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PHOTO: Shelly Wutke
Into every chicken coop, a little manure must fall. While chickens have many great qualities, cleaning up after themselves is not one of them. That leaves you with the task of keeping their home, the chicken coop, fresh and clean.
You may already have a system where you frequently fluff nesting boxes or clean dropping boards. But a few times per year, you’ll have to suit up, grab your cleaning supplies and deep clean the chicken coop.
It might take up an hour or two of your time, but there are many upsides to a thorough deep cleaning. Your birds will have a sanitary place to sleep and lay eggs, you’ll be able to stay on top of mites and other pests, and your entire flock will be happier and healthier.
All it takes is 10 easy steps for your coop to sparkle!
1. Line Up Your Supplies
When it’s time to deep clean our homes, we pull out our cleaning sprays; grab the vacuum, mop and duster; and battle dust bunnies. A chicken coop deep clean is almost the same. To get started you’ll need:
- rake, pitchfork, shovel and broom
- cat litter scoop for droppings and cleaning out nesting boxes
- several scrub brushes in varying sizes to scrub walls and get into tiny areas
- stainless steel scraper
- rubber gloves and mask
- paper towel and cotton towels
- natural cleaning spray for windows and roosts
- plastic or paper sheeting to collect deep litter and droppings
You may also want to gather supplies to reinforce your chicken coop. You can use wood pieces, steel wool, and a drill and screws for patching holes. Blocking holes will prevent rats and mice from accessing your coop.
Learn ways to optimize your chicken coop to keep your flock healthy.
2. Assess the Situation
Before you start your deep clean, you’re going to want to know what you’re up against. This is the best time to take a look at all sides of your nesting boxes, check your roosts and walls for signs of mites, and examine your droppings board for signs of illness. Taking a good look around before you clean means you’ll stay on top of potential issues.
3. Muck out Manure
One of the best ways to tackle a deep clean is to start with your droppings. The most efficient way to catch all the debris you’ll remove is to line up plastic sheeting on the ground at the base of your chicken coop. That way, when you take out the deep litter or droppings, it will land in one spot and you’ll be able to wrap it up and haul it away.
If you have a droppings board with a plastic sheet, pull it down and lay it on the plastic outside of your coop. Do you just use the droppings board without plastic? You’ll want to scrape the manure off the board and let it fall to the floor of the coop.
If you don’t want to use a tarp or plastic sheeting, you can still prevent your droppings from sticking to the board. Just add a layer of pine shavings to the board after you’ve cleaned it, and you won’t need to use as much elbow grease when removing manure.
4. Rake Out Litter
With your droppings on the bottom of the coop or outside on your plastic, you can now
rake out your entire coop. If you use the deep-litter method, you’ll be pulling out a heavy pile of manure and litter.
The litter scoop is a great tool to remove all contents of nesting boxes and scrape out corners, and once you’re done, use the broom to sweep out whatever is left.
5. Seal It Up
With all litter removed, this is a good time to check for any holes made from rodents or predators. You can patch them with wood pieces or stuff them with steel wool.
Patching holes becomes very important if you have vulnerable chicks under a heat lamp in a section of your coop. Many a chicken owner has been shocked to discover chicks seemingly disappearing into thin air, only to discover rats had been attacking.
6. Turn a Hose on It
You don’t need a pressure washer to clean out your coop. But if you have one, bring it out!
A garden hose with a good spray nozzle will suffice. Spray down the walls, doors, windows and nesting boxes in your coop, dislodging any debris you may have left behind from raking or sweeping. The best way to cover every inch of your coop is to start at the top and work your way down.
Before you begin spraying, you’ll want to cover the deep litter you’ve just removed. If it gets wet, it’s going to be extremely heavy.
7. Let the Light Shine In
After you’ve sprayed out the coop with a hose, throw open the door and let it dry out. You can speed up the drying process by using a towel or two to dry off nesting boxes and roosts and soak up any wet spots on the floor.
You can use your drying time to ponder what comes first, the chicken or the egg? Or, if you like to multitask, take this quick break to think about mites.
8. Wipe On, Wipe Off
Once your coop is dry, it’s time to wash your windows. You’ll want to wipe inside and outside, and you can use the paint scraper to remove any debris stuck to them. This is also a good time to use your natural spray cleaner and wipe down all areas again.
A natural orange cleaner (see below) is easy to make, leaves your chicken coop smelling great, and as the main ingredient is vinegar, it has the bonus of being an all-natural disinfectant. It’s even more fragrant when you add vanilla or vanilla beans. I don’t mind a lingering vinegar scent in the chicken coop, but if you do use vanilla, it will, for the most part, overcome the smell of vinegar.
Check out these 11 options for bedding in the chicken coop and run.
9. Bring Back the Existing Bedding
It’s time to add new bedding, and this is the best time to kick off a new cycle using the deep-litter method. With this method, you simply add to your existing bedding and stir it up, and you’re done.
Having deep litter sit for a few months will result in compost you can use all over your farm. The only exception to this is if you have a mite issue. When you have mites, you shouldn’t add the litter to your compost pile. The best way to keep the mites from spreading is to burn the bedding.
You’ll want to start by adding 6 inches of bedding to your clean coop. Pine shavings are a great base for the deep-litter method, and straw works well, too.
Once a week add 2 inches of straw or pine shavings to the bedding. Turn it with a pitchfork occasionally. You may want to throw several handfuls of hen scratch on the floor and let your chickens stir up your litter for you.
10. Compost Pile
This is where the plastic sheeting at the base of your chicken coop comes in. When you’ve re-added your bedding and you’re ready to finish up, all you have to do is fold up the sheet and haul it over to your compost pile. You might need help as it will be heavy.
Deep litter is full of hearty microbes, but chicken manure is still considered hot manure. The key to using it as fertilizer is to be sure it’s added to your compost pile and not used as soon as you pull it out of the coop.
While it takes about six to nine months for chicken manure to be used as fertilizer, deep litter may be used in less time as its been sitting throughout the winter. As a precaution, you may want to have a sample tested for nutrients before applying.
You know the feeling you get when you’ve deep cleaned your house? You walk into every room, take a deep breath and just enjoy how sparkling clean everything is. You’ll get the same feeling when you deep clean your chicken coop, and your birds will feel it, too
Sidebar: DIY Cleaner Recipes
Coop Cleaning Spray
For your chicken coop, use a homemade cleaning spray.
- 3 cups of water
- 1 cup olive oil
- 3 tablespoons dishwashing liquid
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
You can also add essential oils to your mix. Some of the most effective are eucalyptus and tea tree oil. Be sure to shake the bottle every time you use it as the oil will separate. You’ll want to spray the roosts, nesting boxes and walls at least twice per week.
All-Natural Orange Coop Cleaner
Spraying your chicken coop out with a hose will remove debris, but you’ll still want to bring in a cleaner to wipe down roosts, windows and nesting boxes.
You can make your own natural orange coop cleaner. It’s less expensive than buying a cleaner at the store, and it’s nontoxic so you’ll know your birds won’t be affected. Plus, it smells great.
- First, fill a jar 3⁄4 full with white vinegar.
- Peel and separate one orange. Place a few sections of orange and orange peels in the jar.
- Next, add three cinnamon sticks, 1 tablespoon lavender essential oil and 1 tablespoon vanilla or several vanilla beans.
- Shake well.
- Let sit in your kitchen or pantry for at least a week before use.
- Finally, strain and pour into a spray bottle. Now, you’re ready to go.
This article originally appeared in the March/April 2020 issue of Chickens magazine.