Annual Chicken Coop Cleaning…

Free Ranging and Training Chickens...

“Dear Wendy, A few weeks ago, all of my chickens were wiped out by a pack of coyotes. There where, and still are, feathers laying all over the pen, along with a few other parts. I got some new baby chicks about a week ago. Before I let them into the run, should I completely sanitize the run, and take all of the feathers, etc. out, or could just cover them with some mulch or dirt? Thanks for the help. I love your newsletters.” ~ Leah

Hi Leah,

I’m glad you wrote and I’m sorry about your coyote troubles.

I think it would be a good idea to thoroughly clean out the run.

First of all you don’t want the chicks to start eating the feathers when they are old enough to put into the coop / run.

Most importantly though, because you mentioned that there were “a few other parts”. It’s important that the chicks have a fresh, clean start.

On that note, here’s a few other times when you should thoroughly clean out your coop and / or run.

Whenever you have finished (for whatever reason) with one batch of chickens and before you introduce a new flock, plan a cleaning day.

If you purchase a new coop, be sure to give it a good cleaning before you release your chickens.

If you use an existing coop (for instance if you move to a property with a chicken house), it’s important to thoroughly clean it, especially if it has housed chickens within the past few years.

Disease and parasites can live for months in the cracks of the coop, the dirt or surrounding fields, basically anywhere infected poultry have had access. So if you’ve had troubles with mites, lice or disease, a thorough cleaning is a must.

Everyone though should thoroughly clean out the coop at least once a year, twice is better.

Time these planned cleaning days intentionally.

You may recall that one of the methods of managing litter material is to start with a thin layer of straw (or whatever you use), clean out only what is necessary on a regular basis and then add more litter. In this way, you will build up a nice layer of litter.

During the cold months of winter, the litter acts as a wonderful insulator and really helps to keep the coop warmer.

If this is the method you use, plan to thoroughly clean out the coop in the spring when the weather has warmed up. Clean again in the fall so that you will have time to build up the litter before the cold of winter sets in.
If you live in a milder climate or do not use the method described above, you have a little more flexibility in your timing.

Remember that the cleaning has to be done in one day if you are housing an existing flock so pick a warm, dry day and get an early start.

As soon as you’ve put the chickens out, don a good pair of gloves, grab a good scrub brush and start cleaning all manure off of every surface within the coop. This would include manure pits, walls, nest boxes, roosts and floors.

Make sure all liter material has been removed. Most internal parasites and diseases are transmitted through droppings.

Use old fashioned elbow grease to soak and scrub everything with a basic soap or disinfectant solution. If you prefer a more leisurely approach, a high-pressure hose or steam cleaner works as well.

If you are trying to eradicate the coop of parasites, the steam cleaner is actually the best approach as the heat will take care of the eggs hiding in the cracks and crevices.

However, if a steam cleaner is not an option, a mixture of 1 ounce lye per 1 gallon of water is effective against disease germs and parasite eggs. Lye water is most effective when applied hot but will still work when applied cold.

Manure will neutralize the lye so it is important that all the droppings have been removed, otherwise, the effect will be the same as if you’re using just plain water.

Let me just remind everyone that lye should not come into contact with your skin, EVER. Please use appropriate protection for your skin and eyes and keep small children and animals at a safe distance.

There are also special purpose disinfectants available, check your local feed store or farm supply and follow directions completely.

And finally, a good old bleach and water solution can be used as well. Allow the bleach to dry and then thoroughly rinse.

With all of these applications, keep in mind that everything must be dry and all odors dissipated before the chickens are allowed back into the area.

Chickens are susceptible to respiratory problems and therefore breathing the chemical odor can be detrimental to their health.

Finally, do any repair that is necessary like nailing metal over rodent holes, fixing roof leaks or sealing cracks.

Paint if you’d like and if you have the time for it to completely dry and be free of fumes before sundown.

Put fresh litter on the floor and welcome the chickens back home.

Now go grab a glass of iced tea, have a seat on the porch, put your feet up and watch the sun set as you enjoy a sense of accomplishment and the chickens enjoy their fresh clean home.

Whether you're a complete beginner and don't know where to start, or you're a seasoned chicken keeping professional and just want practical "how to" advice on tap our guide to keeping chickens has got you covered...

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