The weather was perfect yesterday for spring cleaning the chicken coop. When we moved the chickens into the horse stall coop at the end of January, I left all the loose hay and sawdust from when it was an extra horse stall to be the bedding for the coop to try the deep litter method. In our previous coops, I used rabbit cage trays under the roosting bars to catch droppings, and dumped them out as needed so I never really tried the deep litter method in the whole coop before.
It’s only been two months since moving the chickens into this coop, but after doing the first deep cleaning I can already tell that I will continue to use the deep litter method in the future. There was never any smell in the coop, the only poop build up seemed to remain right under the roosting bars, and I never really noticed any poop or moisture anywhere else in the bedding.
Cleaning out the Coop
Cleaning out the 10 foot by 12 foot coop only took one hour start to finish! I took out 6 wheelbarrow loads of bedding and only one of those had any wet bedding from under where I had kept the water. The top layer of bedding was completely dry all throughout the coop. Everything went out to the compost pile where it will continue to break down over the next few months. I swept out all the remaining dust and let the floor air out while I removed the house wrap I had put up for extra insulation this winter.
The floor of the coop is rubber mats on top of concrete since this was a horse stall previously. I didn’t see any reason to remove the mats when converting this to a coop and they are a hassle to move so unless they seem to be problematic, I’m happy to leave them. The horses have access to the stall on the other side of the roosting bars wall and I did notice some of the pee had soaked through to the bottom layer of bedding on the coop side. There was such a built up dam of bedding and droppings under the roosting bars though that it seemed to stop the puddle from going too far into the coop. There is a floor drain right under that wall and the floor does slope to that spot, so I will just have to be mindful to keep that area extra clean and limed on both sides.
First Saturday Lime
Before putting down new bedding, I sprinkled First Saturday Lime in the nesting boxes and over the entire coop floor, concentrating more heavily on the areas with any wetness. I sprinkle more First Saturday Lime right on top of the bedding, nesting boxes, and especially under the roosting bars weekly for maintenance. This helps to dry up any moisture, keep odors down, and prevent pests in the coop. I also use First Saturday Lime in the dust bath area, and lately I’ve been using it in the horses’ water trough for algae control with great success!
The final step was putting down fresh bedding. Previously I had been using a chopped straw product and that had worked well in the coop and nesting boxes. I had two left over bags of pine shavings from Tractor Supply in my feed room, and going forward that will be the easiest bedding product to access with TSC being only 3 miles away, so pine shavings it is! I used both bags in the coop and nesting boxes and that seemed to give me good coverage for the size of the coop. There is nothing better than the smell of fresh pine shavings!
When I let the girls back into the coop from the run, they all loved it! Well, except for the younger Silver Laced Wyandottes who play “the floor is lava” with any new footing such as snow, gravel, dirt, grass, bedding, etc. They finally got over themselves and realized the pine shavings were just as much fun to scratch around in as the hay had been before.
I’m curious to see how the pine shavings hold up for bedding now and if I can turn this into the deep litter method again through the summer or if it will just be better to occasionally strip out the bedding and start fresh. I did move the water out to the run so that will cut down on added moisture in the bedding. We are planning to hook up a rain barrel behind the coop which will feed into my top fill waterer through the warm months.
Over the winter I had kept the water in a black rubber tub inside the coop because we didn’t have the outdoor run attached yet and it was easier to break ice out of than my top fill waterer. There are mixed reviews on having water inside the coop during winter because the added moisture can increase the likelihood of frostbite. I took the water out of the coop at night to try to account for this and our coop has really great ventilation even when it had the house wrap on the openings. I did use a protecting balm on everyone’s combs and wattles but I had no frostbite this year even with having the water inside! Use your own judgement on what is best for your own coop and flock, but we don’t have to worry about that now because spring and warm temperatures are finally here!
Next chicken project on the list is planting the coop garden on the side of the run! I will be planting all kinds of beneficial herbs and flowers for the chickens to eat, to dry for sprinkling in the coop and nesting boxes, and also to provide more shade to the run in the hot summer months.
Have you done your spring coop cleaning yet? Are you planning on planting a chicken garden this year?