How Much Space Do You Need to Keep Chickens?

Getting more and more chickens can be addicting, but we really need to pay close attention to the space needed for a chicken coop, a run, and yard (for free-ranging birds).

The space you have in your yard for a chicken coop, a run, and free-ranging (optional) is going to influence the maximum chickens you can have before they become unhappy and unhealthy.

But most people unknowingly don’t give enough space to their chickens. So, in this post, let’s take a look at the minimum space requirements chickens need.

Non-Free-Ranging Chickens

If you’re going to keep your chickens in their coop and run, here is a rule of thumb: Give a minimum of 2 to 3 square feet per chicken inside the chicken coop, and a minimum of 8 to 10 square feet per chicken in an outside run.

This is a rule of thumb because bantam breeds are smaller chickens and require less space than regular sized chickens. Meanwhile, if you get heavy breed chickens, they may need more space.

The measurements below are the bare minimum of how much space chickens should have.

Chicken Breed SizeChicken CoopChicken Run
Standard to Large2 to 3 square feet per bird8 to 10 square feet per bird
Bantam1 square foot per bird4 square feet per bird

Just to be safe, always aim to give them more space than you think they’ll need. The more space you give them, the happier and healthier they’ll be!

Another great idea is to get a pen for your chickens, just so they can be outside their run for an adventure, while still keeping them confined.

Free-Ranging Chickens

Chickens really prefer to roam around instead of being confined in a coop. Although sometimes it’s necessary to have them confined in their coop because of weather or predators, I still think free-ranging your chickens makes them happier.

A rule of thumb for free-range space is 250 to 300 square feet per chicken.

If your chickens don’t have enough yard space, be prepared for dirt spots all over your yard due to over-foraging. You’ll also see a lot more poop on the ground, which means flies and smells. Yuck!

I believe that free-ranging chickens should still have the same amount of coop space as non-free-ranging chickens. They should also have the same amount of space in their run if they’re going to spend any long periods of time there.

Personally, I give my chickens more than triple the recommended coop space requirements because I got them for both eggs and pets. I love to spoil them. (That’s why I built a large DIY coop, Design #7 in the Building A Chicken Coop eBook).

Nesting Boxes

You don’t need a nesting box (Amazon) for each bird because they tend to use the same box or two anyway.

My rule of thumb is to have one nesting box for every three hens.

Why More Space is Best

Besides being social, all chicken flocks have a pecking order. There will be a dominant bird that leads, and the importance order descends down through the flock to the least dominant bird. The less space your flock has the more likely it is for there to be bullying of the chickens at the bottom of the pecking order.

If they have more space, any chicken will be less likely to be cornered by bullies. It’s essential that chickens can run away from each other if there are any fights.

Start Small

When raising chickens in your yard for the first time, start with a small flock. Most people underestimate space requirements and overestimate egg consumption.

And build in extra space allowance, in case you want to expand your flock later.

But three chickens is the perfect number for beginners. If one chicken dies, there are still two left to keep each other company. Introducing new chickens to a flock is stressful for both chickens and beginner chicken keepers.

Chicken Breeds for Small Spaces

If all you can give your chickens is the minimum amount of space required, you should consider chicken breeds for small spaces. My favorite are the Silkie Bantams, Australorps, Orpingtons, Easter Eggers, Plymouth Rocks, and the Cochin Bantams.

The chickens mentioned above do better in confined spaced compared to other breeds, but it’s still best to give them as much space as you can.

Compact Chicken Coops

If you really have a small space, my suggestion would be to look for a chicken coop with a run underneath it, similar to this PawHut chicken coop on Amazon. There’s plenty of compact chicken coops out there, or you can even build your own (my favorite DIY compact coop is Design #3 in the Building A Chicken Coop eBook).