How important is the size of your coop? We all realize that a large flock in a small coop is not a great idea, however, a small flock in a large coop is also not the best choice.
So what do you need to think about when planning for your chicken coop?
- What breeds will you be keeping
- How many chickens you plan to have (don't forget to factor in chicken math)
- How small/large of an area will the flock have access to
- Community guidelines
Small coops are easier to keep clean and easier to relocate. The downside of a small coop is that they can only comfortably house 2 or 3 full size hens. If you have enough room for the flock to get out during the day, you could keep a few more than that for roosting at night and if you are keeping bantam chickens, you could house 5-6 adult bantams in one of these smaller coops.
If your flock is able to be out of the coop either free ranging or in a run for most of the day, the coop size recommendation is commonly two to four square feet of space per standard sized chicken. If they are regularly confined the rule of thumb is seven to eight square feet of space per chicken.
Medium size coops (garden shed or other outbuilding on the property). This size coop is perfect for a flock of 10 to 12 chickens. Some of the benefits of a medium sized coop include the room for food and water inside the coop, and there is room to grow the flock here and there. A medium sized coop is often the best chicken coop size for most backyard and small hobby farm flocks. We are currently using a 6'x4' coop for our bantam flock and have around 20 with plenty of room. The downside of this coop is how difficult it is to clean and while the food and water can go inside it is much better outside.
Large chicken coops are the best choice if you have, or plan to have, over a dozen full-size chickens. Your flock consists of the larger breeds such as Jersey Giants, Brahmas, Cochins and a few others, you consistently have to add another coop for your ever growing flock or your plans include getting more chickens and/or hatching your own chicks.
There are a few benefits to a larger coop which include ease of cleaning and the ability to reconfigure the layout depending on your current situation. However, there is a downside to having a coop that is just too big for your flock.
I have ran into this problem myself this winter, through sickness and thinning of my rooster population, our standard sized flock has gone from 20+ to 10. With all of the room to roost, they tend to continue to spread out as they always did with the older group on the upper roost, the 2 left from our fall addition on the middle roost and the 5 left from our battery hen rescue are still huddled in the corner of the floor. Warmth is not being accomplished with this kind of room and it has been pretty cold the past month or so. We have taken care of any drafts and there is plenty of bedding to help with the heat but I am making plans to increase the flock back up to 25 or more and hopefully will not have this problem again next year.
When it comes to community guidelines, make sure you know of any restrictions in place. Lots of urban areas are allowing small (2 or 3) hen only flocks. If this is the case where you live, then you don't need anything large at all. Providing the best coop for your chickens doesn't always mean providing a mansion, sometimes the little cottage works just fine!