Once seen as exotic in a suburban setting, chicken coops are all but commonplace these days. Although chickens are not maintenance-free, many are surprised to learn that maintaining a backyard flock doesn’t take much more effort than caring for domestic pets. Key to keeping chickens happy, healthy and laying is a clean, well-maintained coop.
From small “tractors” housing two or three chickens to larger coops with dozens of birds, a clean space is essential for warding off diseases, respiratory problems and other health issues. Sterilizing a chicken coop on a daily basis is not just impractical, it can be disruptive to a flock, but understanding and maintaining an appropriate sanitation schedule makes it easy to keep a clean and trouble-free coop.
An effective cleaning schedule won’t necessarily be the same for every coop or owner. Some chicken keepers might balk at shoveling out litter more than a couple of times a year, while others may replace litter on a monthly or even weekly basis. There is a window of efficacy that may vary with flock size or coop style.
A schedule outlined to maintain a daily, weekly, monthly and even yearly routine will ensure a healthy flock, but should be adjusted to the needs of the flock through regular attention to birds and coop conditions. If you’re new to backyard chickens or reconsidering your maintenance routine, this basic schedule will help get you started.
- Feeders and waterers should always be kept free of dropping, feathers or other debris.
- Tidy up nesting boxes. Collect eggs at least once a day, attend to obvious droppings in boxes.
- Inspect the flock. Everyone there, acting normally and looking good? Health problems may be evidence of sanitation issues.
- Disinfect waterer. Dirt and algae can build up quickly on chicken waterers. Clean with soapy water and rinse thoroughly. Also wipe down food hoppers and discard any moist or clumping feed.
- Brush or wipe roosts to remove any accumulated droppings.
- Add fresh bedding to nesting boxes, as needed.
- Inspect coop for leaks or damage. Address issues of natural wear or damage from predator efforts to access the coop to reduce potential bacteria problems from damp conditions.
- Replace bedding in nesting boxes. Damp bedding can pose a serious health risk. If a brooding hen is hatching eggs, do not disturb the box.
- Rake the run to remove excessive manure, level ground and help with drainage.
- Wash windows and screens. Dust accumulates quickly and keeping windows and screens clean will improve light and ventilation inside the coop.
Twice a Year
Time to make it shine! If a daily, weekly and monthly maintenance schedule has been maintained, a twice a year “deep clean” can often be completed in a couple of hours. Deep cleaning is best done in the fall and spring when the weather is agreeable. Free range or confine the chickens to the run while you give the coop a thorough cleaning. Open all windows and doors to maximize ventilation while cleaning. Gloves and respirators are recommended while deep cleaning.
- Shovel out litter and transfer to compost heap or bin. Manure shoveled from the coop in the fall will be ready to apply to the garden by springtime.
- Sweep and dust coop. Before “wet” washing, clear out loose dust on all surfaces.
- Scrub nesting boxes and roosts. Use bleach diluted to 1:10 in water to thoroughly scrub these high-traffic areas and any other spaces where droppings may build up. White vinegar may be used instead of bleach, if preferred. Allow all surfaces do dry completely before replacing litter and bedding.