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Strong ammonia smell in coop

post #1 of 14
Thread Starter 

Hi everyone - I have a new coop - started it in May. It's a 6' x 8', with 11 layers.  I'm trying the deep litter method as much as possible, and top off the wood shavings on the floor about once a week with another inch or so.  I have two 18" x 26" windows, with screens, which are opened about 2 inches up right now.  I'm in Vermont and it's cold.  However, I've noticed lately a strong ammonia smell when I go into the coop.  In addition to the windows, should I have vents in the coop at each gable end toward the peaks?  Would that get rid of the smell?  Sorry if this is a dumb question.  This is our first coop.  On another note, we got our first eggs last week!  Yay!  If I do need vents, any recommendations on what kind are best and where to get them?

For reference, here are some pics of our coop ... http://www.backyardchickens.com/forum/viewtopic.php?id=371140

Thanks!

post #2 of 14

Yes, you definitely need vents at both ends at the top near the roof so the fumes can rise and exit.  By leaving the windows open a bit, you will help the air to circulate well.  Deep litter doesn't work for all coops.  How many chickens in it?

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http://threecedarsilkies.webs.com/

 

NPIP certified

Member APA, ABA, ASBC

Raising exhibition silkies in black, white, blue, splash and American Paint

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post #3 of 14

Are you keeping your bedding turned?  Its important to aerate this bedding to keep it drier.  I wouldn't add additional bedding unless your other is diminished and starting to look darker/moist. 

I don't have the ventilation that everyone else extolls, have wood flooring and use the deep litter method also.  I never have an ammonia smell as long as the bedding stays turned frequently.  I let the chickens do this for me by throwing some BOSS in the shavings and letting them search for it. 

When my coop is ready for winter, the only ventilation I have is from my pop door and the occasional cracks in the walls....no ventilation at the roof at all.  Windows covered in plastic.   No ammonia smell.  Vermont has no more humidity than WV, I imagine, so it may not simply be the need for more ventilation.

post #4 of 14

Another thing you don't mention, but might want to try would be a droppings board under the roost.  By cleaning the droppings board regularly, you eliminate a lot of....elimination! tongue  I also sprinkle Stall-dry on the droppings board to help soak up moisture.

Wife to a wonderful man, mother of a college girl and a high school boy, "mistress" to 1 golden retriever, 2 cats, and 15 chickens (My "girls" include 2 Easter Eggers, 2 Dominiques, 2 Black Australorps, 1 Buff Orpington, 1 Jersey Giant, 1 Speckled Sussex,  2 Golden Laced Wyandottes from 2009 and the new 2010 babies, 1 more EE and 2 Welsummers)
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Wife to a wonderful man, mother of a college girl and a high school boy, "mistress" to 1 golden retriever, 2 cats, and 15 chickens (My "girls" include 2 Easter Eggers, 2 Dominiques, 2 Black Australorps, 1 Buff Orpington, 1 Jersey Giant, 1 Speckled Sussex,  2 Golden Laced Wyandottes from 2009 and the new 2010 babies, 1 more EE and 2 Welsummers)
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post #5 of 14

It isn't just ammonia build up that ventilation helps to resolve, it also helps keep the humidity in the coop down. When it gets below freezing this winter, your chickens have more chance of getting frostbitten combs in humid air than they do in drier air.

post #6 of 14

My coop has a cement floor. Whenever I clean the coop, I sprinkle lime on the concrete before I put down new bedding. I think you will find that will cut the ammonia smell.

post #7 of 14

Try layering stall dry or DE with wood pellets.

~Make every day a great day - life's happening now - not when you're younger/older, richer, smarter, or retired~
Hobby farmer to include: chickens, ducks, Tennessee Walker horse, mini pony, 3 herding dogs, 2 house cats, 1 house bunny, 1 parakeet
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~Make every day a great day - life's happening now - not when you're younger/older, richer, smarter, or retired~
Hobby farmer to include: chickens, ducks, Tennessee Walker horse, mini pony, 3 herding dogs, 2 house cats, 1 house bunny, 1 parakeet
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post #8 of 14

I use lime some, too; the pelletized costs a buck or two more but to me is well worth it, no dust, no mess.

But any coop that smells of ammonia REALLY needs a lot more ventilation.  A hole in the wall with hardware cloth over it works fine.  Here is Patandchickens' very good writeup on ventilation:  http://www.backyardchickens.com/web/viewblog.php?id=1642-VENTILATION

Ventilation -- may be the most important aspect of coop design

BYC Troubleshooting article -- click here

Worry is interest paid on trouble before it comes due.

14 hatchery and mutt hens

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Ventilation -- may be the most important aspect of coop design

BYC Troubleshooting article -- click here

Worry is interest paid on trouble before it comes due.

14 hatchery and mutt hens

Reply
post #9 of 14

What a pretty coop.  It looks so cheerful!

Ammonia odor in a coop can be a sign of a ventilation management problem in a coop, but it can also be a sign of a litter management problem in a coop.  Any time you smell ammonia, you need to look at litter management, including poop board management, as well as ventilation.  It's a little bit like managing a compost pile.  If your compost pile smells, it's not a problem with ventilation, it's a problem with how the pile is being managed.  If you can smell your cat's dirty litter box in your house, it's not a ventilation problem, it's a litter management problem.  Although, I would also open a window while I was cleaning it out.  sickbyc

It sounds like you are adding plenty of fresh litter to the floor.  Actually, it sounds like more than you might need.  Adding over an inch a week over the entire floor seems like a lot for just over 4 square feet per chicken. 

I see you already have a poop board.  I'm wondering if your poop board is contributing to this problem.  Old poop that's sitting on a poop board without any litter can be stinky for the same reason a dirty coop is that needs to be cleaned out, have litter added, or be stirred, because poop has piled up on the surface and is just sitting there or the balance between the amount of poop and the amount of litter is off.

Are you scraping your poop board daily?  If not, that could be part of your problem.  Some of the people that have posted about stinky coops and ammonia problems have had poop boards that they weren't scrapping often enough and that was the source of their problem.

Increased ventilation can remove ammonia from the air inside a coop, but it's important to manage litter so that you don't have so much ammonia created in the first place.  When you add poop boards, they need to be managed, in addition to the litter.  If your litter management is fine and you're scraping your poop board daily, then it's mainly an issue of ventilation.

When you add additional ventilation to your coop, the one place I wouldn't add it is on the wall that the chickens are on, above their heads.  If you do that, you will be placing them in a draft.  Air will come in all the other openings, warm up, rise and flow out that opening.  They'll be roosting right in the path of that air.  Any place else in the coop would be fine.  I would have an opening at the top on the wall opposite the roost and maybe at the top along the sides, which I realize will be lower.  During the day when the pop hole door is open, that will also be a source of incoming air down low.

post #10 of 14

As others have said, ventilation is a key part of managing that smell because you will have a big humidity/frostbite problem later in the winter if you don't get more ventilation going.

Sometimes another problem is that the coop is just too damp, from waterer spills/leaks or from rain coming in or from too much poo (even with deep litter). So that is another factor to look at.

Really, if you have smell problems now, you are likely to be posting in a couple months "why do I have frost all over the inside of my coop" shortly to be followed by "what do I do about all these frostbitten combs and wattles". So now is a GOOD time to fix it wink

Quote:
Originally Posted by Beekissed 

When my coop is ready for winter, the only ventilation I have is from my pop door and the occasional cracks in the walls....no ventilation at the roof at all.


Bee you keep telling us your coop is also "drafty", because of all the cracks between siding boards. That IS good ventilation tongue, albeit not an appropriate style in all climates (clearly it works fine in yours).


Pat

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