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Wanting to hear people's experience with coop size

Discussion in 'Coop & Run - Design, Construction, & Maintenance' started by newchickenista, Nov 22, 2015.

  1. newchickenista

    newchickenista Chillin' With My Peeps

    Jan 25, 2012
    Southeastern, Oklahoma
    I am planning a coop for around 15 chickens. I have a 10' x 20' run that I am going to attach some sort of hen house to. I know I have plenty of room in the run, but my question is in the hen house what is the base amount of space I can get by with? I know the general guideline people go by is 4' per chicken. What I'm interested in is people's own experiences. In your experience do they do ok with less space or do they actually need more? How much space per chicken do you have in your house?
    Last edited: Nov 22, 2015
  2. appps

    appps Overrun With Chickens

    Aug 29, 2012
    Honestly I've never measured mine, think it's about 3m square and plan on 10 hens) but it needs room that there is plenty of room for each to roost plus a few more spare spots for this one that doesn't like to sit next to that one etc.

    Then they need to have enough room on the floor that everyone can get out of each other's way so the lower on the pecking order don't get picked on by those higher up as they wait impatiently to be let out in the morning or if you need to lock them up early (we do occasionally as we won't be back from something till past lock up time)
    Last edited: Nov 22, 2015
  3. Ridgerunner

    Ridgerunner Chicken Obsessed

    Feb 2, 2009
    Northwest Arkansas
    You might follow the link in my signature for some of my thoughts.

    My experience is that we are each unique, there are many different factors involved in how much room they need, so there is no one easy answer to this question. The more I crowd them the more behavioral problems I have to deal with, the less flexibility I have to address issues that come up, and the harder I have to work. It’s not a magic number where everything goes from awful to great, but a matter of degree.
    2 people like this.
  4. Ol Grey Mare

    Ol Grey Mare One egg shy of a full carton. ..... Premium Member

    Mar 9, 2014
    My Coop
    X 2 - my general train of thought is that it is impossible to provide them too much room, so I always advocate building as big as you can from the start. This allows you much more flexibility to address any issues that do arise. Rather than thinking, "How many birds can I cram into x space" think, "How much space can I give my birds"
    2 people like this.
  5. cafarmgirl

    cafarmgirl Overrun With Chickens

    Make it as large as you can rather then as small as you can get away with. You will always hear of complaints and problems from people dealing with birds in too small a coop rather then having to much space. 4 square feet per bird in the coop is an often quoted minimum standard, that is absurdly small and I certainly would go much larger if at all possible, or keep fewer birds in the space you do have available. You are always, always better off preventing problems in the first place then trying to solve them later.
    1 person likes this.
  6. Egghead_Jr

    Egghead_Jr Overrun With Chickens

    Oct 16, 2010
    NEK, VT
    All the above posters make good points on make it as big as you can. That said, let me tell you how I manage with smaller coops. First I'll say the main reason I use smaller coops is to move them easily. With a fixed run this is not your thing. The other reason I use small coops is they are not heated and I don't lock my birds in them when it's cold so they're only use is secure area to roost at night and place to lay eggs. You don't get cold in the OK so that's not a problem either. You may actually want to think about just an aviary, make your run one big coop. People do this in better climates than mine, the only drawback is added time and money to make the run 100% predator proof. It's easy to make a coop weasel proof, harder with 10x20 run.

    With 4x4 coops 6-7 birds is about max. I've had 9 birds from fall to spring using one but it seems "happier" with less. Obviously some birds are culled or sold prior to any integration of new birds and with smaller coops integration can take longer. It's also observed that hatch/brooder mates growing up will without any problems put themselves to roost in incredibly small spaces. Certainly not recommended but was late in building my newest coop. Had 14 large fowl chickens putting themselves to roost in a 3x3 grow out coop right up to 23 weeks of age. Some roosted and the rest made a rugby pile. As the coop space grows the comfortable number of birds for it grows exponentially. With 14 large fowl currently in the largest coop I've built, 4x7, it's clear I'll be able to house around 16 pullets and 2 cocks without problem in future years. This is with leaving feed and water outside at all times and always using an external mounted nesting box. So the space I'm indicating is all for the birds and two roosting poles. The big thing with managing for small coops is providing wind break in run for colder months. It's the cold air moving insulating traped air pockets in chickens feathers that makes them cold, and can freeze them. With a wind break the outside is practically as warm as in an uninsulated coop. Chickens prefer to be outside period.

    I realize OK is not NM but an aviary might be a good choice. If the prevailing wind corner is wood or tarp then they have a wind shield. They need plenty of shade so that area would have a roof and of course they like to roost so a few roosting poles. I bet if you did a search here with "aviary" you'd come up with some great ideas. Weasels for me are a big issue so will always have a coop and lock it each night for protection. The other thing is I move the electric poultry net and coop every few weeks until winter and can't give up that near free range husbandry. But if critters that can fit through 1" openings and kill most your flock in a night aren't a problem in your area then taking a 10x20 run and putting panels around 10x10 of it with full roof and full open inside run would be really nice.
  7. Folly's place

    Folly's place Overrun With Chickens

    Sep 13, 2011
    southern Michigan
    I have about five sq. ft. per bird, and 1/3 are bantams, for winter. In summer when I'm raising babies, I've got more birds, and the run and free ranging helps keep everyone happy. In winter, they need the space! I also keep birds with better attitudes than some; no sex-links or production reds any more. More space is always better, and those cute little dog house type coops are awful. Mary
    1 person likes this.
  8. Egghead_Jr

    Egghead_Jr Overrun With Chickens

    Oct 16, 2010
    NEK, VT
    I just want to clarify something. There are strong opinions on coop space. It's important to know these are just opinions. The fact is closing up a coop in winter provides less space for a bird. My opinion is 4 square feet, 5 square feet and more is not nearly enough room for a bird to spend days on end in. Some are horrified when I say the numbers managed in small coops. That's fine, birds don't even need the space I provide to roost. Space provided is to keep them well behaved. Bad behavior like pecking or feather eating can result from birds feeling cramped. Birds don't feel cramped in the number and space I stated. I only raise large fowl chicken not bantam. It's important to remember you can't keep birds in a coop all day with that kind of population density. They need to be let out every morning and in doing so you effectively are providing them with far more space than most people do with large coops. Providing you have a large run with wind break that is.
    Last edited: Nov 23, 2015
  9. shortgrass

    shortgrass Overrun With Chickens

    Mar 14, 2015
    Northern Colorado
    I have 3 coops. My main layer coop houses about 20 hens and is 7x8, with a run of about 25,000 sq ft... The only time they spend in the coop is sleeping and laying.

    The second coop is an old camper, I think it's about 6x8, it has 17 juvies and a mom. Their run is about 100 sq ft. They spend time in there playing, and my free rangers lay in there, so its a come and go playhouse ;)

    My 3 rd coop is a silkie/broody coop. It's an old trailer tack topper... Yes I repurposed EVERYTHING. :D its about 5x4 but its shaped like a triangle, and they have no run yet, free range is the common goal. That one has 3 silkies and 2 broodies getting ready for chicks.

    I CAN say what a LACK of proper coop space will do....

    Birds that roost in trees (the Anconas and Buttercups) because they got picked on so much in the original coop that they gave up and sleep in the trees. I let them, they like it lol...

    Pecking order issues and blood drawn fighting for space.

    Egg layers hiding eggs under trees, campers, woodpiles, and mulch piles because they don't like not having privacy to lay.

    Poop build up from too many poopers in a small space. :p

    Fights over the feed. And water. And treats. And that great spot next to the window for the roost.

    It's like a sorority house sometimes :D

    10x20 run... Coop should be at least 45 sq ft, IMO... I would actually go a bit bigger and increase it to 4-5 sq ft a bird, to 60-75 sq ft. Better to go too big and have extra room, for say, surprise broodies etc ;)

    Edit to add* I agree, being able to move the coops is a huge plus. We built the original coop on skids so it can be picked up and moved with the Bobcat. Camper can be hitched and moved, and the topper is also on skids to be able to move it. Never know when you may need to move the henhouse, so its nice to not have to completely deconstruct if it floods, etc...
    Last edited: Nov 23, 2015
  10. Ridgerunner

    Ridgerunner Chicken Obsessed

    Feb 2, 2009
    Northwest Arkansas
    I’ll mention that most building materials come in standard sizes, 4’ x 8’ here in the US. If you plan your coop around these sizes you can reduce cutting and waste plus provide a larger coop for very minimal extra costs. I strongly suggest a sloped roof with overhang so that will make for non-standard sizes. A flat roof will hold water and leak or rot while an overhang lets you provide ventilation at the top of the walls and keep rain out.

    This is not about the chickens nearly as much as it is about you. The more you crowd them the harder your life will be. Why make yourself miserable when you don’t have to? That the chickens are better off is just a side benefit to me.

    For 15 chickens I suggest something you can walk into. It’s easier to manage. Give yourself room to work in there and some flexibility. With that run I’m assuming you want a fixed coop, not something portable.

    If you are building from scratch will new material, my minimum would be 8’ x 8’. That gives you enough room to put two roosts across one end, four nests, and still have enough room to feed and water in there if you want to.

    You can probably fit a broody buster in there too. That’s a small wire bottomed cage elevated a bit where you put a broody hen to break her if you don’t want her to be broody any more. From my experience something like that, whether in the coop or a separate predator-proof building, greatly enhances your flexibility in being able to deal with issues when they come up. If you shoehorn them into the tightest space possible you don’t have the flexibility to manage problems.

    I have an 8’ x 12’ main coop with a 3’ x 6’ built-in brooder that is also used as a broody buster or to isolate a chicken when I need to. I also have a 4’ x 8’ “grow-out” coop at the far end of the main run with a section of the run that can be isolated with that small coop. I have another 4’ x 8’ coop inside my electric netting. I use all of them. My main laying/breeding flock is one rooster and six to eight hens but there are times I have over 40 chickens while I’m growing them to butcher age, many of them pretty young.

    I hatch chicks in an incubator and raise them myself. I let broody hens hatch with the flock and raise the chicks with the flock. The flexibility all this room gives me to manage them makes my life easier, but the main point I’m getting at is to not look at your coop in isolation. Look at it as part of your overall facilities. At a minimum your facilities are going to be your coop plus run. As you can see from the others, your management techniques make a big difference too.
    1 person likes this.

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