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Best environment for keeping pet chickens

group of free-range hens walking through grass © Emma Jacobs / RSPCA


Chickens need a warm, dry and well-ventilated chicken house.

This should have:

  • A big enough entrance - this should allow your chickens to pass through easily without having to crouch. More than one entrance helps avoid bullying and encourages them to use the outdoor area.
  • Space - there should be enough space for chickens to exercise, stretch their wings and carry out normal chicken behaviour. Roughly 12 square metres should be enough for 30 birds, though this depends on the size and numbers of chickens and layout of the house.
  • Covered flooring - this should be covered with dry material such as wood shavings or straw to allow foraging and dustbathing (particularly important when it's wet outside). You should top this up or replace it when needed.
  • Perches - these should be around 3 to 5cm wide with rounded edges, and the height should suit the size of the birds. There should be enough space for all chickens to comfortably roost at the same time (from 15cm per chicken), and enough space between perches to let them get up and down without hurting themselves.
  • Nest boxes - egg-laying hens need quiet, enclosed nest boxes. These should be draught-free and lined with a clean, dry, comfortable nesting material, such as straw or wood shavings.

You also should give your chickens food and water in their chicken house. Clean the house and everything inside regularly and disinfect it to remove parasites.

Outdoor area

As well as their chicken house, your chickens will need an outdoor area to roam in.

This should have:

  • Short grass - keep grass short, as long strands can become trapped in the chickens' digestive system.
  • Space - the area should be large enough to allow wet, muddy or barren areas to be sectioned off to recover and to minimise the risk of disease, while still allowing enough space for chickens to roam on good pasture.
  • Shelter - provide overhead cover, such as small trees or purpose-built shelters, to give protection from the sun, bad weather and wild animals, and to encourage them to explore.
  • Dry soil - where they can dust bathe and forage.
  • Food and water outdoors - outside feed and water should be sheltered to keep it clean and dry, and to avoid attracting rodents and wild birds.
  • Fencing - fences should be well maintained and provide protection against wild animals. This should also ensure that your chickens can't escape or become trapped or injured.

Read more about keeping chickens as pets.

Find out more