If you’ve had backyard chickens for a while, you know that spoiling them with the best of everything takes time and effort. It’s worth it to treat your hens like royalty in return for the lovely eggs they produce. In our other blogs, we’ve discussed how chickens clean themselves with dust baths. Additionally, we've mentioned that coop and additional living spaces should be cleaned in several blogs. Today we're going to do a deeper dive and address coop cleanliness and chicken handling.
Do Chickens Carry Disease Harmful to Humans?
Unfortunately, yes, and that disease is called Salmonella. You’ve probably heard of it. In case you didn’t know, according to the Mayo Clinic, Salmonella is an infection with salmonella bacteria, commonly caused by contaminated food or water. People with compromised immune systems, such as older adults, babies, and people with AIDS, are more likely to have severe cases.
Symptoms include diarrhea, fever, chills, and abdominal pain. Most people only need fluids to recover in less than a week. Severe infections may require hospitalization, including IV fluids and sometimes antibiotics.
According to Phillip Clauer, senior instructor and extension specialist, College of Agricultural Sciences, Penn State, “More...people are raising backyard chickens. They need to understand proper techniques for handling birds and equipment." Clauer noted that because young poultry are cute, soft, and enjoyable to handle, people often forget that they could be infected with Salmonella bacteria.
Eva Wallner-Pendleton, a poultry veterinarian at the Animal Diagnostic Lab, Penn State, added, "People often have the mistaken idea that backyard birds and their eggs are free from Salmonella. In fact, any poultry can be carriers of Salmonella, and they usually have no outward symptoms of the disease." Eggs, too, can make people sick, she said. "Salmonella...can be shed directly into eggs, and unless eggs are thoroughly cooked, they can make people sick."
Backyard Chicken Handling
Now you’re probably wondering if it is safe to handle chickens. It is, however, instilling safe handling practices are the key to avoiding Salmonella infection.
- Wash your hands before and after interacting with your flock.
- Kiss and snuggle your hens away from their beaks as they peck at the ground.
- Keep your birds outside or in a place in your home where you do not keep food.
- Dispose of soiled eggs i.e., those have 💩 on the shell.
- Change your shoes before you go in/out of the coop or wear shoe coverings.
- Give health checks to your flock regularly.
- Cook your eggs
- If poultry have access to gardens, properly wash any produce before eating.
- Keep your coop clean.
How Often do Chicken Coops Need to be Cleaned?
Your coop should be cleaned top to bottom weekly. You should also get into a daily cleaning routine. If you stay on top of keeping your hens’ area clean, it is easy to maintain. Also, if you retain coop cleanliness, it keeps odors, parasites, and disease from invading.
These areas/tasks should be cleaned daily:
- Nesting boxes and Roosts. Chickens poop when they sleep; these areas get dirty reasonably fast.
- Scooping 💩..
- Wipe down feeders and waterers.
- Replenish food and water.
What Can I Clean My Chicken Coop With?
Here are some tools that will definitely make your life easier and shorten your cleaning time.
- Disposable latex gloves
- Mask (going to be a lot of allergens floating around)
- Safety glasses
- Square Shovel
- Snow shovel
- Garden hose with adjustable sprayer
- Small tool kit
- Push broom
- White vinegar (not bleach, which is dangerous for your flock's respiratory symptoms. Vinegar natural sanitizes and repels insects.)
- Staple gun to mend chicken wire
How to Clean a Coop
- Move the flock to a place you’re not currently cleaning.
- Open all of the windows and doors. Fresh air makes everything better.
- Move the feeders and waterers outside the coop. You will clean them while the coop air dries.
- Shovel and scrape. Get rid of all of the manure, dirt, shavings, cobwebs, and feathers out with a hoe or square shovel. Collect it or sweep it out the door.
- Check for rodents. Rodents often harbor Salmonella, which can then infect the birds if rodents contaminate their food. Controlling rodents is very important for reducing Salmonella in the birds' environment.
- Spray down everything with the hose. This removes fine dust (harmful for chicken respiratory systems) and softens any stuck-on manure or dirt. If surfaces still have crud stuck on them, use a sponge soaked with vinegar. You will have to scrub off the crud.
- Repeat step 1, ensuring all of the dirty water goes down the drain or out the door.
- Dump straight vinegar on the floor and scrub with broom or brush.
- Hose off the floor. Let the water drain or push it out with the broom.
- Let the coop air dry.
- Hose off and scrub the feeders and waterers with vinegar. Rinse them and put in the sun to air dry.
- Make any necessary repairs.
- Replace bedding in the roosts, nesting boxes, and floor as applicable.
- Bring the chickens back in.
- Secure windows and doors against predators.
- Clean their run or any outside areas in a similar manner.
- Clean all cleaning equipment.
Whew! Are you tired from reading all of those steps? We know it seems like a lot, but a clean coop helps keep you and your flock healthy. If you have any other safe handling of pet chickens or coop cleaning tips, we would love to hear them. Please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or comment on our socials.