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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.

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.

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.

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

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

I hope this post has helped to answer your question around keeping chickens in the coop or run, to summarize the best practices for keeping chickens in a coop and run:

  • Chickens shouldn’t be locked inside an average-sized coop outside of roosting hours and should be allowed access to a run during the day time.
  • An automatic door is a good solution if you’re not always there to let your chickens in and out of the coop.
  • The more run space you can give the better if your chickens are unable to go free-range.
  • Giving chickens time to free-range outside of the coop and run each day will help to keep your chickens happy and healthy.

You might also find the following post helpful:

Do chickens need grass in their run?

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

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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.