Cleaning and Maintaining Your Coop
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.
Deep Cleaning the Coop
It can be helpful to set up a cleaning schedule and routine. Depending on the coop size and design and flock size, your coop may need a cleaning every two weeks, once a month, or once a season. If your birds have problems with insects and parasites, you may need to clean more often. A good rule of thumb for regular cleaning is to clean when an ammonia smell becomes evident.
Assemble your cleaning supplies ahead of time. A bucket or cleaning caddy can keep these organized and help you avoid having to search for things at the last minute. Rubber gloves, scrub brushes (various sizes and lengths for reaching hard-to-get-at areas), white vinegar, Dawn dishwashing soap, orange peel and White Vinegar Coop Cleaner (recipe below), food-grade diatomaceous earth, a second bucket and scissors for cutting fresh herbs will all come in handy.
A month before coop cleaning day, start brewing your orange peel and white vinegar coop cleaner. You will need four oranges (peels only), two cinnamon sticks, two vanilla beans, a bottle of white vinegar, two canning jars and a spray bottle. Put the orange peels in two jars (dividing them equally). Then break each cinnamon stick and put two pieces in each jar and slit the vanilla beans and place one in each jar. Pour the white vinegar over top of everything and tighten the jar lids. Set this aside for about a month, shaking occasionally. After a month, you can pour just the liquid into your spray bottle. This makes a fragrant and safe cleaner that repels insects, kills mold, and works as a solvent and disinfectant.
On coop cleaning day, begin by airing the coop out as well as you can and then raking or shoveling out the old bedding. If you are sensitive to smells and chicken fluff, you may benefit from wearing a mask. This is another good reason (second to your flock’s well-being) to tackle coop cleaning before the ammonia smell builds. Once most of the bedding is out, you can sweep the remaining bits out with a broom.
Next, take a bucket of water and add some vinegar and Dawn dishwashing soap and scrub the floor, nest boxes and roosts. Basically, scrub anything that the chickens come in contact with. Long-handled scrub brushes can be especially useful in reaching difficult areas. Take your home-brewed coop cleaner and spray down the floors, nest boxes and roosts. If you notice mites anywhere (just rub your finger over an area and any blood colored patches that appear signal a mite presence), spray these areas liberally.
The last thing to do to clear out mites or other parasites is to sprinkle food-grade diatomaceous earth (DE) over the coop. Pay close attention to the roosts where mites love to hide out. Be sure to keep the chickens out of the coop and do not breathe the dust yourself, as DE dust can be very irritating to the lungs. A mask may be helpful here, too.
As a final touch, pick some fresh herbs and sprinkle them in the nesting boxes. Mint,lemon balm, lavender and rose petals are great options. Various herbs work as insecticides and repellants and have anti-bacterial and anti-parasitic properties. They can also serve as stress-relievers and even laying stimulants. Wild birds have been known to line their own nests with essential oil containing leaves and flowers and your chickens will love them. Then step back and enjoy the clean, sweet smelling coop.
Use Of Dropping Boards.
Dropping boards are essentially shelves designed to collect chicken poop deposited overnight. Backyard chickens spend most of their waking hours outside the coop, either ranging freely outside the run or wandering around inside an enclosed run, which means that droppings inside the coop accumulate primarily overnight underneath the roosts. Utilizing droppings boards to collect those droppings is a simple and effective method for keeping the coop largely poop-free.
Each morning,scrape the droppings into a bucket with a taping knife. The droppings are then added directly to the compost pile. Droppings boards keep the litter/bedding cleaner, which means less frequent litter changes and less frequent litter changes result in time and money savings.
Beyond coop sanitation, droppings boards provide a daily opportunity to assess the health and well-being of the flocks.You are able to see plainly whether a chicken has been injured in a scuffle overnight, has contracted coccidiosis, worms or diarrhea. Without droppings boards, most of that evidence would be hidden in the bedding, denying the chicken-keeper the opportunity to detect and treat certain health problems as early as possible.
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.Get the top covers for your feeders so the hens cannot accidentally defecate or scratch shavings into the water or food. You can made covers from some left over materials such as vinyl and shape 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.