Thursday, April 18, 2013

How Much Coop and Run Space Do I Need?




By Leigh -



Quick answer:
Coop:

  • 4 square feet (sq ft) of floor space per Large Fowl (LF) chicken
  • 3 square feet of floor space per Bantam chicken
  • 1 square foot of ventilation per 10 sq ft of floor space

Perch Space:

  • 12 inches of perch space per LF chicken
  • 9 inches of perch space per Bantam chicken

Perch Type:

  • Perches should be positioned at least 12” to 18” away from the wall for head/tail space.
  • Chickens need a minimum of 18" to 24" of head space above the perch. Remember - they have to fly up there and you don't want them banging their heads each time they jump for the roost!
  • 2”x2” boards with the edges rounded off may be used for bantam breeds
  • LF do best roosting on the 4” side of a 2”x4” with rounded edges.
  • Natural branch roosts may also be used (minimum diameter of 3”-4” (but not all types of wood are healthy for chickens, so check prior to using.)

Nest Boxes:

  • 12”x12” is the standard size for nest boxes, but your chickens won’t mind slightly smaller or larger boxes (provided they fit comfortably).
  • Minimum of 1 nest box for every 3 laying hens

Run:

  • 10 Sq Ft of ground space per LF chicken
  • 7.5 Sq Ft of ground space per Bantam chicken



It can be confusing for those new to chickens to wade through the variety of information on proper coop and run square footage for their flock. Manufacturers selling small “doll house” coops often tout their structure as being able to house up to “X” amount of birds… and often those numbers are misleading or not appropriate for the birds or the buyer’s needs.

In general, you should have a minimum of 3-4 square feet of floor space for each large fowl (LF) bird in your flock and 2-3 square feet for bantam breeds.

Note I specify “floor space.” What this means is that it doesn’t really matter how tall your coop is – just how wide and how deep. Thus, a 4’x4’ coop that is 3’ high can house just as many birds as a coop that is 4’x4’ and 7’ high. 


During the day, chickens spend most of their time on the ground. In the event of bad weather when the chickens don’t want to leave the safety of their coop, crowded floor space may cause tension and bullying.

Imagine two scenarios. In the first, you are stuck in a standard-size elevator with 10 people… and one of those people a bully who has decided he simply does not like you. The more bored or stressed he gets, the more that bully picks on you. Yikes, right?

Now imagine you are with those same 10 people in a diner. It is still a limited space, but if you stay in one corner of the diner eating your food, reading your book and minding your own business, the bully is less likely to move from his seat to pick on you. You can also move away if he comes near. More space means it will be harder for him to corner you.



Yes – you can put more birds into a smaller space, but the more crowded your birds are, the more problems can occur, such as feather picking, over-breeding of one hen (if you have a rooster) and even cannibalism.




As for run space, 10 sq ft of ground space per LF chicken and 7.5 sq ft per bantam is generally sufficient. This also depends on your ability to allow your flock to free range. If your flock is able to free range all day, every day, then you may not need much of a run at all. Yet even for those who free range almost all the time, there still may be times your birds need to be confined on a pretty day. Perhaps there is a hawk that has decided to make a nest in a nearby tree and feast upon your flock, or perhaps a stray dog has been frequenting your property. It’s a wise thing to have a “safe place” for your birds to be outside when they can’t free range.

On the other hand, of your flock is rarely able to free range or only free range for a couple hours a day, you will want a bigger run. They need room to stretch their legs, scratch, find bugs and avoid other flock members when necessary. While the coop is like a chicken dormitory for sleeping, the run is the place they will be in for the majority of their active waking hours. 



Providing plenty of perches, stumps, a dust bath and other “chicken furniture” can go a long way to alleviate boredom and stress-related flock issues.




The last thing to consider when building your coop and run is just how addictive chickens are. If you can, build a larger coop than you think you will need… coops have a funny way of filling themselves up rather quickly!

 
Happy chickening!

- Leigh 
* 

63 comments:

  1. good advice! It's true: build the coop/run bigger than you think....before you know it, you will realize that you NEED more chickens! ;)

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  2. How much head room above the roost is recommended? Although I've seen the other recommendations elsewhere no one seems to address this. Thanks!

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    1. Great question, Anonymous! Chickens need a minimum of 18" to 24" of head space. I'll add that into the post.

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    2. The coop in my chicken tractor is 29" high. The roosts presently allow 12" of head space. I had read somewhere that a 12"x 12" chicken door was sufficient so I figured 12" of head space would suffice as well but my 4 week old chicks had me wondering. Guess I'll have to lower the roosts. Thanks!

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    3. Don't forget room for your own head. I do not understand why so many people build chicken coops (as well as sheds) that you can not even stand up in.

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    4. OK...Grand daughter has a class at school hatching 20 eggs and asked if I would take the 20 if all hatched...IT IS COLD WINTER HERE IN the Wisconsin just across the river from Minneapolis...I have a pole barn, no electricity...no doors...I also have a double barrel drum shop heating arrangement that will heat space with wood and can build a 8' x 8' shack around it, fed wood from the outside into a door that extends through the outside wall, ceiling about 6 ft high, an access door, a slightly raised floor removable for cleaning, 2 heat lamps, insulate the walls and under the floor, and place it close to the house for electric...but I'm concerned about the winter cold...ANY THOUGHTS (besides me being crazy)? HELP

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    5. Dear Anonymous Grandma :-) Since it is so cold in your neck of the woods, I would suggest keeping the chicks in a brooder in your house for the first 2 weeks or so - perhaps in a mud room or seldom-used bathroom. You can make a simple brooder out of a large Rubbermaid container and a bit of wire fence over the top. A single heat lamp on one end should work well to keep them toasty warm (you do want them to be able to get out from under the heat at will). After that, you could move them out to a garage or draft-free shed as long as you have heat lights over them in one area of their brooder. Be very cautious with any heat you use. Please see THIS article. Once the chicks are about 8 weeks old, you can start weaning them off the heat slowly.
      Here's an article on the Fresh Eggs Daily blog on building a brooder: Click Here (Her's is really nice - mine just has some wire fencing for a top which seems to work fine for us.

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  3. Great advise, since standard is 1.8 square feet and some of these small coops bost they hold 4-6, 4-6 what chicks definitively not full size chickens .

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  4. Great post. I shared it on my Facebook page.
    Lisa
    Fresh Eggs Daily

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    1. Lisa,
      Thank you! This means a lot coming from you.

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  5. Great post, thanks for sharing. It is my first year with chicks/ducklings and I have already fallen prey to chicken math, what a strong force of nature :)

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  6. How wonderful to have clear information in one place!! Thank you, again.

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  7. Love this site! Thanks for the great info. I'm expecting my first chicks ever in less than a week and I've already got all the materials to build the brooder you posted. I'm working on the coop and doing the chicken math polka, as well. This article helps a lot! Wish me luck. :)

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    1. Tamara,
      Thank you! We are actually a separate blog from Fresh Eggs Daily, but Lisa from FED was kind enough to share this post on their FaceBook site. The brooder you are talking about is one of Lisa's wonderful creations and can be found HERE.

      We do hope you will come back and visit our blog too!

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  8. I am a new chicken mom. I started with 80 chicks in a brooder. They are now seven weeks old an in a large coop that is 10x14 with a large suspended 7lb feeder and we added a four foot trough feeder that has a bin which feeds automatically into the trough. There are two 2 gallon waterers. We are preparing to make them into five gallons buckets with the cup waterers you described. They are still not outside yet as it is too cool here until they get a little more feathered and fat. The problem is that we have lost at least one dozen to cannibalism. We thought having them out of the brooder to the bigger coop would fix the problem. I went out this afternoon to do a head check and another one was dead and they had started on the next one. I took her out and sprayed some BluCoat on her butt and put her in the brooder for a rest. When I went back in the coop, they were already picking at the next victim!!!! What am I doing wrong? Is that once they get a taste of blood they are ready for more? Should I feed them the organ meat since they are not going to be commercial poop producers? Would that even help? I'm at the end of my rope. They have four four foot roost poles so they are not on top of each other. They are all red pullets and red straight runs. Is it the nature of the breed? I'm beside myself!!!!! Help. Any suggestions will be appreciated.

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  9. OK - first, 7 weeks of age is plenty old enough to go outside. Get those babies out!

    Second, you need a minimum of 4 square feet of floor space in the coop per Large Fowl chicken and 10 sq ft of run space. The coop is just for night time - so if they must be kept indoors all day, they would have to have 10 sq ft of indoor coop space per bird.

    Your birds are badly over crowded, stressed and bored. If you're down to 68-ish birds, you need a minimum of a 680 sq ft (ground space) area for them to be in all day. Your 10' x 14' coop is only large enough for 14 birds if they are kept in there 24x7. If the birds free range all day and are only in the coop at night, at 4 sq ft per bird, you should keep a maximum of 35 birds in there.

    You need to get rid of a large part of your flock, or build another coop.

    Chickens are smarter than many folks think. It's a little like leaving 80 toddlers in a 10'x14' room without any toys and no supervision.

    Once you decrease your numbers or increase your coop space, be sure to provide these birds with plenty to do (aside from just eating). Fill suet cages with greens. Poke holes in a few plastic soda bottles and fill it with scratch grains - when they roll it around, some will fall out for them to eat. Give them more roosts.

    Yes - feed them meat, but unfortunately stressed and overcrowded birds that resort to cannibalism often develop bad habits. That said, if those birds are allowed to free range all day, every day - regardless of weather - in a wide-open space, their targeted victims can escape.

    For now, let those birds out right away! Then, please, sell as many as you can or get another coop right away.

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  10. Hi,
    We did finally get them outside to a 28x14 enclosed run. They seemed a lot better off. There is still a lot of missing tail feathers but no one has died and no bloody butts have been seen since we got them some running room. Thanks for the tips on entertainment. Hopefully we can get them to 3 or 4 lb size and then slaughter a good number of them for the freezer. I hate to do that but I can't afford to have any more of them die at their own beaks! If they continue to pull feathers I might have to let a couple dozen go free range in the yard at a time and get them back into the enclosed run in the evening. They make a lot of noise when they coop up for the night as they find their roosting spots but at least they now have a place to go to get away from the bullies during the day. And thankfully daylight is longer. At least I know not to listen to my boyfriend...he said he raised 300 for eggs twenty years ago in a building this big and "Never had this kind of problem." Yeah, right! I only wanted a couple of dozen for eggs and to eat if we got 'ugly' ones, he thought we needed to go big! I think I'm going to throw a hissy fit if he tries to increase this flock once we get them thinned down to a manageable number! Anyway, thank you for your help. Hopefully once we get the numbers down to about 45 we will be good to go for awhile.

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    1. Glad things have gotten better and you have not had any more losses. Remind your boyfriend that just because they did something a certain way 20 years ago does not mean that way is actually humane or healthy for the birds. Heck - for that matter look at all the things that we thought were OK throughout history that we have now revised. Lead serving dishes, cigarettes, foot binding in China...
      Anyhooo - good for you for making changes. As long as you don't have a predator problem, you can free range the whole flock and they'll put themselves to bed in the coop when the sun starts to go down. No worries about rounding them up or anything - you just have to be there to lock the coop up once they are all in.
      Good luck and best wishes for a good "harvest!"

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  11. Great article Bulldogma. Your space tips are critical! Have you ever witnessed a coop with not enough space? A friend of a few years back made the mistake. It was like a horror movie!

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  12. Scavenger Hunt-n-Peck contestants - You are in the RIGHT PLACE! Please comment below!

    (Leigh 58 was here... but is not competing :-)

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  13. What's a scavenger hunt-n-peck?

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    1. PS: I want to play!

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    2. The Amazing Scavenger Hunt-n-Peck will post on 10/14/2013 at 12:01 A.M.! Be sure to check it out!!
      Leigh

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  14. JoyfulPromise 53 was here.

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  15. RTuohy 5 was here

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  16. Leahs Mom 13 was here :D

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  17. moxies_chickienuggets16 was here.

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  18. RueAnn42 was here.

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  19. Hi , Newish to chuck keepping I am going to make an ark it wiil be 12'x6' with the coop rased of the ground so the hens have all the 12'x6 to have as a run the coop will be 6'x4x24'' striate sides going to an apex roof, so, how many hens do you think I will be able to keep? They will be wellsummers when I finly get them

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    1. You should be able to keep 6-7 chickens in there. Good luck and let us know how it goes!
      Leigh

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  20. Angie (tdmom) was here

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  21. I don't know what happened to my first attempt to email. I have 8 bantams now, and I'm designing a coop for when they grow up. The min. you have listed is 3 sq/ft per bird. does that include space that the roosts are over? and space taken by a wall feeder and waterer? Or, does it have to be 3 sq/ft clear of anything else. . . .? thank you. they will have a covered run outside, and when I'm working in the garden, they'll get to run some free. . . .

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    1. Gale - The space under the roosts does count toward the total floor space. Your feeders and waterers shouldn't compromise your space too much - though you may do best to put them in the covered run if its possible.
      It sounds like they will be some happy, well cared for birds!
      Leigh

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  22. That' seems awfully large...so for 10 bantams, you'd need a coop 10 feet long and 3 feet wide? That would give them each a foot of perch space?...

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    1. Well - 10' x 3' would be one way to get to 30 square feet, but I'd think that 5' x 6' or something like that would probably look a bit less awkward... but it's your coop. If you did 5' x 6' it would be easy enough to have 2 perches measuring 5' long to provide each bird with 1' of perch space.

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  23. Hi I am in the process of building a coop for my soon to come chickens. I am hoping an 8x6 coop will be big enough for 12 chickens. 3 nest boxes. The run will be pretty big. Free range part of the day. What are your thoughts on the dlm. I am trying to decide what to do for the coop floor.

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  25. Thanks for the info. My first flock of 4 girls are currently a month old and are getting rather noisy and stinky in their guinea pig cage in my den; it is time to get the coop finished! I plan to convert my kids' old drop-side crib into the coop (it is a minimal size - 10sf) and to build them a modest run (about 100sf). I have a few questions about details. Should the food and water be inside the coop or in the run? Will I regret building my crib->coop such that the only easy way to access the inside is to lift the cover and reach over the edge (like I was laying a baby down)? In this design, I would have a chicken door and an external door to the next box, but would not be able to easily reach the floor of the coop until I tipped the entire thing over a few times a year to clean.
    Thanks for the input. I welcome any insights you might have.

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  26. Quick question on space for chickens. When you say 4' coop space and 10' run space per LF, should that total combine to 14' space per LF or does 10' include coop? My coop is 8 x 6 and run is 10 x 6. I currently have 6 LF and looking to add 6 more that will be 12 total LF. Will current run/coop accommodate or do I need to add another 10 x 6?, thanks in advance and really enjoyed the article. Grey.

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    1. Usually birds prefer to spend much of their day outside... unless the weather is very wet and cold. The more run space you can provide them with, the better... but overall it does sound like you have a nice amount of space for them. Look at expanding that run when you can.
      =)

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    2. Thank you, will probably be a winter project.

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  27. How far off the ground should nesting boxes be and how far off the ground should perch be can I use 1 inch round pipe for purch or should I use wood

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    1. Wood is best for perches. Most folks use a 2"x4" with the 4" side upwards. In places with cold temperatures, the wide perch helps insure that when a bird roosts, their entire foot will be covered with their warm feathers. Exposed parts of the feet can get frostbitten in freezing temperatures. I use natural branches for perches - but they are very wide pieces for this reason.

      Chickens (aside from Silkies - a breed that often doesn't perch at all) like higher perches. Anywhere from 3' to 5' works well for most adult birds. A small ramp or ladder to the perch will help younger and heavier birds get too and from the perch if necessary.
      =)

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  28. Can I put my 5 week old astrolorps in my shed now with a heat lamp in a corner with hay

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    1. Heat lamps pose a fire risk when hung in a coop... so I don't suggest it. Also - it depends where you live and what your overnight temperatures are. If it is not dropping below about 50F, you have at least 3 birds (that can cuddle up for warmth) and they are well feathered, they should be fine.

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  29. Why do people ask questions that the article clearly answered? This was all about sq ft per bird, and then here comes "I have 4 birds how big of coop do I need". Or "I know you just wrote pages that mentioned 4sq ft per bird minimum, but I just shoehorned 80 birds into a 140sq ft area with no run and am having all of the worst problems you mentioned would happen. What am I doing wrong? I just dont understand." Seriously?? Is the math that hard people? She already was kind enough to give you imense detail on spacing needs for chickens. Did you read any of it or just say "F reading it, I'll just ask a question and make her retype the parta of the article that relate to me specifically because I'm that important in her life."
    And really, who asks "can I put my 5 week old Austrolorps in my shed now". Can you be any less specific? It was kind of like literaly asking "How much does it cost to ship a thing somewhere?" Answer: Some money. (For those of you who dont get this example, we would need to know weight size origin destination and prefered shipping speed).
    There were a few good questions in this but the vast majority of you just wasted this poor womans time.

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    1. Dear Anonymous -
      The answer is "Blue."
      ;)
      But I will also add that I don't mind helping folks which is the reason I started the blog. True - I wish folks would read the answers in the body of the blog before asking redundant questions, but if someone doesn't understand. I don't mind helping them out for the sake of their chickens.
      :-)

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  30. Thanks for all the info on space per chicken, run per chicken, etc,etc. I find one important aspect of poultry farming missing and that is - Bed material. All my friends suggest rice hulls. How much rice hulls to be spread per bird in a 3 sq.ft of area.

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    1. You need your bedding to be a couple inches thick and add more as it breaks down. See our article on the tab at the top of the page entitled "Deep Litter method." This can be done with almost any bedding material.
      :-)

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