Cleaning the Coop
Cleaning and Maintaining Your Coop
"An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure." It is important that your chicken coop stays clean, having a clean coop and yard is one of the best ways to keep your flock healthy and free of disease. Cleaning the coop does not need to be a big time consuming chore you do on a daily basis. With a little effort and regular weekly maintenance, you can easily get the job done in about 30 minutes or less when it is time to clean the coop. A "deep cleaning" is good to do about twice a year and requires a little more time. By maintaining the coop, specifically the roosting boxes every couple weeks, you are helping prevent illness and increase egg production by giving your hens an environment they can thrive in. Let's think about our own homes. If we do the dishes every day it does not take long between meals to clean up. If we let the dishes go and sit on the table after three meals, it is going to take us a little longer to clean up the mess. I have been happy with a weekly checklist to keep my coop clean. Always deep clean a coop each time you get a new flock! We keep our hens for three years and then sell them to get new chicks. It is so important the coop is disinfected for your new hatch.
**Our coops are designed to make the cleaning process easier and discourage mice from entering the coop.
**Store your bags of feed and chicken scratch in barrels with lids, to keep rodents and wild birds out!
The first thing I do when cleaning my coop is to check and see how the floor is doing. I let my hens out every day so I can go longer before I have to change all the shavings on the floor, (once every two or three months.) My coop floor stays cleaner because most of the manure collects in the roosting boxes that are in the coop. (wherever hens roost, that is where the manure is.) The next thing I do is to look into my roosting boxes to see how full they are. I love scraping the manure out each week or two and making a compost pile for the garden. The roosting boxes are made of plywood so they can get quite heavy from the manure if left unchecked and uncleaned. Roosting boxes are easy to lift in and out of the coop with a cleaning every so often, depending on how many hens you have. Put a thin layer of shavings on the bottom of the roosting boxes, this helps manure to fall out easily when dumping the boxes. I wear gloves when cleaning and a little paint mask so I don't breathe in the dust from the feces and food grade DE I put in the shavings. Always do the best you can to keep the shavings on the floor of the chicken coop dry, if you notice any wet spots, replace it with dry shavings.
Cleaning the Feeders
Every month or so, clean your water feeders. It is a good idea to disinfect them with a little soapy water and then rinse them clean. It takes about 5 minutes to wash out your water feeder. Chickens should always have fresh water, especially when laying. I get top covers for my feeders so the hens cannot accidentally defecate or scratch shavings into the water or food. I made my covers from some left over vinyl we had from a project. I shaped the covers like a funnel, leaving a hole at the top for the chain to go through and fit them over the top of the feeders. You can also purchase feeder covers from your local farm supply store or online.
If you do not want to hang your feeders, you can make little platforms for the feeders to sit on the coop floor. This can also make changing the food easier by just lifting water and food in and out of the coop instead of unclipping a chain. Make sure the platforms are high enough the hens cannot scratch or defecate in the feeders (as high as the top of their back) but so they are still able to reach the food and water. I prefer hanging my feeders on a chain with a removable clip because I did not want to worry about them tipping over. I only remove my water for refilling, I can refill the food bucket by dumping new feed through top without taking the feeder out of the coop. Occasionally you can take out the food feeder and clean it as needed or when you are doing your deep cleaning.
Deep Cleaning the Coop
As long as the coop stays dry, there is not a lot of heavy cleaning if maintained throughout the year. My coop is completely plywood and so I do not feel comfortable spraying the hose inside and completely drenching the entire floor and walls. Instead I get a clean bucket with 2-3 gallons of mild soapy water and about 1/4 -1/2 cup of bleach. Using a course cleaning brush and damp rag, I scrub the roosting boxes, floor, walls and nest boxes. (I use removable bins in my nest boxes, they require very little cleaning.) After I am done with my scrub, I allow the coop to dry completely before replacing the shavings. Our hens play outside while I clean and I provide water and food outside until the coop is dry. After the coop is dry, I replace the fresh shavings and nesting bins. A good time to deep clean a coop is later in the day when the hens are done laying so they do not try to come in the coop while you are working.
Protecting the Coop Floor
Our coops are made to help the cleaning process be a little easier. Roosting boxes and bars are removable so you can reach in and out to clean the floor. To protect my wood floor, I have a coat of exterior waterproof primer on the bottom followed by a nice thick layer of wood shavings. Just the shavings by itself will absorb most of the moisture to keep the wood floor dry underneath. I love adding food grade Diatomaceous Earth to my coop floor before I spread the shavings. I use a mustard / ketchup refill bottle to line the corners and edges of the coop with DE. After laying down fresh shavings, a light sprinkle of DE with a wire colander or flour sifter all over the coop floor keeps the odors down, flies and mites under control and the inside of the coop dry!
Another way to protect the floor is to use a self leveling compound that is safe for the type of wood you have. I have not done this method myself but have heard of some people that do it. Here are some simple instructions from eHow:
Self-leveling floor compounds provide an easy way to achieve a clean, level floor over old concrete, gypsum or portland sub-floors and some wood substrate floors. Before you apply a self-leveling floor to a non-concrete floor you must verify that any glues used to install the floor are water resistant, or the floor compound will destroy the bond. For all types of sub-floors, careful cleaning is required before applying the self-leveling floor compound. The actual application process is easy.
1. Sweep the entire floor. Then vacuum as well. You do not want any dust or debris left on your sub-floor; this can interfere with the ability of your self-leveling floor to form a good bond.
2. Mix your self-leveling floor compound in a bucket. Carefully follow the instructions on the product you have chosen. Some compounds are mixed with water only; others require special liquid additives to prepare them. The information will be on the packaging of the compound.
3. Pour the self-leveling compound onto the floor and use a squeegee to spread it over your sub-floor. A good rule of thumb to remember is that you only want about an 1/8" of the compound on the floor unless there is a dip or rise in the subfloor. For both of these instances, leave about a 1/4" of compound on the floor. As it levels, it will smooth into the flat areas.
**After constructing your coop, paint the outside with 2 coats of exterior grade paint to protect the wood!