Space Needed To Raise Chickens: Broilers And Layers

chickens scratching through hay

You want to raise chickens, but you’re not sure how much space you need for the birds.

We’ll cover the area you’ll need for the brooder, pen space per bird, chicken tractors and area needed for chickens in your yard.

Chicks in a brooder need .5 sq. ft. each for the first 4 weeks, then 2 sq. ft. each. Broilers need 2 sq. ft. each. Laying hens need 4 sq. ft. of coop space each plus an outdoor area of 10 sq. ft. each or a 1/4 acre per 12 adult birds.

Age of chicksSpace needed per chick
0-4 weeks pen size.5 sq. ft. each
0-4 weeks
heated area in brooder
7 sq. inches each
4-8 weeks pen size2 sq. ft. each
Chicken tractor2 sq. ft. each
All chicks will need the same amount of brooder space, breed does not matter at this age.

Chicks 0-4 weeks need .5 sq. ft. each

When you first get your chicks until they are 4 weeks old, they will need half of a square foot each in their heated pen (called a brooder).

In their brooder young chicks need 7 sq. inches of heated space per chick.

This means a heated circle 12 inches in diameter is big enough for 16 chicks and a 16 ” heat circle is big enough for 28 chicks.

For example: If you have 15 chicks, you would need a brooder area of 7.5 sq. ft. with a 12″ diameter heated area for your chicks until they are 4 weeks old.

These numbers are for all chicks, no matter the breed or purpose.

Is Raising Meat Chickens Worth It? and Is Raising Chickens For Eggs Worth It? both go over the budget for buying and feeding your chicks.

Lower the brooder temperature every week

Brooder temperature can be reduced by 5 degrees every week, starting from the first week.

Until you get brooder temperature to match overnight temperatures in your area, your chicks still need some heat.

2 sq. ft. per bird in a chicken tractor

Between 3 and 4 weeks is when most people would start putting their chicks out in chicken tractors (moveable grazing pens for birds).

As long as you have gradually reduced the temperature in the brooder, your chicks will be fine in the chicken tractor.

Make sure your chicks have 2 sq. ft. each or more in the chicken tractor, so they have plenty of grass for the whole day.

Be aware that every predator you have loves chicken, so make sure the tractor is secure with a lid!

Cornish Cross vs Red Ranger goes over the differences I noticed between the two types of broilers when I raised them in the same batch.

chickens and an orphan gosling in a chicken tractor
Some of my broilers in their chicken tractor. There are white Cornish Cross, Red Rangers and an orphan gosling. The lid is off for the picture, but will be put back on for the day.
8×8 chicken tractorYard area needed
Move 1x per day for 28 days1/24th acre or 1,792 sq. ft.
Move 2x per day for 28 days1/12th acre or 3,584 sq. ft.
These numbers are for broilers, that’s why it’s only 28 days, but the same idea works for laying hens as well.

Yard area needed per chicken tractor

Let’s figure up how much yard space you’ll need for your chickens in a chicken tractor.

We’ll use 25 broilers, as an example, in an 8×8 chicken tractor. Laying hens can go in a chicken tractor also, but we’ll use broilers for today.

First off, you’ll need to move your chicken tractor at least once per day, twice would be better.

Since these birds are broilers, they are only going to be in your yard for another 3-4 weeks.

If you move your broilers 1 time per day and keep them for 4 more weeks, (after putting them in the chicken tractor at 3-4 weeks old), you’ll need 28 moves of the chicken tractor.

28 moves of the chicken tractor will cover 1,792 sq. ft. of yard, which is 1/24th of an acre, that’s a 40×45 foot area.

If you move the chicken tractor twice a day, you’ll need 1/12th of an acre for this batch of broilers.

Chicks 4-8 weeks need 2 sq. ft. each

If you are keeping your chicks inside, now that your chicks are a little bigger, they need more room.

Make sure your chicks have 2 sq. ft. of pen space each at this age and size.

Manure capping=chickens need more space

If you notice the pen “capping” this means developing a manure cap on top of the bedding, you do not have enough bedding or a big enough pen.

The capping manure patches will also be smelly, not good for your chickens or you!

Add more bedding and increase pen size if you are noticing manure caps.

Chickens in a outside run reduces coop manure

You could also put your birds outside. Your lawn will naturally capture poo and love it!

Even a small run of 10 sq. ft. per bird will drastically reduce the manure inside and make life better for both you and your birds.

Back to your 15 chickens, if you can give them a 9×18 area (the size of a parking space) your birds will have a great outdoor area for exercise.

Housing for
adult chickens
Heavy chickensLight chickensBantams
Coop with outside run4 sq. ft. 3 sq. ft. 2 sq. ft.
Coop only10 sq. ft. 7.5 sq. ft. 5 sq. ft.
Coop for 10 chickens
(with outside run)
40+ sq. ft. 30+ sq. ft. 20+sq. ft.
1/4 acre yard
with fenced perimeter
12 chickens15 chickens24 chickens
Note the coop for 10 chickens is figuring in plenty of outside pen space. If you are not providing outside space for your birds you need 2.5 times this amount of space per bird.

Adult chickens need 4 sq. ft. each

If you are raising broilers, your birds are at processing age and weight already, you don’t need to worry about coop space.

For everyone else raising chickens, once they move out of the brooder, you’ll want to have a more permanent place set up for them to live.

Even if you plan to give them plenty of space to roam about outside, they still need a place to take shelter in bad weather and a comfortable, secure area for the night.

For heavy breed chickens, generally brown egg layers, give them 4 sq. ft. of coop space plus outside space.

Light breed chickens, generally white egg layers, need 3 sq. ft. each of coop space each with an outside area.

Bantams and miniature or dwarf breed chickens need 2 sq. ft. each plus an outside run area.

hens drinking milk from a pan
Some of our hens, they are a mixed group, so we get a variety of eggs. They are drinking some of the extra milk I had from the morning milking.

Have roosts available for your chickens

Make sure your coop has roosts, because chickens feel safe when they are up off of the ground for the night.

The roosts can be as simple as long branches put across one end of the coop or dowel rods. Just make sure to use wood and not metal!

Make sure there is enough room for all the chickens to have a spot on the roost, plus a few extra spots (to make up for any space hogs).

Giving adult chickens plenty of space will help keep them happy and healthy. Skimping on space increases their stress and can lead to picking.

Have loose chickens but keep yard nice

What if you want to have a flock of loose chickens but also want your yard to continue looking like a yard? How many chickens can you have?

This is a tough figure to find, most articles tell you to get some chickens and see how things work out. Not super helpful!

50 chickens per acre is the figure I found for keeping chickens outside, so free ranging your yard, but also keeping some yard!

Overstocking your chickens, having more birds than your yard can support, will leave you with bare spots in the lawn.

If you have a smaller yard than one acre, adjust the number of chickens to fit your yard size.

For example: 50 chickens per acre is 25 chickens per half acre and 12 chickens (actually 12.5) per quarter acre.

These number are for heavy hens.

If you have light breed chickens you can add 25% to the numbers and for bantams, miniature or dwarf chickens you can double these numbers.

Even with this much space, you chickens will make a few overly used areas, especially right by the coop entrance.

To be fair, part of this entrance area overuse will be you going in and out, checking for feed, water and eggs.

Overall, 12 chickens per quarter acre is the number of birds you can have while still keeping your yard looking like a yard.


Chicken housing table numbers from How Much Space Do My Chickens Need? Murray McMurray

Space per chick numbers Missouri University Small Flock Series: Brooding and Growing Chicks

Yard area per chicken is from Robert Plamondon’s Rural Life stating 50 chickens per acre

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