If you’ve ever owned chickens then you know how important it is to keep their coop fresh and dirt-free, with thorough and frequent cleaning to get rid of chicken droppings, feathers and other waste.
While it is impossible to keep a coop completely spotless at all times, you can take a few measures to keep your chickens’ coop clean and hygienic.
Prevention is better than cure and in the area of diseases feared rightly, the best prevention is still good hygiene.
What equipment do you need to clean the coop?
Coop cleaning and hygiene is one of those tasks that cannot be automated so you just need to get on with it. The more often you clean the easier it is to keep on top of the job.
You will need:
- A spade or shovel and a rake if you have a large coop.
- A barrow.
- A stiff bristled brush.
- A scraping tool, like a large paint scraper.
- Some sturdy gloves and a mask so you don' t breathe any dust.
- Fresh bedding and Diatomaceous Earth or DE .
The dust or dander from chicken feathers can cause lung disease and should be avoided.
Can you get sick from cleaning out a chicken coop?
You can get sick from cleaning your chicken coop. It is possible to get sick from pathogens like E coli or from breathing in the dust or dander from chicken feathers.
You can minimise the risks to health while cleaning the chicken coop by wearing gloves and a face mask to keep the dust out.
How often do you need to clean your chicken coop?
How often you need to clean to your chicken coop depends on :
- How many chickens you have.
- Whether or not you make use of poop boards.
- The size of your coop.
- You use the deep litter method.
You need to check and clean your chicken coop at least once a week, clean it thoroughly once a month and deep clean it from top to bottom once per year.
Chicken coops require weekly and yearly cleaning and maintenance. If you’re following the deep litter method, then technically, you don’t need to clean out your coop, but rather add new litter weekly as well as rake and turn the layer. Even if you aren’t following the deep litter method, the coop will need weekly cleaning, to remove manure and droppings and to add new litter.
Deep cleaning and disinfecting the coop can be done either quarterly, every six months or yearly, depending on the size of your coop and also the number of chickens you have.
While chickens are low maintenance, you do, however, need to keep their coops clean. Keep in mind that if your coop is unclean, it can and will attract mice, rats and other rodents as week as unwanted insects, live. mites and critters.
How do you keep your chicken coop clean?
Cleaning and disinfecting your chicken coop is important, especially if you’re bringing in new chicken. Start off with a deep clean process to disinfect your coop and get rid of all the dirt, muck or feathers.
A shovel is your best friend to scoop and scrape off all the chicken poop,dirt, shavings, feathers and litter. Scraping chicken poop, especially dried chicken poop is onerous and you will need to put in some elbow grease. Make sure you are thorough during this step.
Next, hose down the floors, the walls, roosts and the nesting boxes to remove any fine dust and dirt. This also softens the dried manure. Now, have at it with the shovel again, before allowing the water to drain. Finally, the disinfection of feeders, troughs and drinking troughs, although often neglected, is in my opinion essential.
Never use bleach or other household disinfectants to disinfect your chicken coop as it may very well be toxic for your chickens. You can instead use vinegar. Mix equal parts vinegar and water and splatter it around your coop before scrubbing the surfaces, nooks and crannies clean.
Finally, spray your coop with water once more and let it air dry. Leave the windows and doors to your coop open to let the sun, which is a natural disinfectant, dry it out.
Keep in mind, your chickens need a clean place to roost, clean nesting boxes to lay in and clean floors to walk on so replace the bedding and treat with DE (Diatomaceous Earth) at the same time.
What is the deep litter method?
A popular cleaning method is the ‘Deep Litter Method. This is exactly as it sounds, you leave a deep layer to build up on the coop floor, turning and adding bedding all the time.
The deep litter method is perhaps the most sustainable when it comes to not just cleaning your chicken coop, but also subsequently managing and maintaining it. Instead of having to scoop out and replace the litter every week, you allow the manure and the bedding material to decompose.
Yes, I know how that sounds, but as with compost, what the deep litter method does (as long as you manage to do it properly),is allow good microbes to control germs and pathogens, which keeps your chickens healthier. Also,in a few months, you will have a nice pile of organic compost for your garden.
So here’s what you need to do:
You start off by layering 4 to 5 inches of clean litter- leaves, straw and wood shavings(check the nearest pet store to find different kinds of litter) on the floor of the coop, adding another thin layer weekly as the manure accumulates.
You can toss in a handful of grains on the floor every other day and your chickens will help you stir the litter. You can also use a rake or a fork to help you stir it, to keep the litter ventilated, to help break up lumps and to redistribute moisture.
If done properly, you will not detect any odours. If you do, just add more straw and litter. People have also been known to add a little clay to help increase absorption. When it is time for you to remove your compost, make sure you leave a thin layer behind to help you with your next deep litter cycle.
What do you clean a chicken coop with?
We read about using vinegar instead of bleach to disinfect your chicken coop. But what about for when you’re doing your weekly cleaning? What kind of supplies should you have at hand?
Always use gloves when cleaning out your coop. You can wear a mask as well. It would also be prudent to have a pair of boots for you to wear specifically while cleaning out your chicken coop. These measures will help control and prevent the transfer of germs and bacteria and any diseases.
A shovel and a rake will be your biggest helpers while cleaning out the coop. Make sure to invest in a good set, and also make sure that the handles are long enough so you won’t have to get on your hands and knees inside the coop. Brushes, scrapers and picks are also effective to remove mud, manure or any other waste that may be caked inside the coop.
Apart from that, you can buy bedding and litter at your local pet store, along with roosting boxes for your chickens to sleep in and lay eggs.
What to keep an eye out for?
Chickens, like all animals, carry diseases. Salmonella, E-Coli and Listeria are some of the most common ones that you’ve probably already heard of so keep an eye out for unusual poop.
Keeping your chicken coop clean, ventilated and by ensuring there’s enough sunlight streaming in, goes a long way in controlling and preventing any diseases that your chickens might spread to you. Wearing protective gear like gloves, masks and proper boots, as specified earlier, will also help.
If your chickens look a little peaky, isolate them from the rest of the flock to avoid any chance of spreading any illness and have a vet take a look at them at the earliest convenience.
The same goes for you as well. If you feel under the weather after cleaning the coop, or develop a cough, get yourself checked out. It might be worth getting a professional opinion on whether your coop is up to standards, clean and disease free.