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Can You Keep Chickens In The Coop Or Run All Day?

With chicken keeping and self-sufficiency on the rise, more people are keeping chickens in urban areas and in small spaces, so free-ranging is not always an option and space can be limited.

The question of whether you can keep chickens in a coop or run all day is one which is sometimes asked but does not always have an answer. So I wanted to put together this post to explore the question of keeping chickens in a coop and run on a full-time basis.

As a chicken owner for many years, I’ve got to know a lot about chicken behaviour and how they react to certain circumstances. Knowing what makes chickens happy and seeing what they enjoy most, my answer to the question of whether it’s ok to keep chickens in a coop all day my answer would be:

A chicken coop should be opened to allow access a run each morning and not closed until it’s time for them to roost. Chickens will begin to become unhappy if they’re left in the coop and this could lead to them pecking each other in frustration. Ideally, chickens should also be allowed some time to graze outside of the run each day.

Read on to find out more about what can happen if chickens are kept in the coop all day, why they need to be let out into a run and beyond the run and how you can create a living environment which will keep your chickens happy.

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How long can you leave chickens in the coop?

How long you can keep chickens in a coop really depends on how big your coop is and what the chickens have available to them inside.

For big chicken sheds with feeders inside along with access to water, good ventilation and plenty of space for the chickens to walk around, chickens can probably spend more time in the coop.

If you have a standard sized coop where the coop is really just used for nesting and roosting then chances are there is no access to food and water inside the coop. In this case, the chickens will need to be let out into the run for food, water and fresh air early on in the morning.

The chickens will also need access to get back into the coop throughout the day for laying and shelter.

This article was first published on October 12, 2020 by Pentagon-Pets.

When we go to and let our chickens out of the coop in the morning they’re always ready and waiting to come out, this is because they’re up and ready for the day once daylight comes.

An automatic chicken coop door is a really good way to have more flexibility on those days where you can’t be there first thing in the morning to let chickens out, or if you’re not there at dusk to keep any predators out once the chickens go in to roost.

Please check the recommended products below for an automatic chicken coop door.

Is it ok if a chicken choses to stay in the coop?

Some chickens like to stay around the coop because they see it as a place of safety and this is something you might see more when you first get your chickens.

In time they will wander further as they get used to their new surroundings. Here are some other reasons why certain chickens may stay in or around the coop more than others:

  • A laying hen – it’s normal for laying hens to spend time nesting in the coop (usually in the morning).
  • A broody hen – a broody hen will want to spend all of her time sitting on eggs within a nest.
  • Bad weather – in bad weather conditions you may find that your chickens sit inside the coop for shelter.
  • In signs of danger – a chicken will run into the coop at signs of danger if they’re close by.
  • Nervous chickens – some chickens are more nervous than others, we find that our ex-battery hens spend more time around the coop.
  • If a chicken is feeling unwell – a sick chicken will often go to the coop out of the way of other chickens.
Image of a chicken coop on grass

What will happen if you leave chickens in a coop?

Chickens are natural grazers who love to be out in the fresh air and foraging for food such as bugs, worms, seeds and greens.

If they can’t do this and are locked inside they will become frustrated and will start pecking each other instead.

This is what happens with caged hens and why most re-homes ex-battery hens arrive with sores and most of their feathers missing.

Chickens who are kept in confined conditions are likely to become unhappy, are more likely to have health and or behaviour issues and are at more risk of injury through fighting.

As home chicken keepers the main reason we keep them is to make sure that our eggs come from happy hens who will have better lives than the poor hens who live in a commercial farming environment.

Pentagon Pet is the owner of this article that was first published on October 12, 2020.

Having a run area and allowing them a degree of free-ranging is the key to a happy and healthy chicken.

Happy chickens produce tastier eggs and are more likely to be regular layers, especially if they’re allowed to graze for natural food.

Can chickens stay in a run all day?

Keeping chickens in a run all day is fine as long as they have access to food and water and are able to return to the coop when they need to.

The image below shows our current set up for our hybrid and rescue hens. They have access to leave the run and onto grassland when they choose if we leave their gate open. But during various times of the day, they also chose to come back and scratch around the run and to have a drink.

Image of chickens in a run and having access to the coop

The more run space you can give your chickens, the happier they will be and this doesn’t need to be confined to the run size which comes to a coop, there are many options to extend by fencing around.

We use a corner of our garden which we don’t use and instead of buying a run, we fenced off the chicken coop with high wire fences. Although it’s a small space they have plenty of grazing room per chicken.

How much space your chickens need depends on the breed size and the number of birds you’re keeping.

If you can allow grazing outside the run and into part of your garden your chickens will love you for it. Even if it’s for just an hour a day it will allow them a more varied life and to graze for natural food.

In summary

  1. Chickens Need Access to a Run: Chickens should not be confined to a coop all day and should have access to a run where they can access food, water, and engage in natural behaviors. The coop is primarily used for nesting and roosting, and chickens should be allowed to move freely between the coop and run during the day.
  2. Importance of Grazing and Space: Allowing chickens to graze, whether within a run or in a free-range setting, contributes to their happiness and health. Providing ample space, either by maximizing run size or allowing access to additional grazing areas, enhances their quality of life and can impact egg production positively.
  3. Automatic Coop Doors for Flexibility: Utilizing an automatic chicken coop door can facilitate the chickens’ access to the run, especially when keepers cannot be present to manually open and close the coop. This ensures that chickens can access their run, food, and water from dawn without being restricted to the coop.
  4. Behavior and Preferences of Chickens: Chickens may choose to stay near or in the coop for various reasons, such as feeling unwell, being broody, or seeking safety. Observing their behaviors and ensuring they have the choice to access safe outdoor spaces supports their individual needs and preferences.
  5. Ensuring Happiness and Health: Happy and healthy chickens are more likely to be regular egg layers. Ensuring they have the opportunity to engage in natural behaviors, like grazing and foraging, and providing a secure and enriching environment, are key to promoting their well-being and productivity.

You might also find the following post helpful:

Do chickens need grass in their run?

7 ways to get chickens back into the coop to roost at night

Will chickens run away if you let them loose to free-range?

Do chickens need a run around their coop?

Keeping chickens with dogs and cats – tips and advice

Our recommended coop

Chicken coop for different flock sizes and different weather.

This article and its contents are owned by Pentagon Pets and was first published on October 12, 2020.

Click here to find out more about our recommended coop.