Walk-in coop and # of chickens...

Discussion in 'Coop & Run - Design, Construction, & Maintenance' started by dianneS, May 28, 2010.

  1. dianneS

    dianneS Chillin' With My Peeps

    Mar 16, 2009
    South Central PA
    I'm assuming that the standard 4' per bird is referring to floor space. I've just seen so many small, low roofed coops and they seem to have so little space inside, yet because they have the floor space they are able to accomodate X number of birds.

    I have a nice roomy 8x8' walk in coop with nice high ceilings. Doesn't the ceiling height count for anything? Even if I put up multiple roosts at various heights? It just seems like I should be able to accomodate more birds in my coop? It feels so much bigger than those reach-in coops.
  2. Olive Hill

    Olive Hill Overrun With Chickens

    Apr 19, 2009
    In cases like these it's largely going to depend on your set-up overall. What kind of arrangements do you have for the chickens outside?
  3. dianneS

    dianneS Chillin' With My Peeps

    Mar 16, 2009
    South Central PA
    Quote:They have an even bigger run outdoors. Probably twice the size of the indoor run and its a walk-in as well, nice and high and I'm thinking about putting roosts out there too. There is chicken wire on the roof of the run too. Its pretty preditor proof.
  4. Tiss

    Tiss Chillin' With My Peeps

    May 8, 2010
    How many birds do you have in there?

    I have an 8x8 coop with an 8 ft ceiling and an attached 8x8 run. I have the roosts diagonal across the corners at about 4 ft with a 2ft bar to help the little ones get up. I'm thinking of adding another bar across the whole width about 5 ft up.

    I let the birds out to free range all day and lock them up at night. I have 16 birds and they seem to have more than enough space.
  5. Olive Hill

    Olive Hill Overrun With Chickens

    Apr 19, 2009
    Quote:They have an even bigger run outdoors. Probably twice the size of the indoor run and its a walk-in as well, nice and high and I'm thinking about putting roosts out there too. There is chicken wire on the roof of the run too. Its pretty preditor proof.

    The thing is outdoors they need space to be on the ground, scratch, move about without running into each other, have space to settle disputes, etc. The height of the outdoor really makes no difference. Sure, they will roost now and again for naps during the day but it will not comprise a majority of their time and you can't count on any certain number to be roosting at one time so there must be enough room for them all. Outside I would never recommend someone crowd over the minimum recommended and that is 10 sq ft per bird. So, in this case, your outside set-up will actually house fewer birds than what your inside set-up would house at the minimum anyway.

    If you had much more space outside, I wouldn't hesitate to say it'd be okay to put some extra birds in the coop. I think your thinking on the coop itself is spot on. With a walk-in coop with ample roost space you can easily house more than 1 bird per four square feet. I do that myself. But you've got to have the outside set up to accommodate them whenever they are not sleeping and in this case, you just don't.
  6. bibliophile birds

    bibliophile birds Chillin' With My Peeps

    you also have to think about if you ever had to leave them inside for a period of time- inclement weather, emergency, etc. they need to have enough room to be comfortable and not on top of each other in situations like that. now, i wouldn't necessarily stick strictly to the 4 ft rule just in case of emergency, but i wouldn't discount it either.
  7. Ridgerunner

    Ridgerunner True BYC Addict

    Feb 2, 2009
    Northwest Arkansas
    The 4 square feet per chicken in the coop with 10 square feet per chicken in the run is a general rule of thumb intended to keep people out of trouble from Anchorage Alaska to Miami Florida, from Perth Australia to Aberdeen Scotland. There are a lot of different things that go into this. Since we all have different situations the answer can be different for each or us. Following is a write-up that I did on the subject. It may be of interest.

    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 they run.
  8. elmo

    elmo Chillin' With My Peeps

    May 23, 2009
    What a wonderful summation of the issue, Ridgerunner! Your post should be a "sticky" here on the subject.
  9. dianneS

    dianneS Chillin' With My Peeps

    Mar 16, 2009
    South Central PA
    That is all very helpful. I did have a feeling that my outdoor would not be big enough to accomodate the maximum number of birds that my indoor coop can hold.

    I have a lot of bantams though, and several roosters. I was considering building a separate bantam coop. I need to get rid of some of the roosters. So far it sounds like we're getting along pretty good. I feed and water outside and the poop load is not bad. No one is fighting or getting picked on, but I still need to do some tweaking to make the situation perfect.
  10. CityChook

    CityChook Chillin' With My Peeps

    Apr 9, 2008
    Minneapolis, MN
    My Coop
    I don't know what the weather is like in your neck of the woods, but here in MN my chickens will not go outside once it gets cold and starts snowing. And once it starts snowing, it stays for the next 5 months --- so you do the math. That's A LOT of inside time. I also have a walk-in style coop, but I find that that chickens seem to spend the majority of their time on the floor, so I'm not sure how much cubic space can be taken into consideration. The walk-in style was more for MY comfort than that of the chickens. But I have almost 12 sq/ft of space per hen and even that seems to be limited in the wintertime. To each his own.

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