Some Thoughts On General Coop Hygiene And Ventilation

One of the most important aspects of hygiene is providing adequate ventilation.
By LynneP · Jan 11, 2012 · ·
  1. LynneP
    Some Thoughts on General Coop Hygiene and Ventilation


    One of the most important aspects of hygiene is providing adequate ventilation. Since we have lots of space overhead in the coop (8') and can vent moist air into a loft space then outdoors, this part is covered. Otherwise you will need vents at the top of the coop, preferably the kind that can be closed if you experience winter weather. Al of us need effective window ventilation. We came up with this hime-made design which uses plexiglass (safer) and hardware cloth to protect our hens against predators. If you use the deep-litter method of bedding ventilation issues become critical. We opted not to, using shavings on planks over concrete. Most of our manure gets scraped off platforms and there is little odor thanks to good air flow.

    First Aid
    I have a medium-sized dog crate (wire) with a cloth cover and metal pan;
    can use at house or in barn feed room which is constructed so barn cats can't access;
    ceramic heater
    water source
    magnifying glass
    clean rags
    cotton balls
    rubbing alcohol
    tincture of iodine
    electrolytes on hand, also vitamins
    apple cider vinegar
    olive oil
    electrolytes with antibiotics, would only use in certain circumstances
    eye droppers
    latex gloves
    blue lotion
    particulate dust mask ( this is for me, on cleanup days)

    I'd like to share a simple idea about eliminating 6 and 8-legged pests from the moment a coop is built, or given a thorough cleaning. Consider investing in a no-pest strip. Such strips are made of wax impregnated with pyrethins. Made by Vapona, Black Flag, Home Hardware and under various generic labels. These strips can be hung high in a coop or can be shielded from the birds using hardware cloth or metal screening. Avoid placing over food or water. They kill fleas, ticks, lice, mites, ticks, gnats and most flies. As a preventive they are unsurpassed, and will decrease the need for dusting or spraying birds directly. Available at most hardware stores, tack shops, co-ops, feed stores and agricultural supply houses. Uses in coops, barns, restaurants, hospitals and homes. Added bonus- no fleas in your house, ever if you use them regularly. Last 3 months. Cost about $10.

    When I returned to the hardware store the next time to replace a strip, the manufacturer had begun to use dichlorovos. This means I use the strip in the porch of the coop rather than with the birds directly, but since I have food-grade DE and Stable Boy powder in the bedding, it's only a slight change and the new ones last 4 months.
    Recently a large shipper of chicks experienced a major problem and diseased chicks entered many backyard flocks, sat times contaminating the existing adults, though most owners saw the problem and were able to check the spread. For others, sadly, deaths and euthanasia became a priority, and vets and government officials became involved. Knowledgeable poultry owners quarantine new birds and many of us operate closed flocks, in which a group of birds enter new premises and remain with only those birds for the duration.
    Whether you keep chickens or other livestock, hygiene may be as simple as washing your hands between the handling of say, brooder cihcks and the touching of existing animals. If you know an individual is ill, both medications and disinfectants may be needed, and all materials that come in contact will have to be clearned or in some cases, destroyed. Sometimes when you lose an animal you must do more than compost the body and you need to become informed. A sink in the coop would be a real treasure, but few of us have one. It's something we may be able to add to our barn if we can figure out how to keep the drain from freezing.
    There are a lot of issues surrounding coop hygiene and one of the easiest things we can do is to wash our barn clothes regularly, especially when we know there is trouble. Gloves can be a problem and it helps to have a kind that can be wiped down easily or to keep some latex or plastic gloves on hand for situations involving extreme care. If you have a convenient hose or wash tray for boots, you can keep what's in the coop from getting anywhere else, and other things from getting to the coop. You may need a disinfectant from time to time, too.
    Look at it this way- what if you get new birds some day that seem okay but are diseased or contaminated in some way? Would you risk infecting the birds you have? Without a plan, every new bird becomes a possible source of trouble. Even worse, with government peering into backyard coops, the introduction of certain diseases could mean your whole flock could be forcibly culled. How awful.
    You might need an isolation cage or coop, it's something to plan for before you have trouble. Choose something that can be disinfected.
    We spot clean our coop every day. Some owners use the deep litter method but we prefer the regular removal of droppings. Our time with horses, dogs and cats has opened our eyes, you can bet on that! Oddly, some thing like horse manure can prevent fleas and ticks on other mammals, so that's a discrepant way of looking at things. The ferals that use the barn are litter trained and that makes a huge difference!

    We've decided that any implements we use in the coop will never be used in other parts of the barn, to prevent the spread of viruses and bacteria. The porch on the aisleway side of the coop now has coat hooks and other hangers where we can keep a whisk broom, a scraper, buckets,kitty litter scoop, a first aid bag and other things that are for the birds only. Feed will be kept in the feed room in rodent-proof containers, no loose bags open or not are ever kept in our barn.
    The cleanest agricultural operation I have seen is a pig operation near here. Hard to believe, right! No smells to irritate the district, disinfectant trays for boots, face masks, and the workers can be in only one barn or part of the barn, no exceptions. On-site laundry- amazing. naturally they have the lowest disease rate in the province. I wan't allowed in with the piglets, I had to see these things through a window...
    It's important to design your coop in such a way that panels can be unscrewed to inspect wall cavities for pests, and you want to do this so that you don't damage your materials. In cold climates insulation is a must, and you can use the fibreglass/vapor seal/tuck tape methid with screwed (not nailed) panels. Another thing you can do is to caulk cracks and seams, and there are products that can easily be peeled away if you have to open a section of wall. Read the instructions though, you should not apply these with birds nearby.

    Caulking is a concern. Sometimes you can caulk from the back side of a panel if it's under construction and there are products like Draft-Stop that can be peeled away if you ever have to remove a section. If you have to caulk on the chicken side, try to do it before you prime and paint and check for loose bits so you can use a razor or something to avoid ends that the chickens can grab. We used latex to minimize toxic influence.
    Nothing teaches you more about barn hygiene than horses and feral cats, imho. The horses because of the sheer magnitude of manure and the gigantic wet spots, and the ferals because of the rather unique, um, scent (especially toms). Well, I admit to being tired of carting horse manure, to the point where I have moved some of my vegetable garden to the manure pile instead of moving the manure uphill to the garden. It is a matter of pride that all the ferals use one of six litter boxes I clean daily, and that even the occasional visitors conform to feral colony rules. Long ago I met a man who had a litter-trained rooster who lived in his kitchen, but I bet most of us don't have chickens who act like that.
    I have heard that chickens require special attention to ammonia and dust. Since I will be raising day-old chicks and keeping 12 hens, with any luck, I want to start out well.
    The owner of the co-op sold me one of his 50 lb. bags of diatomaceous earth (DE) after I noted that it wasn't on his price list. He brings it in by the one-ton pallet and has agreed to see it to me when I need some. He has huge flocks, and uses it to start new stock by dusting all cracks and anything that might harbour parasites. This I can do, the coop has never been used for birds to my knowledge since the barn was built in the mid-1970's.The bag that I bought in May 0f 2008 will last until May of 2010 so even at $51 Cdn is was a good buy.
    'Stable Boy', a deodorizer I have used for horses and cats, and which the co-op owner also uses liberally with his poultry. This has stopped the ammonia. If I scrape the shelf daily into a cleaning bucket, hopefully the ammonia won't build. The DE and Stable Boy can also be used on the floor planks and in the nesting boxes. Update- didn't install the dropping board because the birds like to use the roosts for a little while after supper for grooming and gossip before moving to a platform over the nest boxes. I prefer spot-cleaning to deep litter method so I have no buildup of manure and gasses and I nevr have to cean the coop down- it stays dry and nearly odor-free.

    This is one of the layers, Maggie, checking the first eggs of the day- November 9, 2009. The powder on the platform is food-grade diatomaceous earth, used every few days near the pop hole, entrances, roosts and perimeter as a preventive to lice, ticks and mites and as a general dessicant.

    By the way, if you use shavings in the coop and discover that some bales are extra-heavy, they are probably filled with sawdust, from the end of a run at the mill. Next time, ask to put them back and get bales of average weight, and you'll have less dust in the coop. And once or twice a year I shoo the hens out into the run and close the pop door so that I can use the shop vac to get rid of grooming dust, spider webs and debris in nooks and carnnies.

    This is that the platform looks like after they have roosted overnight.

    The dropping have some food-grade diatomaceous earth underneath and some leftover seed from wild birdseed treats. I use a paint scraper and a catch bucket to clean up daily, getting most of the droppings that would dampen or foul the coop.

    I like the rectangular bucket because it eases up to the flat edges of the platform without spillage. We dump in a seasonal compost pit.
    Most lime or limestone garden products are alkaline and are designed to neutralize soil acids (sweeten soil). They will burn and I can only imagine the horror of destroying the skin on the feet of chickens. I also avoid masonary products like mortar and quickline. These are so alkaline that in Canada they have one of the highest ratings on the containers for hazardous materials.You must also check agricultural limes- some are awful but should be labelled.

    Another item we use is a pest strip to kill flies. We don't have major problems because most of the biting flies will not remain in the shade of a barn, but in August or September we might hand a pyrethin wax strip called a 'Black Flag' or Vapona No-Pest Strip. It's good for three months, can be hung over poultry (avoid directly over food/water) and will work on most kinds of insect parasites. Be sure to check any rain barrels of other collection dishes that hold liquids for mosquito larvae- change water as often as you feasibly can!
    Food storage is a critical subject too. We've had success with Rubbermaid (and other brands of) wheeled covered rubbish containers. Others suggest galvanized steel which is chew-proof. Because we've been rat-free for 21 years we are able to use plastic. Whichever you choose, keeping food from contamination and any kind of spoilage is vital. If a bag gets wet and you can't use the feed immediately, you may have to get rid of it. And remember not to dump bad food near the coop, or you may attract rodents. If you need them raccoon straps are available at hardware stores. Never use feed which has gotten damp or moldy. If a feed source has had mopisture problems from leakage or flooding, reconsider buying even if the feed seems dry- spores can collect along seams and in the bottom and poison your birds before you know the cause.

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  1. whiterocker
    My coop is almost smell free. I use the deep litter method and I clean annually and whitewash the interior every 2 years. I have never had a serious fly problem, but we did have rats. Now eliminated! We store the food in galvanized garbage cans and keep it in a nearby barn. We use a huge hanging feeder inside the coop and only fill it once a week. We love to feed our chickens scraps of food (poor cleanup caused the rats). The love all the same things we do. Especially, rice and noodles and, of course, any kind of corn. Oh yes! I forgot one of their absolute favorites in the winter warm oatmeal?
      Kgee likes this.
  2. rod5591
    "Recently a large shipper of chicks experienced a major problem and diseased chicks entered many backyard flocks"

    In the interest of full disclosure, would you please identify the company that shipped diseased chicks? Thank you!
  3. mdguffey
    I did a little research and called black flag and I was informed that they do not use any chemicals in the no pest strips only an adheasive
  4. Americano Blue
  5. mdguffey
    what is the deal with the dichlorovos fly strips? is it toxic to chickens hence the reason for hanging outside of the coop?
  6. gertie1
    Super info. Will be more diligent now with 'chicken clothes!'
  7. eggspectation
    I need to get a metal paint scraper. The plastic scraper broke because the poop is frozen.
  8. dsf8854
    Very helpful info, thank you
  9. amynrichie
  10. PrecioustoHim
    The one thing I do so as to totally eliminate the cleaning off the platform above nesting boxes is to place a slanted board (or in some places a piece of hardware cloth) above the platform screwed to the wall and the front top edge of the nesting box on a severe enough angle so they cannot roost up there. Then they HAVE to roost on the big fat Apple branch that is screwed to the wall (corner to corner) instead, making cleanup a breeze each day as all the droppings are lined up underneath the branch :)
    When the human body breaks down getting old and decrepid one finds ways to keep life as simple as possible. Either that or the precious chickens will have to go. I too keep the coops cleaned out at least 2 to 3 times a week with a thick enough sprinkling of straw on the ground in between cleanings to give them something to scratch around in and absorb the poo. I sprinkle DE around and the coops stay fresh.
    1 coop with 4 old layers, 1 coop with 5 very young Ameraucanas, 1 coop with 6 six week old BLRW, and 4 GLB, and 1 coop with 6 13 week Salmon Faverolles. 1 Brooder with 5 12 day old Salmon Faverolles too. Whew! Haven't taken count in a while. Do I really have that many?
      I can do all things likes this.
    1. whiterocker
      I know what you mean! I am 74 and enjoy my chickens immensely. I will have them as long as I can take care of them. I do not use straw! I only use pine shavings--not cedar. It's $4.95 at Tractor Supply. I probably use 5 or 6 bales a year. It's light and easy for me to carry. It doesn't mat or get soggy. I deep litter, so I only deep clean the inside coop once a year. I have outside access nest boxes and I do clean them every few weekks
      I sprinkle DE everywhere before adding the pine shavings to about an inch. I stir the litter about once a week and add more shavings. No smell! I goofed and put straw in the run and it is matted, stinky, thick and very heavy.....Ugh! Your post was 5 years ago...hope you are still chickening!
  11. Eileen 1930
    Oh I have a big tray under the coop where the roast is and I can pull it out to scrap it clean. I add some lime in that to make it smell better it doesn't get wet. But I change the water every day and keep everything clean We raised Parrots and all kinds of tropical birds and I know how important it is to keep everything clean. We never had mites, fleas, or any parasites of any kind and we had up to 300 Birds. We used a lot of Seven dust in the bottom of nest boxes but the finches ( 80) of them never had a problem . Now that was work all those birds but I loved hand feed them. We sold parakeets to pay for the seed for everyone else. Have a great time with all your beautiful Chickens. Eileen
  12. Eileen 1930
    Thanks for all the good info. I live in Florida so I will need some help as to what I need my coop is sml 4'X5' and a run 12'x5' The floor in my coop has wire so I can't go inside feed and water inside I can get to from the big door in the front. Also food is given in the run on good day (no Rain) which we are getting plenty right now. So if anyone would like to write to me from Florida because it doesn't usually get that cold for us to have a heater. I only have 5 Americana's they are 12 weeks old. I am getting nest box added next week. I have had 3 guys tell me I have 5 Hens. Of course I like hearing that but only time will tell. When the eggs come LOL...
  13. circuspeanut
    Well done. I'd like to comment on the use of the poop board. I'm a newbie and I used this method of scraping daily when my girls moved to the coop and started roosting. I hated scraping the poop off the vinyl covered board. I tried sprinkling DE on it but the fine stuff is incredibly dusty. It was truly a mess. So I now use Stall Dry on the board (it has a lip to prevent it from spilling off) and scoop the poop daily with a kitty litter scoop. There are no flies, no smell, no poop! There are barely any droppings on the pine shavings on the floor since I let them out pretty early. It works so well. Stall Dry is a dream!
      ToniTalley likes this.
    1. ToniTalley
      I also use stall dry under the roost, and it's the best thing since sliced bread!!! I also sprinkle a bit on the nests and the coop floor and it keeps everything deodorized and dry. Scooping like kitty litter is even easier than scraping!!!
      Katoliczka likes this.
  14. ChickadeeRanch
  15. Dawna
    Your info is very helpful. Thanks for the list, too. I also like to use DE in my coops and in dusting areas. I have a plastic box that is in the pen area, shielded from the weather, and I use peat and DE in there. When I am adding materials the hens are attracted to it right away. Almost like waiting in line to take a bath in it. Pretty smart birds!! I've been hanging the deodorant trees with vanilla scent in the same area and there are not any flies. I clean their droppings out every day. And I like using the pine shavings from TS, the small shavings are easiest for me to handle.
  16. pickitfarm
    it is important to know that though DE is useful in a coop but if you are raising honey bees it might not be a good option since it can kill them. That is the reason we are not using it on our farm.
  17. cluck cluck 123
    This is a very helpful article that reminds everyone to keep their coop clean.
  18. BEAKMAN42
    the better idea for on cleaning the droppings up would be to take a HOE and cut the handle down. The paint scraper is getting a little to close for me
  19. dsf8854
    Very helpful
  20. Nutcase
    Very good and informative. Thankyou for posting!!
  21. mrsdanamiller
    what is all the stuff in the list for exactly? Some of it is obvious, but some things I have no clue why you'd need. Like sugar...and molasses...needle/thread...and several others.
  22. rachlore
    this helps a lot
  23. growyourbrew
    Quick question.. So is DE just used for a deoderizer? Is there a reason why you use it and not just say, baking soda?
  24. spicehens
    As a newbie I found this post most helpful but most of all the pictures, it is easy enough to write advice but pictures really bring it to life and make you understand what you need to do. One of these days I hope to use a basket to collect my eggs but at present I consider myself fortunate to get one egg per hen as they are young, plus they try to grab everything I have in my hands so I try to use diversion tactics give them something to do as I did receive a painful peck on the leg which drew blood a couple of weeks ago. They are good girls though and seem happy which is the main thing
  25. americana-lover
  26. Our Roost
    I am glad you touched on the use of a shop vac. Most useful on a stationary coop. This comes in super handy for cleaning my nesting boxes and 2 x 4 joists from floor to ceiling. If your coop is wired for electric, a small permanent fixed fan is really a bonus for air circulation in summer and winter.
  27. Chicken Lover 1
    wow so helpful amazing ideas thank you!!!!!!!!!!
  28. BrendaJ
    Great info & ideas :)
  29. sharterr
    great ideas,thanks..
  30. RangingChicks
    Thanks for all of the great advice!
  31. Acefit411
    Thank you! Very helpful :D
  32. ChickInDelight
    Thanks for sharing!
  33. California_chickie
  34. Egg Lover
    Very helpful, thank you!
  35. Brookliner
    Great article. I especially like the list. One comment, you might want to consider using the Stable Boy along with DE (I also use sand to stretch it) on your dropping boards. Check out the Poopboard article. I scoop and sift daily and it only takes 5 minutes for a roost 6 ft long.
  36. Twisted-Rooster
    Nice work...I think I need to work a little more on my own coops!!!lol
  37. Stephnet
    Very helpful and insightful, love the pictures as I can see more of how it all works.
  38. pharmchickrnmom
    A good article and good reminders of proper protocol to protect your birds and yourself. I do use the deep litter method and the adequate ventilation I have leaves my coops dry and unscented. Handwashing goes without saying as well as special chicken shoes, and clothes are changed immediately upon finishing chores. I love de and use it liberally everywhere in the coops when the cheeps are out of them. With 4 coops to maintain, I make sure that cleanliness is number one and the health of my birds certainly shows that. Part of coop maintanance is also making sure all water/food bowls are cleaned regularly and inspected for damage and mold. Thanks for the list of stuff to have on hand. I will be ammending my list soon.
  39. BYC Project Manager
    Congratulations, LynneP! Your article is featured on the homepage! Thank you for writing it and sharing it with our community.
      jess924 likes this.

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