How much space do chickens need?

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When I first started thinking seriously about keeping chickens in my backyard it was after seeing this adorable chicken coop on Pinterest.  The coop was super adorable with a cute little picket fence in front of it, who wouldn’t fall in love with this??

coop

If you have done any research on chicken coops, you have probably seen it too.  It’s adorable, and I always see it on “Top Beautiful Chicken Coops” type posts.  I am thankful to this cute little coop for making me realize you don’t need 20 acres to own chickens, and for showing me chicken coops can add to the beauty of your yard, not detract from it.  But unless you add a larger area for the chickens to free range in on a daily basis, or you have a very small flock, the chickens would be very cramped.  You can read more about the construction of this beautiful coop (and purchase plans to make your own!) on TrevorMade.com.

I suppose the answer to the space question depends on how happy you want your chickens to be.  Hens on commercial egg laying farms are often crammed up to a dozen hens in one cage, with each bird given about 0.50 square feet of space each – about the size of standard letter size piece of paper.  They live their whole lives in that cage with no outdoor access.  So technically, that is all they need to live, to survive.   That is a life I would never wish on a chicken, and I am sure as a chicken owner you would not want that either.

Most sources recommend having 4 square feet of indoor space per standard size bird.  If you get bantams they only need about half as much room.   I don’t know the dimensions of the coop above, but I would guess it would be appropriate for 5-6 standard birds inside.  In addition to the indoor space, most recommend 10 square feet of outdoor space per bird (personally, I don’t think that is enough unless your birds can also free range).  So the front run for this cute coop is probably appropriate for 1-2 birds.  1-2 chickens is an awfully small flock for the rather large investment of building this beautiful coop!  I emailed with Trevor at TrevorMade.com and he told me in addition to the adorable picket fence attached run in the coop example above, they also have a large 30′ x 18′ enclosure where their chickens can safely roam.

As a good neighbor you want to keep your chickens out of your neighbor’s yard (plus, you don’t know if your neighbor is using harmful fertilizers on their lawn – you don’t want your laying hens ingesting chemicals).  You also need to keep them safe from predators and out of the road.  Letting your chickens run wild around the neighborhood is sure to get you some angry knocks on the door.  A secure, large chicken run is necessary for the busy backyard chicken keeper to keep your chickens happy.  If your yard is fenced in, your chickens can happily free range in your yard for most of the day, but a run is still nice to have for times when free ranging isn’t possible.  Happy chickens have room to roam, and happy chickens lay healthy eggs!

How much space do chickens need?

Chickens like to be outside.   They like to scratch in the dirt, snooze in the sun and dust bathe.  For the most part, they go inside to sleep at night, lay their eggs and to escape the elements and that is about it.  The more outdoor space you can give your chickens the happier they are.  Living in New England, when we have blizzards there are days when I don’t let my chickens outside of their coop at all.  Bored, cooped up chickens can resort to fighting.  Giving them enough space inside keeps everyone safe & happy, so having adequate indoor space is also important.

Let’s work with an example – say you have 8 standard size hens & 4 bantam hens.  To give the standard hens 4 square feet inside each and the bantams 2 square feet, my coop will need to be 40 square feet – so an 8 foot x 5 foot coop would be perfect.  To give this flock at least 10 square feet per bird outdoors, they will need a run that is 120 square feet.  So a good set up for them would be an 8 foot x 5 foot coop with a 10 foot x 12 foot enclosed run.

How much space do chickens need?


5 comments

  1. Roxanne Holton says:

    This is my first year with chickens. And this site has taught me so much. I want to thank you for sharing your expertise. Very helpful

  2. Meredith Wilson says:

    Hello! We are just starting out with our very first back yard chickens! We have four adorable chicks right now. Soon they will need an outside home. I notice most coops only have two nesting boxes for 2-4 chicks. Is it a waste of space to give them each their own? We are hoping to build our own coop….

    • Liz says:

      Hi Meredith! Welcome to the world of chickens! It is really unnecessary to give each bird their own nest box. Usually you need a box for every 2-3 birds – but honestly they will pick out their favorite nest box or two and everyone will cram into that box (sometimes at the same time!)

  3. Robert gaynor says:

    Let your chicken out one or one &half hour before night they will go back in to roost by them self. While they are out you can check water ,clean,feed, ect,, you may need extra nest if they start setting on eggs to hatch,so other hen,s can lay eggs in.they will get bugs grass while out

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