Chicken Coop Cleaning in the City

Keeping the Chicken Coop Clean in the City

Keeping a chicken coop or the inner hen house clean doesn’t have to be such a horrible chore if you’re living in a town, but it will be if the coop and hen house isn’t laid out in a way that facilitates easy maintenance and cleaning.   As usual, I learned all of this the hard way with my first coop and hen house, but it gave me just the insight I needed to make sure that my future coop and hen house would be easy to manage and keep clean.

When I got my first chickens several years ago I cleared a space in the back corner of my yard that I fenced in so they would have a little bit of space to roam around when they weren’t in their hen house.   That was my first and biggest mistake.  I didn’t realize how muddy that small area of about 400 sq. ft. would get, and it basically turned into a mud pit over the winter.  I dreaded going out there to get the eggs because it was so dirty and wet.  The hens got dirty too,  and their eggs were always dirty in the winter.  I still let my chickens out to roam around the yard, but that also left areas in disarray around the garden because of all the scratching they did.  I had to constantly rake stuff off my grass areas back into the flower beds.   It was obvious that I not only hadn’t planned my coop properly, I had too many chickens.  Nine are way too many for a family of two when you live in town.   Still, even if I’d only had three hens, the coop area still would have been a muddy mess because it needed to have straw over it to absorb the rain and mud.  Had I done that it would have been much better.   Now-a-days, I always have several bales of straw out back along the fence to mulch and cover muddy areas with.  Beside, the hens love it.  The worms will come out from the soil into the straw when it’s wet,  and the hens love to scratch around in it and find the worms and bugs.

I also didn’t have the funds the first time to buy or build a really great coop, but it still worked out pretty well for the first three years.  You can check out photos of the old coop and hen house in earlier chicken posts.  The main thing in regards to keeping a hen house clean is to make sure that you can easily get in and out of the house so you can clean it without difficulty, and as I found out later, the best floor covering for a hen house is… SAND!

 

 

Here’s my “must have & do” list for keeping a coop and hen house clean for those who don’t want to learn the hard way like I did:

  1. Be sensible about how many hens you really need.  Three are more than enough for a family of two – three in the city.  Maybe one or two more if you want to give a dozen eggs to friends and relatives now and then.
  2. Make sure you have easy access into the hen house and a good 4 inches of sand as a floor covering.  You can even lay ground cover underneath before shovelling on the sand.   In the photo you can see how I have sand in and around the hen house enclosed with the 4 x 4’s.  The wooden edges keep the sand contained, and the sand around the perimeter makes it so that the rain that dribbles from the roof hits the sand and doesn’t kick up mud.  It’s absolutely wonderful, especially if you’re a clean freak like me.
  3. Any nesting areas in the hen house should be covered with straw, and lots of it.  Underneath my nesting area in the roosting area I also laid a tarp so that no moisture from poop or water will touch the wood surface.  This is very important to avoid damp conditions, rot, bacteria or mold growth.  I also keep a large black bin close to the hen house with dry straw in it so I don’t always have to walk out of the coop over to my straw bales along the fence.
  4. Keep a bucket with a cover near the hen house to throw poop wads in.  It’s so easy when you go out to collect the eggs to gather up the poop on the straw and just throw it into the bucket.  It takes 5 seconds.  I like to be able to gather enough poop to apply in the areas in my flower beds that I think may need more nitrogen, or just toss the bucket full of poop onto my compost pile.
  5. Occasionally you must go into the hen house to rake up poop.  With sand it’s a breeze, and you really only need to do it about once a month (if you’ve only got a few hens).  I would suggest getting a small rake for this and a wire strainer.  Rake up the poop from the sand and strain it through the wire mesh.  It’s perfect!  Toss the poop, straw and debris onto your compost.  It’s that simple.  When summer comes around and it’s hot outside, water down the sand in the hen house.  It’s like the rain on the sand.   It kind of rinses it out.  It’s amazing with sand how you can avoid the stench of chicken poop in winter and summer.
  6. I’ve read about people bleaching out their hen houses each year.  I can’t imagine why if you’ve got healthy hens and the coop is always kept clean why you would need to do this.  As long as your chickens have enough area to roam and dust themselves, why would they get parasites and lice?  As long as you don’t bring other grown chickens into your flock who might have some disease, chances are your chickens will remain very healthy and the need to bleach down their coop would be completely unnecessary.  I love the hen house I have now from chickengardener.com.  It is so practical, spacious, easy to maintain and clean, and it looks great!
  7. The coop area itself should ideally provide some grassy areas and dirt areas, but I know that’s not possible for most town dwellers.  I’m lucky to have a huge double lot that is around 13,000 sq. ft. and I’ve set aside about 2,000 sq. ft. of it for the hens.    About  1,500 sq. ft. is grassy area, and maybe around 500 sq. ft. is dirt areas where they can scratch around and hunt for more worms and bugs.   When I let them roam the entire area of my 13,000 sq. ft. yard during non planting and growing months (May – September), that also gives the coop area time off.
  8. Raking the outer coop area should be done as well.  I still go out occasionally to rake up poop and debris into piles that I throw onto the compost.  I also mow that area when needed since the grass will grow really high, and I’ve noticed the hens prefer to eat the new tender grass shoots that grow up.   In the winter the rain will disperse a lot of poop into the grass and down into the soil, but when it’s drier you need to do some raking and definitely water as needed.  During the summer I want my hens to have some green grass to munch on, so since they aren’t allowed into the larger yard during planting and growing season,  I will water back there for them.  The rest of my lawn areas I let dry out.  I can’t justify using water to keep up a manicured lawn in this day and age when water is getting more scarce and expensive.

Hopefully this post will give the reader a good idea how to plan a coop and hen house without making a lot of the mistakes that I made.  It’ll make the experience of owning hens so much nicer.

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