Everyone needs personal space; moms know that better than anyone! Your chickens are similar and want to be able to move around freely, but how much space do chickens need for real?
One of the first questions I had when getting chickens for the first time was – how much space do chickens need?
We got our first chickens over seven years ago when we lived at a different home; we have the same amount of space now but our neighbors and set up is different. I was worried that I wouldn’t have enough space in our backyard to give our chickens the space they need.
Here’s the basic scope.
Chickens need space, but they don’t need TONS of space.
I know; that makes no sense. On average, a chicken needs around eight square feet of indoor space and 10-15 square feet of outdoor space. That’s on the larger side; smaller breeds need considerably less space.
Figuring out the right amount of space to give your chickens ensures they stay happy and healthy; overcrowding is a real issue for chickens. If you’re ready to learn more about how much space chickens need, keep reading!
The Factors That Determinate How Much Space Chickens Need
You can go with a standard amount of space per bird, but the truth is a few factors determine how comfortable your chickens will be with more or less space. Understanding these factors help you create the best environment for your flock to live and thrive.
1. Size of The Chickens
Think about the size of your chickens. Some breeds are larger than others, and if you have a mixed flock like I do, base the amount of space you need on the largest chickens on your flock.
Size determines square foot and perches. Smaller breeds, like bantams, have no problem flying and landing on higher perches, but larger breeds need lower roosts. Otherwise, they might injure themselves attempting to land.
Here are the space recommendation based on the size of your chickens.
Heavy Chicken Breeds
Determining how much space your chickens need varies based on breeds. Heavy chicken breeds, such as Buff Orpingtons, need a minimum of four square feet of space per bird. This is the amount of INDOOR space they need; they also need space at night.
If your chickens stay in their coop all the time, each heavy chicken breed requires 10 square feet per bird.
Light Chicken Breeds
If you raise light chicken breeds, such as Leghorns, they handle less indoor space as long as they have time to forage outside. They’ll be happy with three square feet of indoor space per bird.
Related: 6 Chicken Breeds for Small Spaces
If the chickens are confined all the time, then they need a minimum of eight square feet of space per bird.
Bantams are the smallest type of chickens; they’re quite small and require little space. If you’re raising chickens in the city, these breeds are an excellent option!
Bantam chickens only need two square feet of space if they are allowed outside to forage. If the birds are kept confined all day, they need five square feet of space per chicken.
2. Temperament and Personalities
The next thing to consider is the temperament and personality of your chickens. Some chickens are more docile than others.
For example, silkies are known for being pretty chill chickens; they have no problem sharing space with their friends.
Typically, docile chicken breeds have no problem sharing space, but if you have aggressive or dominant breeds, they need plenty of space to get away from each other.
3. Entertainment and Distractions
It’s not always possible to free range your chickens all the time; I don’t let my chickens out every day. Some days, when I won’t be home to let them out and monitor, they stay confined. It’s possible you might need for them to be confined all the time.
Let me be the first to tell you that it’s okay never to free range your flock as long as they all have the space they need.
When you free range less often, they need more entertainment and distractions. The more your flock has to do, the less space becomes a problem.
Here are some ideas for entertainment.
4. Broodiness Problems
Broody hens are often a problem in the dynamic of a chicken flock, and if you have a few chickens who are broody, it disrupts the flow of your flock. It also changes how many nesting boxes your flock needs.
Always have extra nesting blocks to let your girls lay!
5. Local Climate and Weather
The last factor you need to consider when determine how much space do chickens need is your local climate and weather. Places with a mild climate that chickens can free range year-round typically need less indoor space.
However, if you live somewhere with cold, winter months, your flock needs plenty of space. Cold temperatures are fine, but chickens need to escape the wet and wind.
How Much Space Do Chickens Need?
When considering how much space do chickens need, you have to think about your coop size and run size. These are different – the coop is the indoor space, and the run size is your outdoor space.
Figuring Out Chicken Coop Size
The first thing you need to do is figure out how big your chicken coop needs to be. As I mentioned above, bantam chickens need the least amount of space – around two square feet of space each.
When planning out the coop size, you need to think about floor space and roost space.
An average chicken needs around six inches of roost space for each chicken. Most chickens huddle together and sit next to each other, but some prefer to have more space.
Determine the chicken coop size you need by multiplying the number of chickens you have or want by the recommended square feet of their breed.
Here’s an example.
Jersey Giants are one of the largest breeds, and they need a minimum of six square feet (preferably more) inside. If I want six of these chickens, I need at least 36 square feet for these birds. Since these are larger birds, I also want to include six to eight inches of roosting bar space per bird.
Don’t Forget Run Space
Chickens need to be outside, and they need space to move and enjoy their time. The more run space you can provide, the better. I make sure my birds have all the space they need inside with additional perches and roosts, but I give more space in their run.
Here is the recommended run space for chickens:
- Heavy/Large Chickens: 15 square feet per bird
- Standard/Light Chickens: 8 square feet per bird
- Bantam: 5 square feet per bird
Designing your run space is vital for your flock. It should provide all your flock needs. I suggest aiming for a minimum of eight square feet per bird, but if you raise large hens, increase that to 15 square feet.
A run should be more than open space for your chickens; they need entertainment. Here’s a few things you can do to create an inviting run space for your flock.
- Add multiple perches throughout your run at varying heights.
- Include a covered area; this is especially important in the winter since chickens typically don’t like to walk in the snow.
- Make sure you have at least one dust bathing space, but if you have a sizable flock, include two or three.
- Create piles of leaves for them to search through and dig up bugs.
- Throw cracked corn into the run. We do this two or three times per week.
- Place logs of different sizes for them to hop onto and jump around.
What Happens if Your Chickens Don’t Have Enough Space?
Not providing your chickens with the proper amount of space is more than frustrating them for; it leads to serious problems. Things get ugly fast.
Here are some common problems caused by overcrowding.
The most common problem you’ll notice from lack of space is bullying.
It’s normal to have some pecking order issues, but when chickens are crammed together, they start to bully. They start to pull feathers and peck at each other.
Feather plucking doesn’t sound like a huge deal, but it can be quite stressful and harmful to your hens. If the chicken is ganged up on by multiple chickens, it might even lead to death. Some hens have been pecked to death!
2. Health Problems
Another problem that comes from overcrowding is health issues. Chickens standing in their own filth is a serious problem; you know chickens poop everywhere!
Dirty conditions lead to diseases. If their water is dirty or contaminated, it causes different bacterial and viral health diseases. Chickens will peck at poop, and these conditions contribute to problems like fly strike.
Basically, it’s harder to keep a chicken coop clean when conditions are overcrowded!
3. Egg Laying Issues
You need to make sure you have enough nesting boxes for your chickens to lay their eggs. If they lay anywhere they want, eggs end up broken, increasing the risk of egg eating behavior.
Once chickens start eating their eggs, stopping the behavior is difficult if not impossible!
Without proper space for your flock, don’t be surprised if lice and mites arrive. Too much close contact makes it exceedingly easy for these pests to breed.
The next thing you know, you have a serious problem on your hands.
Mites are more than frustrating; they actually drink your chicken’s blood. A serious infestation leads to anemia and debilitating health problems.
Give Your Chickens Space
My best advice is to give your chickens as much room as you can spare. A happy flock is a healthy flock; the last thing you want is problems arising due to overcrowding. Pay attention to how much space chickens need when designing your chicken coop and run space to prevent any future issues.