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When Chickens Outgrow Their Pen: Three Things that Must Happen

Wondering what happens when chickens outgrow their pen or brooder?

Well, they get a new pen, of course. It’s super important for chickens at any stage to have plenty of room so they don’t start to peck on one another.

If you jump start chicks in a brooder, they’re going to grow fast. So fast that you should already be thinking about a bigger pen. But there are questions you’re probably asking. 

Read more about how to start healthy chicks after hatching or after delivery

Today, I’m going to focus on space because it’s super important whether you’re raising chickens for meat and eggs or both. Chickens love their space. And when they start to outgrow the original pen you put them in, you’re going to have to do three things right away. 

In this post, I’m going to answer these questions:

  • About signs you might see when chickens outgrow their pen
  • If meat birds grow so fast, how much space do broiler chickens need.
  • Why space and safety is so important when raising meat chickens

3 Things that Must Happen when Chickens Outgrow Their Pen

Remove their heat lamps completely. 

By the time chickens are a few weeks old, they are done with the heat lamp. However, they still need light for several hours per day. 

For lighting during the day, you can keep the barn light on for them and turn it off at night. Or, set some lamps up that they can have light in certain areas of their pen. Birds as a whole perform best when they receive an adequate amount of lighting.

The reason I remove heat lamps is because they do not need them anymore. They won’t lay under them and they’ll act like they’re hot. If chickens are acting this way, turn off those heat lamps. See how the chickens act without them. 

Move Them to a Bigger Pen – You might have to build one

So, how much space do chickens actually need? Well, the rule of thumb for meat chicken coop size or pen size is about 10 square feet per bird. Laying hens is about the same but they can tolerate one another a little bit more. Plus, layers are generally free range during the day, so floor space requirement for layers in your back yard can be significantly less. 

If they have exceeded the space requirements and you feel the pen is overcrowded, it’s time to move them to a bigger pen. What type of pen works for chickens?

It depends on your location and supplies you have access to. Chicken wire fences work great but we’ve also used solid sides to build pens, such as tin or boards. It’s just however you want to make it and using what you have access to. 

The type of pen doesn’t so much matter as long as your chickens will be kept safe and healthy. 


When Chicks Outgrow Their Pen


Feed and Feeding Space

Chickens also require more adequate feeding space. Especially broiler meat chickens – this is one of the best tips for raising meat chickens I can give you. I can tell when I need to add feed space when I see they are trampling each other to get to the food when I put it in there for them to eat.

The example I will use is for 50 broilers since I have fed that many at once before. How much space for 50 chickens for meat? Well, stick with the 10 square feet per bird as far as pen space. 

As far as feeding trough space, they should have enough room to fit in and eat comfortably side by side. If these chickens don’t have enough space, they will hurt or kill each other.  So, I usually place long hanging troughs into the tank. This gives the chickens plenty of room depending on how many I have in the pen. 

If you’re feeding meat birds and want a feeding schedule, you can download and print mine right here!

Also, monitoring their intake is important. Don’t just throw food out and leave. You need to be checking in with them a few times to make sure they are all eating at a good rate. And also to see if they have plenty of space. 

This will help you regulate the amount of money you spend on feed as well as the health of the birds by giving them just the right amounts. When meat bird chicks are half grown, they will be eating around 1 1/2 bags of feed per week. 

So, the cost of raising meat chickens can be easily overwhelming but if you monitor closely and budget it right, you can be successful in raising meat chickens for profit. 

More Information on Feeding both Meat Chickens and Laying Hens Here

When Chicks Outgrow Their Pen

What About Laying Hens?

Young laying hens still need some sort of protection as they grow. Before they are mature, I grow out my laying hens in large pens that they have plenty of room to run around. 

After they start laying, I incorporate them into the coop with the older hens. I’ve found this to be the best way for me since the older hens can be bossy and mean towards younger chicks. This way, my young birds can have a chance to defend themselves against those older hens. 

From there, they can free range and just be happy hens. But inside their coop where they roost, they still need plenty of space. Our coop is 8 feet by 12 feet in size with plenty of roost space. I can comfortably fit 15 hens in that coop at night stress free. 

I prefer to free range my laying hens as long as they are safe and sound. It hasn’t always been that way. But things have been better now. 

Read about why I haven’t been so much for free ranging my hens in the past. 


Three Important Management Strategies for Healthy Chickens

Making sure chickens have enough space as well as the right temperature and lighting to grow and thrive is super important. Raising meat chickens and laying hens doesn’t have to be rocket science. 

I hope I’ve provided you with tips and resources to making the process more simple and stress free. Just focusing on these three things are going to help you stress less when it comes to raising chickens. 

If you’re interested in getting my new book about raising meat chickens from hatching to harvest, sign up here! 

~Much Love~


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