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Key Features Of The Best DIY Chicken Coop ft Matt of Carolina Coops

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Show Notes

Join Nicole and Matt of Carolina Coops as they discuss how to build the best DIY chicken coop, prevention against predators, and the deep litter method.

What You’ll Learn

  • How big to build a coop, run, nest boxes and roosts
  • Features of an ideal coop
  • Preventing predators
  • Prefab coops
  • What is the deep litter method

Our Guest

Matt DuBoise is the owner of Carolina Chicken Coops. What started out as a desire to have access to fresh eggs within city limits coupled with the talent of woodworking, turned into a thriving animal enclosure business. Matt is very passionate about everything he does especially running his business.

Carolina Coops makes custom designed chicken coops that ship worldwide. They are a family owned business that handcrafts quality chicken coops that are built to last. All their coops have their signature deep litter beds, so that means no cleaning your henhouse for at least a year or longer! All of their coops have walk-in covered runs, drop down egg hutches, deep litter beds, and are built to last a lifetime. They travel across the U.S. making custom chicken coops of all kinds and also make standard walk-in coops that you can easily order online through their website.

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    Announcer: 0:01

    Welcome to the Backyard Bounty podcast from when we talk about all things backyard poultry, beekeeping, gardening, sustainable living, and more. And now here's your host, Nicole.

    Nicole: 0:17

    Hello, everybody. And thank you for joining us for another episode of Backyard Bounty. I'm your host Nicole and today we're joined by Matt with Carolina Coops and we're going to talk about everything that you need to know about chicken coops, some suggestions if you're building your own, and some other options if you're not quite as handy. So, Matt, thank you so much for joining me today.

    Matt: 0:37

    Thanks for having me.

    Nicole: 0:38

    So, Carolina Coops is your company there and you build some very beautiful, high quality chicken coops. Before we get started talking about what we need to look for in our own chicken coop, can you tell us a little bit more about your company and your history and your background?

    Matt: 0:57

    Basically our background is we've been in business for 12 years. It started with me just wanting to build a chicken coop for myself. I've never had backyard chickens until then and I fell in love with it chicken math kicked in it bit me really quick. And I ended up selling my little coop on Craigslist for like 200 bucks, which I was actually embarrassed to begin with to even put it on Craigslist I was like who's gonna buy this little tiny chicken coop It was so nice like I can't just throw it out. So anyways, I started building myself a bigger one. And I had a couple more calls people wanting to buy a chicken coop. So I showed them that bigger when I was building and they purchased it. I couldn't believe it. Also remember this is in 2008 is when everyone's losing their jobs. No one has money. Everyone's blaming someone else for their financial problems. So it kind of came from that and slow and steady. You know, 12 years now in business, I can now say proudly, we definitely build the best chicken coops out there. And there's many reasons why, we ship them all around the world now, which I'm also very proud to say these are things I never thought I was ever going to say. We are a family owned business. Which you can't really explain what that means, unless you've ever worked for a family owned business or especially if you grew up with one.

    Nicole: 2:11

    Yeah, that sounds really exciting. And I love hearing stories of the individual that has made a successful business. You know, instead of the big, big corporate guys, which, you know, I guess they had to work their way up to the top, but I think that's really, really great. How many coops do you make a year?

    Matt: 2:29

    Yeah, I don't know. That's a good question. We have two coop lines, if you will. We have our custom coops and we do probably four custom coops a month but our production coops we do about three to four a day.

    Nicole: 2:43

    Oh my goodness.

    Matt: 2:43

    I would say we definitely do close to probably 800 production coops to almost 1000 a year. And then of course our custom coops is what we're known for, that's what put us on the map. That's what keeps me real busy. That's my true love is custom. We're averaging at least, I would say almost one custom coop a week. And we could do more but it's custom coops. A lot of people don't realize this and it's probably, well it used to be my favorite part of the job is it's one thing to build them inside the shop but we actually travel everywhere. I've to been every state and have been every corner of this country delivering and doing a turnkey assembly which is a whole nother world and that's where we've definitely learned a lot about chicken coop building.

    Nicole: 3:23

    So not only do you keep pretty busy but I'd say you have a pretty good handle about the aspects that make a really good quality coop and a user friendly coop.

    Matt: 3:32

    Yeah, you know, it's funny you say user friendly, I correct me if I'm wrong, but that might also might mean more affordable.

    Nicole: 3:39

    Well, I was thinking more accessibility. I know in my purchased coop history before I built my own, not all of them were really easy to get into or to clean or to get eggs or or what have you. It might have been comfortable for the birds but it was definitely not comfortable for me.

    Matt: 3:55

    Exactly. Well, you know, that's the thing I love to talk about is you know, when you go to my website at and whether you're looking at our least expensive chicken coop called the California coop, or you look at one of our high end custom coops, I stick to the same recipe, the same DNA. You know when people ask me you know, what's the first thing and this is you know what we're going to talk about today is like you know, what do I got to consider about building a chicken coop or if I'm gonna buy a chicken coop or things I need to think about, and I often joke but this is when size does matter. That's the mistake people always make is they build too small of coop and they don't realize the domino effect that has, not just for the chickens but just in building a chicken coop. And I see this mistake so many times and it's simply because you just don't really realize when you have a bigger, say for example, the hen house, how much easier that's going to be to make sure your roost bars are at the right level so they're not roosting in your egg clutch and defecating and making a mess on your eggs.

    Nicole: 5:00

    Yeah, I've made that mistake that's that's not a fun one. So what are some of the things then that we want to look for with a chicken coop was kind of the basic first step.

    Matt: 5:11

    Well, so the the first thing I tell everyone, you know whether they're again, thinking about building a chicken coop for themselves, or if they're out shopping around the size, period. Number one is size and then I always ask people, are you going to be able to let your chickens free range or not? And that is kind of a trick question because I would feel confident saying most people end up letting their chickens free range at least most of the day, but I know a lot of us brand new chicken owners were like, Oh, no, I got predators everywhere. I just, you know, can't have the thought of losing a chicken which I get. I'm an animal lover. But I always talk to people you know, no matter what you will end up letting your chickens free range. But it is just so important to understand if you can't, or you got those times where you just can't let them out to make sure that run's big enough. And then another mistake I always see people they don't they don't consider this and actually just to make sure I don't confuse anyone to get the terminology correct, when I refer to a chicken coop I'm referring to two parts of the entire structure, you got the hen house and you got to run. A lot of people will refer to the hen house as the coop but when I say coop, I mean the entire thing. So the run you want to make sure if you cannot free range that that chickens, when they're crapping on the ground, that the microbes, the soil can metabolize the nitrogen, all those droppings. And if you can't you run into problems. And you know, if you're on blogs or social media, whatever they're talking about, I had to go in and clean out my run. And that's just a pain in the butt part about owning chickens that I disagree. It's not true. If you feel you got to go in and clean your run your runs too small, you know. And then another thing a lot of people don't realize and this is one of my favorite things to do when we do a turnkey install. And we're replacing one of those Chinese coffins that came in you know, from Tractor Supply or whatever, they'll walk inside the run, and they're like, Oh my gosh, I don't have to bend over, this is amazing. So that's another thing to always consider is build that run tall enough to be able to walk into you think, "Well, I'm not really going to go in there", you are. And then speaking of the run, here's the other thing. And I often ask my customers or potential customers think about where chickens originated from. With that run. If you have a solid roof over the run, you're mimicking the forest, you're mimicking the canopy that's going to protect the chickens, whether it's from predators, but in our case, making sure that the run either doesn't have snow in it or keeps it dry, and also provides some shade. So that's another mistake I see a lot of people make is they don't take the time to invest in some type of solid roof. I love metal. There's many reasons for that, but they put screen on top of it. I think that's a huge No, no, it really makes things worse.

    Matt: 5:26

    And why does it make it worse?

    Matt: 7:54

    Because especially in wooded areas, when leaves are falling, they just get trapped on top of that screen and it starts to sag, it starts to rust, it starts to create weak points, it doesn't look good. You know it just it just and then you got to go in there now you're spending time with a leaf blower trying to blow the leaves off, you know in the runs getting wet. So when you have a solid metal one, again, I like metal but a solid roof, you're eliminating all that you're giving them shade. You're keeping the run dry, and you're protecting them from predators and plus also, it looks good. It looks so much better when you have a nice finished roof.

    Nicole: 8:33

    Yeah, it definitely gives it a little bit more curb appeal.

    Matt: 8:37

    Mm hmm.

    Nicole: 8:37

    So as far as the sizes, I would imagine that most people probably have between six and 12 chickens, I would guess but what size requirements are we looking for? Maybe per bird or for a flock of six or 12?

    Matt: 8:51

    I love that question. Because I think people get it confused. And just like everything God knows I have my opinion. So that is a great Because we got to start somewhere. So when people are asked me what size coop should I get, that's where I have to explain again, we've got to split that coop up in the two parts, we got the hen house and we got the run. Now let's say you can't free range, that run size is critical to make sure we get now I often refer to what it's called industry standard. Most people will say minimum of 10 square feet per hen for the run. And yeah, you could get away with that. But bottom line, if you can't free range, the bigger the run, the better. But bare minimum is 10 square feet per hen. And what is nice is if you stick around that number or more, one, you got to make sure the chickens can work. People forget. Yes, there are pets we love and we have pictures of them. We're putting them on social media, they need to work. You don't want them getting bored. So you got to make sure they have plenty of room to do what chickens do and that is get out scratch and eat bugs off the ground, but also that nitrogen load. If you have too many chickens in a small area, the soil just can't keep up with it. So I definitely minimum 10 square feet per hand and that Also I'm referring to standard breeds. You know, if you're getting into bantams. In theory, yes, you could cut that number in half. Now, the other part that is very important is the henhouse. And that's where people need to remember the chickens do two things inside the henhouse sleep at night on the roost bars, which are the tree branches before coops are invented. And they go into their egg box, their egg clutch to lay eggs. So I often see a lot of people say, "Well, I need three square feet per hen, I need four square feet per hen" or a lot of times local ordinances will demand that and I get it because they gotta give some kind of number for people to realize if we're going to build our coop what size it should be, but I think that gets confusing. When it comes to the henhouse, I always start off with the roost bar and I think of it like I like a king sized bed. So I go by what I call the one foot rule. I like 12 inches or one foot per hen on that roost bar. A lot of people especially, my fans, and maybe not so many fans on my YouTube channel, I call my YouTube chicken police. They'll tell you Oh man, that's crazy. You shouldn't tell people that. You can easily get away with eight inches per hen on the loose bar. And in theory you could, but again, I like a king size bed, why not give the girls more room especially if you like the braids like I do that are fat and fluffy like your Brahmas or your Cochins. So the roost bar length that is really important. And then when it comes to the egg boxes, or the egg clutch, and a lot of newbies, we all were there I was there we all think well one nest box per hen, and that's not true. So we try to go by the average four to six hens per nest box. But everyone that has chickens, if you're listening, hopefully you're chuckling just today I went out there I had I think 13 eggs in one nest and one day, they will share it. And keep that in mind because as we dissect more about why we do what we do and how we build our coops, even an egg clutch`, I could spend an hour just talking about why we do what we do with the egg clutch. So those are the two things you have to start off with. One nest box for four to six hens, one foot per hen on the roost bar, but, we're just getting started. Here's the important part: you can never, ever have enough ventilation.

    Nicole: 12:03


    Matt: 12:04

    So here's what I always try to explain to people. Yes, you can say, "Okay, I need three square foot per hen." Now what you need is to make sure you're looking at how many square feet of ventilation do I have to cubic footage of my henhouse? Does that make sense?

    Nicole: 12:20

    It does does.

    Matt: 12:21

    So that's where I always tell people that's what we need to focus on. And if you go look at any of our coops, you'll see I blow it out of the water, especially our American coop our number one seller, that's one of our mass production coops. What's nice about that design is the windows are huge. And that kind of happened on accident because of the design and how we got the price down. And it's just nice having as much ventilation as possible, and not just stopping there, but cross ventilation, making sure that henhouse can breathe. And going back to why size is so important, is if you take a look at our hen houses, we incorporate the deep litter system, which is a whole nother story. I'd love to talk about that if we get a chance, the deep litter system inside the henhouse. But once you get above that 12 inches of deep litter, you have another 12 inches until you get to the roost bar. And then above there you have on average, two to three feet of headroom. Most coops don't have that because they don't think about needing that headroom. And when you have that headroom, one, it's like way healthier for the chickens. Because they do have a sensitive respiratory system. You want to make sure as the gases need to escape out of the henhouse, they're going to go up. And what's nice about our henhouses is yes, we have cross ventilation, but they also breathe out through the ridge cap. Well, when those gases get up to the top and they need to escape out through the top of the coop. It's 18" to two foot above where they're resting and sleeping at night. Versus you look at a lot of the smaller coops those girls are lucky they got three inches between the top of their head and the top of that roof, not to mention too, the summertime, you know with the heat escaping and how warm that is.

    Nicole: 13:51

    So why is ventilation so important,

    Matt: 13:53

    Sensitive respiratory system, and keeping the henhouse cool. If you don't have good ventilation, and you got this coop out in the middle of the yard, no protection, no shade. It's like a pressure cooker. It's going to keep getting warmer and warmer and warmer the air can't escape fast enough to regulate itself to have that turnover, versus if you've got a hen house that can breathe as that air warms up, it can escape. It regulates, right. One thing I do need to mention, which I don't think I have yet, which is another great topic. I have this conversation all the time, especially for my Southern customers. It's kind of funny, they focus so much on keeping their hens warm in the winter, and I always try to explain to them, we need to focus on keeping the girls cool in the summer. Chickens do very well in cold temperatures. It's the wind chill, that's a different story. And that's another conversation and that's why you look at our coops. You always want to make sure you can close off those windows. But when it gets warm out, make sure that that hen house is not warm and doesn't stress out the chickens and again, you want to make sure you got dust in there you got gases from the droppings, you just want to be able to let that escape.

    Nicole: 15:01

    And touching on your winter heat, that's kind of a sensitive subject for me. Some people might not know this, but some probably do. For the last decade of my life until last semester, I was a firefighter paramedic, and we would see so many people burning their chicken coops down in the winter with heat sources or certain things. So it's kind of my little soapbox to say they do well, in the winter, they're just fine. You know, I try to remind people that you know, our grandparents raised chickens without heat in the coops and winter and they did just fine. But like you said, the summer he is I think more detrimental because they're wearing little down comforter down jackets. Yep, year round. So it's easier for them to stay warm than it is for them to cool off.

    Matt: 15:45

    Absolutely. And that is another subject if we can get into it today, that'd be great. But you know, a lot of people, they think "Oh, you must be you don't like chickens when you mean you're not gonna give them a heat source?" I'm like, "No, think about it." And you know, you just made a great point. I love referring to what did our grandparents do. You know, they were so smart, they knew how to just almost live off the land and the chickens. You know, think about like, when's the last time we heard about when you get sick, go eat some chicken noodle soup. You know, you don't hear about that anymore because we stopped realizing how important it is for things that come from the soil, you know, and when you have your backyard chickens, whether you're you're going to raise the birds for meat, or, you know, most typically in our situation for eggs. That's what makes the eggs taste so good is because of what they're benefiting from their diet from just eating things from the soil.

    Nicole: 16:31

    Absolutely. Mm hmm. So now that we know why the ventilation is so important, what some other aspects of the chicken coop that we need to consider.

    Matt: 16:39

    Okay, so once we get through size, we have to always explain to customers or always want people to realize chickens are extremely addicting. So and that's where the term "chicken math" comes. And you mentioned most people get six to 12 hens. Absolutely. That is our most common number. And when we're talking about "Okay, we're going to build a coop, and okay, I want 12 chickens. So that means Okay, if I take Matt's advice, I want a four by six hen house because I know I have two six foot roost bars. Well now I better have that one foot rule. So I do up to 12 hens. I'm gonna start with 12 hens."Well, not so fast. Because two things, you're gonna end up wanting to get more chickens because you're gonna fall in love with it, especially if you got the right coop, you're gonna find out. There's green eggs, there's speckled eggs, there's dark chocolate brown eggs, I want those on my counter. Okay, well, I'm gonna go get some Copper Marans. I'm gonna go get some Olive Eggers. Well, wait a minute, I don't have enough room. And then the other thing that is so important for people to realize is when you got a well built coop, your chickens are going to live, they're going to survive. Well, after about three to four years, and you're hooked on those lovely eggs. That egg production is going to go down, but you're not going to want to turn your pet into soup. So you're going to keep them in there to retire but you got to leave room for your younger hands to come in. So that's another thing to always remember: leave room for you to grow your flock. And I love when my customers go, "Matt, nope, I'm never getting more!", you'll call me they call back laughing saying, "Matt, you're right." So very important to understand, you know, your flock will fluctuate, and you want to keep that in mind. There's four key things I always focus on. So we talked a lot about size, and going by, you know, the 10 square foot rule, but go as big as you can with the run. The other one is the quality. You got to make sure... you could be a great woodworker, you could be an excellent carpenter. But if you're not using the right materials, you're setting yourself up for failure. For example, the choice in the screen for the run. I so many times see people have predator issues, because they just didn't realize how determined predators can be. So take chicken wire, for example. Now chicken wire can work but what happens is, it's not as strong, you get that one predator that's determined to definitely start chewing on They can break in but what I've also seen is when it's only galvanized to help keep it weather resistant, it will end up rusting, but you won't realize until it's too late that it became weak. So I love what we use is the half inch by half inch hardware cloth. That is it's a galvanized core wire but it's also black PVC coated. And the reason why that's important is it protects that wire from ever rusting and then also think about like the screens on your windows. They're see through, so when you put this black PVC coated hardware cloth or fancy material, whatever you decide to use on your coop, I always like to go with that dark color because it absorbs the light it's see through just looks so much better. Now I personally like the half inch by half inch. You can you know get away with one by one, two by three but it's not pretty. Let's say for whatever reason your hen that want to go up in the henhouse at night, she's sleeping down below. She's up against the screen. Chickens can't see anything at night, but if that raccoon comes up if that wire is big enough, they will literally just rip that head right off right through that screen. So that's one of the reasons why I love the half inch by half inch hardware cloth. Also and you have to forgive me I don't know how I sound I've been sick the past four days, which is probably the worst time to be sick. I'm just starting to feel a little bit better, but I'm noticing I'm hearing it anyways. Oh, snakes! It is not fun going up to your egg clutch and there's a big black snake eating your breakfast on you. So another reason why I love half inch by half inch hardware cloth is snakes that are big enough in diameter to consume an egg, they're too big to fit through the half inch by half inch hardware cloth. Juvenile snakes will fit through but that's fine. I've seen chickens eat snakes and that's fine with me. So that's another reason why I love the half inch by half inch. And going back to my original point, the choice of materials. You can take chain link fence and fasten that to your metal frame, your wood frame, whatever you're using to construct your chicken coop, but if you don't use the right fasteners, well again, you're setting yourself up for failure and I've seen that also. A common mistake, and here's something that I always want to explain to people that they're building, it is a good idea, you can build your entire coop out of pressure treated lumber, but what we do is we only use pressure treated lumber down at the bottom. And that's because that's where you're going to have your highest chance of wood rot. So I know a lot of people don't like the toxins that are in pressure treated lumber, so that's why we use as little as possible but where it is needed is that ground contact area but because of the chemicals that's in the wood, when you go to attach your screen, and if you're just using regular metal fasteners, the copper inside that pressure treated lumber is going to corrode that fastener.

    Nicole: 21:34

    I never knew that.

    Unknown Speaker 21:35

    Yeah. Another thing to think about is we use all stainless steel, the stainless steel is a 304 stainless steel, and that will not rust. And that's something that a lot of people don't know. So I like to try to just explain even those little details to think about when you're building your coop. You can get away with using what's more common is hot dip galvanized you can find hot dip, galvanized fencing, staples, at most hardware stores. It's not fun, hammering in all those staples, but it is doable. We love our stainless steel pneumatic gun and we shoot it all in. And what's also nice too is as we're shooting it with a pneumatic gun, we keep it at a slight angle and that's what allows it to be nice and tight. And then just a little bit more talking about materials is there's also a big debate on what kind of wood to use. And at Carolina Coops, I have fallen in love with Doug fir. It is a great wood because it's actually naturally rot resistant, but also it's very, very strong, and we use what's called pocket screw joinery. And the reason why I like the pocket screw joinery is because when you're screwing two pieces of wood together, it bites and stays together a lot stronger than just a regular nail, but also that screw is going across grain it's not going into the end grain splitting it. You know, you can use pocket screw joinery but if you use a soft wood it's just not going to stay together nearly as strong. You know, the other big thing is metal roofing. I love metal roofing Because of how what's called TSR total solar reflectance, we want to keep the girls as cool as possible. If you put asphalt shingles, cedar shingles, we've done it, we've done it, you can get away with it. But metal roof, one lot of people that maybe don't realize this that comes from recycled material, and it's very cost effective, and it's very easy to install, looks great, but it has a very high TSR total solar reflectance, it's gonna do such a much better job keeping the heat from getting inside the henhouse.

    Nicole: 23:30

    Yeah, that's one thing that we definitely struggle with here. We're pretty close to New Mexico and in an arid environment, and I've had a heck of a time with heat in the sun and you know, shade cloth doesn't last but one season and it's challenging to run misting systems. So I definitely wish that we had a solid roof. That's like, it's a great idea.

    Matt: 23:52

    Yeah, I definitely recommend it. I love a solid roof over the entire structure.

    Nicole: 23:56

    You mentioned earlier that you use the deep litter method. And that's something that I don't personally use. So I'm not well versed in that. So could you talk more about that and what bedding options that you recommend for the nest boxes?

    Matt: 24:10

    Absolutely. So the deep litter system, if you've never heard of it, Google it, learn about it. If you have chickens, there is no better way to raise chickens inside your chicken coop. So the deep litter system, most of us are used to what I call the traditional style of cleaning out a hen house and that is you're going to go into your hen house, maybe once a week if you're really good twice a month, and you're going to sweep out typically pine shavings or some type of bedding, to remove the bedding and the chicken droppings and start off with a fresh thing of litter and that's all fine and dandy, but that's very time consuming and actually gets expensive, when you think about how much shavings you're going through. What we do is incorporate the deep litter system where if you look at our hen houses, every single one - doesn't matter if it's our production coop or custom coop. They all have the deep layer system where we line the entire bottom and we come up 12 inches off the henhouse floor where it's like a bathtub with food safe high density polyethylene. Going back to I'm a snob when it comes to materials, you got to have the best materials. There's nothing better than high density polyethylene. And if you're not familiar with it, think of giant plastic cutting boards. So what happens is, we I love industrial hemp, we'll talk a little bit more about that, hopefully. But you start off with your bedding, in this case, industrial hemp and you fill it, you know, four to six inches. And when the chickens are out scratching on the ground, they're not only eating bugs, and you know, picking up some grit so they digest our food, but they're picking up microbes. And they introduce those microbes into the deep litter system through their defecation. And basically what happens is the pine shavings or your industrial hemp becomes the diaper, and you start building layer upon layer that fills up with droppings, which is actually 50% of the defecations are at night, on the roost bars, as that piles up, you're not going to go in and clean it out. What you're actually going to do is take some more of your bedding and just put a layer on top of it. And as you start building those layers it starts composting and what happens is it actually smells less, there's almost zero smell. You can actually go into our hen houses and eat your lunch, I kid you not. But what's also important is it takes seconds just to put some litter on top of the droppings and you know it's time because not by visual - it's a chicken coop, it's a hen house you're gonna see chicken crap in there, but you know by smell. So once you start to get that ammonia nitrogen smell, you just put a layer on top and it just keeps building, and it's almost kind of like you know, it's funny, I got hen houses gone three years and still haven't been cleaned out. Because one chicken coop ratio, you don't want to overload it, but it continues to break down. So it's almost kind of like the tide it goes up and down. And it's really that simple. So I was introduced to it from our chicken girl 12 years ago, I said Kristen, you're crazy. She goes will come out and see my coop I was sold instantly. She actually explained to me the history of it. Supposedly, it actually came from when World War Two, when the men were off fighting the war, the women had to stay back, picking up a lot of the jobs and didn't have a lot of time. So they didn't go in and start cleaning out the hen houses as often as they used to. So they just were like, "Oh, just put something over top of it out of sight out of mind", you know, and that's how they discovered the deep litter system. So I'm trying to put it all in a nutshell, but that's basically it. We have all kinds of information. There's so many videos at our website at where you can watch the deep litter system in action. You can see us cleaning it out, which is what makes our coop really nice. Which that's the other thing. If you're thinking what build a chicken coop, that is a huge subject. Well, how easy is it going to be to clean it out. And I have so many tips and tricks about that. But the deep litter system is fabulous. And it's actually also healthier for the chickens.

    Nicole: 27:50

    And why is that?

    Matt: 27:50

    The best analogy I can think of is: I'll never forget taking my son to daycare for the first time and the administrator said now just be prepared, he's gonna be coming home with sniffles and that because, you know, they're spreading germs and whatnot, but it actually helps build the immune system. Apparently it's the same thing for chickens, it's actually healthier for them to be walking on the deep litter system because it helps build their immune system.

    Nicole: 28:11

    Interesting. Like I said, I don't do the deep litter method, but it's something that I definitely want to look into. One of the things that concerns me about the deep litter method because I'm worried about mice making a home in there, have you ever had that issue?

    Matt: 28:25

    Now I hope you got another 45-60 minutes. I am the nerdiest bug guy. I was an exterminator for 15 years, and I loved it. I actually got a certificate from Purdue University in Pest Control Technologies because I love my job so much. That's like the PhD.

    Nicole: 28:40

    Oh, wow!

    Matt: 28:41

    I actually I am so due to do a video talking about pests around your chicken coop because it just I think people they can solve their problems if they understood what was really going on. So we'll take that, for example. Mice possibly, you know, and be honest with you I've never been asked that no one's ever mentioned well, are they going to live in a deep litter? I have never seen it. But here's the thing when it comes to mice, and this is true for any pest, don't give them a reason to be there. Now, you can make an argument, "Well, Matt, we're putting in a bedding. It's like that thick insulation you see in the attic. That's a perfect nesting area for them." I have never ever seen mice nest in the deep litter system. And I don't think they're going to want to I think there's going to be so much activity inside that hen house that's going to startle them. Anytime you're dealing with pests, you want to know their preferences. You want to know as much about them so that you can help combat them. So mice, they actually know I'm referring to the house mouse has many other different species of mice, but the most common is a house mouse. They actually love to nest up high where it's warm. That's a lot of times why you see them up in attics. So the deep layer system it would not by any means be a preferred area for them to live. Now, if you had a deep layer system, had a deep layer full, and then the chickens all died, and you left that coop out there alone. Yeah, I could see mice eventually living in there. But no, I think chickens eat, you know, baby mice. So I don't think they would last long.

    Nicole: 30:14

    So being greedy because I'm I'm battling mice right now, do you have any other suggestions because I know that there are certainly other people that have issues with mice in the chicken coop as well.

    Matt: 30:25

    Absolutely. Okay. All right. Well, here we go. So one, assuming that they're house mice, you got to figure out why are they there and the typically the number one reason why they're there or you're seeing them is the food source. Now keep in mind, this does not apply to rats. For the most part, rats are completely different. Mice prefer cereal and grains. When you think about the food, we're feeding our chickens. There's a lot of cereal and grain type food. So if you do have a lot of mice activity, the first thing we always did as exterminators is okay, let's look eliminate why they're there. And where are they living? Well, if they're feeding on your food, the chicken feed, you're not gonna get rid of chicken eggs guy like chickens eat. And I just saw this is gonna come out soon in a video. I was just out in California. The lady is out in New Zealand, Grandpa's...

    Nicole: 31:17

    Yep, the treadle feeders I use a couple another brands but Grandpa's feeders.

    Matt: 31:21

    Yep. So she said this is the best one because of the quality, a little more expensive. But you know, what happens is the chickens step on it, they opens up that top cover and then they get to their feed. So when they're off of it that stops the mice from wanting to get in there. So what it all really comes down to is we have to step back and say, where are these mice coming from and how much pressure is there. Now mice do not have a very large territory. Typically, believe it or not. 10, 15-20 feet is how far they'll live from their food source. So it's a lot easier to handle mice by saying okay, well let me make sure that to make it harder for them to not be able to eat and then finding where they're living. And if it is inside your chicken coop, you gotta rodent proof it with steel wool and things like that to make sure that they're not harboring anywhere. But typically, all the coops I've seen, I've never seen mice or rats living in them. I've definitely have seen rats living underneath sheds that were converted into chicken coops. There's a big difference there. And then the other thing is, how do we bait them? How are we going to do this reduction in numbers? That's where we got to be careful because you have secondary poisoning, which you hear a lot about from a wildlife you know, like birds. Every situation is different, but you can typically try to do like a mass snap trap program, but you got to make sure you set up snap traps properly, but you got to make sure your chickens aren't going to peck at them. But the idea is to eliminate why they're there. Eliminate the numbers either through baiting or through glue boards or snap traps, and then prevention, which typically is once you figure out why they're there, and you change that habit, that's also what you'll want to continue to prevent them. And for the people that are listening, typically a lot of the conversation we have about rodents is with rats. And a lot of what I just said applies to the same thing. But some of the differences are rats actually have to drink water, they actually have to have one to one and a half fluid ounces a day. So keep that in mind. Rats, they're neo-phobic. They're scared of anything new. So typically, if you have rats around your coop, just by changing something that will start to help you combat that activity. But what happens is their territory is way bigger. And a lot of times when we're doing chicken coops in cities, you're at the mercy of your entire block your entire neighborhood, making sure they're doing everything they can to keep the rat population down. And by you know sanitation programs and making sure we eliminate areas where they live. Typically the best way to answer that question is to learn more specifics. And I'd be more than happy to talk to you about that and your particular situation, but trying to just explain it in general, some of the things to think about.

    Nicole: 34:09

    No, and I like that you brought up the feeder too, because we were having issues with starlings. And then I just figured mice were part of the deal. I didn't even think about the mice. And so we switched over to those treadle feeders. And that has made a huge, huge improvement in our feed usage. And now we don't have to worry about starlings anymore. So I definitely recommend that for a feeder for for everybody.

    Matt: 34:32

    Right, so the starlings we're getting into your run? Yeah. What size screen did you have on?

    Nicole: 34:37

    My run, we have about 50 chickens. So we assembled a few different chain link dog kennels into a big run, and then I lined the bottom of it with hardware cloth.

    Matt: 34:51

    Okay, so you reminded me of another thing I mentioned earlier. What I also do like about the half inch by half inch hardware cloth is when you use chicken wire or bigger, I've seen English house sparrows fly right through, start to make a nest up on the sills inside coops and also eating your chicken feed. And you don't want to feed them. So you screened the bottom of your run?

    Nicole: 35:12

    Yeah, we have a coyote problem. And I originally started screening it because we were letting our hen raise some chicks and I was worried about the baby's getting out. And then we had an issue with the coyotes. I don't really know how they accomplished this, but they were able to get a duckling through. Our duck pen has welded wire, and they were able to pull a duckling through that, which I don't know how that even happened. But nonetheless, that's when I started lining all of my runs on the bottom with the hardware cloth.

    Matt: 35:43

    Absolutely. You know, that's a great tip. So for people that maybe are experiencing that problem, it's so easy just to go you know, I would say at least 24 inches from the bottom of the run and then come up. And that way you got those ducklings got those chickens with whatever didn't go up into that hen house, they're still down below. You know, think about it at night, that's when your predator pressure is at its highest. So you got, you know, raccoons especially they're great with their hands, you know, they can reach in, you want to stop that. So by adding that half inch hardware cloth around the bottom, you'll definitely prevent that. You know, that's something to that's a common question we get a lot is like, why don't you screen the bottom of your run? And that is just a huge No, no. If you want to keep predators from digging underneath your run, go check our video, I actually show step by step how to install your own predator apron. And it's so easy kind of fun and very cost effective.

    Nicole: 36:35

    And I'm thinking that your apron might be what I call a skirt. Certain say but I have that set up on all of my rounds as well. Not only for the coyotes, but this last summer we had a badger that was trying to get in and thank goodness the what I call the skirt kept him out. So I think that that's definitely something to add if anybody has any sort of stray dogs or coyotes or or any risk like that.

    Matt: 36:59

    Absolutely. And you know, it's amazing because it's such a simple application, but is extremely effective.

    Nicole: 37:05

    Mm hmm.

    Matt: 37:06

    Was there any other tips or things, topics that you wanted to bring up before we talk more about your prefabbed and custom coops? Well, again, going back to the original thing as if people are listening, thinking about building their own coop or their shopping around what they need to learn, but, you know, I mentioned there's four things so you got size, the quality of the materials and the craftsmanship, just making sure you build it well. And then number four, which is my favorite part, make them beautiful. Why not? Show them off? That is something I love about our coops. On the way here to the office, my customer in Texas, he's just jumping up and down for joy. He's just in love with his coop. He said, "Matt, this is a piece of art", and I definitely don't think of myself as an artist, but that's a sweet compliment. Think about you can have functional art out in your property, providing you breakfast, providing you enjoyment, entertainment, education and especially for your children. Why not make them beautiful?

    Nicole: 38:03

    Yeah, I follow you guys on Instagram, which is how I found you originally. And of course, all of the coops are just, they're beautiful. And I think not only for your own personal enjoyment, but also I think it would help if you're trying to get chickens in an area that maybe your your neighbor isn't so receptive or you have HOA constraints, I rather think making it pretty, I think will help smooth some of that stuff over too.

    Matt: 38:29

    Oh, absolutely. Yeah, cuz Think about it. Most people that are and I've seen this all the time, we would go to towns and help fight for passing the chicken laws. And you got the people on the other side of the aisle. They're just they're absurd. They're like, you're gonna have roosters and you're gonna it's gonna be ugly. I'm like, No, it doesn't have to be. It's not people are they're learning how important it is to have just a couple hens. You don't have to have a rooster. You actually don't want a rooster. I'm not a huge fan of them, because of how much they terrorize the girls and stress them out. But anyways, but yeah, by being beautiful, people are like, "Oh, really? You're gonna have something like that for chickens?" And then the other thing too, and I've seen this happen where it's brought neighbors together if you got that fussy neighbor, give them fresh eggs. Yeah, love you. They'll shut up real quick.

    Nicole: 39:13

    Yeah, that they will. So let's say that I'm not a super handy person and this sounds a little too much for me. I don't really want to build a coop myself. Tell me about the options that you have available.

    Matt: 39:27

    Okay, so we have our production models. One is called the California Coop and the other one's called the American Coop. Those are our most common coops that we sell and ship all around the world. And they're a little intimidating, but we have done so much work to make it so that people that are not very handy. They're able to put the coops together and actually enjoy it. But we also do have the option for all of our coops if they're not handy, or they don't have the time. You order your coop, we build it and we set you up on what's called a delivery turnkey schedule and we load up in the trailer and drive to your home or wherever the coop may be going. And we assemble the coop right there.

    Nicole: 40:08

    And then you have custom coops as well, obviously?

    Matt: 40:10

    Oh, yeah. I'm constantly doing custom coops. I have a road crew. They're hardly ever home. They're on the road constantly. They just left Austin, Texas, just got to Richmond, Virginia today. It's not always the custom coops to even our production coops people will pay to have us do turnkey. So it is an option for all of them. But it is expensive. It's very expensive to pay professionals to come in and assemble the coops on site. But the nice thing is there's nothing we can't do. We travel literally with an entire woodshop, we're ready for anything. I want to say I've seen it all but there's always something new. But we're we've showed up on site and people sometimes people don't know what level means and we've had times where luckily I've grew up in construction so I can operate heavy machinery where we've had to go rent skid steers and tractors and bring it in hundred yards, 200 yards of soil level it all off. You weren't think that you know from chicken coop people chicken coop builders but I really I like to take it to a level that it's like custom homes. Sure you know that's the only thing we do provide knowledge about the chickens because that's really really all starts when you start to learn chickens you start to realize why we do what we do.

    Nicole: 41:21

    And what is the average price range for your prefab or your custom coop?

    Matt: 41:25

    I just went to our website and like our California Coop, that starts at $1750 and that is definitely more expensive than your Tractor Supply, or your you know, your agricultural stores are selling the little Chinese coops, but when you start to learn what is needed for a chicken coop, hands down, it is the best deal out there. And that's been my whole goal when I mentioned these production coops between the California Coop and my number one seller the American Coop. The reason why I call it the American Coop is I said I want to somehow beat China at their own game. They can mass produce so cheap that it's hard to compete but what we have to our advantage is because size is so important we can build the coops the right size and not have to pay for that huge cost to have them shipped over from China where they are very affordable when you compare them apples to apples. So the American Coop, again our number one seller, that starts at $2850 you know, you can price it by square foot, cubic foot to try to compare it to other coops. There's no comparison, especially when you look at the quality, the deep litter system, and... Oh yeah, when you get to like okay, it is time to clean it doesn't get any easier. One of my favorite videos is me and my Kristen our chicken girl. We went to a coop it was 18 months old and we cleaned it out in less than 10 minutes. It was so easy. And the best part about the industrial hemp it didn't even need to be cleaned. We ended up throwing the litter back in there. Yep, that's the price for the production coops and of course, my baby, the Carolina Coop is really where it all started. They start at $5000, $4995 that's the Cadillac. It's just a beautiful, beautiful chicken coop. So it's got a lot of trim work handmade windows, cupolas. Very, very, very classy, very nice. And then of course you get into the custom coops. the sky's the limit. We've done custom coops anywhere from $20,000 to $60,000.

    Nicole: 43:19

    Oh, my goodness.

    Matt: 43:20

    Yeah, and I'm not I'm not bragging I don't know. It's expensive, choice of materials. And then the other thing too is we do a lot of coops where it has mortise and tenon joinery. Most people have never heard about that. But it's a type of joiner has been around for thousands of years where you're actually not using screws, you're not using nails. You're joining two pieces of wood by cutting a tenon on one and then drilling a square hole in another piece and they mate together. So it's literally that it is officially a giant piece of furniture that's very, very time consuming, but looks gorgeous.

    Nicole: 43:52

    I can only imagine I know that the ones that I've seen online are are incredible. And I have coop envy for sure.

    Matt: 43:58

    Well, thank you.

    Nicole: 44:00

    Obviously, your website and your Instagram where I follow you, where else can we find pictures and get some more information?

    Matt: 44:07

    So, Instagram, Facebook, and you know, the other popular place we see a lot of people find us is actually Pinterest.

    Nicole: 44:16

    Okay, that makes sense.

    Matt: 44:17

    I don't know how it works. I don't know why. I actually have a full time marketing lady who is awesome at her job. She does our website, she does all the social media. And she's mentioned to me, she goes, "Yeah, Pinterest is a great referral place." So what I try to do is just get as many pictures out there and also videos because it can get confusing in the world of chicken keeping and building a coop or buying a coop, you know, and everyone's got their opinion. But when you get the chance to watch our videos, you'll start to learn and that's what I do. I'm going to educate the consumer about chickens. And this is what you need to know if you want to be successful. And if you have chickens now and you're struggling and you're thinking about getting out of the hobby, most likely it's not the chickens, it's your coop, that coop is so important for their health and safety.

    Nicole: 45:06

    Being somebody who's made mistakes. I can say that that's a very valid point. And I would absolutely agree with that.

    Matt: 45:13

    Yeah, we've all been there I made a lot of mistakes is how we've learned and that's that's what makes you better but it's amazing with the right coop how easy chickens can be to keep and how much fun they can be. And you mentioned another thing too, you know, a common question is, is it hard to introduce new hens, younger hens to an existing flock? And the answer is it can be, but if you've got a big coop, and I think free range is not as difficult but the best way to do it, which you mentioned, you hit on a little bit is the way nature intended it. When your hand goes broody, and you know you don't have to have a rooster around but if you give her fertile eggs, or if you can time it right, give her fake eggs. After 21 days, pull those fake eggs out and get some day old baby chicks put them underneath her - boom, now they're part of that pecking order. They're part of flock with no fighting. And it is so much fun watching. You know Moms have the hardest job on this planet. And it's so much fun watching Mama hens, you can hear the difference in them talking to the baby chicks, telling them "Let's go eat", what to eat, cleaning them and protecting them.

    Nicole: 46:16

    It's so fun to watch them. I wish that I can have baby chicks all the time. And then my favorite is when I jump on Mama's back and go for a ride.

    Matt: 46:24

    Yeah, yeah.

    Nicole: 46:26

    Well, Matt, I really appreciate your time today. I think that this has been a lot of great information. Definitely some information that people are looking for. Hopefully, it will help them with their own coop building projects, or they can consider some of your pre built ones if they aren't quite as handy or willing to take it on themselves. So Matt, thank you so much. I appreciate your time today.

    Matt: 46:47

    Well, my pleasure. Thanks for having me. I have had a lot of fun again, let's let's hopefully do this again.

    Nicole: 46:51

    Absolutely, I'd love to. And for those of you listening, thank you so much for joining us for another episode of Backyard Bounty and we'll see you again next week.

    Announcer: 46:58

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