How Much Space Does a Chicken Need?

Yesterday while in my yard when a woman walked by the Poulet Rouge and said, “Too small.”

“Excuse me, what did you say?” I asked.

She replied, “Your coop is too small. It’s pretty but your chickens need more space,” and kept walking.

I would say 99% of my interactions with people at the Poulet Rouge are very positive so I try not to let things like this bother me. However, I can appreciate where she’s coming from. She cares about living beings.

I can also say that my chickens have a better life than 99.99% of the laying hens in America. I genuinely care about their wellbeing.

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My birds have much more space than the “free range” hens that are the industry norm.

I’m going to give her the benefit of the doubt and assume that she raises her own free range chickens with ample space or is vegan, and not just an arm-chair activist.

The truth is that I would love for the girls to have a bigger coop but it simply isn’t possible, I’m pushing the limits already by having a coop on the out-lawn. But if you are wondering how much space a chicken needs, I’ll share what I have learned.

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These guidelines are for full-sized layers, mine are half that size.

First of all, my Silkies are bantams, a miniature breed. According the McMurray Hatchery, bantams need two square feet of foraging space each. The Poulet rouge measures 3 x 6 feet, affording my girls a luxurious six square feet of foraging space each, not including their nesting area.

Speaking of which, only Trixi knew out how to get up to the nest box by herself. I have to hoist Radish and Binky up there on cold nights. But this morning I was pleasantly surprised to see that Binky had finally figured it out.

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Maybe Radish will be next.

Still stinging a bit from the insinuation that I don’t properly care for my birds, I decided to look at why her comment bothered me. I, too, believe they could use more space.

I recently got an outdoor run for Bartleby, my Chiweenie, and had the brainstorm that it would work for pasturing the ladies.

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Et voila!

I put them in one of our fallow veggie garden beds and let them go to town on the weeds and bugs for a couple hours. I had to stay outside with them to make sure Mr. Bates (my cat) didn’t get too interested and to keep an eye on them. They loved it.

The ladies of the Poulet Rouge can expect to do more free ranging in the future and while it always hurts to be criticized, I will turn it into encouragement to do better by my girls. And Radish.

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Me and Radish
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