A Clean Coop Is A Happy Coop

Our weekend was wonderful. We had a great visit with family on Saturday, including time for our son and his cousins to play together in the charming way that little boys do, which is always entertaining. Yesterday, we took care of a dreaded chore: cleaning out the chicken coop bedding and replacing it with fresh. It was heavy, hard, sweaty work, but we are really glad that we got it done. Clean bedding makes for a healthier coop.

Getting a photo without *any* chicken turds was impossible. They broke in the new bedding immediately.

We were trying to use what is known as the “deep litter” method in our coop – meaning, you basically have stratification layers of pine bedding, and the lower layers start to compost over time. Many folks say that they use this method and only change their coop bedding once a year, in the spring, and they put the used bedding to work as compost. I have a feeling that it probably works better for smaller flocks – say, a dozen or so birds. But, we have quite a bit more birds than that, and frankly, we were starting to smell faint whiffs of ammonia, which can kill your flock quickly. I spoke with one of the sons over at the family-run feed operation we frequent, where they have their own coop that is about the size of ours (perhaps even a bit larger) and asked how they handle their bedding. They clean their coop about every 2-3 months, he explained, and assured me that waiting longer than that only makes for harder work when trying to scoop out all of those poop-and-feather-laden shavings. So, I brought home eight bags of pine shavings and five of those are now spread out on the freshly-cleaned floor of the coop. The chickens seem delighted. Well, as much as they can express delight. I know we are pleased! I also was generous with the food-grade diatomaceous earth, sprinkling it throughout all of the bedding. This provides insect control – DE is an abrasive that cracks open the exoskeleton of insects (ants, ticks, fleas, mites, beetles, etc.) and causes them to dehydrate and die. So it’s great to sprinkle in your chicken’s bedding. Also, I read that it’s great for chickens to take their dust baths in, since it will stick to their feathers and help keep pests off of them, too. So, we have a cat litter box containing some in the coop now, and it looks like a couple of the birds have taken advantage of it already.

This morning, I opened the coop and discovered that our Picard rooster (Silver Duckwing Bantam) had flown over the wall, and was in the nursery pen, visiting with the Black Australorp chicks, who are five and a half weeks old now. Because Picard is a Bantam (miniature chicken), he and the Australorps are about the same size. He has been curious about those little peeps for the past couple of weeks, and was not acting aggressively – just trying to introduce himself. They were all very wary of the new guy, but tolerant of his presence just the same. After a couple of moments, he flew up and out of the nursery pen and headed outdoors to forage. He just started crowing in front of us a few nights ago. We really enjoy that little bird’s antics.

It’s not often that a nursery receives a visit from such a distinguished Starfleet Captain.

Despite the scorching hot weather, I am starting to feel summer winding down, and I always have mixed feelings about it. Sure, the humidity and heat can feel unbearable, but we have a pool to jump into whenever we’d like to cool off. I also enjoy all of the vegetables, herbs, fruit, and flowers growing, and being able to spend time outside with the animals. The summer evenings can be splendid, especially if there is a breeze, plenty of stars, and all of the fireflies dotting the property with their little luminescent bums. I love autumn, too, but here in Michigan, we generally seem to get ripped off – we get about a week of beautiful colors and crisp air, and then BAM! We have winter in full force, complete with the harsh cold temperatures and plenty of snow, and it seems to last until April. Even then, we sometimes have one final whammy of a snowstorm for the season. I’m not really looking forward to closing up our pool for the year, and having to think about all of our chickens and goats being cooped up for all of those months. I’m enjoying these last few weeks of summer, taking them in, so that I can hold them in my memory and keep the confidence that we will have them again, even when I’m watching those first snowflakes fall, on a day that will come much too soon.

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5 responses to “A Clean Coop Is A Happy Coop”

  1. Debbie Avatar

    Thanks for the tip about the DE. Do you know if it is ok for dogs? Haven’t contacted you about visiting b/c we have has a horrible flea problem this summer! I’m going to try the DE if you think it is ok.
    Plus –
    I think summer lasts until the end of Sept.
    Fall ’til Thanksgiving
    Winter ’til March
    I try to remind myself to enjoy each season. I was really worried about being outside so much last year – but it turned out really great. I hope I can make myself spend time outdoors this year, no matter the weather too!

    1. Trase Avatar

      I have heard of it being used for flea control for dogs – you can sprinkle it on them (they are prone to shaking it off, though) and in their bedding. http://www.dailypuppy.com/articles/how-effective-is-diatomaceous-earth-for-fleas/28c8723b-302b-397c-1317-3d7a5c4e82bc

      Also, we had to get some kind of fly repellent to use on a couple of our chickens over the weekend, because they were having terrible issues with biting gnats swarming on them. I read that there was an equine product that can be watered down and used on poultry, so I picked it up at Tractor Supply – it’s called Equisect. It’s an organic product, and there are instructions right on the bottle for using it on dogs and cats, so that might be worth checking out too. Here’s a link to info on it: http://www.farnamhorse.com/product.php?pid=100818&key=&cat

      I keep trying to enjoy each season, too. It just seems like Spring and Fall are so abbreviated, because Winter and Summer barge in on them!

      Let me know when you can come to visit! 🙂

      1. Trase Avatar

        Also – I can say that the Equisect has been *tremendously* effective on the gnats – our poor big rooster was just being bombarded by them and we were afraid of losing him. (Biting gnats can actually draw enough blood from poultry to kill them. They can also swarm into their nostrils and suffocate them.) I watered it down to about a 3 parts water to 1 part Equisect mix, and put it into a spray bottle, and sprayed him with it, carefully avoiding his eyes/nostril/mouth. The gnats scrammed, and I haven’t seen any around him since! So I have to imagine it would be pretty effective for dogs/cats too.

        1. Brian Avatar

          I’m currently have the same problem with gnats and recently bought a couple bottles of Equisect. Was your mixture of Equisect and water a good mixture? Did it bother your birds any? I have to do something ASAP! Thanks in advance!

          1. Trase Avatar

            As I recall, we had good results with the mixture and it didn’t bother our birds. 🙂

            Many of those same birds are still with us and still laying (although not as frequently). We have a pair of Easter Egger ladies who are my “old biddies” and they are kind of crotchety, but they still both lay 2-3 eggs per week, even at six years old.

            Hope it helps with your flock!

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