This is a series for beginners raising backyard chickens in Australia, brought to you by CoopsDirect Australia.
PART 1: Cleaning and Maintaining Your Chicken Coop
Dry cleaning is usually completed more often than wet cleaning. It is up to you how often you do a deep “wet” clean, however we recommend no less that every 6 months.
It is important that your chicken coop stays clean. Having a clean coop and backyard is one of the best ways to keep your chooks healthy and free of disease. Cleaning the coop does not need to be a big time consuming chore you do on a daily basis. With a little effort and regular weekly maintenance, you can easily get the job done in about 30 minutes or less when it is time to clean the coop. A "deep cleaning" is good to do about twice a year and requires a little more time. By maintaining the coop, specifically the roosting boxes every couple weeks, you are helping prevent illness and increase egg production by giving your hens an environment they can thrive in. Also, if too much manure is left in the coop it is HEAVY and will put strain on the structure of the coop and may cause damage.
We recommend keeping a checklist recording when you clean your coop, as it can be hard to remember when you last did it.
And one more small tip (not cleaning related, but important) - after constructing your coop, paint the outside with 2 coats of exterior grade paint to protect the wood.
Manure trays If your coop has a manure collection tray, this should be emptied regularly before it gets too full – ideally daily if you have the time.
Cleaning the Feeders Every month or so, clean your water feeders. It is a good idea to disinfect them with a little soapy water and then rinse them clean. It takes about 5 minutes to wash out your water feeder. Chickens should always have fresh water, especially when laying.
Start by removing all birds from the coop, along with any equipment to be cleaned in another place, such as feeders and waterers.
Dry Cleaning Sweep or blow dust and other loose dirt off ceilings, walls, cages or nest boxes onto the floor. Scrape manure and accumulated dust and dirt from perches and roosts. Remove all litter from the floor. (Litter can be added to a compost pile.) Sweep the floor to remove as much dry material as possible. With a small coop, a wet-dry shop vacuum does a good job of removing this material. However, be careful to clean the filter often as the fine dust from the coop may easily clog the filter and make the vacuum work harder or lead to burn out of the motor.
Wet Cleaning If your coop has any power supply, turn this off at the mains prior to using any water for cleaning. Wet cleaning is done in three steps: soaking, washing and rinsing. Warm or hot water will do a better job cutting through organic matter than cold water. Use a cheap neutral detergent or even dish soap.
Step 1: Soaking
Soak the heavily soiled areas (perches and roosting areas, floors, etc.) thoroughly. Use a low pressure/ bottle type sprayer to totally soak all surfaces. Soak until the accumulated dirt and manure has softened to the point it is easily removed.
Step 2: Washing
Wash every surface especially window sills, ceiling trusses, wall sills and any surface where dirt and dust may accumulate. The washing solution can be a mild detergent. Mix in hot water—160oF or hotter is best. A high pressure sprayer is good for this step, but manual scrubbing with a moderately stiff brush is one of the best ways to insure a thorough cleaning. Inspect manually to be sure you have removed all of the dirt and manure from all surfaces, including slide-out manure trays. Apple Cider Vinegar is good for this step.
Step 3: Rinsing
A final rinse with a hose immediately after washing is recommended to remove any harmful residues and to obtain a spotless building. Mop up any puddles as they can rapidly become breeding grounds for salmonellae.
Step 4: Repairs
Make any repairs to the structure prior to disinfection. Seal any rodent entry holes at the outside and inside of the building. Apply a small amount of spray foam insulation into the hole, then pack in fine steel wool and top with more spray foam.
Step 5: Disinfecting
This is a crucial step. Disinfectants should be applied only after the building and equipment have been thoroughly cleaned, ideally right after rinsing before drying. Disinfecting using a small garden type sprayer is the easiest method, and chances are you already have a suitable household disinfectant (Pine-o-cleen etc) around the house. Follow the manufacturer’s directions for mixing and dilution of these disinfectants.
Step 6: Drying
Thoroughly air-dry the building if disinfection cannot immediately follow rinsing. Open all windows and ventilation openings. Use a blower or fan if available. Cleaning on a dry, sunny day helps in the drying process.
CoopsDirect recommends that you always deep clean a coop each time you get a new chook. It is so important the coop is disinfected for your new hatch.