Your Chicken Questions Answered by a Veterinarian. Honest and Practical Advice

How Much Space Do Free Range Chickens Need?

One common question that people have about chickens is how much space they need. After all, chickens need to be able to move around and stretch their legs, right? Well, the answer is a bit more complicated than a simple yes or no. Free-range chickens need more space than chickens that are confined to a coop, but the amount of space depends on several factors. Read on to find out just how much space Free range chickens need.

How Much Space Do Free Range Chickens Need?

Chickens need space in order to be happy and feel comfortable and free-range chickens need as much space as you can give them.

Basically, if your hens have room to wander and explore and they don’t look really crammed in the coop, they are ok.

We only keep free-range hens that are lucky enough to have over 40 square feet of space each. For free-range hens, we like to give as much space as we can, we have 12 hens and they share a large coop to sleep in and a 22-foot by a 22-foot outdoor area where they spend the day.

But as a minimum, each chicken should have 4 square feet of space, any less than that is just too cramped for the hens and you want them to be happy and healthy as possible.

Free range chickens need a decent amount of space

Here is a basic table that shows roughly how much space each chicken should have in the coop. However, this is the minimum, for a chicken to be free-range it needs more space which we’ll get to later on.

2 chickens =8 square feet of space (minimum)
3 chickens =12 square feet of space (minimum)
4 chickens =16 square feet of space (minimum)
5 chickens =20 square feet of space (minimum)
6 chickens =24 square feet of space (minimum)
7 chickens =28 square feet of space (minimum)
8 chickens =32 square feet of space (minimum)
9 chickens =36 square feet of space (minimum)
10 chickens =40 square feet of space (minimum)
This is the general amount of chickens need but the more space you can give them, the happier they’ll be.

How much space do chickens need to be free-range?

free range chickens in front of barn

We want our chickens to live the healthiest and most natural lives possible, which why our lucky hens get over 40 square feet of space each. From a commercial standpoint, this isn’t ideal but we don’t sell our eggs. Depending on where you live there will be different regulations for what is considered free-range.

We’d probably consider free-range about 20-25 square feet of space per chicken as a minimum. As we mentioned this varies depending on your location but this is the table we use when determining how much space free range chickens need:

2 chickens =40-50 square foot of space (minimum)
3 chickens =60-75 square foot of space (minimum)
4 chickens =80-100 square foot of space (minimum)
5 chickens =100-125 square foot of space (minimum)
6 chickens =120-150 square foot of space (minimum)
7 chickens =140-175 square foot of space (minimum)
8 chickens =160-200 square foot of space (minimum)
9 chickens =180-225 square foot of space (minimum)
10 chickens =200-250 square foot of space (minimum)

How much space chickens need in the coop

Surprisingly, inside the coop, the chickens need much less space. We fit all 12 of our hens into a medium-sized shed with no problem whatsoever and they have more than enough room to lay eggs and remain comfortable throughout the night.

This is because instead of using traditional roosting/laying boxes for each hen, we just use roosting poles. By using the poles, we were able to double the number of chickens we could fit in the coop because it is just so space-efficient.

Chickens also don’t mind sleeping right next to each other which also makes keeping them in a coop even more efficient

How much space chickens need in their laying boxes?

The chickens don’t need all that much space in the nesting boxes, as long as it is snug and large enough for the hens to fit in, it’s fine. However, it is always good to measure so that you can keep nests thoroughly padded with bedding so the hens are as comfortable as possible.

The hens don’t need a large number of nesting boxes as well, between 12 chickens, we have 3 nesting boxes and we’ve never had a shortage problem. Hens will share and wait if they have to which is why giving each chicken a nest is a complete waste as they will all tend to use only a couple. The likeliness of all of your hens wanting to lay at once is virtually impossible and even if they do, they are more than happy to wait for a nest.

A good rule of thumb is one nesting box per 3 chickens

chicken in nesting box

So what coop should I get?

We’d personally recommend that you make your own from a garden shed as it provides the most space, gives plenty of advantages and it much cheaper providing that you have a garden shed beforehand.

However if you don’t have the time for a DIY job that’s not a problem at all because you can easily find good quality, coops online which are easy to assemble. One of our favorites is the cocoon chicken coop hen house which is in the medium price spectrum but offers a ton of features and quirks that you only find on top-level chicken coops.

There are a lot of good coops on the market, ranging in price, quality, etc. But we feel the Cocoon chicken coop is the most suited for people buying their first coop or keeping chickens for the first time.

Most importantly, it has a good amount of space for a few hens and has the majority of things already done for you, it comes with nesting boxes and perching bars and even an easy closure system. It’s our number one recommendation for someone who wants to keep chickens but doesn’t want to take the DIY route.

As well as this, the coop is reasonably priced. There are cheaper coops on the market but you do pay for the better-quality products and in the case of chicken coops, it is worth it and it’ll save you the hassle of having a cheap product that you have no idea how to assemble or use.

Making the most out of space

If you don’t have a lot of room to give your hens, you can still make the most out of the space by adding features to your chicken run. The outside area of the coop can be used cleverly to give the hens some extra things to do in the coop.

As we mentioned earlier, chickens need an ex-amount of space in order to remain happy, but having a bare coop will also bore them. Especially if you’re keeping chickens in small quantities (the larger you’re flock, the most diverse and healthy their social structure).

Adding some features like a few perching poles, a dry area where they can mud-bath and laying wood-chippings on the floor of the run goes a long way. Your hens will be occupied all day, pecking at the cracks in the wood-chippings to find insects, balancing and perching on the poles and in the summer, hens love having a mud-bath

Why you should try to give hens more space than they need

Giving hens more space than they need has many advantages, the main one being is that it stops the spread of contagious diseases in your flock. If you have a tightly packed coop and one of your chickens gets infected, then it’s much more likely to pass it on to other chickens when contained in a confined area. Having more space limits the likelihood of this happening, also if you notice a chicken looking and behaving unwell, you should get professional advice and isolate your hen.

Another reason to give your chickens more space than they need is that keeping them in a confined space is more likely to cause bullying within the flock. We’ve seen this several times when there is limited space in a coop, the dominant chickens become aggressive and start pecking and targeting particular chickens, this can cause bleeding and in some cases even worse. To prevent bullying in your flock, you may want to read our article on how to stop my chicken from being bullied.

The last reason you really should give your chickens as much space as possible is for your own sake. The smell of cramped chickens is horrendous and you’ll be changing their bedding every day which trust us is the least rewarding part of keeping chickens. If you have this issue you may want to check out our article: why does my chicken coop stink.


You don’t need a lot of space to keep free-range chickens, we only give a corner of our backyard/garden to keep hens and for the number of advantages, they bring it hardly seems like a sacrifice.

By giving your hens the right amount of room, it will keep them happy, it will keep you happy (as you’ll have to deal with fewer issues), and will ensure that these amazing birds can live their lives as stress-free as possible.

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