Organic eggs and free-range chickens are some of the amazing benefits of having a chicken coop. A stress-relieving hobby, that provides you with healthy food that you can share with family and friends; that can even turn into an additional source of income. Yet, to be able to enjoy these benefits, you need healthy chickens.
Children’s stories might tell you to be vigilant for weasels and foxes, but it’s diseases, bacteria, fungi, and parasites that could potentially ravage your chicken coop. What’s the best line of defense, you might ask? Simple, a clean coop.
If you want your eggs to be the envy of everyone at the local farmer’s market, then keep reading and pay close attention, because today we’ll tell you everything you need to know about how to keep your chicken coop spotless.
What You’ll Need to Clean a Chicken Coop
To keep anything clean, from dishes to a car, you need the proper supplies. Chicken coops are no different, as they’re the place where your chickens go about their business. From eating, to sleeping and using the toilet, the coop is your chicken’s world. To keep it from becoming a teenager’s bedroom we’ve created for you a comprehensive list of the supplies you’ll need to keep the coop immaculate.
- Rake, Shovel, and a dry Cloth
These are your go-to tools for daily cleaning and maintenance. Patch-up holes chickens dig on the substrate and scoop droppings to avoid flies and odors. Use the dry cloth to wipe everything dry before placing things back inside the coop.
- Litter Scoop
A metal kitten litter scoop will do the job of collecting and removing litter.
- Two Plastic Buckets
A large one is perfect to mix and keep your disinfectant while cleaning. The second one should be medium-sized, which you’ll use to collect the litter and other debris you scoop.
- Cleaning Brush
For cleaning webs, dirt, and other filth that builds up inside the coop.
Remember to wear your gloves before you start to clean your chicken coop. Gloves will keep your hands clean from dirt and filth.
- Mask and Goggles
Brushing and scooping will make the air inside the coop dusty with chicken litter and other filth. Take care of your health wearing a face mask and goggles.
- Handled Brush (Short and Long)
The long-handled brush will help you get into every corner of your coop and keep it dirt-free. Meanwhile, the short one is perfect to scrub waterers with the disinfectant mix.
- Poultry Disinfectant/Vinegar
If you don’t want to use commercial poultry disinfectant, a homemade disinfectant is easy to make. Add vinegar to the water, and then add some dishwashing soap, and certain essential oils and you have a powerful disinfectant mixture, capable of removing dirt, filth, and killing off microbes (more on the merits of commercial disinfectant vs homemade below).
- Calcium Carbonate (Agricultural Lime or Gardening Lime) and Diatomaceous Earth (DE)
This helps prevent odor buildup and mites.
What Disinfectant Is Safe for Chickens?
When talking about household disinfectants, we’re all familiar with bleach. It’s used to clean everything from floors to countertops, providing quick and easy disinfection. When it comes to livestock, however, it gets a bit more complicated. This is because the chemicals can be harsh for the chickens to bear and if not completely dried, they can be toxic for them. For that reason, our recommendation for you would be to get commercial spray, powder, or tablets that are specifically sold for this purpose. Among the desirable product features that you should look for are biodegradable, non-toxic, sanitizing, and deodorizing.
Homemade Chicken Coop Disinfectant
If you prefer a homemade disinfectant that checks all of the above criteria, our recommendation would be to mix:
- 1 cup of vinegar
- 5 cups of hot water
- 30 drops of lemongrass essential oil (helps repel parasites)
- 30 drops of lavender essential oil (helps remove odors)
- A few drops of dish soap
This mixture is safe for the chickens, disinfects, and does a great job of getting rid of the filth and bad odors in your coop.
Step by Step Chicken Coop Cleaning Process
In this how-to, we’ll cover the steps for a complete washdown of your chicken coop.
Step 1: Get Ready!
Put on your gloves, face mask, goggles, and overalls, then proceed to remove everything inside the coop using your litter scoop, rake, and shovel.
Step 2: Prepare Your Cleaning Solution
If your cleaning solution is store-bought then follow the instructions on the package and use the large plastic bucket to store the solution. If you’re making your own, fill your bucket with hot water and mix the remaining ingredients you need to make your homemade chicken coop disinfectant.
Step 3: Soak in the Mixture
With the help of a brush start applying your cleaning mixture on every surface and item inside your chicken coop. Scrub the dirt and manure from every surface until it starts to come off, pay close attention to places like window sills where dust and dirt tend to accumulate. Outside, soak and scrub bars, nesting boxes, feeders, and waterers.
Pro tip: Although chicken manure is good for plants, never add chicken manure to your plants directly because chicken manure, on its own, is too strong (high in Nitrogen) and you run the risk of burning your plants. If you want to recycle chicken manure, add it to a compost bin or mix it with soil before adding it to your plants. The ratio is half part chicken manure to 1.5 parts soil.
Step 4: Rinse
Grab a bucket full of water or a hose and rinse every object and surface you soaked during the previous step, to remove the washing mixture, dirt, and manure.
Step 5: Mop and Dry
Grab a mop a sweep out all of the water inside the coop. It’s very important to avoid puddles from remaining inside, as they’re breeding grounds for bacteria.
Step 6: Leave to Dry
After removing any excess water, let the coop doors and windows open for a few hours so the enclosure has time to dry. Meanwhile, take a dry rag or washcloth and dry the feeders, waterers, nest boxes, and everything else that will go back inside.
Step 7: Apply Calcium Carbonate and Diatomaceous Earth (DE)
Once the coop is completely dry, apply calcium carbonate (agricultural lime or gardening lime) and Diatomaceous Earth (DE) on the chicken coop’s floor and also at the bottom of the nesting boxes. Place everything back inside.
How Often Should I Clean My Chicken Coop?
The answer depends on the type of weather you have at your location. If your home is located somewhere with cold winters, then most likely your chickens will have spent the bulk of the season huddled inside the coop. If this is your case, it means that a considerable build-up of filth and litter will have accumulated by the season’s end.
As temperatures begin to rise, this buildup will be the perfect breeding spot for all kinds of microbes and parasites. For this reason, it’s highly recommended that the coop is deep cleaned and disinfected at least once a year and ideally twice, especially if new birds are to take home in your coop. Other cleaning routines should be performed more frequently, for example, litter should be collected and taken out daily, while waterers, feeders, and roosting bars should be scraped and cleaned once a week.
Alternatively, to pick up litter daily, you can use what’s known as the “Deep Litter Method.” This method allows you to collect compost directly from your chicken’s droppings while giving them a surface to peck on that provides them with healthy microorganisms. To do so you’ll need to line the floor with a three to four-inch layer of clean litter and on top of it, add dry grass, pine shavings, straw, or even wood shavings.
Every 10 days, as manure accumulates, spread a thin layer of litter on top, and if you sprinkle a handful of your chicken’s favorite grains on the floor every day, your chickens will stir the litter for you as they peck away at their snacks. Caked litter should be broken up by using rakes or forks to help redistribute the moisture.
Final Thoughts on How to Clean a Chicken Coop
This complete process can be done twice a year, during the spring and fall. This way, your chickens have a clean and sanitized space for the summer and winter months. To minimize the amount of cleaning during these complete washdowns, it’s good practice to regularly collect droppings from the coop’s floor, scrape surfaces like roost bars, window sills, and trusses where dust and manure collects. It’s also recommended to rinse objects like feeders and waterers to avoid the proliferation of bacteria and parasites in them. With diligent upkeep, your chickens will enjoy a clean and healthy environment, while providing you with nutritious eggs!