It’s not the most enjoyable part of owning chickens, but cleaning out their coop is a crucial part of caring for your chickens and their environment. Regular cleaning will keep your chickens happier and healthier, boosting their well being and both their ability and inclination to lay eggs.
Let’s face it, chicken manure smells bad. A build-up of droppings in your coop results in a build-up of ammonia, and this can damage the eyes and respiratory system of your chickens. As a responsible chicken owner, you need to mitigate the risks.
How Often Should I clean out my Chicken Coop?
You should ideally do a basic coop clean every week or two – otherwise, the deep clean required each season will be a far more unpleasant experience and your birds will also not thrive. Some people recommend just once a year – but we don’t support this idea. Your chickens will be happier and healthier with a regular clean – just like there’s nothing quite like a freshly changed bed for humans, there’s nothing like a fresh clean coop for your hens.
At the very least, clean out and replace soiled or damp bedding at least once per week.
What to use to clean out Your Chicken Coop
The healthiest coop is a natural, organic coop, so it’s worth making your own simple coop cleaner. This will not be irritating or harmful to your birds.
- White vinegar is great to disinfect the coop and nesting boxes. Mix this with boiling water in equal parts to make an all-natural cleaning solution.
- DO NOT USE BLEACH. This is too harsh for your chickens and it can be very toxic to them.
- Lime is a great way to control insects, prevent odors, and provide a source of calcium for your chickens. Choose a lime product that is 100% safe for pets and kids; non-caustic and non-toxic, and follow instructions for safe application in your coop, on the floor and under the bedding.
The Best Way to Clean a Chicken Coop
- Prepare for the job. You’ll need to wear old clothing, a face mask, and gloves.
- Choose a sunny day so that your coop can dry out quickly.
- Remove everything that can be taken from the coop – feeders, waterers, nesting box trays, and perches.
- Get rid of all the used bedding – if you have a compost heap, you can add it to that.
- Use a scraper or scrubbing brush to remove dried poop from the coop, as well as feathers, dirt, dust, cobwebs, mold, litter, etc.
- Sweep the floor of the coop.
- Use your coop cleaning mixture to scrub stubborn debris from areas it remains. Scrub the coop perches and nesting box trays.
- Hose out the entire coop. At least a couple of times a year, use a deep pressure water cleaner/gurney.
- While the coop dries, clean the feeders and waterers with the boiling water/vinegar solution and let them dry completely in the sun.
- When the coop is dry, apply fresh bedding to the nesting boxes and replace the perches. The best bedding is absorbent and dust-free. Use straw, wood shavings, chopped cardboard, or a commercial bedding product. Add some diatomaceous earth into the bedding to help keep the bedding dry and to prevent parasites.
- Add fresh bedding to the floor of the dried coop and replace the feeders and waterers with fresh food and water.
- Your chickens can move back in!
Make sure to wash your hands thoroughly, and launder your clothing in hot water. Birds can carry bacteria and viruses that cause illness in humans so it’s important to be safe.
To keep your Coop smelling as fresh as possible:
- Clean up water spills as quickly as possible as they occur. Consider using a fount-style waterer for your birds in preference to a bowl they can tip or get into.
- Try using fresh herbs in the sleeping areas and nesting boxes. Fresh herbs smell wonderful and the hens will love the treat. Fresh mint, in particular, will smell great and help to repel pests.
- Install a box fan in your coop to circulate air and help keep odors to a minimum if ventilation is not optimized. This will also help keep flies away and prevent the coop from overheating.
A clean coop equates to a healthy, happy flock of chickens – and a much more enjoyable experience for you when it comes to collecting eggs!