How Much Room Do Chickens Need?

How Much Room Do Chickens Need Blog Cover

Before we ever entertained the idea of keeping chickens in our garden we were long under the impression that you need lots of land to keep chickens- ideally at least an acre of grass. Fortunately, this isn’t the case (unless you are planning on keeping thousands of them!) and you’d be surprised by the actual amount of room chickens need.

The amount of room chickens need really depends on a few key points. Firstly, are you intending to allow your chickens to free roam? Secondly, how many hours of the day do you intend to keep your chickens in their coop? Finally, how many chickens do you intend on keeping?

Let’s start with the first question…

Do I need Lots of Land to Keep Chickens?

In short, no.

Clearly this depends on how many chickens you intend on keeping, so let’s use a little example.

I’d guess that most people who want to keep chickens for the first time would look to get around six, so let’s use six chickens for this example. Now let’s also presume that the chickens are kept in a coop during night time and are left to roam during the day time.

The short answer would be that six chickens would need a coop that’s at least 18 square foot and a run which is at least 90 square foot. So in total that would mean you’d need just under 110 square foot to keep six chickens. [source]

We give our chickens a lot more room than this and we will discuss our set up later, however as a bare minimum 110 square foot will get you started.

So to answer our original questions: “Can I keep chickens in my garden or do I need acres of land?”. Providing you have at least a 11 foot by 10 foot garden you can easily keep chickens in your backyard.

However, if you put 12 chickens in this field below, we’re sure they would be the most faithful hens you’ve ever seen!

Do I need Lots of Land to Keep Chickens

Now let’s dig deeper into each of your choices…

How Big Does A Chicken Coop Need To Be?

Now to clarify before we answer this in detail- a chicken coop is the chickens’ house where they go to roost in the evening (or during the rain!), this does not include their run or any other space which they can roam in.

Inside a coop you will find the floor (which we cover with sawdust and straw) and a roosting/perching space.

The actual chicken coop needs to be at least 3 square foot per chicken. So following on with our example of six chickens, the coop needs to be at least 18 square foot.

Now you might think with chicken coops the bigger the better? Well this certainly isn’t the case. Large chicken coops with only a small number of chickens in them can actually be a bad thing because the chickens can’t generate enough heat to keep the coop warm.

The other key item inside the coop is the roosting/perching area.

Chicken Roosting Perching Area
Roosting Pole © Quiddle

This is where your chickens will sleep and you need to make sure that each chicken has 10 inches of perching space. So in our example you would need a roosting pole which is 60 inches long (5 foot). You will probably find that your chickens need less roosting space than this because they will huddle together very closely during the night- however again its best to err on the side of caution.

How Big Should A Chicken Nesting Box Be?

In addition to a coop you will need to ensure you have enough space to fix a nesting box to the back or side of your coop.

You can either have a large ‘open-plan’ nesting box or separate individual nesting boxes. For our hens we have a single ‘open-plan’ nesting box however we are thinking about changing this and providing the girls with individual nesting boxes to give them some more privacy.

Regardless of the choice you make, you will need a foot cubed of space per chicken in your nesting box. So continuing with our example you would need a nesting box six foot long by 1 foot deep for six chickens. And if you have the option, try to make individual nesting boxes, your girls will thank you for it later!

If you want to know more about nesting boxes and what to do with your freshly laid eggs, read here.

How Much Space Do Chickens Need To Roam?

In terms of roaming, each chicken at a minimum will require 15 square foot. So if you have 6 chickens you will need around 90 square foot (6×15). This isn’t much land at all- a ten foot long by nine foot wide strip of grass would meet this. But, if you want to make your chickens happy, the more room you give them the better!

We wouldn’t leave our chickens with only 15 square foot each- we make sure our chickens have at least 25 square foot.

Now where and how you allow your chickens to roam is up to you. You can choose to create a run, tractor (portable run) or just allow them to free roam in your garden- it’s up to you and each has advantages and disadvantages (more about this in an upcoming blog post).

How Much Space Do Chickens Need To Roam

But just as a quick word of warning if you intend to keep your chickens in a run- try to make the run portable because during the winter it will become boggy and it isn’t fun changing their bedding every evening because they are filthy…

Also, if you give them more room to roam they will have more fun. We gave our 12 chickens over 3000 square foot to roam in and each day is like a huge adventure for them!

How Much Space Does A Chicken Need To Be Free Range?

All of this talk about how much room chickens need led us to an interesting debate here at The Happy Chicken Coop.

We were struggling to decide exactly how much space a chicken needs to be classed as ‘free-range’.

We can look at legal definitions, for instance in the EU a hen needs a single square foot of floor space inside and around 13 square foot of outdoor space. However, the law doesn’t stipulate how often the chickens need to go outside- it’s at the farmer’s discretion.

And in the US the Department of Agriculture defines free-range as a chicken having access to outside but it doesn’t stipulate how much space they require or how long they need to be outside for…

But, taking commercial farms to one side- in terms of backyard chicken keepers what counts as free range?

We’d class free-range as chickens that each have at least 25 square foot of outside space. Ideally, this would be without a run keeping them in, however this isn’t practical all the time due to foxes and other predators trying to catch them.

So there you have both the short version and the long version to exactly how much room do chickens need.

Leave us a comment below letting us know what you think counts as a free range chicken…

Comments

  1. Garold says

    Do chickens need alot of grass and leaves. Should I have different types of chickens seperated . Shoul I keep my rooster seperated from the hens. Thanks for the tips.

    • The Happy Chicken Coop says

      They don’t need a lot of grass and leaves, providing you are feeding them a healthy varied diet.

      The separation issue, depends on the breeds. Most ‘modern’ breeds now will get a long with each other just fine. But make sure you don’t mix large breeds with small breeds, because the smaller hens will get bullied!

      • Cortney says

        I have large and small breeds mixed and they do very well. I think the key is not to have more than two of any specific breed of large chickens in your flock.

      • Matthew Krier says

        Chickens must be able to forage naturally to improve their life quality and diet. They CAN’T be expected to eat the same food every day and get all the nutrients they need

    • The Happy Chicken Coop says

      You can get a single chicken, however I would recommend getting at least two- this way they aren’t bored and isolated!

  2. Kati says

    Hi. I was reading your blog and have a question. I have three Rhode Island reds in my backyard. We have a coop suitable for 5 – 6 chickens and we built an extra run, that is probably 8 feet by 4 feet. Right now they are allowed to roam in the backyard during the day, but they are really tearing up the grass and of course they poop everywhere. We really can’t enjoy our backyard. I was thinking of just getting rid of them, but I want to know if it would be just wrong to keep them in their coop / run all the time? What do you think?

    • The Happy Chicken Coop says

      Hi Kati,

      I think this will always be a personal decision however I can offer some opinions.

      Does the additional run move around your garden or is it fixed to the coop? Whilst it is a relatively small run you only have three hens so it isn’t tiny. I’d recommend slightly expanding the run and making it portable so you can move it around your garden. This way when they tear up a section of the garden- you can move them onto the next patch so the other patch gets time to grow back…

      Hope this helps!

      • Ginger Matson says

        You could build a chicken tractor to put them in. Google it or look it up on YouTube. There are different types. Many are fairly easy and inexpensive to build.

    • Katie says

      I have 2 chicks in a coop and run that is about 10′ X 8′. Try are in the most of the day, and I let them into the wider garden for a couple of hours in the evening.
      They will then wander back to roost fore night before dark.
      I find it’s a good compromise as limits the mess in the garden, yet gives a bit more interest to the chickens day.

  3. lobster says

    Hi we just recently bought two chickens, a hen and a rooster and since we havent found a good place to put them at the moment since we live in Canada and its winter, is it ok if we put them in a small space approximately the size of a medium box

  4. NewChickener says

    I have 6 Rhode Island Reds and 2 Buffs. I have a coop that is 4×5′. They will be allowed out in the run during the day, and will use the coop obviously at night and to nest. Is this big enough?

    • The Happy Chicken Coop says

      It’s quite a tight fit, but providing they have enough roosting space within there it will be OK. Just make sure they have plenty of space to roam during the day.

  5. Mary Tidswell says

    I have a cochin that recently starting laying tan eggs instead of brown. I have a total of 4 chickens that have a 6′ X 4′ coop and 25′ X 25′ pen so I think I have enough space – read an article that said sometime when they have mites the color of their eggs change – how would I know if they have mites?

    • The Happy Chicken Coop says

      The best way to check if they have mites is to give them a physical inspection. Pick them up and really rummage through their feathers to spot any infestations. I have also sent you an email with a useful article!

      Claire

  6. Hank says

    I have enough space to allow them to roam, but we constantly have hawks overhead and I know there’s at least one fox in the area (not to mention neighbors’ dogs). I’m assuming it would be better to keep them in my fenced (sides and bird netting) 15×30 blueberry garden? Will they eat my berries, or will they help them (fertilizer and bugs)?
    Thanks!

    • The Happy Chicken Coop says

      Hi Hank,

      If you have hawks in the area, to be on the safe side I would always recommend keeping them in a fenced area. They will certainly help your garden and keep the pests away, but will also go after the blueberries! You’re best bet is to fence off the blueberries to keep them safe,

      Claire

  7. Nessa Bourke says

    We have not got hens yet but I was thinking of getting 3-4 leghorns to begin as we want eggs I was hoping to then expand to 10 hens and was wondering if 2 chicken coops would be OK as I am making the first chicken coop myself it is about 4ft by 4ft and the run will be roughly 120 square feet and is two nesting boxes enough

    • The Happy Chicken Coop says

      Hi Nessa,

      This sounds big enough for 4 leghorns definitely 🙂

      If you want to get 10 hens though, you would need to expand the run. The coop size isn’t massively important providing their is enough roosting space and nesting boxes- it’s the run which is the most important.

      Claire

  8. Trish says

    Hi, I have 6 chickens and a fair amount of space. I have a coop for night and they are allowed out on the paddock each day. I am planning to grow a herb garden just for them and am planting red clover and alfa alfa as ground cover. Would I also need to supplement them with feed or will they be able to forage enough food for themselves?? I want them to be healthy and happy but to raise them as naturally as possible (and as such want to avoid feed as I don’t have a source where I can procure non gmo organic feed nearby). Thanks for your help and all the information you have provided!

    • The Happy Chicken Coop says

      Hi Trish,

      It sounds like your hens are treated like royalty!

      Even if your hens free-range it’s still hard for them to meet their dietary requirements. Have you considered making your own feed Trish?

      Claire

  9. NoBody says

    Me and my family are thinking about getting 2 rhode island reds. Would it be okay if I let our dogs and our kids out in the backyard to play with them? will they peck at them?

    • The Happy Chicken Coop says

      Hi K,

      If you get your chickens as baby chicks and socialise them, providing your dogs aren’t aggressive, they will be fine 🙂

      Claire

  10. EggHead says

    We’re in mid-stream building a chicken coop. The coop is about 8×10. We live in Montana where 15-20 below temps are not uncommon for weeks at a time, never getting above zero. Do I need to insulate the coop and is there an optimal temperature to shoot for in the coop?

  11. Eggz says

    I am soon getting 12 chickens and i have a 8 by 11 sized coop. do you think they will get too cold in the winter?

    • The Happy Chicken Coop says

      That sounds like a good sized coop for them 🙂

      Nope- just follow our winter guide and they will be fine!

      Claire

  12. Kristina says

    We just got 3 chicks/teenagers I would say. Any suggestions on how to train our Dog not to chase them once we start letting them out of cage during the day hours. Thanks!

    • The Happy Chicken Coop says

      Hi Kristina,

      I haven’t had to train dogs not to chase my chickens as my girls are within their own fenced run.

      When I first got my chickens, I took my dogs over on a lead up to the fence (several times a day) so they could get use to the chickens. After a few days of this they seemed to settle down and not fuss with them!

      Claire

    • The Happy Chicken Coop says

      Hi Bob,

      Grass is certainly the first choice, but as long as they have a ‘natural’ surface to scratch and roam around on they be ‘ok’. Just make sure to keep them occupied and active!

      Claire

  13. sheri Padilla says

    Hi we just got our coop and it is 7×8, we had it delivered, but it is facing north, is that bad? it is about 7 feet from our house th coop and run would be 7 feet away along the front of our house , is that too close?
    thanks,
    Sheri

    • The Happy Chicken Coop says

      Hi Sheri,

      The direction isn’t a problem no.

      It’s a personal choice- being that close you will be able to hear them roaming and going about their day which some people enjoy and other don’t…

      Claire

  14. Charlotte says

    Hello, I have 6 chickens-1 welsummer, brown, bluebell, leghorn, light Sussex and a Norfolk grey. Their run is 4.5 foot wide, 13 foot long and 6 foot high. Is this big enough? They free range our garden every other evening for a few hours and at weekends if we are at home are out near enough all day, or at least part. Their coop is 2.5 foot wide, 3.8 foot long and 2.1 foot high. Is this also ok?

    • The Happy Chicken Coop says

      Hi Charlotte,

      The run is a touch small however if your hens are free ranging in the evening then it isn’t a problem 🙂

      With the coop as long as there is at least 2 nesting boxes and 6 foot of roosting space then it will be fine for them!

      Claire

  15. Jason Chaplin says

    I have 2 Buff Orpingtons, 2 American Easter Eggers, 2 Silver-laced Wyandottes, 2 Black Australorps and 2 Barred Rocks. They have an outdoor area under a ring of trees completely in shade with fencing creating a 60′ diameter circle. Coop in middle. coop is smaller, 3 12″x12″ nesting boxes on each side. 3 bars for roosting in middle, each 4 ft long so I guess that’s 12 ft of roosting space. Coop not counting nest boxes is like 4 ft by 5 ft. I put a small container of food and water in it at night. And they have large containers for both out during day and are let out every day. They will not be big enough to lay eggs until November. Writing this on July 24th. They hatched June 14th. They were in the coop inside from age 3 weeks w heat lamp. Carried them out and built fence 1 week ago. My question is, as they get bigger, will the coop be big enough? and how old should they be before I turn them loose in the yard? (Have 8 acres) How far will they roam and will they return each night?

    • Jason Chaplin says

      Not diameter, circumference. and it’s closer to 70 ft. which is just under 390 square feet for area.

      • The Happy Chicken Coop says

        Hi Jason,

        The coop does sound a touch small for when they are fully grown but it doesn’t need extending as they have a large amount of space to roam in.

        You can normally let them roam at around 7-8 weeks and you will need to keep an eye on them during the first few times they roam to make sure they come back at night!

        Good luck 🙂

        Claire

  16. Holly says

    Hi there! I’m thinking about getting a couple of Jersey Giants because I heard they have good temperaments. I’ve never owned chickens before, but I know they’re a large breed. How much space would you recommend for them to have, both in a run and in a coop?

    We have an acre of land where they could free range, but my sister (who is my next door neighbor and on the same property) had some of her chickens attacked by dogs. Would it be best to keep them in a run? Our property doesn’t have fences.

    • The Happy Chicken Coop says

      Hi Holly,

      If there is any risk of predators then yes, I would keep them in a run.

      The smallest size you could have is 30 square foot, but the bigger the better for them!

      Claire

  17. JEFFERIE BRYSON says

    I have 25 chickens Rhode islands, black sex links and barred rocks. I am getting ready to fence in my field which is about 200 ft by 90 ft. If I use 5 ft fencing can I let them roam free without clipping their wings? I live next to a highway and don’t want to lose them.

    • The Happy Chicken Coop says

      Hi Jefferie,

      You can certainly let them free roam whilst they are pullets and young hens. However, once they mature and their feathers grow you will need to clip their wings to stop them flying over the fence.

      Claire

  18. Annette Elmer says

    I am new to raising chickens. I have 3 leghorn laying hens and one guinea hen. The guinea is being harassed by the other hens. Should I separate her from the others or just let them establish a pecking order?

    • The Happy Chicken Coop says

      Hi Annette,

      It depends on how much they are being harassed. If it’s just the normal occasional pecking and bullying with no damage being done then you can leave them to establish the pecking order.

  19. Linea Payne says

    Do you have to train hens to lay in their boxes? I had chickens free rangevyears ago and it was easter every day hunting eggs on 5 acres.
    I will get new birds soon and would like them to lay in the boxes. Any words of wisdom?

    • The Happy Chicken Coop says

      Hi Linea,

      You shouldn’t need to train them providing you make the nesting box comfy for them.

      You can also encourage them by using ‘dud’ eggs and place them in the nesting box.

      Claire

  20. Brooks Cameron says

    We have 12 ladies, barred rock, orpingtons, easter eggers

    I want to build a mobile coop/tractor. Easily 3 acres of grass/yard to move them around.

    Currently my garden 1/2 acre isn’t fenced. I got the chickens for my wife (and the poop, gardening is my passion)

    If I plan to move it daily and never let these ladies roam free. Too many issues with “lost” hunters and their dogs during deer season, hawks etc.

    Should I still stick within these parameters? I plan on building an A-Frame or triangle style. Obviously the coup should be the same size, but if they are getting moved around daily do I still need the 15sq ft for the run on the bottom?

    • The Happy Chicken Coop says

      Hi Cameron,

      If they are spending their daytime in the mobile coop then you don’t need to worry about building a run on their permanent coop.

      Claire

  21. Nedra Nichols says

    I am in the beginning stages of owning chickens. I live in a small town and just found out (after 5 years of living here) that I can have chickens. I am only looking at two, maybe three. After reading your Top 10, I am looking at the Buff Orpington, Rhode Island Red, or Golden Comet. I have two dogs but I have trained them to leave my resident rabbit alone. The also keep a healthy distance from George The Hedgehog. Would any of the above breeds be less anxious around the dogs? Thanks for all the great information you provide!

    • The Happy Chicken Coop says

      Hi Nedra,

      Congratulations! When are you planning to get your chickens?

      All breeds will tend to be anxious around dogs however a less skittish breed such as RIR would be better 🙂

      Good luck and be sure to contact us when you get your hens,

      Claire

  22. Brittany K says

    I am looking to get about 4-5 Golden Comet hens, and am planning on letting them be pretty much free-range chickens. However, I would like to know if they are free-range, should I still give them feed? If so, how much should I give them and how often?

  23. Kellie says

    Hi I was thinking of making the kids old cubby house into a coop and having a run attached to that. When i’m at home they can roam in back yard. My question is if they are in the run and the coop door is open will they go in them selves and will i need to lock the door?

    • The Happy Chicken Coop says

      Yes they will take themselves back into the coop when it’s time to roost 🙂

      Also, yes you need to lock the door- more to keep the predators out than keeping the chickens in…

      Claire

    • The Happy Chicken Coop says

      Hi Ed,

      It depends if the run will have a roof cover or not? I would generally recommend around 4ft!

      Claire

  24. Tiffaney says

    Hello my name is Tiffaney. I live in a housing development with ample space in the backyard and a privacy fence. The city is trying to have me get rid of my 1 rooster, stating I don’t have the room in my backyard. Is there anything that can be done for me to not lose my chicken? He is a backyard chicken breed and very well taken care of. Spoiled in fact hahaha. I’ve had him for about 7 months now and this is the first time anything has been said.

    • The Happy Chicken Coop says

      Hi Tiffaney,

      The first thing I would do is check your local town laws and ordinance.

      If you are in breach of these it’s going to be hard to keep him, but I have seen news articles on people who did manage to overturn their local laws!

      Best of luck,

      Claire

  25. Lucy says

    Hello my name is Lucy and I have a small chicken coop (5 square feet) with a 12 square foot run attached to it. My garden is pretty big. if i bought 3 chickens, how often would you recommend i let them out for?
    I live in Australia too, Is there anything I should put in my coop or can do to make sure they are ok in the hot summer? (sometimes 110 degrees fahrenheit!!)

    • The Happy Chicken Coop says

      Hi Lucy,

      I would try to let them out as often as possible 🙂 Make sure to read my article on summertime to keep them cool!

      Claire

  26. Susan Harbaugh says

    I bought myself a house at the end of last year, and my greatest wish was to have chickens in my garden! I have just built myself a coop (I’m a 57 year old lady!) and am almost ready for my girls!
    I have a very nice sized back garden that is fenced and gated. I’m a nurse, and when I work, I leave home at 6am, and don’t get home until 7.45pm. Is it safe for me to let them wander around my garden when I’m not there, or should I keep them in the coop unless it’s my day off?
    Thank you for all of your invaluable advise.

    • The Happy Chicken Coop says

      Hi Susan,

      As long as it’s properly fenced and predators can’t get access they will be fine 🙂

      Though the first few times I would stay at home and keep an eye on them!

      Best of luck,

      Claire

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