Carolina-Coops-Chicken-Keeping-FAQ

Chicken Keeping FAQ

THE COOP

How do I know what size chicken coop I should get?

For the henhouse, we recommend 1 foot per chicken on the roost bars. In the run, we recommend 10 square feet per chicken. Our standard Carolina Coop or American Coop has a 12′ x 6′ footprint, with a 4′ x 6′ henhouse that has two 6-foot roost bars. So, seven chickens would be comfortable in the run, if they cannot free range, and 12-15 chickens can roost in the henhouse. However, we suggest that you never max out your chicken coop, so you have room to grow your flock. And we always suggest free ranging, if possible.

What’s the difference between the Carolina Coop and the American Coop?

The standard Carolina Coop and the American Coop both have the same 12′ x 6′ footprint, with a 4′ x 6′ henhouse with two 6-foot roost bars. Both coops come with HDPE deep litter bed and HDPE lined nest box.

The Carolina Coop has polycarbonate windows inserts that can be removed from outside the coop and muntins, that gives it a traditional window look.

The windows on the American Coop are also polycarbonate, but they are cantilevered to open as are the henhouse door inserts.

The Carolina Coop has removable henhouse doors and the 2x4s are planed and trimmed. The coop has three layers: frame, henhouse wall, and trim.
This also allows for other coop options, such as board & batten, clapboard, or ship lap siding.

Both coops are built with premium Douglas fir lumber, have black coated 1/2″ hardware cloth, exterior zinc hardware, and metal roofing. Our Carolina and American Coops come in a variety of run and henhouse sizes, plus a bunch of other options.

What is the California Coop?

The California Coop is built like our American Coop only smaller.

With a 4′ x 9′ overall footprint, the California Coop (Cali Coop) is perfect for small flocks of about 4 or 5 full-sized hens or more if you have bantams.

Then henhouse is 3′ x 4′ and has one 4-foot roost bar and a two-gang egg hutch. The options for the California Coop are limited to black roofing and black hardware, HDPE henhouse floor insert, additional two-gang egg hutch, and additional 3′ run extensions.

Another difference with the California Coop is that we eliminated the henhouse screen doors. The back doors open and it has a drop down gate with our signature deep litter bed. There still is plenty of ventilation in this little coop!

The California Coop is a superior walk-in chicken coop that also is made from Douglas fir, has zinc hardware, .5-inch PVC coated black hardware cloth, pocket screws, and galvalume roofing.

YOU CAN COMPARE OUR COOPS HERE

The chicken coops pictured above are all equipped with upgrades

What is the Penthouse coop?

Our Penthouse Coop is just like the Carolina Coop without the run. It’s perfect for people who already have a designated run area for their chickens, but just need a quality chicken coop. It comes with all the standard features of the Carolina Coop’s henhouse.

Does the henhouse need a door?

No, we design our coops and run so that it is very secure and predator proof. Plus, we either attach a predator apron on chicken coops that we install or we instruct our customers to do so and how to do it. Since there is no way a predator can enter the henhouse, a door is unnecessary. However, some clients want a door for added peace of mind or to mitigate drafts in very cold climates, but it isn’t necessary.

Do I need one egg box per chicken?

No, industry standard says three to four chickens can share one egg box, however, we have many times seen six to eight chickens sharing one nest box. We find a bunch usually have a favorite and they will use that.

That’s why our nest boxes have dividers that can be removed, just in case there are hens with chicks or eight girls want to cuddle.

How much space should the run be for my chickens?

We recommend a minimum of 10 square feet per chicken for the run. But remember, you don’t want to max it out, you want to leave room to grow your flock. Even if your chickens can free range, there may be times when they need to only be in the run.

Carolina Coops-run space

Does the Carolina, American, or California Coop come with the predator apron?

The predator apron is only included if you are having Carolina Coops install your coop at your location, otherwise, you have to purchase and install your predator apron.

Here’s a video to show you how to install a predator guard on your chicken coop.

What is the Deep Litter Method?

The deep litter method is an old-time method where you allow your coop litter to build up over a period of time, usually a year or longer. We love to use HDPE to line our henhouses, which makes it ideal for the deep litter method, because it keeps the moisture needed for composting and it’s easy to clean and is food safe.

The deep litter method starts with a good layer of pine shavings or we LOVE industrial hemp fibers. Instead of cleaning it all out every week or so and replacing it when the poop accumulates, one simply stirs up the bedding a bit with a light rake and tosses another layer of bedding on top once a week or so. Then after a year or longer, you clean out all but leave 1-2 inch layer of the old stuff behind to help break down the new stuff.

ALL OUR COOPS HAVE OUR SIGNATURE DEEP LITTER BEDS

Carolina Coops signature deep litter beds

What is Industrial Hemp and why should I use it?

Industrial hemp is a raw material that can be used to produce biodegradable textiles, paper, animal bedding, among other products, which would help reduce landfill growth and pollution.

We love using the industrial hemp in our henhouses because it’s one of the most absorbent animal bedding on the market, twice as absorbent as pine shaving or straw. It absorbs four times its weight and has minimal dust. It’s softer and more comfortable for chickens and has a high thermal rating to help keep your chickens warmer while they roost. It’s chemical free, biodegradable, and all natural, and is less acidic and decomposes faster than pine shavings or pellets, making a perfect compost component for your garden.

BUY OUR INDUSTRIAL HEMP BEDDING HERE

What should I put in the run for my chickens? Do I need to put something special on the floor of the run?

We recommend organic material for the run of your chicken coop. So if your coop is put on the grass, mulch, or dirt, we suggest adding organic matter in there for your chickens, such as leaves, plant mulch, compost, pine shavings, straw, etc. The idea is to creative the same type of environment your chickens would have if they were free ranging.

SEE OUR BLOG POST ON WHAT TO PUT IN YOUR CHICKEN RUN HERE

Carolina-Coops-blog---organic-material-in-the-chicken-run

Do I have to clean out my coop run? If so, how often?

Our Carolina, American, and California Coops have covered runs, so they don’t get muddy from the rain. We find with our chicken coops, there is little maintenance involved. If your chickens don’t get to free range and are spending most of their time in their run, we suggest putting different organic matter and kitchen scraps in there to keep them busy and encourage foraging. Chickens love to find bugs in the leaves and dirt and will make quick work of wilted lettuce and other vegetables you no longer want. The chickens do all the work for the upkeep of the run.

As for the henhouse, with our coops and the deep litter method, you only need to break up the droppings, occasionally add more hemp or pine shavings, and clean once a year at most.

Do I have heat my chicken coop in the winter?

The answer to this is no. Chickens can tolerate the cold very well. Plus, heating the coop will make it harder for them to adjust to the cold. Also, if the power goes out and they are used to heat in their henhouse they could die since their bodies got used to the heat. Chickens keep warm by trapping air between their feathers and huddling together. It’s important to them to acclimate to the colder temps.

In fact, chickens have a harder time in the heat than the cold. And besides a heat source being a huge fire hazard for your henhouse, it can also become a source of moisture, which is much more detrimental to your chickens and can lead to frostbite.

THE CHICKENS

Can I mix different breeds of chickens?

Yes, mix it up. Bantams and standards, Wyandottes, Brahmas, and Orpingtons. Whatever you want.

Carolina Coops in Florida - all kinds of chicken breeds

Do I need a rooster for my chickens to lay eggs?

Chickens lay eggs without a rooster, it just means the eggs are fertile and won’t turn into baby chicks. Hens will lay just as many eggs whether or not you have a rooster. As a matter of fact, hens are born with all the eggs they will ever lay. Hens lay more in the first few years of life, but many continue to lay on occasion as they age.

Why don’t my chickens lay eggs in the winter?

Hens need at least 12 hours of daylight each day to lay eggs, but 14-16 hours is best for them. Except for in young hens (under a year old) egg production slows down considerably if not completely when there is less than 12 hours of daylight.

Some people add artificial light in their coop to simulate longer days and increase egg production in the winter, however, we don’t advise it for a couple of reasons.

Any light in the henhouse can potentially be a fire hazard, especially with chickens jumping on and off the roost bars.

Secondly, a hen naturally slows down egg production in the winter to give her body a rest. Perhaps she just finished molting and her body needs time to get back into the swing of things. It’s a normal part of life for animals and nature to rest in the winter.

Carolina Coops FAQs chickens laying in the winter

What does it mean when a hen goes broody?

When a hen is broody, it means she wants to hatch her eggs and raise chicks. You can tell if your hen has gone broody because she will sit on a nest, with or without eggs, and only leave for a few minutes a day for food and water. A broody hen may ‘growl’ at you when you go near her or fluff up her feathers.

Some breeds of hens are more likely to become broody and some may never go broody. Some broody hens will go back to normal on their own, others will be better off with some chicks to raise. This is also a great opportunity to introduce new chickens to your flock.

Carolina Coops - Blog - My Hen went Broody

What’s the best way to introduce new chickens into my flock?

We found the best way to introduce new chickens into an existing flock is taking a cue from nature. If you have a hen that goes broody, (bantams and Cochins are good examples) you can put fertile eggs under her, or even day-old chicks (we advise to do this at night when she’s calm and sleeping in her nest box) and she will raise them as her own and protect them from other members of the flock. The rest of the flock will accept the new chicks as part of their flock because they are associated with a momma hen.

Otherwise, you risk chickens fighting out a new pecking order for a few weeks or more. Sometimes introducing a few new hens at a time can work fine, other times, it does not — there are no guarantees.

Carolina Coops - blog - broody hen and her 3 adopted chicks

How do I transition my chickens to a new coop?

Chickens are creatures of habit, so the best way we found to get chickens used to their new home is to go into the old henhouse at night (usually just after it gets dark) and put them on the roost bars of their new henhouse. Chickens are super calm when it’s dark and so the task of moving them to their new roost is much easier at night. When they wake up they will just come out of their new henhouse and scratch around and explore.

This is one time we insist that you don’t let your chickens free range, just until they start going to their new henhouse at night on their own. After that, you can resume free ranging. Also, we advise that you remove the old coop, so going back there isn’t an option for the chickens.

Standard 6' x 12' American Coop with 4' x 6' henhouse painted by customer

How do I get my chickens back to the coop after free ranging?

Chickens know where to go to roost. If they have roosted in their henhouse before, they will continue to do so, unless something is preventing them from getting back inside. Like we said, chickens are creatures of habits and instinctively will go ‘home to roost.’

If you have an automatic chicken run door, it should be set as a dawn to dusk door, so it will open when the sun comes out and close up after it gets completely dark.

There are times that even if your chickens are going into their henhouse on their own, maybe when they are young, or it’s a new environment, or they are just weird, where you may have to physically place them on the roost at night until they learn that’s where they need to go.

Do I have to train my chickens to use the waterbar?

No. Chickens are, by nature, curious creatures and will start pecking at things to explore their world. It is also believed that chickens are attracted to the color red, which is why you will see the waterbar nipples are usually red. When chickens peck, it’s like a dog sniffing, it’s how they discover what’s in their environment.

It normally only takes chickens about 15 minutes to find and use a new waterbar. And the good thing is that once one chicken does it, they all do.

Carolina Coops FAQs chickens using the waterbar

What is molting and why do chickens molt?

Molting is the process in which chickens (and other birds) go through to replace their old, broken, ragged, dirty feathers with glossy, pretty, healthy new ones. And it’s not just to make them look prettier either, new feathers are more efficient at helping to trap warm air through the winter months.

Chickens go through several molts in their lifetime. The first times as baby chicks when they lose their downy covering for feathers. They also have a second juvenile molt around 8-12 weeks old. In this molt their feathers start looking more vibrant and the adult color patterns emerge.

Barred Rock in full molt
Barred Rock in full molt
Barred Rock after molting
Barred Rock after molting

What triggers molting?

The decreased daylight in the late summer and fall triggers the molt. Chickens typically go through their first adult molt at about 16-18 months old. Young hens less than 12 months will not molt for their first year, but will start the following fall.

The shorter days also triggers a decrease or complete halt in egg production for your laying hens. It causes a regression of the hen’s reproductive system, basically the end of an egg-laying cycle for the year. Molting and a halt in egg production are two separate processes that just triggered by the same environmental changes.

Molting can also be brought on by stresses, such as lack of food and water, heat stress, malnutrition, overcrowding, predators, or broodiness.

What to expect when chickens molt

The length of a chicken’s molt can vary widely and can take anywhere from 8 – 12 weeks. However, the molting progression is always the same —starting with the head, then down to the neck, body, and wings, and finishing up with the tail. (how appropriate!)

Sometimes a chicken will only partially molt, while other times every feather is replaced. Also, primary wing feathers (flight feathers) are replaced before the secondary ones, starting from the innermost to the outermost.

During a molt, the new feathers literally push out the old ones, and new quills or shafts can be seen where the old feathers are missing.

How to help your chickens during their molt

Feathers are about 85 percent protein, so you want to give your flock a feed that is higher in protein if possible. Many people switch over from layer feed to starter/grower feed for a while. You don’t want to feed too much protein because that can cause other problems, just a feed that’s about 20-22 percent protein.

There are other ways you can supplement their protein intake too, such as with mealworms, soldier fly larva, black oil sunflower seeds, scrambled eggs, meat scraps, yogurt, and canned fish (low sodium in water, please).

Read our article and see our video about molting here.

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