Free Ranging and Training Chickens...

“My husband had a large flock (about 100 chickens) when he was a kid. Because of this he thinks chickens are, in his words, “gross, smelly and dirty”. I really think 3 or 4 would benefit our suburban homestead any suggestions?” ~ Kristin Palazzoli

Kristin, I’m sorry that you and your husband don’t agree on this subject and I’m not sure who’s mind I’ll be changing but here are my thoughts;

You husband is right.

Chickens don’t shower, they don’t flush, they don’t wash dishes and they don’t take out the garbage.

Left to themselves they are “gross, smelly and dirty”.

Whether you have 3 or 300, without proper sanitation your chickens will not be a pleasant addition to your family. They will draw endless amounts of flies and if you sit down wind from the chicken coop on a hot summer day it will not be pleasant.

However, chickens themselves are not smelly or dirty.

Chickens give themselves dust baths to keep clean and it’s actually very affective. They scratch down into the dirt until they hit fine dust and flop down and roll around on their backs. When they’re done they hop up, shake themselves off and oddly enough, they are clean.

Chickens only smell if they are forced to live in manure.

If they don’t have any choice but to step in it, they will smell. If you keep the manure cleaned up, chickens are actually very pleasant to keep.

It does require a commitment on the part of the owner to keep up with proper sanitation. Water dispensers need to be cleaned once a week and sanitized at least monthly (more often in warmer weather). Food dispensers need to be kept clean and sanitary also.

Manure can be handled in a few ways; you could make a droppings pit under the roosts to make removing the majority of the manure easier or you could use liter material on the floor of the coop.

There are many shredded organic materials that can be used as liter material.

We use straw because it’s easy for us, choose what works best for you. Do not use sawdust because it’s hard on the chicken’s respiratory system and do not use oak shavings because they are toxic. Also, do not let the litter get moldy; mold is dangerous for your birds.

To keep the chicken coop clean using liter you can:

1) Put in a lot to start with and remove only what is necessary as it gets soiled.

2) Put in a little and remove and replace all of it once every week to two weeks.

3) Put in a little and add a fresh layer as needed to all be cleaned out twice a year.

If you keep the chicken coop properly cleaned, your chickens will not be “gross, smelly and dirty”.

I’ll leave it up to the two of you to decide whether you’re willing to take on the task.

Thanks for the question Kristin, I hope this helps.

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