Topic of the Week - How much space for your flock?

sumi

Égalité
Staff member
Premium member
8 Years
Jun 28, 2011
39,105
23,913
1,252
Tipperary, Ireland
700.jpg

Image by @littlequail21

A general rule when it comes to housing chickens is the more space you give them, the better. The ideal of course being letting them free range and overnight in a spacious coop. But for many backyard chicken keepers this is not possible, so they have choice but to confine their flocks in a secure coop and run. That brings us to this week's topic: how much space for your flock? I would like to hear you all's thoughts and practices on:

- What is the minimum space per bird (bantam and large fowl) that you feel should be provided in the coop to keep your flock comfortable, happy and out of each others' feathers?
- The above again, but this time for the chicken run, where the flock is unable to free range and are confined permanently.
- What about winter months and other foul weather days when the flock is confined to sheltered areas? How do you manage space and ensure the flock stays comfortable and happy when they are unable to go outside at all?


For a complete list of our Topic of the Week threads, see here: https://www.backyardchickens.com/a/topic-of-the-week-thread-archive
 

BantyChooks

Pullarius
Project manager
Premium member
Aug 1, 2015
56,323
165,996
1,707
My Coop
My Coop
- What is the minimum space per bird (bantam and large fowl) that you feel should be provided in the coop to keep your flock comfortable, happy and out of each others' feathers?
- The above again, but this time for the chicken run, where the flock is unable to free range and are confined permanently.
- What about winter months and other foul weather days when the flock is confined to sheltered areas? How do you manage space and ensure the flock stays comfortable and happy when they are unable to go outside at all?
4 square feet is the minimum I would provide for birds in a warm climate. Something to keep in mind is that the more birds you have, the more available space. See, if you have 25 birds at 4 square feet each, that's 75 feet not currently occupied by a bird as space for running. 5 birds at 4 square feet each gives only 16 feet for a bird to run in. So, IMO, smaller flocks should have more space per bird.
Some say 2--3 square feet is okay but I really don't think it's good at all for their health.

10' is general minimum for run space and I think that's okay if you absolutely must. Moveable run fencing is good because it provides the birds something to do when they're bored.

Birds I own are frequently cooped due to winter for quite a large percentage of the year. I don't have a covered run either, so I just provide copious extra space and different level stands and roosts for lower ranking birds to escape. If you have the forethought to get sand before it freezes I'm sure the birds would quite appreciate a dust bathing spot.

One thing I'd also say is that if you can't provide adequate space, you really ought to rethink keeping chickens. It's not fair to the birds to keep them cramped.
 
Last edited:

Folly's place

Crossing the Road
8 Years
Sep 13, 2011
17,126
21,958
906
southern Michigan
My coop/ covered run combination, which can be divided into five sections, but is usually all open, allows about ten sq. ft. per bird. My flock is 2/3 standards, and 1/3 bantams. In winter, or if there's a daytime predator issue, and the flock is locked in, that's not too much space! Mary
 

Wyorp Rock

Enabler
Sep 20, 2015
26,553
34,301
1,182
Southern N.C. Mountains
For me, I feel like the minimum for large fowl should be at least 4sqft coop space and 10sqft run space per bird. You'll never regret having space. Providing wind blocks in the winter is essential to get them outside - use plastic, tarps, underskirting etc. The whole thing doesn't have to be covered, just wind at ground level.

More coop space is better for winter too - birds do tend to hang out inside if it's windy, so having room to offer some hanging veggies or toss scratch in the bedding for them to work on helps with boredom and picking at each other.
upload_2017-9-3_10-57-31.png

Coop is 96sqft and total run space is 420sqft. Run can be blocked off into 4sections if needed. All sections are generally open unless I need to separate a bird or am growing out/brooding chicks. Outside runs have multiple water and food stations so there's no crowding/food aggression. "Treats" are also scattered in all 4 spaces, weather permitting - if I bring out something that goes in bowls I provide at least 4 or more bowls and space them in the runs - this keeps the food guardians busy running all over the place.

upload_2017-9-3_10-58-6.png

Grow out/integration/separation space is 72sq ft with small "coop"- I also have a work bench in here - I use it for my "examination table" - easy on the back and makes handling a bird so easy. This space is open to all the birds when I don't have anyone separated or have chicks in here.


upload_2017-9-3_10-58-22.png

Birds have access to everything, but it's nice to be able to close off areas as needed.

upload_2017-9-3_10-58-41.png

Provide perches/roosts in the run - ideal for preening and just getting away from each other at times, makes for a happier flock.

upload_2017-9-3_11-8-38.png


The main coop is as secure as I know how to make it. Perimeter of coop and run space is also protected by electric fencing.
 

aart

Chicken Juggler!
Premium member
7 Years
Nov 27, 2012
71,198
72,287
1,557
SW Michigan
My Coop
My Coop
There are no viable hard numbers...too many variables.
The 4/10 thing is a bare minimum, IMO,
double that minimum coop space if you live in a frigid climate.
Free ranging doesn't really let you skimp on coop space.
Double and split both for integrating new birds.
Crowding is ugly, unhealthy, and cruel in a way.

My Coop holds about 16 bird comfortably in winter.
100sqft floor + 30sqft poop boards.

This is the best explanation, written by Ridgerunner, of Space I've ever read:
http://www.backyardchickens.com/a/how-much-room-do-chickens-need
 

Lamaremybabies

Crowing
Nov 2, 2015
1,458
1,096
277
New England
I think it mostly depends on the size, activity levels, what you have available and in general what works for you and your for your birds. I know lots of people like to have a general idea so I'd say 3-4sqft. in the coop and 8-12sqft. in the run per bird depending on size of your birds. However if you are housing bird that are 8+ pounds (large chickens and ducks) I'd do 4-6sqft. in the coop and 12-14sqft. in the run per bird.

I have a fixed flock of 20+ birds with 450sqft. of run space, access to free ranging 7 hours everyday and 96sqft. in their house to sleep in at night. However I do live in an area where winter can be harsh at times, but 95% of the time in winter I give them the option to free range still.

Personally from my own experiences I think it is really important to keep in mind that what one person does in their coop, may not be needed or work for your coop. As long as your birds are clean, happy, and healthy you are most likely fine.
 

rottlady

Songster
Mar 20, 2016
788
239
156
Georges Mills, NH
I live off grid in the woods. We have every predator known to NH from short tailed weasel up to black bear and everything in between plus hawks and bald eagles

My birds are not allowed loose ever, they'd be dead in a week.

They are confined to a very bear proof barn that the entire front opens up i the day time they live in runs no coop since the runs are indoors. They get 4-6 sq ft per bird (depending on current population) and seem just fine

Better safe then dead
 

Alaskan

The Frosted Flake
11 Years
Jul 26, 2008
29,589
51,995
1,282
Kenai Peninsula, Alaska
My Coop
My Coop
There are no viable hard numbers...too many variables.
The 4/10 thing is a bare minimum, IMO,
double that minimum coop space if you live in a frigid climate.
Free ranging doesn't really let you skimp on coop space.
Double and split both for integrating new birds.
Crowding is ugly, unhealthy, and cruel in a way.

My Coop holds about 16 bird comfortably in winter.
100sqft floor + 30sqft poop boards.

This is the best explanation, written by Ridgerunner, of Space I've ever read:
http://www.backyardchickens.com/a/how-much-room-do-chickens-need
I completely agree, especially with the idea that cold climates means more space is needed.

Without bugs to find and all rest of the excitement of the growing season, they DO go stir crazy if they do not have lots of space. Enrichment activities can help...but space sure is nice.

With my flock, I find that 9 square feet or more of snow free area is best. (Coop plus windy shed plus greenhouse )

Once I get much below 8 square feet per bird in the winter time, I definitely need to work harder to keep bad behaviors at bay.
 

sbhkma

Songster
6 Years
Mar 27, 2013
921
584
211
Texas-Just a little bit South of Weird
My coop is two levels of 25sq ft each with a ramp between levels, for a total of 50 sq ft. I have 2 roost poles 5 ft long. The run itself is 50 sq ft with two long roosting perches. I have 3 water stations and 2 food stations. I keep 4-5 birds. They free range for 3-6 hours in the afternoon/evening. Seems to work for me. My birds are in the 5-6 lb range so not bantam but not big either.
 
Top Bottom