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If you haven’t raised chickens before you might be thinking that you have to have a lot of land to keep them. Thankfully, that isn’t true unless you want to raise huge flocks.
Chickens will need 3 to 4 square feet per bird indoors and 10 square feet of outdoor space to roam. But there are other factors to consider when planning to get chickens. The breed size, personality, and whether or not your chickens can be outside most of the year will all play a part in making your decision.
Most backyards are large enough to keep a few laying hens in comfortably. But before you run out and bring your chicks home take a little time to think about these questions.
- How many chickens do you plan to have?
- Will you be free ranging your chickens?
- Will your hens spend a lot of time in the coop?
- Are you going to have bantams, lightweight, or heavy breeds?
How Big Does My Chicken Coop Need To Be?
The size of your chicken coop will depend on how many birds you will be keeping.
Ideally, your birds will spend little time in the coop, it’s simply to give them a place to lay eggs, roost at night, and get in out of bad weather.
While guidelines for raising chickens commercially only require 1 square foot (0.09 square meters) per bird when you are raising your own chickens you can give them more room.
You’ll want to provide 3 square feet (0.27 sq m) for most light breeds of chickens. This means a simple 4’ x 8’ (1.2 x 2.4 m) can house 10 to 11 birds.
If you are keeping larger heavy breeds of chickens like Buff Orpington allow for 4 square feet (0.37 sq m) per bird. This will let you keep about 8 birds in the same-sized coop.
Bantams are much smaller birds and 2 square feet (0.18 sq m) per bird is normally recommended. Letting you keep 16 hens in the same sized coop.
These suggestions all assume that you are letting your chickens outside much of the time.
If your birds will spend a lot of time indoors increase the space to 5 square feet (0.46 sq m) for bantams, 8 square feet (0.74 Sam) for light breeds, and 10 square feet (0.92 sq m) for heavy breeds.
You might be thinking why not just build a huge chicken coop and give them lots of room but it’s not always the best idea.
Having a coop that is much larger than what your hens need can make it harder to keep it warm in the winter and just waste space. So before you build or buy a chicken coop try to know how many birds you plan to keep.
If you are starting with 6 hens but plan to go up to 12 then get a coop or tractor large enough for 12. But if you know you will never have more than 6 chickens plan for just the pace they will need.
How Many Chickens Can Fit In A 10×10 coop?
Based on chickens needing 3 to 4 square feet (0.27 to 0.37 sq m) per bird indoors (depending on if they are a light or heavy breed) you can keep 25 to 33 chickens in a 10 x 10-foot coop.
A 10 x 10 foot (3.04 x 3.04 m) chicken coop is 100 square feet (9.2 sq m). 100 sf / 3 sf = 33.3 chickens and 100 sf / 4sq = 25 chickens.
How Big Should A Chicken Nesting Box Be?
When buying or building your coop you need to make sure you have enough room to fit enough nest boxes for your hens.
There are many types of chicken nest boxes available from single plastic nests, metal nests with roll-away egg trays to wooden nesting boxes you can make yourself.
For most breeds of chickens, a 1-foot square (929 cm sq) nesting box will work well. If you have heavier breeds of chickens of course you can increase the size to 14 inches (35.56 cm) wide if needed.
While you can provide 1 nest box for each hen, most people use 1 nest box for 3-5 hens.
While you should have lots of nesting space don’t be surprised if many of your hens pick the same favorite box to use.
How Much Roost Space Per Bird?
It’s important to have enough roost space for your birds. Chickens like to jump or fly up onto perches to sleep at night. Plan to have enough perch room for each bird to have 12 inches (30.48 cm) of space.
So if you had 6 chickens you would need a 6 foot (1.8 m) long perch to give them enough room.
Yes, you’ll find that some birds will get really close to each other at night while some prefer to have space away from other hens.
How Much Land Do You Need For Chickens?
You might be surprised at how little room you really need to keep backyard hens. You don’t need to think about land in acres but rather by square feet.
Plan to provide 10 square feet (0.92 sq m) per bird for full-sized chickens, 20 square feet (1.85 sq m) is even better if you can do it. If you are keeping bantam chickens they need 4 square feet (0.37 sq m) of outdoor space per bird.
Of course, this is just a starting place if you can provide more room your chickens will be much happier.
How Much Room Do Chickens Need To Free Range?
If you want to free range your chickens you might be wondering how much room you need to provide.
The Certified Humane Program from Humane Farm Animal Care only requires 2 square feet (0.18 sq m) of outdoor space per bird to certify for raising free range laying hens.
That’s obviously much less outdoor room than what most backyard farmers use of 10 square feet (0.92 sq m) per bird in their chicken runs. But remember the Certified Humane Program is really targeted towards large farmers who are raising hundreds to thousands of chickens.
If you live in an area that is safe to do so you can even let your chickens free range. But if you are raising hens in town it can be a very bad idea.
Unless you clip their wings chickens are quite good at flying over fences and getting into neighbors backyards or on the road. Naturally, this means they’ll be causing damage or getting hurt.
Free ranging also comes with a higher chance of predators getting your birds, especially if you live in a rural area.
If you feel it’s best to keep your chickens penned up most of the day then make sure to give them enough room to enjoy being outside. They should be able to get exercise, have dust baths, scratch for bugs, and still have enough room to have time away from other birds when they want to.
Kim Mills is a homeschooling mom of 6 and lives on an urban homestead in Ontario, Canada. Blogging at Homestead Acres she enjoys sharing tips to help you save money, grow and preserve your own food.