The Usefulness of Vertical Space

Discussion in 'Coop & Run - Design, Construction, & Maintenance' started by StrawberryMoon, Aug 30, 2016.

  1. StrawberryMoon

    StrawberryMoon Chillin' With My Peeps

    Jul 22, 2016
    I see a lot of discussion about square feet per bird, as in horizontal floor space. What about vertical space? Is this a factor at all for a chickens wellbeing?
  2. Ridgerunner

    Ridgerunner True BYC Addict

    Feb 2, 2009
    Northwest Arkansas
    An interesting question. First, I do not believe in magic numbers for chickens, space or much else. There are so many variables that no one number is perfect for everyone. I know people with no experience need guidance so the numbers have value, but they are a starting point, not a final destination’s end.

    One of the basic ways chickens have learned to live together in a flock is in case of conflict the weaker runs away from the stronger or just avoids them to start with. This is not a square feet per bird thing. I’m a huge advocate of providing as much space as you reasonably can or limiting the size of your flock if you don’t have space. But if you have limited space there are tricks to improve the quality of your space. Separation will really help. If you have space inside the coop as well as in the run, the weaker will probably stay where the stronger are not. If they can free range, so much the better. Putting barriers to break up line of sight can also help. Vertical space can come in very handy too. It’s pretty normal when I’m integrating for the younger ones to be up on the roosts when I go down to let them out in the morning while the adults are on the coop floor. They are simply avoiding the adults.

    If your flock has no conflicts, and most flocks that consist of hens the same age do not, then vertical space will pretty much go unused. Most mature flocks with a rooster don’t much need vertical space. But if you are integrating and have younger birds in with the flock or bring new chickens into the flock, a roost high enough that the others cannot peck their toes from the ground can be invaluable. Sometimes hens want to get away from an amorous rooster. You may find them on the roosts where he can’t dance very well. If you have cockerels and pullets instead of hens and roosters vertical space will often be used. To me, having lots of ground level space so they can run away and avoid is preferred, but having a vertical safe haven like a roost can be a good safety valve.
  3. Hokum Coco

    Hokum Coco Overrun With Chickens

    Dec 6, 2012
    New Brunswick,Canada
    My coop is only 4'x8'. I have kept as many as 24 and more birds in my 3 level coop with no issues through the winter with little to no use of the outside run.

    This is my answer to ventilation. It seems to respond to every variety of situation. I will be changing the left hand door to a dutch door to give me even more options in the winter when ventilation is even more vital.





  4. jennyf

    jennyf Chillin' With My Peeps

    Apr 24, 2016
    I love Ridgerunner's reply. Doesn't make sense to me that say, looking at 100 sq ft of run space that is bare ground and 3 feet high would offer anywhere near the same capacity as a 100 sq ft 6 feet high space that is enriched with dust baths, ladders, hidey spaces, roosts, piles of compost or deep litter to dig in, etc. I tried a swing (haven't seen a bird on it yet but hey, it's there) and also have a simple ladder roost against the wall of the run, as well as some chunks of firewood and perches a couple of feet up. I'm sure lots of folks have other ideas and things that have worked for them.
  5. aart

    aart Chicken Juggler! Premium Member

    Nov 27, 2012
    SW Michigan
    My Coop
    My two cents.

    Biggest plus for vertical space in a coop is having lots of ventilation up as high as possible...tho you need some down low too for good total airflow.

    Here's my theory on the 'stack up' aspect to the vertical aspect of coop design:
    Bottom of pop door is best about 8" above floor so bedding doesn't get dragged out of coop.
    Nice to have bottom of nests about 18" above bedding to allow use of that floor space under them(doesn't count if your nests are mounted on outside of coop).
    Roosts are best about 12" higher than nests so birds won't roost(sleep) in nests and poop in them, if you use poop boards under roosts it will also 'stretch' your floor space.
    Upper venting works best as high as possible above roosts so no strong drafts hit roosts in winter...and hot/moist air and ammonia can rise and exit coop.

    As far as vertical space for the birds to physically be, height can good as previously stated for a mixed age flock.
    It can be good for any flock, I have poop boards and all ages of my birds will perch/lounge on them on occasion.
    It can add to the square footage of the coop, especially during nasty weather in the winter.

    But height of coop needs to be balanced with the floor space too, so they can get down from higher places without flying into a wall.
    A 4x6 coop with roosts 6' high can become a problem as there's not much room to land.

    My coop is only 6' wide and when I got my first flock of mixed ages they crashed into the walls big time, probably only because it was a new place.
    So I put in ramps, some birds do not use them, but the older and bigger birds certainly do.
  6. StrawberryMoon

    StrawberryMoon Chillin' With My Peeps

    Jul 22, 2016
    Thank you! Great point about making the vertical space proportional to the horizontal space so the birds don't fly into walls! Also, good to know that chickens seek retreat from conflict by roosting up high. Excellent information.

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