The sun is shining, the days are warming and the sun is staying out later. It’s spring on the homestead and while we are basking in the warmth of the spring sun, we are also up to our eyeballs in chores. This winter was our first one keeping small livestock. It was also one the harshest, longest, snowiest winters we’ve had in a long time. But alas, it is over (I hope, we did have snow last week) and spring has sprung. Spring is a time for new life — from the baby bunnies to the cherry belle radishes poking through my seed tape — and it is also a time for starting anew, starting fresh. And that means cleaning not just the house, but the animal houses. And that means spring cleaning the chicken coop.
We practiced the deep litter method over the winter months since weekly cleanings were not an option. Instead of cleaning out the coop regularly, you just keep adding more and more straw. The coop got cleaned during the few warm spells but other then that, we just kept tossing in the straw.
I cleaned out the winter’s mess a few weeks ago but I have been meaning to do more to truly clean up the chicken coop, especially since we are getting a regular supply of eggs now. I want to make sure our coop is as clean as it can be for a place where chicken’s sleep, poop and lay eggs.
Chicken coop cleaning idea #1: Whitewashing
What is whitewashing? It’s like giving your coop a facelift with a bright white paint job with added benefit of protecting your flock from bacteria and insects. Whitewashing is something farmers have done for years to protect porous surfaces inside their barns to keep them more sanitary for their animals. Whitewashing is a cost effective way to brighten up your coop and extend it’s lifespan.
Here is a basic whitewash recipe I found on The Prairie Homestead
How to make a whitewash
(Makes enough for a small coop)
- 4-6 C hydrated lime
- 2 C salt
- 1 gallon water
Combine all of the above in a bucket until it resembles the consistency of pancake batter. Wear a mask when handling the dry lime as to avoid getting it in your lungs. It is also advised to wear gloves while handling the whitewash.
Grab a big, fat paintbrush and give your coop a fresh new look.
Don’t be disappointed when the whitewash starts to dry and it’s not the brilliant white you are expecting. Walk away for a few hours and then take another look, you will be amazed at how much brighter your coop will be after just one coat.
The whitewash is not permanent and will eventually fade. I plan to add whitewashing to my annual spring cleaning list for the coop.
Chicken coop cleaning idea #2: Vinyl Tiles
Just as the whitewash protects the walls, the vinyl tiles will protect the wood floor. We made our coop from recycled materials we had in our drive shed and the floor is made of wood boards. It holds up great but it’s not the easiest surface to clean. By covering the floor with vinyl tiles, it will be much easier to keep the floors clean, especially after a long winter.
If there is ever any build up on the tile, they will be much easier to scrub clean than porous old wood.
Chicken coop cleaning idea #3: Diatomaceous earth
Diatomaceous earth is made from fossilized remains of diatoms, a type of hard shelled algae. It is a naturally occurring rock that is crumbled into a fine white powder that has many uses on the homestead, including protecting your flock from pesky bugs. How this powder works is that is slices through the outer layer of fleas, ticks, mites and worms causing them dehydrate and die. DE can be used in many ways with your flock. It can be added to food or dustbaths to kill internal bugs as well as mites and fleas. It can also be sprinkled around the coop to prevent these bugs from getting to your chickens in the first place.
Be sure to buy food grade DE, especially if you plan to add it to their diet. Wear a mask when working with DE as it is a fine white powder that can easily be inhaled.
Since my coop is cleaned out down the floors, I sprinkled DE on top of the vinyl and along all of the corners and edges in the coop, topping it with a thick layer of straw.
Chicken coop cleaning idea #4: New roosts
We kind of flew by the seat of our pants when building our chicken coop and didn’t put enough thought into roosts. We widened the space of the indoor section in the fall, opening up a whole new area for the chickens but it rarely got used until I leaned a pallet up against the wall. The problem with using the pallet for a roost is that it becomes filthy, fast. The poop doesn’t quite fall through the pallet, it lands on the pallet. I am constantly scraping poop off the pallet and removing piles of it from the floor around the pallet.
To make cleaning the coop easier, we made new roosts for the girls with poop hammocks (see idea #5) underneath to make daily cleaning a breeze.
The flock tends to roost in two spots over night — on the leaning pallet roost and on top of another pallet which forms part of the back wall and holds our original nesting boxes (which the hens have refused to use) in place. Every morning there is poop on both pallets. Yuck.
To solve this, we made new roosts in both areas that make clean up a cinch, especially with the revolutionary poop hammock (seriously, it makes it so much easier to maintain a clean coop). We simply took wood we had lying around and made new roosts for the flock and fashioned hammocks made of the good parts of a mouse-chewed tarp to collect the poop.
Chicken coop cleaning idea #5: Poop hammock
This might be the most exciting of my spring cleaning projects for the chicken coop, as it will lead to a cleaner coop going forward. I came across the poop hammock on Pinterest (of course I did, can you say addicted?) and I thought it was genious. A poop hammock is basically a sling below the roost that collects poop. You simply unfasten it in the morning and dump it into your compost pile. Genious right? No more wasted straw and a much cleaner home for your flock.
Currently, my chickens roost on a pallet I have leaning up against the coop wall. The poop accumulates under the pallet, meaning I have to constantly take it out to clean out the coop. As I mentioned in idea #4, the pallet is filthy and we made new roosts which we have combined with the poop hammock to eliminate the need for daily scrapings. Now, I will simply need to detach the hammock and dump the poop in a compost pile.
The poop hammock from Community Chickens is a little more elaborate than mine, but it does the trick. We simply cut up appropriate-sized pieces of an old tarp and hung it underneath the roosts. Now I just have to unhook it each morning and dump. When the tarps need a good washing, simply take them out and hose them down and make sure to replace them before the flock is locked up for the night.
A clean coop results in a happy, healthy flock
“An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”
Prevent health issues by maintaining a clean coop for your flock. If you are raising chickens for meat or eggs remember this: you are what you eat and what your food eats. If your chickens are being raised in an unclean environment it is going to effect the quality of the food they are providing you with. It’s a nasty job caring for these poop machines, but the fresh eggs and meat are worth it.