How much space do chickens need?

Chickens are generally easier to handle than most other barnyard animals. However, raising even the smallest flock can be overwhelming if you don’t know a few specific rules. No matter the size of your flock, you want to provide your birds with a healthy environment where they can coexist comfortably and happily. For the most part, this means providing them with adequate space.

So, how much space do chickens need? It’s essential to consider any local laws, chicken coop permits, or guidelines that dictate the minimum space requirements for chickens in your area. There are a lot of factors that go into determining the amount of space each bird needs. Chickens are social animals and will appreciate an incredible ecosystem where they interact with each other but still have room to forage individually.

If you are new to keeping chickens, space is one of the most important aspects of a flourishing poultry flock. In this post, you will learn about your chickens’ needs, emphasizing the amount of space they need to stay happier and healthier.

How much room do chickens need?

Chickens enjoy it when they can move around, forage, and do whatever they want without wading through a crowded coop or run. Not providing your chickens adequate space can cause many problems, including stress, cannibalism, pecking, and infections.

That said, how much space your chickens need depends immensely on the breed size and whether the birds will stay indoors or have outdoor space to run.

Coop space

If your chickens can access sensibly sizable outdoor space, providing them with about 3-5 square feet of coop space will be okay.

chicken coop space requirements per feet
Ensure a minimum of 15 sq. ft. of coop space per chicken

The detailed recommendations vary depending on the chicken size. For instance, small breeds like Bantam chickens need about 2 square feet of coop space per bird. Medium chicken breeds, like ISA Brown, Leghorn, and Sapphire Gem chickens, need at least 3 square feet of coop space per bird, whereas large breeds, like Buff Orpington and Plymouth Rock, require a minimum of 4 square feet per bird. 

On the other hand, chickens that don’t have access to outdoor space will need about 8-10 square feet of coop space per bird. 

Generally, bigger is better regarding the space your chickens need in the coop. Of course, there are many practical benefits to providing your chicken with bigger space. 

Roost space

Chickens need a place to roost or perch, so add roosting bars where your birds can fly up to and relax. Ideally, each hen needs 8-12 inches of space on roosting bars.

chicken coop roost bar distance
Ensure a minimum of 8 inches per chicken on the roost to prevent overcrowding

Nesting space

You will also need to set some nesting boxes inside the coop. Thankfully, they don’t take up much space. Based on your preference, you can have individual nesting boxes or one large box with dividers. 

Nesting boxes need to be about 12 inches square. However, if you keep large-sized breeds, you must make the boxes at least 14 inches square to accommodate their massive bodies.

Run space

The run is the outdoor space where your chickens spend much time walking and roaming. Ideally, every chicken needs 10-15 square feet of outdoor space; however, there is no harm in making it larger.


chicken run area size recommendation
Allocate at least 10 sq. ft. of chicken run space per bird

Providing your chicken with adequate space is vital to keeping them happier and healthier. If you can afford plenty of room for your birds, make sure it is not in exchange for safety, especially if you live in a region where predators are common. In other words, a bigger space is only better when safe.

Factors that go into determining how much space your chickens need

Spacing is the most basic housing principle when it comes to keeping chickens. The total space you can afford determines the maximum number of birds you can keep at any one time. 

If you are new to poultry keeping and are building your very first coop, here are factors to guide you in determining the amount of space your chicken need:

  • Size of your chickens: The breed and size of your chickens is the first thing you must pay attention to when determining how much space your flock needs. Chickens are usually grouped into small, standard, and large-sized breeds, where each category has its minimum space requirements. You need to settle on the chicken breed you’d most like to raise and then work from that point.
  • Size of flock you plan to have: If you are new to keeping chickens, it is evident that you want to start with small numbers. Whichever your starting point is, to save on the costs of building a new coop every time you buy a new bird, it is best to come up with a total number of chickens you want to raise, then use that number to determine the amount of space you need. For instance, if you aim to keep six medium-sized chickens, you will need at least 18 square feet of the coop and about 90 square feet of run space. Determining the flock you want to have will ensure you provide each bird with enough space.
  • Temperament: Not all chicken breeds are docile; some are very aggressive and will often attack peers for various reasons. For this reason, research the breed you want to keep and get to know if they can live in harmony together and even with other breeds. Some flocks will need a bigger space where each chicken can have personal space and must be carefully monitored as they can fight even when least expected. It is best to give aggressive breeds more space than recommended. Docile breeds, on the other hand, can live harmoniously in more-confined spaces. 
  • Weather: To the surprise of those new to the chicken-keeping hobby, the local climate can impact the coop space you need to offer each bird. If you live in a region where your chicken can roam outdoors year-round, you will likely be okay with a smaller coop, just enough for your flock. On the other hand, if you live in a colder region where winter poses a severe threat to the survival of your chicken, a relatively larger coop will be best.
  • Broodiness: Some chicken breeds, like Orpingtons, are well-known for broodiness. While this doesn’t impact coop size, you may need more nesting boxes to ensure egg production goes uninterrupted should some hens opt to sit.

Chickens like to be active, so balancing these factors can help ensure you offer them a cozy, healthy environment. Above all, beware that the maximum space you can devote to the coop and run space can limit the number of chickens you can keep.

What happens if your chickens do not have enough space?

Even if you are a seasoned poultry farmer and understand all aspects of keeping chickens, it is easy to succumb to the temptation to keep more birds in a small space. Unfortunately, insufficient room for your chickens can lead to many problems. 

If you offer less space than recommended, manure will build up quickly, raising ammonia levels in the coop and hurting your chickens(And causing quite a stink.)

Here are some of the problems you might have to deal with if you don’t provide your flock with enough space:

  • Health issues: It is undeniable that chickens will poop anywhere and everywhere. As such, your chickens are more likely to sit or stand in filth if overcrowded. Overcrowding can also be a leading cause of water contamination. All these filthy conditions can lead to health issues. Your chickens could also peck at their poop, resulting in issues like fly strikes. 
  • Bullying: Even the most docile chicken breeds can turn aggressive when stressed, and overcrowding is one of the primary causes of stress in chickens. When stressed, your chickens may start bullying each other, which can result in bleeding. In worst cases, plucking and pecking among chickens can result in death. 
  • Parasites: Overcrowding creates a perfect environment for lice and mites to breed and spread. Although they can be treated, they can be genuinely annoying when they attack your chickens in large numbers. In extreme cases, mites can suck your chicken’s blood to cause anemia.
  • Laying issues: If your coop is too small, you will likely have inadequate nesting boxes. This will cause your birds to lay eggs anywhere they can find space, even on a concrete floor. Laying anywhere can lead to broken eggs, or your chickens may start eating them. Unfortunately, stopping egg eating is tricky, so you better ensure your chickens have enough nesting boxes.

Failing to offer enough space to your chickens is risking their lives. Consider smaller breeds if you want to keep chickens but have limited space for the coop and run.


Caring for chickens involves giving them adequate and safe space to grow and remain healthy. This is the first step towards raising a happy and healthy flock. Depending on where you live, the breed you plan to keep, and the number of birds you want, this guide will help you provide your chickens with the necessary space.