With any pets comes the inevitable chore of cleaning up after them. Chickens are no exception, and there are some potential dangers to be aware of when cleaning their chicken coop.
Here’s a guide to staying safe while keeping your coop nice and clean!
How Often Should You Clean out a Chicken Coop?
Typically, you should (and will need to) clean out your chicken coop once a week. In the summer months, your nose may lead you to give it a mid-week clean as well.
It really depends on how many chickens you have, how much time they’re spending in their coop, what type of bedding you have, and some other things.
The main indicator that a coop needs a clean - aside from obvious mess - is that familiar and unwelcome smell of ammonia.
Ammonia is produced by stale droppings. Ammonia is a corrosive chemical, and if left to build-up can be damaging to your chicken’s eyes, nose, throat, and respiratory tract.
As well as a weekly clean-out, you should get in there and do a deep clean once or twice a year.
A lot of owners refer to this as a spring clean as they literally clean out their coops when spring starts.
This involves changing all the bedding and giving the coop a good scrub as I’ll cover in more detail below.
Related - Do chickens urinate? (It’s not as strange of a question as it seems).
How to Clean out a Chicken Coop
It’s a mucky job, but someone has to do it, right?
It’s not that bad if you keep on top of it weekly, to be honest. It helps if you use a droppings board and the perch is easy to remove. Here’s what I do:
Remove the droppings board and perch. Give those a good scrub with a disinfectant (this one on Amazon should do the job just fine).
Clean out their nest boxes. This isn’t usually much of a task, a little fresh bedding and scraping any poop should only take a few mins.
Scoop out any damp patches or clumps of chicken poop in their bedding. You shouldn’t have to remove too much on a weekly basis.
Sprinkle some diatomaceous earth or poultry disinfectant powder, also called coop freshener (this one available on Amazon is perfect for this).
Add a fresh layer of bedding material, replace the droppings board and perch, and you should now have a much cleaner and much fresher smelling coop.
The Annual or Twice-Annual Clean Out
Once or twice a year, you need to get into the coop and give it a really good clean.
If possible, you should get your chickens away from the coop, clear the area, and get a high-pressure hose and some disinfectant.
Strip all the bedding out, and give the shell of the coop a good hosing down. Scrub the inside of the coop with disinfectant, give it another rinse, and put fresh bedding in.
This is also a good time to check for signs of red mites, which are little red parasites that like to feed on chickens during the night.
As well as any other signs of damage or anything that needs attention that you wouldn’t have otherwise spotted on a day-to-day basis.
Related - How to get rid of chicken mites with garlic juice.
Can You Get Sick From Cleaning a Chicken Coop?
You absolutely can get sick from cleaning a chicken coop. There are two main concerns when dealing with chicken waste, and these are:
- Ammonia, and
A build-up of ammonia due to excessive waste can cause injuries like hock burns, lesions, and foot issues to chickens.
As well as causing us and chickens respiratory issues if we’re exposed to breathing it in on a prolonged basis.
Is Chicken Coop Dust Harmful?
Studies have shown that poultry works who are exposed to ‘poultry dust’ for a prolonged period have an increased chance of developing respiratory issues.
That is a very different situation to working with a backyard coop, however. The chance of you developing any similar health issues is low.
You still need to wear protective gear, of course, and avoid breathing in the dust as much as possible while cleaning out your coop.
Should I Wear a Mask When Cleaning Chicken Coop?
Yes! I advise wearing a mask for the reasons mentioned above. Even if you can’t smell ammonia or don’t feel like you kick up a dust storm while cleaning the coop out, you’re still inhaling harmful chemicals.
Can You Get Salmonella From Cleaning Chicken Coop?
You can get salmonella from cleaning a chicken coop - but before you panic, the risk and chance are very low.
Salmonella is a horrible infection that can cause nausea, vomiting, blood in your stool, fever, and abdominal pain.
It’s more commonly associated with eating bad eggs, but you can also become infected by touching chicken poop, bedding, and some other materials that are home to this bacteria.
The best way to limit your risk is to adhere to basic biosecurity rules. Use separate shoes when walking around inside your coop, and wear gloves and a mask when cleaning it out and handling stuff.
Also, always wash your hands thoroughly after handling anything your chickens have come into contact with - including handling your chickens.
I’m not going to try and pretend cleaning out the chicken coop is fun, but honestly, it’s not that big of a chore when done on a weekly basis.
The important thing is that you keep on top of the cleaning, and you wear all the necessary protective gear to ensure you’re not exposed to any harmful bacteria or chemicals.
So; the bottom line is that you should give your chicken’s coop a weekly clean out, and a deeper scrub and full bedding change at least once a year.
That’ll keep your coop nice and clean and reduce the risk of lice, bacteria, mites, and other unwanted guests!
Image credits - Photo by Tom Ungerer on Unsplash
Salmonella - The Centers for Disease Control (CDC)
The Facts About Ammonia - New York State Dept of Health