The subject of how much space per bird is often a question of great debate. There are minimum requirement guidelines, but most chicken keepers would agree that 1 foot per chicken is a cramped environment.
If your flock is not allowed to free range during the day and is kept constantly in cramped quarters, you’re going to find yourself scrambling around looking for a way to separate the docile birds from the aggressive ones. A pecking order is established in all flocks, confined or not. If there isn’t enough room for the weaker birds to escape trouble, you’ll be pretty frazzled by their battles and the sometimes the unfortunate outcome.
You can get away with a small housing space if your chickens will be free-range during the day. When it’s all said and done, at the end of each day there is usually only one argument… the nests. This problem is usually resolved quickly by the boss hens who choose first, leaving the weaker birds with what’s left.
The best living arrangement for your flock is to offer them space, and the more the better. Happy chickens are those who are free from conflict. Happy chickens are healthy chickens, and that means better egg production.
Recommended Space per Chicken, my Opinion…
At a minimum, 2 square feet of floor space in the coop if your chickens are allowed to free range or have a fenced area attached to the housing area. If your birds are confined all the time, 3-4 square feet of floor space. You won’t gain anything by trying to house too many birds in a small area, the truth is, happy birds fill the egg basket plain and simple.
It depends whether or not they are LUCKY. Hens on a mass production egg farm can expect an unpleasant one or two year lifespan before they are brutally slaughtered. Not a rosy picture, but wait, it’s even worse if a chicken hatches as a rooster. He will often be granted only five or six months before his life also comes to a screeching halt. One may be somewhat luckier than the other… but quite frankly I’m not sure which one.
Backyard chickens can live eight to ten years in an ideal situation. Meaning, quality grub, green fixin’s, fresh water, shelter, and space to exercise their instinctual behaviors. Of course there are always chickens with that special gusto for life who continue scratching in the dirt far beyond the norm.
The older a hen gets the less eggs she lays. Her production cycle may even cease altogether. But this is just a part of their change of life, same as ours. Chickens grow old, but but let’s not overlook their other valuable ageless contributions. They provide an endless amount of fertilizer for your garden, eat ticks, flies, mosquitoes, and the creepy crawlers that destroy the foliage in your yard. Chickens are hard workin’ bug eating machines that are quite happy to earn their keep… at every stage of their life.
I’m often asked if it’s okay to feed chickens rolled oats (the kind you buy for horses,) and the answer is yes. In fact, I recommend it! Oats are a good carbohydrate source, aren’t a hot feed, and aid in feather growth during the molting season.
How I Feed my Free Roaming Hens
Rolled oats are rich in protein and essential fatty acids, add some greens and hard-boiled eggs and you have an excellent chicken feed. I supplement with kitchen scraps when available and offer layer pellets for at least an hour or so in the morning and early evening. To minimize waste, you can cover the lay pellets with a trash container in between feedings. It’s not our job to feed the wild birds!
Keep a covered bowl in the refrigerator just for chicken scraps, it fills up fast making a very nice meal for your birds. Chickens do very well on a varied diet, you can be penny-wise and still have healthy happy chickens.