Maintaining Good Sanitation in a Small Chicken Coop

Discussion in 'Coop & Run - Design, Construction, & Maintenance' started by SusanD, Mar 28, 2015.

  1. SusanD

    SusanD Chillin' With My Peeps

    Hi,

    My parents and I moved our three chicks outside last week into a small coop (with a heat lamp, since the smallest one isn't fully feathered yet). It is designed for three or four hens and has a nesting box and a pull out tray. We have straw in the nesting box (at least it was until the chicks started moving it) and coconut pine shavings in the tray. I originally thought I would clean it out twice a week, but it became evident to me today that is not working very well (the coop is beginning to smell like manure).

    I would like to ask those who have successfully used a similar coop -

    How often do you empty your tray out?
    Whether you keep your food inside or outside the henhouse, how do you avoid spoilage and attracting pests like snails - put a cover on it overnight, vs dump the leftovers in the garbage vs put in with the fresh food.
    Do you put straw underneath your coop? If so, how often do you change it? If not, is shavings a better alternative?
     
  2. SusanD

    SusanD Chillin' With My Peeps

    I also wanted to ask how you handle the water (if you keep water inside your coop). We have a chick nipple waterer that my Dad fixed up. They love it, but it does seem to get a lot of water on the shavings. I'm concerned about leaving their water outside, since their still spending a lot of time in the coop.
     
  3. aart

    aart Chicken Juggler! Premium Member

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    Pic of coop and adding your location to your profile would help folks give more viable suggestions.
     
  4. SusanD

    SusanD Chillin' With My Peeps

    Done.

    [​IMG]
     
  5. aart

    aart Chicken Juggler! Premium Member

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    Oh Boy....Well, I gotta tell ya, those coops are pretty small even for 3 large fowl hens and are not very well designed to keep healthy chickens.
    They are always advertised as having room for more chickens than is really healthy.
    There is no ventilation and the roofs can be very leaky, which could be a real detriment in your climate (Oregon = Lots of Rain?).

    The lack of ventilation is probably part of your problem with odor...as is the leaky water nipple.
    With chicken manure, wet equals stinky...keeping things dry is of utmost importance both from a human olfactory aspect as well as chicken health as they are susceptible to respiratory ailments. Not sure how handy you and/or your parents are, but things can be improved.
    Adding some ventilation at the top of the peaks in the gable ends should help. There are lots of threads here on BYC about these prefabbed coops if you do a search you can read about how other folks have improved them.

    The ramp is pretty steep, might be why they are not coming out, put a concrete block or something ~12-16" under the low end of the ramp to change the angle.
    If they still need heat I am assuming that they are less than 6 weeks old, and it can take them awhile to learn how to go up and down a ramp. Plus any change in environment (like going from brooder to coop) can throw chickens for a loop, you might need to 'show' them then give them time to get used to new things.

    I am going to assume that you are using a vertical nipple which are often leaky. I would suggest you get a horizontal nipple and/or keep the water out in the run where leaking might be less of an issue. The horizontal nipples can still create some drips but not as bad as the vertical ones. You can read about both types of nipples here.

    As for cleaning the tray, I would suggest that you try using a product called Sweet PDZ granules. Get the granules not the powder. It is the mineral zeolite sold in the horse section of the farm stores, will absorb ammonia and can be cleaned like you would cat litter. I use it mixed with clean kiln dried sand under my roosts and scoop them clean every other day. I have it only 1/2" deep and use a scraper and a mesh basket to sift the poops out.

    I would block off the nests until your birds are old enough to lay, you don't want them to get in the habit of playing or sleeping in them.
    Another thing about these little prefab coops is that the roosts are too low, if you can move them up higher it would be a good thing.
    Chickens like to roost as high as possible, if the roosts are higher than the nests they are much less likely to start roosting (sleeping ) in the nests...which can make for poopy eggs.

    Sorry for the bad news...there are 2 articles linked in my signature about ventilation and space requirements that are must reading for new chicken keepers.
    Best of cLuck to yas!
     
  6. SusanD

    SusanD Chillin' With My Peeps

    Thanks for your feedback. I will see what I (we) can do about ventilation, water, and about the roosts, as those seem to be the most critical issues. They are going up and down the ramp, (it took the smallest one some time to learn) but I couldn't see them coming out on a rainy or on a sub-freezing (rare) day for very long, so I couldn't see how to manage their food and water without giving it to them in the coop.

    Sizewise, i did notice that underneath the hemhouse seems a little small for running around in (it seems like they bump their heads against the tray, if they're not careful).

    We do get a lot of rain in the Spring/Fall months; July through September is usually pretty sunny. I don't see any leaks so far (we have had a least one rainstorm since we put them out there), but I imagine that does raise the issue of where to put vent holes that won't allow rain in.
     
    Last edited: Mar 29, 2015
  7. aart

    aart Chicken Juggler! Premium Member

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    I understand the food and water in coop at first, but if they can navigate the ramp I'd put it out in the run now...maybe lean a board against side to deflect rain/wind?

    Need a vent with louvers, but small.......like a dryer vent maybe....you'll have to get creative, outside the little box.

    Large fowl chickens need 8-12" of roost space each. Not sure how wide and tall that coop is, but I'd put a 2x4 across the middle about halfway up.
     
  8. barkinghills

    barkinghills Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Hi,

    Welcome to the forum! I live outside the Corvallis area so we are in the same region…the humidity from winter and spring rains can sometimes make it challenging to keep the coops free from ammonia smell. Lots of ventilation does help, as does keeping the litter clean and as dry as possible. I did not have good luck with straw bedding…it mats down and doesn't really absorb well, plus it's difficult to clean out. I also read straw bedding attracts mites. I have had better luck with pine shavings (Gem white shavings), and as someone suggested sometimes use a few handfuls of Sweet PDZ granules in the corner that tends to get soiled.

    I do not have food or water in the coops. I have it out in the chicken yard under a shade structure, up on cement blocks about 8" above ground. I rarely see a snail trail on the feeders but don't worry about it if I do…whatcha gonna do?

    What type of chickens do you have?

    Good luck and have fun with your flock!
     
    Last edited: Mar 29, 2015
  9. Bullyshowgirl

    Bullyshowgirl Out Of The Brooder

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    We also use the Sweet PDZ to keep the smell down and love it. We start it in the bottom of our Brooders and carry right on into the Chicken house. It works well with composting a#s well.
     
  10. SusanD

    SusanD Chillin' With My Peeps

    Thinks all. I will try some PDZ. I will also try opening to coop up for an hour or twe as long as the weather is suuny (like today) and letting it air. Barking Hills, in answer to your question, I have a RIR, a Langshan, and a Welsummer. What kind of chickens do you have??
     

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