laying and sleeping/roosting so it works out just fine that way.

    During winter here they are cooped up for 5-6 months so I cull my flock down to about 4-5 sq feet per bird and that works for me.
  3. I may be wrong, but I assumed the 4 sq ft indoors and 10 sq ft outdoors was the minimum, year round. I have only 12 birds, but the coop floor, roosts and platforms have 99+20+25+10= 154 sq feet of exercise room when the birds must be indoors during an Arctic blast. I think what you'll also learn is that the coop needs to be comfortable for you to maintain the birds too. You have the option of insulating to improve the heat and to baffle drafts. Someone recently said here that there is no such thing as a coop that is too big. I think that's true for the birds and because you need storage in addition to that and a place where you're motivated to do the chores.

    Your climate is much like ours, we're just coming our of a 'winter hurricane'. The birds have their pop door open today but even if they didn't they have lots of room to run , eat and keep warm! [​IMG]
    Last edited: Dec 24, 2008
  4. patandchickens

    patandchickens Flock Mistress

    Apr 20, 2007
    Ontario, Canada
    We have winter up here even more than in NJ [​IMG]

    My chickens have 15 sq ft per chicken indoors, plus run space. They're indoors most of the time in nasty weather. They seem a lot happier than when they had less space. Also air quality and sanitation are a lot easier to manage this way. It does limit how many chickens you can have, but, my feeling is, oh well.

    I should note that if your run is sheltered, they may well go outside a lot more than you might expect in wintertime. Mostly they don't like wind or cold rain.


  5. beakkeeper

    beakkeeper Songster

    Jul 20, 2008
    I think it's true--more space than less is good. However, for the body heat of the birds to warm up the house, I have heard of ppl putting a smaller dog "igloo" inside for the birds to huddle in during REALLY cold (-40*) weather. Would they know to go in there instead of roosting, or would you just have to make the roof lower, or the roosts more insulated?
  6. mtnhomechick

    mtnhomechick Songster

    Jun 27, 2008
    Mountain Home, AR
    I have two large attached runs for my girls. I actually favor a smaller coop like 2 sq. ft. for my birds. They are only in there for laying and sleeping and they stay warmer at night in less space. If they don't free range,I think run space is far more important. Mine free range for an hour or two a day and spend the rest of the day in large runs. JMHO.

  7. mtnhomechick

    mtnhomechick Songster

    Jun 27, 2008
    Mountain Home, AR
    Quote:forgot to mention that my runs are covered. BTW....thanks patandchickens for the dropping board idea. I clean the board every morning and it save me so much work cleaning the whole coop every week.
  8. FrontPorchIndiana

    FrontPorchIndiana Songster

    Mar 8, 2008
    I just read in The Chicken Health Handbook that it should be 10 sq ft per standard size chicken if they will be contained. In other words if they'll be stuck inside for a few days or a week. It states five square feet per bantam.

    Based on my experience here in Indiana, I would completely agree with that statement. Mine have been stuck inside for days now because of cold and wet weather. I have 15 large breed and 7 bantams and my 10' x 10' coop is too small. The biggest issue though is that there is no place for the lowest members on the totem pole to escape the big bullies. However when the weather is nice they have access to a 14'x30' run. The little ones have no problems getting a chance at the food with that extra space. Sadly they need to eat every day and not just when the weather is nice. So I'm doing a lot of hand feeding right now. I'll be moving the little ones out this spring to their own space and won't keep any more than the 15 big birds in this coop anymore.

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