Lots of people want to keep chickens but they live in the city or suburban areas with small backyards. They think they can’t raise chickens because they don’t have enough space!
Keeping chickens when you have a small or no yard is a bit tricky, but can be done with a good deal of planning and forethought.
Whilst typically the more room chickens have the better- there are always ways to get around having a small yard.
Let’s get straight into the article and look at how you can raise chickens in a small space.
Chicken Roaming Space and Basic Needs
The first thing you need to do is decide which type of chickens you would like- large fowl or bantams. The amount of space you have available to use will help to clarify this for you.
Large birds such as Rhode Island Reds need 4 square feet of space/bird in their coop and about 10 square feet of run or yard space.
Bantams need 2 square feet of coop/bird and 8 square feet of run/yard. Obviously, you can fit more bantams into the available space, as they are generally half to one third the size of large fowl.
Remember though, bantam eggs will also be appreciatively smaller too.
Chickens, unlike their owners, require just a few basic things to make the coop ‘home’.
- A roosting perch is needed. Although chickens will sleep on the floor, they feel safer if up higher.
- Nesting Boxes. An average of one box for every three hens will suffice. They can (and will) lay just about anywhere, but if you can persuade them to use a nest box you won’t have to search the coop and run. It also has the advantage of keeping the eggs away from chicken foot traffic resulting in broken eggs. If you are really tight on space you can remove the nesting boxes.
- There should also be enough room to place a feeder. An inside feeder will deter rodents from an easy meal. If the coop area is ‘tight’ you could try using a wall mounted or corner feeder to save on space.
- Water should be kept outside of the coop to maintain as low a humidity level as possible inside the coop. Too much humidity will encourage mold causing respiratory problems for the ladies.
- Dust Baths: Chickens take dust baths to keep themselves clean. I know, it sounds counterproductive, but hear me out.Rolling and flapping in dust rids chickens of any mites, or parasites, and prevents additional infestations.
A mite infestation is not something you want to deal with. Chickens lose feathers, become anemic, and may even die.
Additionally, chickens use dust baths to control the oils in their skin. I guess they get a little overly oily at times and need to roll in the dirt to get things under control and preen their feathers.
Keeping the Coop Small
Is your coop going to be static in one place, or mobile?
Static coops do not move around the yard. There are many available choices for you to pick from. A quick search of the internet will give you many design ideas. There are also books written on coop design with plans included.
To save space you need to go vertical! You can fit a decent sized coop, say 4ftx6ft, in a modest sized yard by enclosing a run underneath the coop. This not only gives the hens some outside space, it also puts the coop at waist height for easy cleaning which is a bonus for anyone with back or leg problems.
A 4ftx6ft coop gives you 24 square feet of floor space. Whether you want large hens or bantams will determine the height and floor space you need and how many hens you can comfortably house.
It is always tempting to add more hens but bear in mind that overcrowding can cause some pretty nasty anti-social behavior like bullying. The more room the hens have, the happier they will be.
In a small yard I would always recommend a mobile coop– this way when the hens have eaten all the grass in a certain patch they can be moved to another patch of grass. If you already have a static coop, you could consider buying a portable run which your girls could use during the daytime.
Buying the Perfect Small Coop
If you intend to buy a coop readymade or boxed- read the specs first.
Many manufacturers of coops are ‘optimistic’ about how many hens can fit into their coop, if they say six, think four hens.
Also be sure to check and see how well made they are. Will it withstand a predator trying to get in? How about the weather? There are some very cheap coops out there- they are cheap for a reason!
Don’t forget to read the reviews on these items before you purchase.
The main downside of buying a readymade coop is they are generally in standard ‘bulky’ sizes- like a 6ft x 4ft and if you have slim narrow yard this will be a problem.
If you are handy or know a DIY enthusiast, it’s fairly easy to make your own. Many people make coops out of recycled wood for a very reasonable price. You will probably have to buy some wood, screws and hardware, but you can build to your own particular needs and design.
A simple 3ft x 3ft box with a height of 3ft would work well as a coop for 2 large hens or 4-5 bantams.
If you already have a small outbuilding, can you retro-fit it to house your girls?
I know someone who shares her garden shed with her hens. Their area is sectioned off with access to the outside. It is a very safe and secure arrangement and a wonderful use of existing space.
Chicken tractors are moveable coops. You can move them from one spot to another if you have enough available space. They will have a secure housing unit at one end with the run attached. It’s ideal for small numbers of chickens.
The only drawback to this type of coop as far as I can see, is in moving it. If you have a mobility or strength issue, it is going to be difficult for you to move the coop.
Making Use of Existing Space: Indoor Chickens
You might be surprised to learn that many people keep one or two chickens as house pets! The birds will tend to have a dedicated area for their ‘chicken activities’ such as dust bathing, scratching and sleeping.
The chicken as a ‘house pet’ is a great idea if you only want a couple of hens. They will faithfully lay you an egg and provide you will company and amusement.
Several people have therapy chickens. These birds help to stave off loneliness and anxiety. They have specifically been helpful in aiding autistic children focus and become less anxious and withdrawn.
If you are going ‘ewww’ right about now thinking about chicken poop on the carpet, there are chicken diapers! You could even make your own:
In fact, there is a whole range of accessories for the house chicken.
There are harnesses for walking your chicken, chicken strollers which keep the bird safely enclosed, all manner of toys and washable nest liners for their bed.
The idea of the coop in a chest of drawers could be utilized here very well. It would contain the eating and roosting area, leaving the bird to ‘free range’ in your house.
Of course, if you live in an apartment, you would have to choose a quiet, low profile chicken breed or the neighbors will get upset!
There are many excellent ideas for fitting a coop into your yard. The sheer variety of homemade designs is extensive and some are quite unique.
Some people have even used the roof of the coop for a growing area, making it truly environmentally friendly and space saving!
We hope that you can see that no matter how small your yard is there is always room for a couple of chickens.
Whatever you decide to do, make or buy, having chickens in your yard will add a smile of contentment to your day.
If you have anymore space saving ideas we would love to hear from you in the comments below…