Latest posts by Rebekah Pierce
- 10 Tips to Keep Your Chicken Coop Smelling Clean - March 30, 2019
As the snow begins to thaw this spring, I once again find myself faced with the horror of entering my chicken coop to more thoroughly muck it out. Each winter, I resolve to do better at mucking out the coop every week, to remove all the buildup of bedding and to thoroughly sanitize the entire thing.
Unfortunately, life gets in the way. So do freezing temperatures that make it impossible to scrape the bottom of the coop floor.
While I don’t really notice the stink until early spring when everything begins to melt – and when there is a lovely pile of sludge-like chicken manure caked right outside the coop door – I have committed myself to finding a new way to keep my chicken coop clean and fresh.
It’s not difficult to do this! However, it does require some advance planning, which is something I’m admittedly not that good at. Here are some ideas to keep your chicken coop smelling clean – no matter what time of year it may be, or how many chickens you might have.
1. Keep things dry
Obviously, you need to keep some water in the coop – your chickens need to drink. However, when you fill your waterers, try to do it outside the coop, and minimize spillage at all costs. Water creates major messes and has the potential to lead to mold growth, and in the winter, it can lead to freezing bedding that is impossible to remove.
Keep things nice and dry, and you’ll find that your coop smells a lot better in return.
2. Clean out the bedding every few days
Ideally, you should be cleaning your chicken coop every few days. I understand that this is not practical for a lot of chicken keepers, particularly those who already work full-time jobs on top of raising chickens. If you have the time, clean the bedding as frequently as your schedule permits.
Otherwise, make sure you use a low-moisture bedding, such as straw, and add more bedding whenever you notice that they have soiled a particular area. You can delay the need to clean your coop if you follow the deep litter method, which I’ll get to next.
3. Use the deep litter method
This is by far my favorite method of keeping a chicken coop smelling clean, and it’s something that we accidentally discovered as a side effect of our super-cold winters. We found that, despite being diligent and making sure we cleaned our coop every week, our bedding was freezing up solid before we got a chance to scrape it out.
This was incredibly frustrating. Frozen poop is still poop, and we knew we couldn’t just leave it there. However, thawing the poop definitely wasn’t an option, either. The deep litter method came in to save the day.
This method involves building a compost pile out of your chicken’s poop – right on the floor of the coop. You start with your bedding, which you inevitably put down to start with, and then add your nitrogen-rich matter – the chicken manure. You continue adding shavings as the manure begins to pile up, piling on bedding whenever you begin to notice even a mild stench.
You can do this successfully and only need to scrape your coop out once or twice a year. This saves you a lot of labor, and also allows you to use the bedding immediately as compost (just make sure you allow any “fresh” spots to cook down first). You can even encourage the hens to do the aeration for you by scattering some corn or grain on the coop floor – this will invite them to scratch and turn the compost.
4. Hang some fresh herbs
If you have some fresh herbs lying around, sprinkle them in the nest boxes and above the roost bars. You can also hang them from the rafters of your coop. This will help maintain a pleasant odor in your coop, and it can also encourage laying. If you hang the herbs within reach of your chickens, they will happily snack on them, too. Mint and rosemary are great choices for herbs to use in a chicken coop.
5. Install a box fan
If your chicken coop has electricity, consider installing a box fan. This will help keep your birds cool in the summer months, and it will also provide ventilation to prevent stagnant air. Flies accumulate more quickly in a stuffy building, so running a fan will keep bugs and odors to a minimum. You don’t’ have to invest in a super-expensive fan – the cheapest unit will work just fine, too.
6. Provide a clean place to roost
Would you like your bed to be covered in poop all the time?
Didn’t think so.
Neither do your chickens! Remember that chickens poop even while they’re sleeping, so it’s important to check the status of your roost bars, too. You can scrape these with a garden hoe to knock the manure loose, or, if the weather cooperates, you can spray them down with a high-pressured garden hose. Just make sure they have plenty of time to dry, and that they will not freeze up in the meantime.
Want to really deep-clean your roost bars? White vinegar can loosen any remaining droppings, and it will also help sanitize it to prevent bacteria or bugs.
7. Make sure your nest boxes are clean
A clean nest box is imperative. Prioritize this even if you don’t have time to scrape the chicken coop out every week, because if your nesting boxes aren’t clean, it can deter your hens from laying. This is a common problem related to poor egg production, and can cause a whole range of side-issues, from disease to hens feeling tempted to eat their own eggs.
It doesn’t take long to clean out your nest boxes. All you need to do is scrape everything out with a hoe and then replace the bedding with new material. Good choices for a nest boxes include shredded paper, straw, ha, mulch, or pine shavings.
8. Sprinkle some diatomaceous earth
Diatomaceous earth is already the organic gardener’s cure-all, but did you know it can be used in your chicken coop, too? This stuff works wonders, and can keep mites out of your chicken coop. This material is totally natural, and helps deter pests that can make your chickens sick.
Now, diatomaceous earth won’t clean your coop for you. You still have to do that on your own. But it can help keep everything in balance and smelling fresh when you step inside to collect eggs.
9. Invest in a hanging feeder
Chickens poop…everywhere. Including in their own food and water supply. Therefore, it’s important to keep your feeders and waterers as far away from the nesting boxes and roost bars as possible, because they will, without a doubt, poop in, on, or around them.
Here’s a good strategy. Instead of resting your feeders or waterers on the coop floor, invest in a hanging feeder and a hanging waterer. This will allow the chickens to eat and drink as they please, but you won’t have to worry about your containers becoming disgusting. This will cut down on disease and just the general “yuck”-factor involved in feeding and watering your birds.
As a reminder, if you don’t have the means (whether logistically or otherwise) to install hanging units, make sure you are doing your best to keep your chickens healthy. Clean the feeders and waterers once a week, and add some garlic or apple cider vinegar to the food or water (just know that apple cider vinegar cannot be added to galvanized waterers).
10. Allow your birds to free range
Free ranging your chickens allows them to do most of their pooping and other unmentionables somewhere that isn’t your coop. Plus, chicken manure is a great source of fertilizer for your garden, as you likely already know.
You might not be able to allow your birds to free range all the time, or give them access to your entire property. That’s okay. Utilize fenced-in areas or runs, and you’ll find that your chicken coop is, in return, much less stinky.
As a result of my fully stinkified chicken coop, I have moved to adopting a majority of these tips in my own coop.
I’m also looking forward to the summer months, where we don’t need to use a chicken coop at all but can instead get the birds out in chicken tractors, where they are moved every day so that they have constant access to fresh pasture – and the stink never gets a chance to build up. While these aren’t a good solution in the sub-zero temps we have here in the Great White North, they work well to mitigate any odors and related problems in the warmer months.