Guide written by:
John, Passionate gardener, Cambridge
Chickens are fragile creatures. They are easy prey for a number of different predators including foxes, martens, weasels, rats or even dogs.
Poor weather is another risk factor for chickens as they are not good at handling wind, draughts, humidity or very warm conditions.
Keeping your chicken coop in good condition will help to protect your chickens from these threats. Solid mesh will limit the risk of predator attacks, treated wood will insulate the structure from the cold and wind, and good hygiene will help to ward off parasites.
Fleas are the most common parasite among chickens. However, other pests will set in if the floors of your chicken coop are not kept clean. Among these pests are knemidocoptes mutans, also known as 'scaly leg mites'. These mites invade the feathers causing thick scales on the legs and severe cases may lead to malformed feet or claws.
The most common diseases affecting chickens are:
To check your chickens for signs of parasites or disease, you must inspect them carefully one by one. The best time to do so is while you are giving them their daily feed or topping up their water.
As a general rule, the smaller your chicken coop (or the more chickens you keep) the more you'll have to clean it. If you have a small flock of chickens, weekly cleaning combined with a few deep cleans a year will do the job. Chicken coop cleaning can be split into three categories:
Once a week, it's important to change the bedding in your chicken coop, especially beneath the perch where your chickens sleep. Remember to clean your perch at the same time.
Most ready-built chicken coops are equipped with a drawers to make this task easier. Once you are finished cleaning, lay down around 3 cm of new bedding on the floor. Bedding is important both for the well-being of your chickens and their overall hygiene. What's more, it is insulating and makes it easier to keep the coop clean.
A variety of materials can be used: sawdust, wood chippings, flax or hemp straw, old newspapers, and so on. Wheat or barley straw are commonly used, but are not very absorbent. Don't forget to change the straw inside your nest boxes.
When cleaning your chicken coop accessories, remember to take care of the dust or sand bath. These baths are used by chickens to clean... by getting dirty. In actual fact, the process helps to get rid of certain parasites. Be sure to place the tray far from the feeder and water dispenser.
You can also use this time to make sure that there are no holes in the mesh and that predators haven't buried under the chicken coop in the hopes of breaking in.
Quick tip: the bedding from your chicken coop is full of nutrients, particularly nitrogen and phosphate. Throw it on your compost heap and it will turn into a fantastic green fertiliser for your garden.
Clean and disinfect all feeders, water dispensers and nest boxes. Don't forget to remove all droppings from the floor using a scraping tool.
White vinegar is a great cleaning product. Vinegar and hot water has long been a favourite cleaning solution among chicken owners. Black soap is another organic product that works well.
Now is the time to do a deep clean. The best time to do so is at the start of winter as your chickens will soon be spending more time indoors. After emptying your chicken coop entirely, proceed to the same steps you carry out monthly. Then, use a pressure washer to hose down everything, paying special attention to corners, hinges, and so on.
After everything is dry, apply a specialist disinfectant product all over the inside of the chicken coop then wipe down the walls, floor and roof. Use a spray gun or machine to ensure the liquid reaches every corner of the chicken coop.
You can also use this opportunity to disinfect all accessories. Carrying out a deep clean once a year allows you to rid the chicken coop of all parasites (such as fleas), bacteria and any harmful insects that may be lurking inside. It is also recommended to use a bactericide.
After everything is dry, replace all accessories and lay down clean bedding. Your chickens will appreciate your efforts!
Ideally, you should use an organic cleaning and disinfecting product. You'll find a range of organic bactericide, fungicide or insecticides designed especially for use in chicken coops.
Start early so when your chickens are out for the day so that your equipment will have time to dry before your feathery friends make their way home for the night. When cared for on a regular basis, chicken coops won't take long to clean and you will hopefully avoid any serious health issues.
Chicken coop structures are usually made of wood (this tends to be the most attractive option). Heat-treated pine is a commonly used material which is both relatively long-lasting and affordable.
This type of wood is weather-resistant, but if you want it to keep looking its best, it is a good idea to apply a penetrating or natural oil (such as flax) about once a year. This will also prevent your wood from cracking over time as the weather changes.
Guide written by:
John, Passionate gardener, Cambridge, 83 guides
When I was young, I was already working in the family garden. Perhaps that is where my interest in plants and gardening came from. So, it was logical for me to study both plant biology and agronomy. At the request of various publishers I have, over twenty-five years, written many books on the subject of plants and mushrooms (a subject that is close to my heart).They were mostly identification guides at first, but shortly after they were about gardening, thus renewing the first passion of my childhood. I have also regularly collaborated with several magazines specializing in the field of gardening or more generally in nature. There is no gardener without a garden, I have cultivated mine in a small corner of Cambridge for the last thirty years and this is where I put into practice the methods of cultivation that will I advise you in as well.