Your poultry coop should be large enough to allow proper air circulation but small enough to keep from being too cold and drafty in winter. Adequate space for each bird is important for bird comfort and health. If you do not provide adequate space per bird, behavioral problems such as pecking and cannibalism may result. It is difficult to prescribe precise space allowances because of the complexity of the environmental effects. The stocking density should allow birds to express their natural behaviors as much as possible.
The minimum amount of space per bird depends on the species, breed, and age of the birds and whether the birds have access to outdoors. If outdoor access is provided, if the climate does not allow for year-round use of the outdoor area, this will increase the interior space requirement. There is very little peer-reviewed research looking at the space allowances for backyard poultry. Most of the space requirements that have been developed are for commercial production systems.
Some recommendation guidelines for urban poultry are:
- Laying hens: A minimum of 3-4 square feet/hen indoor and 10 square feet/hen outdoor is recommended. Such outdoor access densities are not practical in urban settings. Smaller sized runs are possible but the management of the outdoor run is key. It will quickly be denuded of any plant material and could become muddy during wet weather. This would make the outdoor access more an exercise yard rather than a pasture area. It is important that the run is located in a well-drained area.
- Meat chickens: A minimum of 3-4 square feet/chicken indoor. Outdoor access is not necessary for the commercial strains because they are less likely to use it. For the slower-growing strains, outdoor access should be provided at the same levels as for laying hens.
- Turkeys: Because of their larger size, turkeys require more space. It is recommended that you have a minimum of 6 square feet/turkey indoors and 20 square feet/turkey outdoors.
- Waterfowl: The manure of waterfowl contains a lot more moisture. Waterfowl droppings contain over 90% moisture. This requires more management of the outdoor run as well as indoor housing space. For adult ducks, 5 square feet/duck of indoor space are recommended. There are no specific recommendations for outdoor space, but the larger the run the better. Geese are much larger than ducks. The recommended allowance is about three times that of ducks.