What is your bird/square foot ratio?

Discussion in 'Coop & Run - Design, Construction, & Maintenance' started by Anna_MN, Jan 30, 2012.

  1. Anna_MN

    Anna_MN Chirping

    Dec 4, 2011
    Princeton, MN
    I will have about 26 chickens by the end of summer if there are no casualties and no accidents. Right now I have a 47 square foot raised coop that has a 48 square foot enclosure underneath. I also have a 90 square foot covered outdoor run. I am looking into the long term- will I have enough indoor space for my girls next winter? What is your bird per square foot ratio?

  2. buffs only

    buffs only In the Brooder

    Apr 4, 2011
    Conyers Georgia
    I don't think you have enough room for that many chickens. I have 32 hens and 1 roo that have 160 sq feet of inside coop and over 400 sq feet of covered run, I could probably have a few more, but I like having extra room for everybody.

    Buffs only
  3. Anna_MN

    Anna_MN Chirping

    Dec 4, 2011
    Princeton, MN
    Wow, you have a TON of space! I know the basic rule of thumb is about 2 square feet per bird but it doesn't seem like enough space. I will probably have to make an addition [​IMG] good thing I haven't sided the coop yet!

  4. TinyLittleFarm

    TinyLittleFarm Songster

    Mar 8, 2010
    Actually, 2 square feet only works well if the birds free range daily and basically just use the coop to lay and sleep. I have 12 chickens in a 48 square foot coop (or maybe it's 56...I don't remember), which is 4 square feet per bird. It works well, but I have a lot of poop in there during the winter since they are not huge fans of the snow. I'd plan on 4 square feet a bird at least.
  5. Ridgerunner

    Ridgerunner Free Ranging

    Feb 2, 2009
    Southeast Louisiana
    You can get a lot of different opinions on here. There is a rough rule of thumb often used where you need 4 square feet of space in the coop along with ten square feet in the run for each full sized chicken. Like most rules of thumb on this forum, this is intended to keep almost everyone out of trouble in most situations. How much you really need depends on a lot of things such as your individual birds’ personality, their size, your climate and facilities, your management techniques, and how hard you are willing to work. Most of us really don’t need that much space, but some may find they need even more.

    Chickens need a certain amount of space. How much depends on your unique situation. Whether that space is in a coop, coop and run, coop and free range, or total free range and they sleep in trees just depends on your circumstances. There is no magic number. I provide a lot more space than the minimum, partly because I am lazy. I firmly believe the coop needs to be cleaned out as seldom as necessary.

    I’d be a little concerned about your space in the winter. The covered run is nice, but I find a lot of snow comes in from the side. Also, mine don’t seem worried about the cold, but they do not like a cold wind at all. I’d give a whole lot of thought to providing wind and snow protection for them so they have better access to that run.

    If snow stays on the ground a while, mine eventually get used to it and will walk in it, but not until they get used to it. You might need to spread hay, straw, wood chips, something on the snow in the run so they have use of that space. You might need to clean that out in the spring when it thaws to prevent mold with it getting wet, but that should not be a problem for you in Minnesota in the winter. This is another example about maybe having to work harder.

    Will you be OK with your space? I don’t know. You are a little on the tight side, but not ridiculously so. I expect you will probably be OK, especially if you can keep that run open this winter. What you need to look out for are behavioral problems such as feather picking and even cannibalism. Don’t panic over the thought; just be on the lookout for problems. Another part of working a little harder.

    I wrote up my thoughts on space a while back. I’ll include them. Maybe you can gather something from them. But I would not panic at this time.

    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 trying to say you are more likely to get in trouble with 4 square feet per chicken if you have very few chickens. If you have a lot, you actually need a little less per chicken.

    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.

    13. Do you want a broody to raise chicks with the flock? A broody needs sufficient room to work with or you risk problems from other chickens.

    14. The more space you have, the easier it is to integrate chickens.

    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 the run.
    1 person likes this.
  6. Anna_MN

    Anna_MN Chirping

    Dec 4, 2011
    Princeton, MN
    All of this information really helps! I have the ability to expand my run and my coop so I think I will be doing that. I love the planning process so it shouldn't be too painful. I really hope I can get all this done by the end of April! Good thing my dad is a retired carpenter and is itching for something to do- he has made me 3 different brooders and never asked if I liked them, he just keeps revising his plan lol. Keep the info coming!
  7. BoltonChicken

    BoltonChicken Songster

    Apr 14, 2011
    Bolton, Mississippi
    4 sq feet per full size chicken in the coop, 10 sq. feet per chicken in the run is kind of the standard minimum.

  8. Baymule

    Baymule Songster

    Jul 1, 2010
    Northeast Texas
    I have 8 hens, they don't free range. My coop is dirt floor, 8'x7' = 56 square feet, so each hen has 7 Square feet. They seem happy and I give them scratch, greens and kitchen trimmings in addition to their layena.
  9. crankster76

    crankster76 Songster

    Dec 25, 2011
    I have 225 sq ft of run and 32 sq ft of coop. right now I have3 hens and a roo in 100 sq. and 9 young roos in the rest. but Im like you . I got 30 hens coming and dont know how much more Im going to have to build to suppport them.
  10. Ted n Ms

    Ted n Ms Chirping

    Dec 7, 2011
    My pen is 50'X 50'X 50x50 so i guess that's about 2500 sq.ft. The house 8x8= 64sq ft. With 16 production reds. [​IMG]

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