There are many joys that come along with being a chicken owner. Cleaning out the chicken house is not one of those joys. For most people, it is one of those necessary tasks that we put off and put off until the poop hits the fan (literally).
Do I Have To?
Yes, you do. It’s for your own good, your family’s well-being, and for the chicken’s health. Keep in mind that there are a few benefits to maintaining a clean chicken coop besides just finally getting it crossed off your to-do list and eliminating (foul) fowl smells.
First of all, a clean chicken house will help to keep your chickens happy. It also helps to reduce the stress and anxiety of your chickens when they have a nice place to hunker down at night. Happy, stress-free chickens tend to have better overall demeanors and are known to produce more eggs.
Besides having a more content chicken, you can also help to ensure that they stay healthy. While it’s not 100% foolproof, a clean coop should help keep nasty disease-ridden insects at bay. Mites and ticks can thrive in a dirty coop, so cleaning it out and disinfecting it from time to time will help to discourage them from moving in and harming your chickens.
OK, So What Do I Need To Do?
If it’s been a while since you’ve given your chicken house a thorough cleaning, and depending on the size of your coop, this may be a job that takes a few hours. If you’re used to doing a light daily or weekly cleaning, this probably won’t be so bad.
The first thing you will need to do, when you’ve decided to finally bite the bullet and get your hands dirty, is gather your tools.
Not every chicken house is the same as far as the layout inside and materials used, but the cleaning should always be somewhat similar. The goal is to take any old bits of flooring and nesting materials, gather and dispose of it, give a meticulous wash to the area, and then put in fresh flooring and nesting materials after it’s dry. Not so bad, right?
What Tools Do I Need?
Here is a list of the basic materials you should gather for cleaning out a small/medium chicken house:
- Garden Hoe
- Sturdy Scrubbers
- Trash Can(s)
- Vinegar (or any other natural disinfectant you want to use)
- Hose (and pressure washer if you have one)
- Old Rags
After gathering your tools, and before you begin the task of completely dismantling and cleaning out the chicken house, you will want to make sure that you’re dressed for the occasion. You should have a pair of shoes that are dedicated for this job specifically. Maybe you have an old beat-up pair of sneakers hiding in the back of your closet?
You should also wear comfortable clothes like shorts or loose jeans and a t-shirt. You’re probably going to get hot doing all that work, so you will want to dress in light materials. If you have long hair, make sure to put it up and get it out of your face.
Speaking of your face, a mask and disposable gloves should be worn at all times. You don’t want to be breathing in all the dirt and grime that you’re about to be sending into the air. The gloves will help to keep your hands protected from germs and bacteria that may be in the chicken feces (you never know, and it’s better to be safe than sorry).
Getting to Work!
If you have any chickens in the coop, now is the time to convince them to come outside for a while. If your birds are typically free-range, they can just hang out in the run. If they’re not, and you have no fence, maybe consider gathering them into the garage until the coop is ready for them.
Removing all Soiled Materials
Once the coast is clear, go ahead and start emptying any filler from the nesting boxes (watch for eggs!) and roosting perches onto the floor. The goal right now is to get all the old, dirty materials out of the coop. Make sure to dump any litter or dropping trays you have as well.
If you have removable trays you should take them out completely and line them up outside against the wall so you can hose them down later. Any feed and water bowls you have in the coop ought to be taken out and cleaned thoroughly as well.
Once all the loose materials have been gathered and swept together, you should start the task of scraping any stubborn chicken goop off any surfaces it’s stuck to. Chickens defecate a lot in their sleep, so there’s bound to be a lot of it.
Use your garden hoe for this job, it should help get it done quicker. Once it’s all scraped off or you’ve gotten as much as you can get, sweep all that with the other pile. You should now have one big heaping pile of chicken gunk in the middle of the coop.
Next, you will need to go ahead and shovel that pile into the trash cans. Just FYI if you have a garden, those leftover bits of materials and nests that you gathered from the floor are completely covered in chicken droppings and make for excellent compost. If you don’t have a use for this, go ahead and bag it up and dispose of the materials like regular trash.
Once you’ve finished loading that pile into the trash bins, you should be presented with a completely bare and gutted chicken house. Congratulations, you’re about halfway done!
Now is the time to get out your garden hose or pressure washer to give the whole coop a much-needed bath. Spray the whole area down and then fill your bucket with some water and vinegar. It’s time to apply some good old-fashioned elbow grease.
Take your rag or scrubber and make sure to wipe down every surface, nook, and cranny. If you’re going to spend half a day doing something, make sure that you do it the best way you can and make it worthwhile. After you’ve scrubbed every inch of that chicken house, you should give it one final rinse.
Take your broom and sweep out the excess water and take a moment to appreciate how nice your coop looks. You will need to give it a few hours to dry completely. If you can, leave the door and any vents or windows open to help the coop air out and dry faster.
Now would be a good time to rinse up and enjoy an ice-cold cup of lemonade or iced tea. After you have rehydrated, you can work on getting those dropping trays washed and scrubbed clean. The food and water bowls should follow.
By the time you’ve finished that, your coop should be ready to be reset. Put the poop pans back, fill the nests with fresh hay or chips, and make sure to apply enough pine shavings on the floor if you use a deep litter method in your coop.
Send In The Birds
Once you have finished setting everything back in its place, you can let the chickens come back in. Have you ever seen a truly content chicken? Take a moment to witness just how comfortable a hen can get in a newly cleaned chicken house (that’s their way of thanking you). At the end of the day, the satisfaction you feel after cleaning out the chicken house will make all that work worthwhile.
Additional Coop & Cleaning Tips:
For extra protection, you will probably want to add a good bug deterrent to the floor of the coop especially if you’ve had previous issues with mites or other vicious insects. Mites are aggressive blood-sucking animals that can wreak havoc on a chicken if given the chance. They cause anemia and can cause chickens to produce less eggs.
If you have a bad mite infestation, it could even end up killing your chickens. Needless to say, they are destructive creatures. When cleaning out your chicken house, you should remember to sprinkle a little Permethrin or diatomaceous earth on the floor, inside the nests, and even directly on the chickens. These are a couple of different insecticides that will help fight against those nasty buggers. Optimally your chicken house should be given a good deep-cleaning every 5 or 6 months.
However, if you want to reduce the amount of work necessary to keep your hen house clean, you could do a little work on it daily. For example, you could cover the dropping trays with newspaper to help decrease the amount of poop that gets stuck to it and make for easier clean up in the future. You could also make sure to keep their food and water bowls away from high traffic areas to lessen the chances of feces and feathers getting in it.
There are a bunch of little things that you can do to help lighten the load over time. By keeping your coop as clean as possible, you will be able to encourage egg production and keep your flock healthy.