Urban Backyard coop! Enough space for my 4 girls???

Discussion in 'Coop & Run - Design, Construction, & Maintenance' started by KaylaBird, Jan 3, 2011.

  1. KaylaBird

    KaylaBird Out Of The Brooder

    77
    1
    43
    Nov 25, 2010
    Sunny SoCal
    So I live in a suburban area and have a tiny backyard with limited available space. After researching chickens I just had to have some of my own, so we decided to repurpose an old wooden play house into a coop to save some time and money. The coop is about 4ftx4ft and has 2 nesting boxes attached to the outside with an opening through the window of the house for the girls to jump in. We are now moving on to making the run, my dad originally only wanted to make the run 4x4 but i convinced him to double it to be 8ft long and 4ft wide. Will this be enough space for 4 hens? Im thinking we will "free range" them in our yard when we are around and can semi monitor them but they will also need to spend a good amount of time just in their run and coop. Is this too cramped for 4 birds?
     
  2. tammyd57

    tammyd57 Chillin' With My Peeps

    I'm sure some people might say that the space you describe is the bare minimum for 4 hens. I've read the formula on here as being 4 square feet per bird indoors/10 square feet per bird outdoors. I think this ratio works okay for large numbers of birds, but for very small flocks, maybe 10 or less, they will be just fine with cozy quarters. Especially if you live where it gets very cold. 4 hens won't put off enough heat to keep a large coop warm on a cold night.
     
  3. patandchickens

    patandchickens Flock Mistress

    12,521
    108
    341
    Apr 20, 2007
    Ontario, Canada
    Given that you *can't* really enlarge things, I think it is perfectly reasonable for 3-4 chickens. You may have to invest a little extra energy into sanitation and into making sure they do not get bored and crabby but it sounds like you are aware of the potential problems and willing to go the extra yard, so I would not be overly concerned [​IMG]

    I mean, in general I'm in favor of having as few chickens as possible in as large a space as possible, but really, for you, 3-4 chickens in "all the space you can devote to them" really IS that [​IMG] And it is well within the realm of "having a good chance of working out fine".

    Good luck, have fun,

    Pat
     
  4. BWKatz

    BWKatz Chillin' With My Peeps

    May 22, 2010
    Columbia,SC
    I think that it will work out great esp if u free range them too. They will love u for it. I would suggest a piece of outdoor carpet so u can just shake it off daily and wash weekly either into ur garden or compost bin. I have a lg doghouse and with no easy access for cleaning u need some way to get the poop out. Good luck and [​IMG]
     
  5. Ridgerunner

    Ridgerunner True BYC Addict

    20,626
    4,127
    526
    Feb 2, 2009
    Northwest Arkansas
    I think it depends a bit on where you live and how you manage them. If they can get into the run most days and don't have to spend a lot of time in the coop only, I think you will be fine. The type of things that can keep them cooped up is weather or you just don't open the pop door to let them out. Most chickens don't like snow or wind. If you can provide a wind block or even a partial cover so they can have access to the run most days, you will be better off.

    You may have to go a bit extra in managing the poop. You definitely need to keep the coop and run dry to avoid smell. A droppings board or some other method to manage the poop may become quite important. But by proper management, I think you will do OK.

    Another issue is the breed of the chickens. I suggest chickens that are generally known to handle confinement well. Henderson's Breed Chart can help with that. I'll give you Feathersite too since it is good for seeing what the different breeds look like.

    Henderson’s Breed Chart
    http://www.ithaca.edu/staff/jhenderson/chooks/chooks.html


    Feathersite
    http://www.feathersite.com/Poultry/BRKPoultryPage.html


    Good luck!
     
  6. elmo

    elmo Chillin' With My Peeps

    4,852
    39
    249
    May 23, 2009
    DFW
    Quote:Great point! And something that is far too frequently completely overlooked when we discuss the "how many chickens can fit" question.
     
  7. patandchickens

    patandchickens Flock Mistress

    12,521
    108
    341
    Apr 20, 2007
    Ontario, Canada
    Although a lot of it is *strain* not breed. For instance there are lines of Barred Rocks that are nice and placid and get along well, and there are others that are crabby and evilminded and you would *not* want to stuff into a limited space.

    So it is worth researching not just the general breed(s) you're interested in, but the particular strains from the sources you would use.

    Pat
     
  8. Ridgerunner

    Ridgerunner True BYC Addict

    20,626
    4,127
    526
    Feb 2, 2009
    Northwest Arkansas
    Pat, correct me if I am putting words in your mouth that you don't agree with, but by strain I take it she means the individual line of chickens. For example, some Delaware have been bred for meat production. Some others have been bred for egg production. Others have been bred to win grand championships at chicken shows. Some are bred for a combination of these or other traits. They are all Delawares but they are not all the same. A strain of Delaware that has been bred for meat production may or may not lay the same as a strain that has been bred for egg production.

    I'm not arguing with Pat at all. I fully agree that personailty tendencies are inherited, just like coloring, patterns, body configuration, and many other things. But these are tendencies, not necessarily absolutes. There can be differences in any of these from chickens from the same parents, although some differences such as in color or pattern may be real hard to determine in some.

    I look at it as almost all our suggestions are not irrefutable laws of nature but are more guidelines that improve your odds of success. This means that a hen that has come from a strain of good egg layers will probably lay pretty well, but it is not an absolute guarantee. Your odds are better at getting a good egg layer if you get the stock from a strain that has been bred for good egg laying, but the odds are not 100%. Lacking specific strain knowledge, your odds of getting a good egg layer are better if you choose a breed that is known to be a good egg layer versus a breed that is known as not being a great egg layer.

    If you can determine how well the strain you are buying handles confinement, yes, that is good information to have. But for most of us that is hard. Henderson's Breed Chart looks at overall breed tendencies. They are not a guarantee for any specific individual chicken, but in my limited experience, I find their tendencies to generally be correct. I've never had a Buff Orp go broody, for example, but I do believe the odds of a specific Buff Orp going broody are greater than a specific Rhode Island Red for instance, yet some people have had RIR's go broody.

    There are no guarantees, but lacking better information, I do think your odds of getting a chicken that handles confinement well are better if you choose one that has a breed tendency to handle confinement well. If you can get down to the strain, again you improve your odds. If you choose a breed that is known for not handling confinement well, your odds decrease.
     
  9. tammyd57

    tammyd57 Chillin' With My Peeps

    Hmm I was trying to imagine your set-up and think of anything that might be a sticky point. I thought if you hadn't come across this in your research, it may be something you need to know. Chickens are hell on landscaping. I mean literally. They will dig up and rearrange EVERYTHING in your yard if you aren't right there to stop it. So if you have a nice neat back yard, and you want it stay that way, don't take your eyes off of loose chickens in the yard. But if you only have, say, a tree or two and a couple shrubs, they can't hurt those too much.
    I've always fenced off veggie gardens and other areas I didn't want my chickens 'gardening' in. But that requires some space. You probably don't want to divide up an already small yard.
     
  10. KaylaBird

    KaylaBird Out Of The Brooder

    77
    1
    43
    Nov 25, 2010
    Sunny SoCal
    Thanks for the tips everyone! We live in Southern California so the weather, besides the heat, is very mild. They will rarely ever have to be locked up in the coop and i guess we will keep a good eye on them while they roam the yard, my mother has a raised bed garden but we have some low flower beds. Hopefully they will eat up the weeds around our fruit trees instead!
     

BackYard Chickens is proudly sponsored by