Updated December 10, 2019
Cleaning and maintenance are important parts of caring for chickens. Providing a clean living space can help prevent illness, and regular maintenance will keep spaces safe both for the chicken residents and their human caretakers. Though it’s important to check spaces each day and do any necessary spot cleaning, the frequency at which full cleanings are needed is based on a variety of factors. For example, spaces may become dirtier more quickly during extreme heat or cold, when chickens are spending the majority of their time indoors. The number of residents and the size of the space also factor in. Below we recommend performing a full cleaning of the space weekly, which is a good starting point, but you may find that your resident living spaces need to be cleaned more or less often. Whenever you clean up a chicken’s home, make sure to wear proper protection like disposable gloves and potentially a particle mask.
Create and maintain a cleaning schedule
Every day, ensure that the indoor space is always well ventilated, as excess moisture can cause a host of problems and attract disease. Caked or wet bedding should be removed immediately to help keep the space sanitary. If you’re using a “poop board”, ensure that it’s cleaned up regularly. Perching areas tend to become dirty quick, so it’s a good idea to clean the tops of perch bales and underneath any elevated perches daily. Check around water units to ensure the surrounding bedding has not become wet. Sometimes the top layer of bedding appears dry, but further inspection reveals completely soaked bedding below. If you notice any holes around the coop, fencing, or to a chicken’s outdoor space, make sure to keep them covered to protect the flock from predators. Make sure the chickens’ outdoor space isn’t excessively muddy and that the chickens aren’t forced to stand or walk through deep mud to get to food, water, or into their living space. They need a dry place for their feet or else they risk developing dangerous foot issues.
Nesting areas must be cleaned daily or every other day. All eggs should be collected, and any broken egg must be thoroughly cleaned to prevent attracting maggots which can then move onto a chicken if they have a wound or dirty, matted feathers. If a chicken crushes an egg they were nesting on, you must also clean the egg remnants off of the chicken. Fill freshly cleaned nesting areas with a good amount of fresh bedding. Inadequate amounts of bedding make broken eggs more likely.
If you are using straw bales for perches or nesting areas, it’s a good idea to move these regularly to prevent rodents from building nests under them and to ensure there is no sign of a breech behind or underneath them.
Water sources should be cleaned at least once per day and refilled with fresh, clean water. Any spilled food should be cleaned up daily both to prevent spoilage and to prevent attracting rodents.
If a space has become overly dirty or wet (from rain or snow blowing into the space or a leaky water unit for example) the space will need a full cleaning regardless of your cleaning schedule.
Every week (or other frequency you’ve established based on the specifics of the space), remove all bedding and nesting materials, clean flooring (using animal safe cleaner and deodorizer), and replenish with new bedding. This is very important as it prevents disease from spreading and prevents mold, parasites, fungus and ammonia from building up. Clean bedding can help prevent many foot ailments in chickens! When performing any indoor cleaning, be very mindful of dust. We highly recommend wearing a particle mask as inhaling dried chicken manure can be very harmful for humans. A quick dusting right after adding fresh bedding can be helpful.
About every six months or so, you should perform a thorough cleaning of the entire indoor space and yard. This includes disinfecting and cleaning any feeders, waterers, and all surfaces of the indoor space. Use a strong detergent and give it at least 30 minutes to be more effective. Warm solutions work better at cleaning than cold ones! Ensure that all surfaces are dry before re-introducing chickens into their home. Any nest boxes should also be removed and cleaned thoroughly. This is also a good time to assess the wall and flooring that is typically hidden by the nest box and to ensure there are no signs of a breech developing. A fall cleaning is helpful to control mites over the wintertime. Additionally, if you’re planning on introducing a new bird into the flock, a deep cleaning can help prevent the spread of disease.
If you live in an especially heat-prone region, be mindful when you schedule living space cleaning. Depending on your residents and how thoroughly you are cleaning, it may be safer to have them fully locked out of the indoor space during cleaning. It’s best to schedule routine cleaning for periods when chickens can remain comfortable in their outdoor space. You don’t want them stuck in the sweltering sun or out in the rain. Make sure they have access to shade, cool water, and food (if they are on a free-fed diet).
Check any cooling systems in use both to ensure they are working properly and that they are keeping the space at a comfortable temperature. Fans should be checked regularly to ensure they are working properly and cords remain in good condition. They can get very dusty and should be cleaned regularly.
In cold climates, you’ll need to find a way to safely clean without forcing your residents to be stuck out in the cold. Be extra mindful of cold or drafts coming into the space. A chicken’s comb and wattle are especially prone to frostbite. You might have to increase the insulation or provide extra bedding to keep it warmer. If you need to, employ a safe heat source, like a small ceramic heat panel, but be very careful as chicken coops are incredibly susceptible to fire. Inspect all heat sources regularly and keep them free of dust and bedding.
What about all this dust?
You may notice that the coop is a bit on the dusty side. That’s not surprising, as chickens stay clean and healthy with regular dust baths! You should be giving them a dust bath to use if they don’t already have dusty access. If the dust is getting excessive in the coop, you can very lightly mist the coop and roost areas with water.
Chicken Basics | University of Minnesota (Non-Compassionate Source)