What data created accepted sq. footage numbers?

Discussion in 'Coop & Run - Design, Construction, & Maintenance' started by Chicken Slaver, Nov 8, 2015.

  1. Chicken Slaver

    Chicken Slaver Out Of The Brooder

    Oct 5, 2015
    In The Pines
    This is a sincere question. I'm wondering where the accepted minimum sq. footage (4 sq.ft. & 10 sq.ft.) numbers for coops & runs came from? Is there some science behind the numbers..., or just numbers some respected backyard chicken keeper came up with and it's become standardized over time?
  2. Cheep N Peep

    Cheep N Peep Chillin' With My Peeps

    First, [​IMG]! Spread the chicken

    I never really thought about it. Before I got chickens, four square feet seemed like a lot of room. I built a 4x7 coop for seven hens, and now I wish I could give them more room. It helps that they like to stare out the window while standing on the poop board. :) I suppose when people started really getting into the chicken thing again, somebody realized that they needed a lot more room than the excepted battery farm numbers. So they came up with four square feet indoors, ten out. That made sure you knew that A) they require enough space to walk around in without bumping into somebody else and B) they need to go outside. That's my guess, anyway. Maybe somebody else knows for sure?
  3. Folly's place

    Folly's place True BYC Addict

    Sep 13, 2011
    southern Michigan
    I don't know where the numbers came from, but my experience is that more space in the coop is better, at least where there's winter weather (Snow!). I've got about five sq. ft. per bird in the coop, and 30% bantams, and it's okay in winter when they don't want to be out in the snow. I also don't have sex-links, production reds, or other pushy pecking hens. mary
  4. aart

    aart Chicken Juggler! Premium Member

    Nov 27, 2012
    SW Michigan
    My Coop
    I think someone just took the 1-2sqft for production facilities and doubled it.

    IMO the 4/10 'rule' is a bare minimum, especially where I live and the fact that my birds are confined to coop and run.
    Much depends on climate and management technique.

    The more space and ventilation, the healthier an environment for the birds and the easier it is for me to take care of it.

    There's a couple of good articles on Space and Ventilation linked in my signature.
  5. Ridgerunner

    Ridgerunner True BYC Addict

    Feb 2, 2009
    Northwest Arkansas
    I also have no idea where it came from. I don’t believe in it anyway. You can follow the link in my signature for some of my reasons.

    Some rules of thumb come from research, usually on commercial broilers or layers because the industry has the money to pay for studies. We can get a lot of information from those studies but you have to actually read them and see if the results apply to us. They have proven that chickens can live in 2 square feet of space without eating each other, but those are chickens especially bred to live in crowded places and they have to be managed very carefully. The management is more than just trimming the beaks so they can’t get a good grip on each other. That’s not our chickens or how we manage them.

    There are a lot of magic numbers people often quote on here (required space on a roost, brooder temperatures, hen to rooster ratio, humidity in an incubator, space in a brooder, age chicks can go outside, age a pullet will start to lay, the list goes on and on) that really aren’t magic. Some are designed to keep most people put of trouble even with poor management techniques or building skills. Some are based on our experiences. For most of them you will find different numbers given.

    Even for the space requirements you will see different numbers given. I’ve seen 2, 3, 4, and 10 square feet per chicken as the requirement in a coop. Some people include a requirement for the run, some don’t.

    There are a lot of people on this forum just starting out. They have no experience with chickens and need a starting point. These various numbers can give them a starting point. Their experiences will tell them if it is a good ending point.
  6. Gypsylion

    Gypsylion Chillin' With My Peeps

    Apr 30, 2009
    Boston, MA
    Ditto what has been said previously that the recommendations are likely based on research that was done for commercial flocks (or even small-farm-sized flocks) and has been modified as more micro-flock owners have gained experience with smaller spaces. And the importance of the combination of your coop/run design with your management style.

    I've been keeping backyard micro flocks for about 7 years now (~3-10 hens/flock), and have helped create and manage a few dozen clients' flocks as well and had a similar experience to what Cheep N Peep said - I started with the previously-recommended 2 sq ft/bird indoor space and 4 sq ft/bird outdoor space and quickly realized that flocks in an urban/suburban setting needed more than that to stay healthy and happy.

    What I usually tell clients and teach in my classes is some form of the following points:
    1. You should plan your coop/run to give them enough space and protection from the elements such that they could be confined in it 24/7 for 365 days a year (technically required by many city ordinances) and still have plenty of dry, easy-to-keep-clean, predator- and pest-free space to spread out and do their chickeny thing.
    2. In my experience, 2-3 sq ft/bird is enough in the coop (more is fine, though with our New England winters you don't want to go TOO big so they can still build up warmth in the winter), provided you have at least 10 sq ft/bird in the run (more outdoor space is always better, if possible) AND...
    3. that your run is covered with a solid roof so you don't just lose all that usable space every time it rains, and preferably tall enough for you to be able to get in there to shovel out snow in the winter.
    4. Don't trust the bird numbers given by cheap coops you can buy online - they are based on numbers that could work fine for a typical small-farm flock of 30-50 birds, but they DON'T scale down for our backyard micro-flocks (those coops also are rarely predator- and pest-proof, and tend to be made from materials that break down within a year or two).

    The reality is that you can get away with a slightly smaller space if you balance it with heightened dilegence in your maintenance, but only to a point. If they don't have room to move around and spread themselves out a bit, especially in winter, you're much more likely to create a few health and behavior headaches for yourself. I've found the plan-for-more-space to be a vastly preferable option. :)
  7. aart

    aart Chicken Juggler! Premium Member

    Nov 27, 2012
    SW Michigan
    My Coop
    Fallacy.....with the proper ventilation, birds cannot 'keep a smaller coop warm' and in fact you will have problems with air quality....more room is always better.
  8. wasylena

    wasylena New Egg

    May 5, 2014
    I don't know exactly where the data was created. I did find some information on the website http://www.avianaquamiser.com/posts/How_much_space_do_chickens_need_on_pasture__63__/ "....on data in Raising Poultry on Pasture. One mainstream broiler producer felt that his chickens needed 10 square feet of pasture per bird per week when they were full grown. In France, the Label Rouge system has strict requirements that amount to allowing 27 square feet of pasture per bird for their broilers." In contrast, the Council for Agricultural Science and Technology (CAST) states that the minimum space is one-half square foot per bird (broiler in a commercial setting). As stated in the posts above, I agree that bigger is always better and ventilation is also an important factor to consider. I have found that in a hot, humid environment, ventilation is very important and even a large poorly ventilated coop with no shade will cause a lot problems. Everyone has to find a balance based on their location and environment and what works best for them. That being said, I've never heard anyone complain about their coop and run being too big.
    Last edited: Nov 21, 2015
  9. cafarmgirl

    cafarmgirl Overrun With Chickens

    I don't know where those numbers originated either but I wish they'd go away! Especially for people just starting out who get the impression you can cram a lot of chickens into these spaces and do just fine, not realizing all the variables involved. Then they have to come back here to find out how to try to solve the pecking and other problems they are having. I've just never seen chickens do well kept in cramped spaces.

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