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Recommended Den Sizes

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I am the Committee Chair for a Cub Scout Pack. We are having problems with den sizes that seem to be to large. Right now we have a Wolf den with 13 boys and a Bear den with 14 boys. Each den has an Assistant Leader, but still they have problems. I have broached the subject of dividing the dens into 2 dens and having another trained leader lead one of the dens - but the opposition is strong. The parents want their boys to stay with their friends and don't want to break them up. My son was a Bear last year in a 14 boy den - the den meetings were insane! We finally broke into 2 dens of 7 boys each and it has been wonderful ever since - I know my son is learning much more now and getting more out of Cub Scouting than he did in his large den.


I have gone over the Leaders Manual and scoured the internet for BSA guidelines on den sizes - what do they recommend - what do they require? We need some bite to get these dens down to workable sizes.



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Everything I've ever seen says a den is 6 to 10 boys. The leader handbook should have some information about that and the why's behind it.


Perhaps the dens could split into 2 groups, meet together for an opening ceremony, then divide up for the main activity, then come together for closing cermony/snack time. They could still do things like field trips as one group. It doesn't mean the boys will not get to see their friends ever again.



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Many packs I know of limit den sizes to eight scouts. From my experience as a den leader and a cubmaster I think that makes good sense. In fact we limited the tiger dens to 6 scout maximum since every scout has an adult partner with them. Trying to to an effective den program becmes more difficult as you add more people.


I would certainly recommend that your current dens need to be divided up into more manageable sizes.


Bob White

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The only hard and fast rules I'm aware of concerning den size are only slightly related. The reference is in the Registrar's manual. The rule is if there is a Cub Scout age (Wolf or Bear) boy in the pack, there must be a registered den leader. If there is a Tiger Cub, there must be a Tiger Den Leader. If there is a Webelos (whether he's first year or second year) there has to be a registered Webelos Leader.


The guideline for Den size that I was trained to tout is generally 6 boys -- which leaves room to recruit two more to "fill" the den. I think that's a good size.


However, there isn't a rule that says you can't have more than 8. I think we're trying to avoid having packs turn away boys because of a lack of den leaders.


I hope I didn't muddy things up too much.



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Both of the above are good advice. Fourteen is way too big. Six to eight is the official recommendation, but with six boys, if you drop a few it's hard to keep critical mass. With 10, if a few boys bring friends, you're too big again. If you need an official reference, look at pages 7-2 and 10-8 in the Leader Book.


I like Sctmom's idea of easing into the two dens by having common parts of the meetings then splitting up. Some whole packs meet that way. My Webelos den doesn't really meet that way, but we frequently (5-6 times during the year) have a joint meeting with the other Webelos den for a special program or outing.(This message has been edited by Twocubdad)

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I view eight boys as a maximum, but that was my preference as a den leader. In the pack I was in, the den leader had the right to limit the size of the den. The Cubmaster should not be assigning boys to dens or limiting the den size. That responsibility to fall on the den leaders and a distant second to the CC.


If no den leader steps up for the boys, tough patoot in my book. If a parent wants their son in Scouts, they should shoulder some of the leadership "burden."

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I thought that the CS Leader book defines a den as "6-8 neighborhood boys".

Also, the offical BSA Den Advancement Report (33847) only has 10 lines for Cub Scout's names, so one can infer that the Boy Scouts didn't want the dens to be larger than that.

Bigger than 10 should be split. There is no real control, unless you have three or four traine3d leaders. My "span of control" guidelines at work is only five adults to one supervisor, and kids are more "difficult" than adults.

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6 - 8 is the right size for most activities, but I and my other leaders prefer to keep them even number as much as possible for buddy system and for a lot of the pairing games and crafts.


10 would be the max. More than that, you'll have crowd control problem due to the attention span and different degrees of skills that the boys will have. The larger Den will also pose logistic problems and as you pointed out someone will be left out. It is possible; however, it will require a lot of parental helps and a very well thought out Den meeting. Of course, so does the smaller den.


In our Pack, we have various, but mostly 6-8 boys dens. We do have 1 or 2 10-12 boys den; however, they quickly trim down to 8-9 as the year progresses. We have 12-14 Dens in our Pack! So far the strongest Dens and most tightly knit are the ones that have 5-7 strong "core" boys (these are the ones that come regularly)!


Key to any den is to keep them busied and entertained. Lots of prep work and planning. Get the parents to help. Plan B will always be in good use. Parent helps is a must. Lots of gathering activities and other activities for faster workers and overachievers. Get the parents to be involved. Have the boys take turn at various Den planning and tasks. Last but not least, did I mention lots of parental assistance?


Good luck,



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My son's Webelos 1 den had 14 boys last year and as stated above, it was insane......numerous times I had to leave the room to clear my head. We have two assistant den leaders. One's work schedule makes it impossible for him to be there the majority of the time and the other likes to chit caht with the dad's. I've never seen him lift a finger. I suggested splitting them up last year and was told no. Same thing, they didn't want to split the boys up who had gone thru Cubs together. The decision was that we'd split them at their meeting after the opening and have them work on different parts of an activity. Half way thru the meeting, the boys would swap adjoining rooms to work on the other half of the activity. Didn't work. There was always kids who wanted to see what was happening in the other room or wanted to be with their buddy in the other room.


We have had several boys drop out. The Bears only had three boys and they are now advancing to Webelos 1's while ours are advancing to Webelos 2's. Because the Bears was such a small group and no one would voluteer to be a leader, they are going to meet with the Webelos 2's!!! Now we are back at 13 to 15 boys in a mixed den. Bad decision in my opinion. The Webelos 2's will be crossing over in February and that will leave the three Webelos 1's alone and without a leader.


The "ggod" news is that where I was not a leader last year, I'm now the new Committee Chairman. So, I can work with the problem and see what we can get done. However, it has been our Cub Master who has had to wear too many hats in the past and was the one who was resistant to splitting the den up. The den leader, cub master and I will all be leaving with our sons for Boy Scouts in Feb. That is going to put the pack in a world of hurt if we can't get others to belly up to the bar. On the other hand, I keep telling me self, "just 6 more months of chaotic meetings until we move to a troop!"


Bottom line, I think 8 boys is a wonderful and managable number for a den. 10 maximum, 6 minimum.

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Hi All


I have experience on all sides of this subject. First, I agree the ideal number is about eight, give or take.


As the CM of a pack of 100 scouts, I was always dealing with numbers. I had one group in which my younger son was part of, a soccer team of 12 boys who all wanted to be in the same den. From the experiences of other large dens, I pretty much insisted on a split. The parents of this group are pretty close and I found two that would each take a den with the help of the other parents. The parents and boys were still not happy about the split, so I told them if it didnt work out, I would personally take the whole group. And when they reached the Webelos age, they knocked on my door and took me up on the offer. Both dens grew during the wolf/bear years, so I had 15 scouts. There den numbers were 6 and 7, so we combine the numbers to create Webelos Den 67.


There are just some groups that will not be happy unless they are together, so if they wont do the right thing, do the next best thing and work to make the group work. While I may have had 15 scouts, later it grew to 16, I divided them up into two groups or denpatrols. Then I made sure I had enough program that I could split the program part of the meeting into two parts with a parent teaching or running each part. I ran each meeting in a large room at a church where we could separate the two groups on opposite sides of the room. The whole group met together for openings, closings and games. But for the program, the groups would split and go to their program for about 15 or 20 minutes, then switch sides of the room to the other program. I had many of my meetings outside and in the park to let them run during the games. With a resource of 32 adults, I made sure I had at least three adults with me, an assistant and two program directors.


That was six years ago. How well did it work? One of the fathers enjoyed the den so much that he started his own troop and took 12 of my Webelos with him. Of the 16 Webelos, 15 stayed in the Troops for three years and 12 are still in scouts. 11 are Eagles with my son the last hold out. Several of the Eagles have told me that Webelos was some of the best scouting they remember. Obviosly from the other troop.


So if your Den is stubborn and doesnt listen to reason, then give them what they want, but split them into a couple of groups during the meeting. You can change the groups now and then if they want, but that never came up with my guys, thank goodness. Make sure you have one adult who directs the den program, but at least two others helping, and I would say three. Move your meetings somewhere with a lot, A LOT of room to allow space between the groups. I also found one hour was a bit difficult for this size, so I increased them to one and half hour meetings two times a month. Worked very well.


Good luck, I know how you feel.




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  • 13 years later...

While I may have had 15 scouts, later it grew to 16, I divided them up into two groups or denpatrols. 



​This is an old thread but this is great advice. I'm finishing the year as a Wolf Den leader and we have 14 boy's. Halfway through this year we moved from a garage into a school multipurpose room. I started to break the Scouts into groups of 3 and rotate them around into 3 activity stations.


Our den meetings are every other week and last 1.5 hours.


It has mostly worked but I have run into an issue with the Denner program. I wasn't able to have every Scout be a Denner or assistant Denner.


I'm also concerned about the Scouts not building a close bond/comradery with the other Scouts in their Den.


I've been mulling over the idea of breaking the den into 3 smaller, permanent groups, but I wasn't sure what to call them... Den Patrols!


This will let me assign a Denner for each den patrol and let them cycle through a few times throughout the year! And I can let each group give themselves a name!


Love the idea!


Thanks (From the future!)



Edited by RememberSchiff
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we do it a bit different but it works.  We have 1 den per rank level.  So we have had a Tiger Den as big as 30.  When we meet they divide into smaller groups. We have multiple den leaders and they would work together.  It prevents one den out performing other dens or one den dying out. I think the days of 6-8 scouts meeting at someone's house is long gone. 


We meet at School as a Pack every two weeks.  We do a mini pack meeting (10 min) then the dens break out to various rooms for 50-60 min.  Once the dens are off in their various spaces/ rooms they will divide up further is needed.


It has worked for us for many years and we are always right under 100 cubs. 

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  • 2 weeks later...

I started the year with 11 Tiger Cubs plus a twin sister tagalong.  An 12th joined (I believe at the encouragement of the District for us to add more Cubs) later in the year but never showed.


By crossover this week, I was down to 6 regular attendees (7 if you count the sister) and one infrequent who earned their badges.   The others were still on the roster but essentially dropped out.  One moved away.


The last 4 or 5 months with the smaller number went well.  10 Cubs, despite parental help, was chaos.  Our meeting room was small and I could never quiet them down for a few minutes for talk time.


I definitely recommend splitting big groups, if you have the leadership.  This year we didn't, but through attrition it evened out and I think the remaining boys had a good year. 

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  • 2 months later...

If the patrol method is working in cubs, then that's a good work-around. We tried something similar but Tiger year for my little guy was a bust. Tiger year for my older son was our start in scouting and we had lots of recruits that year so the Committee Chair sat the leaders down together and we went through the list and carved out two dens. It was a little painful but necessary - we soon became three dens of up to 11 boys each! (Cubs took on a life of its own in that grade, over half the boys my son's grade were in the pack) Through attrition we still had 25 boys get AOL at the end and most went on to the two troops in town.


Now my younger son finished Bear year in a den of 11 while the other den has 9, but our pack has a more serious Scout focus in Webs/AOL (meeting almost weekly for months to do outdoor skills, etc) so we may be losing more boys who play travel teams, etc. We'll see what happens in September but I hope we still have two healthy dens! 


We have between 8-10 per den in most years. It's not ideal, I'd say 6-8 works better. But, it's hard enough to have leaders step up and sometimes cubs move away or move into other activities so we don't see 8-10 as a problem. 

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