Chicken Coop Hygiene

What You Need to Know to Keep Your Chicken Coop Clean

When raising backyard chickens, perhaps one of the most important things to stay on top of is keeping your chicken coop clean. This is especially true if you live in a more urban area with neighbors close by. The last thing you want to do is allow your coop to get so dirty your neighbors can start to smell it and complain. Not only does that make for a bad neighborly relationship but at that point the city could no longer allow you to keep chickens. Even though chickens are reasonably low maintenance pets, maintaining good coop hygiene is crucial not just for your chickens' health, but for your family’s as well. Chickens may possess pathogens like Salmonella, E. Coli, and Listeria if not maintained in good hygiene. Proper hygiene is the best prevention to ensure your flock stays protected. Here are some helpful ways to keep your chickens happy, healthy, and clean. 

How Often Should I Clean My Coop?

Coop cleaning frequency depends on factors such as how many chickens you have, how big your coop is, and the litter method you prefer. A common cleaning method is the deep litter method. This method allows a deep layer of bedding to build upon the coop floor. Owners using this method only do a thorough cleaning once a year. If correctly done, the bedding and manure will decompose, and the microbes in the compost will reduce the smell. Although this method is very sustainable and convenient, it is not recommended for smaller coops.

Regardless of the type of chicken coop you have or the amount of chickens, a good cleaning schedule is a quick weekly cleaning followed by a thorough cleaning once a month. Deep top to bottom cleaning and maintenance is usually done a few times a year. A good rule of thumb is if you can smell your chicken coop, your neighbors probably can too. In which case it is perhaps time to clean out the coop. The smell that comes off from a chicken coop is mostly ammonia which in high levels can cause respiratory problems to chickens, wildlife, and even humans. Adding yucca extract to chicken feed or dispensing it on litter and bedding can help to reduce ammonia.  

What Cleaner Should I Use? 

Different cleaners can be used to disinfect your chicken coup. Some cleaners on the market use natural enzymes or beneficial bacteria to disinfect; however, for a simple at home solution you can make one by diluting equal parts vinegar and water. The use of bleach is not recommended as bleach will react with ammonia in the feces and let off toxic fumes.

What Should I Wear?

Cleaning a chicken coop can be a dirty job, so dressing for the occasion is essential. Preferably you should wear clothes you are not too fond of and do not mind getting dusty, dirty, and grimy. You will also need a pair of gloves to minimize your exposure to germs and bacteria like salmonella. A face mask is necessary to protect your lungs and avoid breathing in any dust or harsh fumes. It is also a good idea to keep a pair of rubber boots or a dedicated pair of shoes to be used just for chicken coop cleaning.

How Do I Clean My Coop?

Tools Needed:
  • Shovel
  • Rake
  • Scraper
  • Brush
  • Vinegar Solution or Coop Cleaner  
  • Hose
  • Bedding of choice (do not use cedar chips)

Step 1: Scoop Everything Out

Cleaning out your coop always begins with taking out all the soiled bedding. This is where your rake and shovel will come in handy. Scoop out all the bedding, feathers, and muck. Do not forget to get into the nesting box as well. Chickens prefer to lay eggs in a clean nesting box, so ensuring this area is clean can increase their egg production.
After clearing these areas, you will probably end up with a pile of muck. All the soiled bedding you have collected can be composted and used as fertilizer for your garden.

Step 2: Hose Down Area

Once everything is removed, give your coop will need a good soak. Spray your entire coop down with your hose and or a cleaner of your choice. Increasing the pressure on areas with caked-on poop can soften it up and make it easier to scrape off later. Remember, do not use bleach!

Step 3: Scrub, Scrub, Scrub

Scrub everything down; use your brush and scraper to scrub off any caked-on poop.  Check the roosting bars and nesting boxes, as these are areas poop tends to accumulate. When cleaning your coop, it is good to check to see if anything needs to be repaired or replaced.

Step 4: Soak One More Time

Once everything is scrubbed down, hose off your coop one more time to help wash away any loose debris. It is recommended to spray your coop with your disinfectant (vinegar solution) one more time to ensure maximum cleanliness. This is also the perfect time to disinfect the drinking troughs and feeders, as these are things that tend to be forgotten.

Step 5: Dry and Add Fresh Bedding

Make sure your coop is as dry as possible before adding in your fresh bedding. Before or after adding new bedding, be sure spray a natural insecticide to prevent infestations of flea, ticks, and other pest. We recommend using Green Star Chick Gard. Not only is it a natural product with pleasant odor, but it has also been proven to reduce pest populations significantly. Chick Gard is also safe to spray directly on chickens since it is made with natural essential oils.

Step 6: Give Your Chickens a Check-up

Since you will be handling your chickens, this is the perfect time to take a closer look at them to see if there are any issues in your flock you need to address. Common problems can include bumblefoot, lice, and mites. Signs of lice include reddish-pink areas that seem like they have been chewed on. Luckily if you are keeping up with your chicken hygiene, these issues should not be a problem. Lice, mites, and even bumblefoot can easily be prevented by keeping your coop clean. (Check out our xxxxx to learn more about lice and mite solution.)
 
Although steps 1-6 seem daunting, deep cleanings are not needed that often. If you maintain your coop keeping it clean throughout the week by doing a quick removal of soiled beddings and droppings while adding some fresh litter, then a deep cleaning is only needed a few times a year. If you give your coop a little love and attention every week, it will save you a lot of stress in the long run. Maintaining a clean coop is part of keeping happy and healthy chickens.  
Chicken care

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