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How much space do chickens actually need?

14 replies

Cluelessasacucumber · 03/02/2023 20:29

Hoping to be a first time chicken keeper come spring, thinking 3-5 rescue hens. We want a permenant covered walk in run set up, rather than free roaming (foxes, dogs, flu, garden not secure and limited garden to wreck!)

I'm confused about how big the run should be. Google says min 1m2 or "as much space as you can give them" which is not a helpful answer at all. The rabbit hutch style runs state max number of birds but they all look Tiny!

We don't want to short change our choocks and we want to make sure we get it right from the start because it's a expensive investment.

OP posts:
skilpadde · 05/02/2023 08:39

If you have large fowl (rather than bantams), they should have 2 square metres each. I really wouldn't go below this, even if you find websites that say you can.

You're absolutely right to be thinking ahead to bird flu restrictions and them needing to be permanently housed in an adequate-sized structure. In lockdown, DH and I had bought an Omlet coop with 3m run, got 3 chickens, and immediately realised it was just not suitable, and he built a large secure run with roof. The Omlet coop and run have been relegated to quarantine facilities.

SoCunningYouCanStickATailOnItAndCallItAFox · 06/02/2023 07:15

There is the legal minimum (which you've mentioned) and then there is what the chickens would like.
Ultimately they'll be accustomed to whatever you give them but just to add some thoughts into the mix...
My 10 chickens make full use of about 3 acres of space very happily. This is the equivalent of chicken heaven. They don't want to roam much further than that but definitely max their freedom with foraging in different areas at different times of day. Very very happy. They graze on moss and plants they find, chase insects and even catch mice occasionally (chickens are omnivores, my kids think of them as mini velocitaptors)
(But I'm lucky enough to be surrounded by open country I don't own 3 acres! and the cockerel keeps them alert to predators so I have never lost one to a fox in 4 years.)
The smaller your run the more quickly battered it will get and struggle to recover any grass growth etc.
But you can only give them space that you have, so make the run as big as you possibly can and they'll live with it.
So long as they can display natural instinctive behaviours like sun bathing, dust bathing, shelter from weather, a space they feel safe (they like roosting high up) room to get away from each other (chicken relationships not helped by being forcibly close to one another) then they'll be happy.
Hth

SoCunningYouCanStickATailOnItAndCallItAFox · 06/02/2023 07:17

My chickens are roaming far and wide in non bird flu times obviously by the way.

AWaferThinMint · 06/02/2023 08:46

We have 4 chickens and a plastic coop and bought a 4m run last year. As with @skilpadde it's abundantly clear this is not enough and so our job this spring is to build a much larger enclosed walk in run. With the benefit of a few months experience should've waited until I could build something larger. When it's not flock down mine get out mooching around a couple of hours every day.

CC4712 · 06/02/2023 09:13

Our friends have chickens and they have a moveable run. The coop is in the centre with a long run they move every week or so in a clockwise fashion around the coop.

Newuser82 · 06/02/2023 09:27

SoCunningYouCanStickATailOnItAndCallItAFox · 06/02/2023 07:15

There is the legal minimum (which you've mentioned) and then there is what the chickens would like.
Ultimately they'll be accustomed to whatever you give them but just to add some thoughts into the mix...
My 10 chickens make full use of about 3 acres of space very happily. This is the equivalent of chicken heaven. They don't want to roam much further than that but definitely max their freedom with foraging in different areas at different times of day. Very very happy. They graze on moss and plants they find, chase insects and even catch mice occasionally (chickens are omnivores, my kids think of them as mini velocitaptors)
(But I'm lucky enough to be surrounded by open country I don't own 3 acres! and the cockerel keeps them alert to predators so I have never lost one to a fox in 4 years.)
The smaller your run the more quickly battered it will get and struggle to recover any grass growth etc.
But you can only give them space that you have, so make the run as big as you possibly can and they'll live with it.
So long as they can display natural instinctive behaviours like sun bathing, dust bathing, shelter from weather, a space they feel safe (they like roosting high up) room to get away from each other (chicken relationships not helped by being forcibly close to one another) then they'll be happy.
Hth

I'd agree with this. My chickens love to wander about.

skilpadde · 06/02/2023 11:10

CC4712 · 06/02/2023 09:13

Our friends have chickens and they have a moveable run. The coop is in the centre with a long run they move every week or so in a clockwise fashion around the coop.

This is great in the summer, for allowing the grass to recover.

Unfortunately, once an Avian Flu Prevention Zone is in place (which has been several months of the year for 3 years running), the run should not be moved.

skilpadde · 06/02/2023 11:14

AWaferThinMint · 06/02/2023 08:46

We have 4 chickens and a plastic coop and bought a 4m run last year. As with @skilpadde it's abundantly clear this is not enough and so our job this spring is to build a much larger enclosed walk in run. With the benefit of a few months experience should've waited until I could build something larger. When it's not flock down mine get out mooching around a couple of hours every day.

Yes, Omlet and other sellers give the impression that their runs are adequate.

Since you have a plastic coop already, I’d recommend building your new run so the coop is attached on the outside of the run. Easier to collect eggs, and reducing the frequency with which you step into the run is better when there are bird flu restrictions.

Cluelessasacucumber · 10/02/2023 07:50

Apologises for the delayed reply, got my settings wrong. These are really helpful answers thank you very much! At the moment we're thinking an omlet go up with 1 or 2m low run, attached to a 2x3m walk in. So it sounds like this would keep 3 happy enough, but no more. The benefit of omlet being its easy enough to add another meter if needed, although we'd then be pushing it for space.

OP posts:
CleaningOutMyCloset · 10/02/2023 08:07

Depends if you want to spend money on feed or not. My friend has chickens and had them in a large ish garden, they absolutely trashed the garden. She ended up putting them in a run with a coop, but of course has to feed them a lot more as they got nothing from the ground any longer

Chasingsquirrels · 10/02/2023 08:12

I'd agree with everyone else.

My current set up is 2 6f x 8f greenhouses next to each other with glass roof, front and back (against the garage) & small mesh to the outside walls. This allows decent air flow through the area and complies with the housing requirements.
The internal area is approx 96sf, which is just over 2sm per bird.

Plus an outside area a little bit larger than that - they can go round the side of the garage and seem to love it there.
Obviously can't use the outside at the moment but when they can I just open both greenhouse doors so they can roam between inside and outside.

It's great as it gives them a dry area for the coop (I just had them in a fenced space for years and a dry coop area is lovely), and when housing requirements are in force I just shut the doors.

Winter 20/21, before I had this, was awful - a small confined area which I put a tarp over. Horrible for them and quickly became a smelly quagmire which needed regular mucking out and hosing down (was on concrete being the only area I could secure). I wouldn't want to keep them any more if I couldn't have a decent enclosed set up.

I've got 4 in this set up, have had 6 due to specific circumstances but I think that was a push and wouldn't plan more than 5 again.

How much space do chickens actually need?
Crazymadchickenlady · 02/03/2023 22:44

We have an omlet cube mk1 with 2 metres of run attached to an omlet walk in run which is 2 by 3 metres. I have 7 bantams in it and they are very happy though obviously prefer it when they are allowed out in the garden!

How much space do chickens actually need?
How much space do chickens actually need?
How much space do chickens actually need?
How much space do chickens actually need?
Dammitthisisshit · 02/03/2023 23:14

We’ve got a 3m x 4m inner run inside a 100 m electric fence which marks out an outer run (so the outer run is about 15m x 30m). That’s for 6 mostly bantams. The house is inside the inner run on a stand so the same idea as a ‘go-up’. The electric fence is since we got a fox attack - they free ranged for about 6 years happily. When free ranging they never left the garden even though they easily could have and spent hours on the kitchen windowsill trying to come in the house!

The sizes quoted by companies are nowhere near enough imo. The outer run gives them various areas of shade, different types of ground to scratch around in, they have favourite places to make dust baths (none of them in the inner run of course and they studiously ignore the plastic dust bath I put in there).

the inner run is a mud bog without a lot of work (damn bird flu and our clay soil!). You’ll need a floor covering like hardwood chips to keep the mud down and give them something to scratch around in.

SoCrossAboutThis · 02/03/2023 23:17

I’ve got an 8x3m run for my (ex) chickens, I had 4 bantams and 2 full size ones and plenty of space for them. But certainly no grass growth. Like a mud bath in winter in the outside part but if yours will all be covered that will be fine. You do need to think about droppings though, the smaller the area the more poo picking, forking over you need to do.

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