We began our backyard chicken keeping experience in the spring of 2010 with five chickens and a much smaller coop (similar to this coop) than we have now without really thinking about how much space chickens need to be happy, healthy and productive. At the time, we were simply very excited and proud of what we had built and our new journey into becoming a little more self sufficient and didn’t even ask ourselves the question, “Hey, how much space does a chicken need, anyway?!” Newbie mistake!
Unfortunately, the coop we chose to build based on internet recommendations really wasn’t as functional as we hoped. We decided within that first year that we wanted to add a few more chickens to our flock and build a new coop with more space inside for the Ladies and a larger run to accommodate them through the peak growing season when we don’t allow them out to free range.
How much space does a chicken need?
Well, of course, there are different opinions floating around out there, but the general rule of thumb for happy chickens is:
Coop – 4 square feet per chicken
Nesting Boxes – 1 per every 2-3 chickens
Run – 10 square feet per chicken
How do we stack up?
Coop – 10 X 4 = 40 square feet, upper level. A little tight, but workable.
Nesting Boxes – 8. More than enough. The Ladies regularly use about 6 of them.
Run – 15 X 9 = 135 (+ 40) = 175 square feet of ground level pecking around space.
- The 135 square feet is fenced in and open air with bird netting and shade cloth over the top to protect the Ladies from neighborhood cats and the intensity of the sun in the height of summer.
- The additional 40 feet comes about because the coop is two stories with the bottom level being open air and the top level being fully enclosed. The bottom is where we keep their food and water and it also allows them to be “outside” when the weather is rainy or snowy without actually being in the elements.
Our biggest challenge:
Our biggest challenge currently is their indoor roosting space. They have just enough room to all get up on their roosts, but we could give them a little more space by using a portion of an old wooden ladder or something similar secured to the inside of the coop for the Ladies to utilize.
Honestly, we didn’t even look at the above ratios when we built our Chicken Mansion, we just built it into the space we had. At the time, we also didn’t have 15 chickens (I think we had five laying hens and four pullets who were waiting to move in with the Ladies). Now that we are up to 15 hens, we’ve definitely reached our max…Not only space wise, but also where care and cost are concerned.
If we add in another option or two for roosting, cap our flock at 10-15 on any given year and watch the Ladies for restlessness/pecking/fighting, I think we’ll be OK during the hottest months of the year. Since they free range throughout the property ~8 months of the year, the only concern would be (again), getting their additional roosts set up.
Now it’s your turn! How does you backyard chicken set up stack up? Did you go into chicken keeping with a future plan in place, or did you wing it like us?