There are good reasons why you should clean out your chicken coop on a regular basis. In this article we look at when, why and how you should clean your chicken coop as well as some tips to make your chicken coop easier to clean in future.
Regular can mean anything from monthly, or six monthly to annually, depending on the type of coop, the type of birds (chicks or layers) and what sort of environment they live in, eg deep litter shavings, dirt floor, timber floor or moveable chicken house with no floor.
When should you clean your chicken coop?
- Before you put new birds, either young chicks or new pullets, into a coop which has previously housed older birds;
- After you have had a disease outbreak, eg scaly leg or red mite, a respiratory disease like Infectious Bronchitis, or several unexplained deaths;
- When the droppings are piling up and the floor is becoming damp and smelly attracting flies and rodents;
- At least once a year.
Using a water blaster to clean your outdoor chicken coop is a great way to easily clean the timber surfaces, wash off cobwebs and dirt.
Why should you clean your chicken coop?
Over time a chicken coop will become dusty, full of chicken poop and probably cobwebs. The nest boxes and perches get covered with droppings and dirt from the birds’ feet, shed feathers and skin, as well as bits of broken egg and leftover food. The flooring can become more poop than litter and it all leads to a build-up of bacteria, virus and fungal particles that is likely to be a source of infection.
A dirty chicken coop can cause problems for chickens, especially those young or old or newly introduced to the flock. Even if your chickens don’t get sick from the dirty coop, they are much more likely to be carrying nasty bacteria, viruses and fungi that might end up on your eggs!
Pictured above is the inside of an Outpost 4 Bay Hen House that has a deep layer of wood chip litter on the floor and ladder style perches that are removable for easy cleaning. The timber surfaces of this Hen House have been painted which makes them easier to wash off as the paint makes the surface a bit smoother and poop can’t soak into to it.
A thorough cleaning will reduce the bug population back down to a manageable level and help prevent your hens from getting sick. You are never going to make a chicken coop or run completely bug-free but at least you can reduce the level of bugs to one the birds can handle and probably make it smell better too.
You should clean the feeders and drinking equipment once a week as a minimum, more often if they look dirty or the water looks contaminated.
A full cleanout of the chicken house perches and nests should be done at least once a year. A hot summer’s day is perfect as it will get everything dried out quickly.
Most Outpost Chicken Coops have removable ‘ladder style’ perches that can easily be removed for cleaning. In the picture above you can see on the left side the clean timber floor and on the right it has been covered with wood chip floor litter that absorbs the poop.
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10 steps to cleaning your Chicken Coop
- Put on gloves and always wear a dust mask or respirator when cleaning out a hen house. Take out everything that is removeable, perches, bedding, feeders etc.
Clean up the floor:
- If you have a dirt floor then use a spade to skim off the top layer of dirt to remove chicken poo and any other debris
- If you have a relocatable chicken coop then move your coop to fresh ground.
- If you have a timber or concrete floor in your chicken coop, you can scrape it off with a spade or wash it down with a water blaster – just make sure there’s somewhere for the water to run out and that there’s enough access for you to spray inside without actually being inside with all the water splashing around. Many people use wood chip or sand to cover the floor of the coop; this prevents poop sticking to the floor surface and also helps to insulate the coop for winter.
- If you have litter such as wood chip, or sand on the floor then replace this or use a spade to take out the top layer if it is not too soiled. TIP: Soiled wood chip is great for on your garden or in your compost! Don’t use it around vegetables until it has been fully composted, chicken manure can contain bacteria and fungi that you don’t want on your veges.
- Wash feeders and water fonts with a scrubbing brush and detergent then hose off thoroughly.
Clean out nest boxes:
- Remove bedding and sweep out and put in new bedding. To help prevent red mites you can dust the bottom and sides of the nest boxes with Smite or a similar DE product. If you have had a problem with mites then wash nest boxes with hot soapy water and make sure you dispose of the old bedding well away from your hen house!
- Waterblast the interior and exterior of your hen house. This is the quickest and easiest way to wash a hen house made of timber.
- Spray out with a sanitiser. The surface must be clean for it to work as you can’t sanitise dirt. There are several available including Virkon, Farm Fluid S, or others that are MAF- approved, eg those used in the dairy industry. These will be available from rural supply stores or your local farm vet. Other options include specialist poultry products like Poultry Shield. These products do not kill insects like mites, lice and fleas. It removes build-up dirt, faecal and waxy deposits and removes the organic matter in which red mites live and breed.
- Leave it to dry out
- Once dry, spray an insecticide like Ripcord or neem oil everywhere including the door/s and window frame/s, nests, floors, ceilings and equipment, especially below the perches. If you can (and it’s recommended), remove the perches and spray in the crevices where the perches sit. Red mites live on the wood frames of hen houses and perches and come out at night to suck on the blood of your birds and they love little gaps to hide in. Find out more about Red mites and how to get rid of them here
Leave the hen house empty
and clean for as long as possible to break any possible disease cycles. So clean your hen house in the morning and leave it empty all day.
Before you let your hens back in, treat them for lice with something like Smite, Pestene powder or flowers of sulphur. Also treat for parasites with either:
- an off-label product like Ivermectin pour-on drench. Note: this is for external use only - do NOT give it orally to your birds. Ivermectin is best dropped on the bare skin under a wing at a rate of 0.1ml per 1kg of body weight. This is a tiny amount so use a small syringe to measure it. Weigh your birds. One small drop is around 0.1ml so a normal-sized bird (2kg) would require two drops, a 1kg bantam would need one drop, and large heritage breed (3kg) would need three drops.
- or one you put in the water supply like Aviverm (for large birds). Other organic preventatives for mites include painting a chicken’s legs with neem oil (diluted as per instructions), and hanging cuttings of wormwood from the perches.
Tips for making your Hen House easier to clean
- If your hen house is wooden then paint it so that the surfaces are smoother and easier to wash.
- Removeable perches are easier to wash than ones stuck in your hen house because you can take them outside and give them a good water blast all over.
- Nest boxes that are removeable or lined with plastic are a good idea. They will be easier to wash out and scrape off if you need to remove dried egg and faeces. It’s important to clean nest boxes regularly and check for red mites – this is one of their favourite places to hide.
- A transportable Hen House design means you can regularly move your hens around to fresh ground which eliminates the need for floor litter. By moving your hen house every few days you can make it work as a chicken tractor that fertilises your paddock while giving your hens fresh grass regularly. Find out more about our Relocatable Hen Houses here.
- Use wood shavings on the floor. We recommend untreated wood chips or shavings to a depth of at least 10cm. Don’t use hay or straw as it stays wet. By adding a new layer every week or so you will keep down the smell and flies. Sprinkle grain onto the floor litter so birds will keep turning it over, which will also assist in keeping down the smell.
Pictured above is an inside view of an Outpost 4 bay Hen House with no floor. If you are worried about rodents getting into your hen house then we recommend you get the optional timber floor or lay a concrete pad for your hen house.
Outpost Chicken Coops are portable and designed so you can move your hens to fresh ground regularly. The strong timber framing is mounted onto heavy duty 4x4" timber skids so you can tie your tow rope on and drag it around the paddock.