How Much Space Do Chickens Need? How Many Square Feet Per Chicken?

You would be surprised how little space you need to keep chickens. But watch out for the mysterious phenomenon called chicken math. Otherwise, you’ll spend more money on chicken coop upgrades and renovation.

So, how much room do chickens need? Let’s find out.

Space Requirements for Chickens: How Much Space for Chicken

Whether you are looking at free chicken coop plans or thinking about the best coop kit, figuring out how much room do chickens need isn’t quite cut and dry. You’ll find answers ranging from 1 square foot per chicken to 4 square feet per chicken. But why? Several factors come into play to answer how much space a chicken needs.

First, will the chickens spend their entire lives inside the hen house, or are you planning to part-time free-range them? If they aren’t going outside, they will need more space in the chicken coop (1).

“Provide at least 3 square feet per bird if there is access to a run or outdoor area, and 8 to 10 square feet per bird if there is no outdoor access.”

Chances are, you will probably wind up with more chickens than you can imagine right now. That’s because of a force called “chicken math.”

Chicken math is the idea that the number of chickens in your mind will somehow inexplicably multiply by the time those chickens appear in your chicken coop.

An example of chicken math:

You go to the local poultry store to buy two chicks. The sales clerk tells you there is a four-chick minimum purchase. And somehow, you leave the store with six chicks.

We’re not making this up. Chicken math is a real thing.

Whether or not you believe in chicken math, always keep it in the back of your mind that there is a chance you’ll be expanding your flock. But, don’t forget that there are city regulations.

In the US, chicken law varies from state to state and town to town. Some places like Portland regulate how many chickens you can have based on the size of your land (2).

Are Space Requirements The Same For Large Breeds And Bantams?

Space requirements for chickens can also depend on the breed.

Think about it. Your Brahmas and your Orpingtons are much larger than breeds like Seabrights and Bantam Silkies. Obviously, the smaller birds take up less space. But how much less space? You can figure that a small bantam breed only needs .75- 1 square foot making it perfect for an urban flock (3).

For large breeds, you want to figure towards the higher end of the scale. Orpingtons like to have about 3.5 square feet per bird (3).

Whatever chicken breed you’ll choose or currently have, always keep in mind that there is a pecking order. And, behavioral and health problems can arise when you have too many birds in one space.

How To Calculate Chicken Coop Room Size?

Now that we know how to figure out how many square feet for each chicken, it’s time to determine the size of our hen house. Don’t be intimidated by the idea of doing math. Calculating how big your coop needs to be is easy peasy.

You take the number of chickens you plan on having, and you multiply it by the number of square feet each chicken needs. And, that’s it!

When computing for the chicken coop room size, always take into account the chicken math.

For example, you want six standard-sized chicken breeds, and you intend to keep them in a hen house with an outdoor run. That would be 6 chickens X 3 square feet. You need an 18 square feet chicken coop.

That wasn’t hard at all. But, remember, the result is just for the hen house. Backyard chickens need a run, nest boxes, and roosts. So let’s figure out those sizes.

How Big Should The Chicken Run Be?

Aside from coop space, you should also have the right size for the run. The City of Portland, OR, recommends 10 square feet of outdoor space per chicken (3).

You can use that square footage with the formula from above to figure out the size of your run. So, six chickens multiplied by 10 square feet, you’ll get 60 square feet, or a 6ftx10ft run.

Some chicken owners utilize chicken coops with a portable run to avoid filth and minimize bedding changes, especially during winter. If your outdoor space is limited, opt for a chicken coop tractor design.

This type of coop is movable and floor-free. The run space is usually underneath the coop, but some plans have the run beside the house. You can move it around your garden and let your backyard chickens fertilize the field.

If you are in the country, you can have free-ranging chickens to avoid the run altogether. Just make sure your chickens have adequate protection from predators and weather.

Keep in mind that if you have a large flock size, you will need a spacious chicken coop and run – regardless of design.

Nesting Box and Roost: What Are The Required Sizes?

Aside from coop space, don’t forget about the nesting boxes – especially when you’re keeping chickens for egg production. So, how many nesting boxes should you have?

You should allot one nesting box for every four to five hens. The average nesting box size is 12 inches X 12 inches (1). As for roosts, you should leave 5-10 inches of roost space for each bird on the pole. You can make roosts from 2×2. Don’t forget to sand off the edges (1).

What Other Factors You Should Consider?

You should always figure out what your backyard flock would consist of. Is it going to be all adult hens? Are there going to be pullets? Mixed breeds? Will you have a rooster? All of these are going to impact the final coop size.

You will find some breeds do better in small spaces than others. If your backyard space is limited, avoid chicken breeds like Dorkings because they don’t do well in confinement (4).

Our Take

Whether you live in the city or the country, if your dreams of hobby farms include being a backyard chicken keeper, it is possible.

By giving careful consideration to your outdoor space and the number and type of chickens you’ll have, you can house your flock even in an urban backyard. Just be careful of chicken math, or you may have to buy a house with more land.

FAQs

You can put 10-11 chickens in a 4X8 coop. Use the formula that we’ve mentioned, but in reverse. First, you will need to get the square footage of the coop. So, multiply 4×8, and you’ll get 32-square feet. Then, divide it by square feet per chicken. That would be 32/3 = 10.6. You can fit 10-11 standard chickens in that coop.

Remember, space requirements are different for large and bantam breeds.  For an all Bantam flock, the number of chickens in the same coop will be higher. For larger breeds, the number of chickens will be smaller. Substitute the correct number of square footage for your breed.

Chickens need around 15 inches of headroom to roost. You also want to ensure you do not install your roosting post too high off the ground. Your roost should be around 20-30 inches off the ground. If your posts are too high off the ground, your chickens can injure themselves when flying down to the ground.

You need a 30 square foot coop for 10 chickens. Again, using the formula that we’ve mentioned above, multiply ten chickens by 3 square feet. You can make the enclosure 3ft x 10ft or build a hen house that is 5ft x 6 ft. Or, perhaps somewhere in between. As long as the lengths of the coop’s sides create an area of 30 square feet, your chicken will be comfortable.

Baby chicks less than four weeks old need ½ square foot per chick. As they grow, they will need more space in the brooder. From 4- 8 weeks old, you should give them 1 square foot per chick. By the time chicks are 12 weeks old, their space requirements are the same as for adults.

Remember, chicks will need heat until they are six weeks old. If their brooder is too large, it will be harder to keep them warm. It is also essential to ensure chicks have adequate space to access their feeders and waterers.

Chickens need 3 square feet per bird in winter. If your coop space is too big, you can add supplemental heating like a heating mat. You can also close off a section and create a smaller area for your backyard flock. Make sure to drive the drafts out by caulking worn-down nooks and crannies.

If you have straw bales and other natural insulators, you can place them around the coop. The extra outdoor layer will block the winter winds and keep your chickens toasty and warm. Whatever you pick, make sure that there is good ventilation to avoid mold growth.

1. Backyard Chicken Coop Design- Oregon State University Extension. Retrieved From- https://catalog.extension.oregonstate.edu/sites/catalog/files/project/pdf/ec1644.pdf
2. Keeping chickens and small domestic fowl in Portland. Retrieved from- https://www.portland.gov/bps/bees-livestock/raising-bees-and-livestock-animals-portland/chickens-and-fowl
3. Housing and confinement for the backyard flock- University of Georgia. Retrieved from- https://poultry.caes.uga.edu/content/dam/caes-subsite/poultry/documents/archived-poultry-tips/housing-confinement-backyard-flock-jan-10.pdf