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Chicken coop to-dos

Posted by on Thursday 13 January 2011 in chickens | 2 comments

(I tried really, really hard to get a “cock-a-doodle-to-do” pun going on in the title but failed.)

I had a day away from my computer yesterday to catch up on outside & animal chores – and one of the things on my list was to give the chicken coop a mega-super clean.

I spotted what I thought was white mould all over the coop yesterday and knowing that’s, you know, not good, I stripped everything out this morning — everything that could be reasonably easily removed/taken apart got taken out so I could scrub *everywhere* down, from every angle.

The coop is about 4ft by 4ft square, with a sloped roof going up to about 4ft high in the middle, and it’s on stilts raising it about 18ins off the ground. I had to climb inside to be able to scrub the roof with (watered-down) disinfectant – perching like a giant chicken until my thighs were jelly! – and it was only when I did so that I realised the vast majority of the suspected white mould spores were actually just damp red mite powder from my last coop dousing. Still, since I was in there, and at least three chickens were in there at all times (keeping an eye on me in their house), I thought I might as well continue with the scrub down.

(Speaking of red mites, they’re back again – we had a few weeks with no sign of them (I presume they don’t like the really cold weather?) but now a small colony has return. I scrubbed it away yesterday but will dust the coop and the chickens this afternoon – I ran out of time yesterday – so I guess that’s To Do #1: dust chickens & coop for red mites.)

The bits of mould that were actually mould were inside the roof – and the roof itself looked damp. I scrapped all the accumulated wet leaves off the top of it in case that was adding the problem but suspect it’s just a bit leaky too – leaks between the wooden slats – so that’s To Do #2: explore a better roofing option.

The wood used for building the coop was treated before it was put together but after a wet nearly-year, I think it’ll need treating again so that’s To Do #3: reseal/treat all the wood. I’ll have to wait for a couple of warm, dry days for that – and will probably have to work out a way to keep it off-limits to the chickens for as long as possible.

Another thing I need to consider is improving the ventilation – poor ventilation is a key cause of mould. Funnily enough, I had thought that the ventilation “window” might have been too big for these cold winter nights – seems like the opposite was the case. Not sure how I’ll improve that without making it draughty or causing more damp spots so that’s To Do #4: figure out how to improve the ventilation without making more problems for myself.

Finally, an idea I had earlier in the winter but haven’t yet implemented has to go on my list: To Do #5: install a suspended floor that is easy to clean and insulated underneath. The current floor is made up of slats so there are little grooves inbetween each piece which accumulated grime – a floor made up from a single piece of wood (or two pieces to make it easier to move) and possibly covered with a scrap of lino would be a lot easier to keep clean. It could easily be “suspended” as there is a wooden baton, about 3cm high, all around the rim of the coop (where the sides are screwed onto) so could rest on that, with some cross bars so it doesn’t sag in the middle. The loss of height wouldn’t be a big deal at all.

Outside of the coop, in the run, there are a couple more things that will need attention this year:

  • Reattach their play perches – some of them are a bit wobbly now
  • Rat-proof it – the run was built to prevent foxes getting in but we didn’t consider rats. There are a few places where some wire and concrete will easily solve the problem.
  • More wood chips – we put about half a tonne of wood chips in the run when we first set it up, then another tonne a month or so later – and I think we need another top up now. (Given the run is four flights of stairs down from the road, it’s a workout!). We use a deep litter principle in the run – the wood chips absorb the poop and rot down to compost. At some point, we’ll dig it out but for the moment, while the reclaimed ground underneath is still settling, we can just keep piling it on.

I guess having that not-strictly-needed cleaning time to think about these things will ultimately be for the best but now I have another eight jobs on my to-do list, I’m not feeling the joy right now!

If you’ve got chickens, anything special on your chores list for the coming months?


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  1. Linda

    Seems like your chickens are a lot of work! (or your chook-house cleaning standards are too high?)

    Rats -seriously? How big are they that they’ll take on a bunch of chickens defending their territory?

    Have you considered permaculture options so that coop cleaning is hardly necessary? I use a dome structure pegged to the ground and move it as the chooks finish fertilising the ground beneath.

    My special chore is to make a water bowl that the girls won’t tip over and hopefully in a dark colour to decrease the algal growth.

    P.S. wobbly play perches are all the rage at the local primary school!!

    • louisa

      Ah, no, they’re not much work when it’s not freezing – my weekly clean only takes about 15mins; this one was a special one that it’s a once every few months task.

      When we first talked about getting chickens, we were going to go for a moveable ark but ended up building a bigger, stationary coop & run instead.

      I’ve got a deep litter approach in the run so not much cleaning is required in there (I just scrap the poo off the shelters and old patio chairs every week or so), but the coop itself isn’t big enough to deep litter for more than a week or so at a time (I top up the shavings as needed during the week, then empty it all out at the weekend). I actually don’t mind doing the weekly clean – good chicken bonding time as they’re always interested in what I’m doing and it’s a good opportunity to check for mites etc.

      As for the rats, I’ve not seen any about during the day but there is evidence of digging and we know they’re eating the food left in the feeders when the chickens are all tucked away for the night. The coop is sealed at night and raised off the ground so they shouldn’t hassle the chickens but I’d rather keep them out of the run if possible. We live near a waterway – a stream at the bottom of the garden – so I think they’re inevitable but I’d like to do what we can to keep them out.

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