If you are overwhelmed at the thought of building your first chicken coop, you aren’t alone. It’s essential to build a coop that isn’t too large and isn’t too small for the flock you will be tending. If your coop is too big, your birds may become cold in inclement weather, or they may decide to lay their eggs wherever they please. If your coop is too small, your birds may begin to pick on each other, and in severe cases, some chickens may struggle to survive.
It can be challenging to determine adequate dimensions for your new flock, but there are a few things you can consider that will make planning the size of your chicken coop a little easier before you begin building.
Breed of Chicken
The first thing to consider when building a chicken coop is what breed you intend to house. Chickens come in both jumbo and mini-me sizes. For example, if you are in love with the Jersey Giant, your coop will need to accommodate a large breed of chicken. You will need to give them ample room so they do not feel crowded and become ornery. On the other hand, if you select a Bantam breed, you can build a smaller coop to accommodate the same amount of birds…or, who are we kidding, you can have even more bantams! There are countless chicken coop plans that take this into consideration but the best rule of thumb is build to accommodate the largest breed in case you take that direction in the future.
To Crow or Not to Crow
If you plan to keep roosters in your flock, it’s imperative to give your hens enough space to be able to escape the courtship of an overly friendly rooster. Some hens end up being the apple of a roosters eye and are his favorite to breed. This can cause injury or feather loss to the favored hen if she does not have enough space to escape his advances. The same goes for hens that tend to be on the bottom of the pecking order, there needs to be enough space for them to be able to evade an alpha hen.
Growth of Your Flock
Do you plan to grow your flock? If your plans are to start small and eventually add more chickens (cough cough, chicken math at its finest), you should plan to build your coop a little larger than your initial flock’s ideal size. There are other options for this situation as well. You could also consider building your first coop so that you can easily expand space to accommodate a growing brood.
Your coop should be equipped with nesting boxes for your ladies. The general rule of thumb is one nesting box for three to five birds, and this goes for any size. However, different breeds and varieties should have different sized nesting boxes. For example, standard sized chickens should have a 12 by 12 by 12-inch nesting box. This will ensure that they feel safe and comfortable while laying eggs. Larger birds, on the other hand, will need a nesting box that is 2-3 inches larger than the standard nesting boxes. So, it is crucial to consider these dimensions when planning your coop.
Coop Space Per Chicken
Chickens are active birds, and they don’t enjoy feeling crowded by their flock mates. If they do start to feel as though they are being squished into a small space, they will begin to fight over the space they do have. The pecking order usually plays a large part in this dilemma, and the chickens on the lower end of the order will often be the first to be picked on, killed, cannibalized, or kicked out of the coop.
For a standard sized chicken, 2 to three square feet per bird is usually sufficient inside a chicken coop, however, consider being more generous than this while planning your coop. They love a little extra elbow room.
Including a Run
Since chickens love to roam, forage, and jog around the block, a run is something that can also be considered when building a chicken coop. When figuring the amount of space needed for chickens to be comfortable in an enclosed outdoor space, it is usually recommended to provide approximately 8 to 10 square feet per chicken. Remember, chickens love to make a mud-hole out of a lawn so the more space you can provide, the better off your lawn will be, and the more bugs, grubs, and vegetation your ladies will have to feast upon.
Making it Mobile
Speaking of lawn, if you do plan to keep your chickens confined within a coop and a run, and you want to keep your greenery green, you might want to consider making a mobile chicken coop and run. There are many plans available online, but the most essential thing to consider is your ability to move a large chicken coop regularly. Consider how heavy your coop can be if you plan to move it daily. Usually, the smaller, the better, which may mean fewer chickens…but since that probably isn’t an option for chicken lovers, the addition of wheels can remedy this problem.
It can be easy to underestimate how much space a chicken needs to remain happy and healthy, so taking these seven tips into consideration, before building your coop, can help you determine the appropriate size for your future flock.