Thursday, November 29, 2012

Ask Bee - What Size Coop Do I Need?

Dear Bee,
How much room do chickens actually need in the coop?  How high should a coop be?
When I see my birds roosting - what will "comfortable" birds look like?  Spread out? Close together? On different roosts?

(Coop by All Cooped Up, NC - Photo is link.)

Bee’s Answer:

When I decided to get into my own flocks of chickens, I had already seen the general ratio of chicken to space for most of my life from viewing grandma's or mother's coops, so this was a little less difficult for me than for someone who never had.

I can only put it like this... how do you know a dog house is big enough for your dog?  It all depends on the size of the dog... if he has difficulty climbing into it comfortably and then seems cramped when he tries to lie down, you have obviously gotten the wrong size house.

If you have an existing coop, imagine how you want your birds to move around in its space if they have to be confined to it for any length of time.  This will happen sometime or other in their lives, so you really cannot count run or yard space as chicken space.  Do they have different levels of existence in the coop (roosts, nest boxes, feed cans, etc.) or is it all mostly floor space? Place all the mentioned items in the coop if that is where they will be, add feeders and waterers and THEN re-evaluate your floor space. 

 (The "Poop Coop" by All Cooped Up)

Can you picture X amount of your adult-sized birds/breed being able to walk past each other freely, scratch in the litter without bumping off another chicken, line up to the feeder without too many having to wait their turn, or roosting and still being able to change positions freely on the roosts or jump up to the roost without bumping another bird off?  If you can, then the space is probably adequate...  then err on the side of caution.

I can tell you this... you can never have TOO much space, only too little.  Don't get greedy and get a bunch of birds and just HOPE they fit into your coop... add a fair number and see how they exist.  If you see obvious problems as the result of overcrowding (feather picking, squabbles, signs of stress) reduce your numbers and continue to monitor them.

Everyone's style is different.... I like my birds to have plenty of room but don't feel they need a football field. Comfortable chickens will not fight and fuss all day and will not pick each other's feathers for sport nor pick on any one flock member.  If you cannot reasonably walk into your run or coop without tripping over the birds, you probably have too many.  If you walk in and they can easily avoid you when you DO walk, then you probably have enough space. 

(Poop Coop interior - All Cooped Up)

In my experience, a coop should be high enough to walk into... I'd never have a coop so small that I couldn't inspect every corner or retrieve a bird in that corner with some level of ease.  Coops should be easy to clean, big enough to be able to repair inside features and visualize any bird at any given time.  If you simply must have the type of coop that is just designed for bird living only, I'd design a feature where a portion of that lifts away, levers up, slides apart to where it could be easily maintained.  Chickens don't really care about height… although they do prefer to roost high. 

Birds on a roost look comfortable to me if they have empty spaces to move into... if they have to drop down to reposition and then try to hit a very small roosting spot when they try to get back up, it creates a lot of tension and movement in the roosting flock that I don't like to see or hear.  Jostling for position should only be due to pecking order and not necessarily because there is so little room that, if you don't grab some rail, you may sleep on the floor. 

Bee -

Leigh says:
Like the coops on this post? If so, please go “Like” All Cooped Up on FaceBook and tell them Leigh of Natural Chicken Keeping sent you!


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