What Size Chicken Coop Do I Need?
Picking out your chicken coop doesn’t need to be hard. There are a few questions that you will need to answer to determine what size chicken coop you need. After you have determined a general size, then you can get as creative or stay as practical as you want. I’m going to let you in on a little secret that will make your decision easier. Your chickens don’t really care what their coop looks like. They just want someplace safe to sleep at night and they would appreciate it if they didn’t get pooped on by another chicken.
To know what size coop you need you will first need to answer some simple questions. The more carefully you work through this process in the beginning, the better prepared you will be when you start raising your flock.
- The size of your yard matters.
- The size of your flock matters.
- And the size of your dream flock matters.
Do you plan on supplying only your family with fresh eggs? Or do you plan to also sell your eggs to family, friends or a local farmers market? Will you keep your chickens in your backyard or do you have an acreage? Are your chickens going to be confined to the coop or will you provide a run? Will you allow your chickens to free-range?
So many questions! If you are just thinking about raising chickens you may not be familiar with all of the terminology. Here is a list of definitions that will help you understand this post.
Coop – The place where your chickens will sleep, lay eggs and be protected from weather and predators.
Run – The enclosed area connected to the coop where your chickens can run around, scratch and peck.
Free-Range – Your chickens are allowed to roam around outside of a coop or run for an extended period of time each day.
Roost – The board or pole where the chickens perch at night.
Nesting Box – A designated place for hens to lay their eggs.
How Much Space Do They Need?
You will want to plan carefully when deciding what size your coop is going to be. If your coop is too small you will have to spend more money expanding in the future. If it’s too big you could spend extra time cleaning. Your chickens may also get cold if the coop is too large to keep heated in the winter. To illustrate in this post I am going to give you 12 chickens to plan for.
Inside the Chicken Coop
Chickens need about 3-4 square feet inside of the coop
Pre-made coops usually come with specifications that will tell you how many chickens they will comfortably hold. If you are building your own coop you will need to make sure that you have enough room for each chicken.
For 12 chickens you will need about 40 square feet. So let’s say that you decide to build a coop that is 8’x5′.
Space to Sleep
Chickens need about 10-12 inches of roosting space
You need to provide each chicken with at least 10 inches of roosting space. Doing this will give them enough space at night without being too crowded. Your chickens will also be able to keep each other warm in the winter. If your coop is too big you may need to provide a source of heat if the temperature gets too low. They will huddle together if they are cold, indicating that you may have too much roosting space. But in my opinion, it is better to have too much space than too little.
So for your flock of 12 chickens, you will need about 10 feet of roost. But your coop is only 8′ long. There are several options available. You can stagger your roosts so that you have 2 rows. You can make an 8′ roost and then a 5′ roost on the other wall. Get creative when you are planning, just make sure you plan.
You will need 1 nesting box for every 3 hens
You also need to consider how many nesting boxes your chickens will need. Just know that even if you provide the recommended number of boxes, they will still stand in line for the favorite box. We have several nesting boxes that none of the chickens ever use. I’m not sure if it’s the location in the coop or if it’s just that they want what everyone else has.
Chickens will lay their eggs anywhere so you don’t have to provide fancy boxes. Line a box or crate with straw and your chickens will find it. I like the privacy and ease of cleaning that we get with our nesting boxes (pictured below). Just make sure that they are not laying them on the ground. Eggs will get stepped on or eaten by predators if they are left on the ground.
When you are planning your coop size and design also keep in mind how you are going to collect the eggs. When we first designed our coop we had planned on cutting out space behind each nesting box and putting a door that would cover them but allow access from outside of the coop. This was a recommendation from a fellow chicken momma. She said that she didn’t like having to walk into her coop to collect the eggs because of the mess she had to walk through to get to them. We found that our coop floor stays pretty clean so we decided not to cut the door and just collect the eggs from the front of the nesting boxes.
You will need 4 nesting boxes for your 12 hens to lay their eggs in.
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Outside of the Chicken Coop
Chickens need about 15 square feet of room to roam outside of the coop
Your chickens need a place to play and enjoy the day. They need to have plenty of space to scratch and look for bugs and spread their wings. You don’t want your chickens to get stressed. A stressed chicken won’t lay eggs. Chickens that are too confined will peck at each other. The more space you can provide, the happier your chickens will be.
This will also factor into how much space you give your chickens inside the coop. If you have a lot of space outside, they may not need as much inside. If you are only able to give them a small yard then you need to make sure they have plenty of space inside of the coop.
Take your climate into consideration. If you live someplace that stays cold for several months then you want to make sure that you give your chickens plenty of coop space because they are going to be inside more than if you live in a warmer climate.
Your 12 chickens will, therefore, need about 180 square feet of playground.
Our chickens are very rarely on the floor of our coop
Living in Oklahoma we have pretty mild winters. Because of that our chickens go outside as soon as they wake up and they stay outside until it is time for bed. The exception to this is when they go inside to eat or lay eggs. My point is that we probably didn’t need as much square footage as we gave them. Are your chickens going to be given time to free-range often? If so they won’t need as much space in the coop or in the run. Predators may attack free-range chickens. However, I believe that the rewards of free-ranging chickens far outweighs the risk of predators. But be aware of your surroundings and choose wisely for your chickens.
If you are starting out and don’t want to invest in a large chicken coop for 20 or more chickens, you may want to consider a pre-made coop.
What size chicken coop do we have?
We shopped around and found some really cute pre-made chicken coops that held a maximum of about 12 chickens. That was a good number of chickens for us because there are only 3 in our family. However, we decided that we wanted to provide eggs for family and friends to purchase. The thought was that this would help offset the cost of food and housing. So after much planning, we built our own chicken coop.
Side note, we will probably never sell enough eggs to pay for the cost of building our coop and run. We did go overboard so you don’t have to make the same mistake that we did.
The dimensions of our coop are 8’x12′ with a 16’x16′ enclosed run. We added a large fenced in area. It is not covered over the top but still provides protection from 4 legged predators. We have had 24 chickens and 6 guineas in the coop at our max capacity. When our flock expanded in our second year we added an additional 8 feet of roosting space. We also added a separate guinea coop to the back of the chicken coop.
Did I mention that we went overboard?
Make sure that you plan your chicken coop and run size based on your realistic goals, but also leave a little room for growth. If you have enough space to raise a large flock then you will probably have enough space to expand your original coop.