Reading up on cleaning I have discovered that a minimum of once or twice a year the chicken keeper should conduct a deep clean of the chicken coop. This is on top of a more regular routine clean of the chickens environment which should also occur on a daily to weekly occurrence. It sounds like I will be spending a large amount of time with my marigolds on; however my wife (the darling that she is) assures me that as with all housework and cleaning, these chores can be conducted in a relatively short amount of time if cleanliness is kept on top of.
If your aim is to learn how to juggle chickens while bouncing a beach ball on your nose then the word on the street is to try keeping your chickens in the coop while conducting the spring clean. If you have more modest ambitions like me then I would recommend shooing the chickens out of the coop before starting. Just make sure the back gate is shut!
Once the chickens are safely out of the coop, then the spring clean may begin. The following tasks should be part of this routine (This is definitely a dampener to getting my chickens ):
• Sweep the floor and walls of the coop
• Remove all the dirty litter and waste
• Dust out the cobwebs and clean any windows
• Clear all ventilation screens and flaps
• Replace chicken bedding and litter
Cleanliness in the chicken coop is my main concern and my research has shown that some chicken keepers have also used air fresheners (maybe a meadow fresh fragrance!) within the coop. It has been popular for flower baskets and containers to be hung around the chicken coop too, this will keep the wife out of mischief and stop her from telling me I have missed a bit! While I reside closer to the spotless coop crowd, the use of automatic air fresheners appears a step too far even for me. Be careful in your pursuit of the immaculate chicken coop to ensure that the hygiene products that you are using are chicken friendly.
Your chickens should then be ready to return to the coop.
Now that all of the chicken housing essentials have been identified and thoroughly researched I can begin to look at how to maintain a good healthy environment for my chickens. This leads me to the chicken coop housekeeping; when considering this, the behaviour of the chickens needs to be taken in to account. Chickens can be considered as the typical teenager, by this I don’t mean the typical stereotype of a moody teenager, but the teenager that is content to leave empty food containers around the house and scatter clothing from the basement to the attic.
While chickens and teenagers can be content within this environment, these conditions can begin to attract pests and can present health hazards for both myself and the chickens. For chickens to remain healthy, they need clean and dry bedding, clean nesting material, clean and hygienic feeders and drinkers, along with fresh air to breath. Unfortunately I cannot throw the chicken bedding and nesting material into the washing machine (I think the wife might be having words with me) and reused, these need to be replaced as part of a regular routine. This routine requires some tools, and luckily for me these tools are already available around the house (I just need to find them first). These include:
• A brush
• A shovel
• A rake
• A pair of gardening or work gloves
• A bucket or wheelbarrow (this is to carry away the chicken manure and other waste)
There are a few additional items that may assist with improving the speed and reducing the health hazards of the chicken coop housekeeping. These include:
• A housekeeper
• A dust mask
• A hose (where the coop has a solid surface floor – i.e. cement)
• A vacuum cleaner (in dry areas only)
We have an old vacuum cleaner that we previously used cleaning up following various DIY projects that could be used for getting into the corners in the coop much easier. This is perfect for the big spring clean days. I would not recommend using the same vacuum cleaner as you use for your daily chores around the house, as moisture from the coop cleaning can spoil the vacuum filters which then require regular replacement.
Having made the decision that the ‘All-in one unit’ type of chicken coop was best for me, I then needed to make the decision on whether to build or buy the chicken coop. Unsure of the level of complexity to building a chicken coop I took myself off to YouTube to view some ‘build your own chicken coop’ videos. This was a dangerous game, some of them made it look ultra easy and left you with that ‘I can take on the world’ feeling you get after watching the film ‘Rocky’, while others…. well let’s say they made the approach look time consuming and frankly dangerous.
The word on the web however is that if you are even remotely handy with a hammer and nails, then you are probably more than capable of building a chicken coop from the ground up. Unsure if I had the correct skill set, I considered a more mid range ability with the option to buy sections of the coop and to build the rest. If the hammer and nails approach really is not for you then maybe consider buying the full unit. Note however that many of the chicken coops that I have researched require some level of assembly once delivered, so if you think you find yourself firmly in the buy section and don’t want to be picking up that hammer, then try posting a few requests and asking if they are able to assemble on delivery.
The online tutorials left me with a dilemma, my heart is telling me that I should build my own coop (surely it would be fun to give it a go, I feel like Rocky and that guy made it look soooooo easy) and my head is telling me to buy one (after all do you really want another busted finger). I conducted a short assessment of my abilities and felt happy enough with my abilities for building the structure, but before I headed into the garden not to be heard from for another month (other than the occasional expletives when things don’t go exactly to plan), I decide to put pen to paper and work out the most practical and economical way of doing things.
I had some materials lying around from past adventures (yes, I’m not a complete beginner), but priced up the costs for the remaining sections of wood that I required. Based on this analysis I decided to go for the mixed ability skill set challenge, buy some of the sections for the ‘All-in-one unit’ and build the remainder.
The next step to take on the road to becoming a chicken keeper was to select a chicken coop and it turns out that there is quite an array of different types of housing suitable for chickens, such as:
• Cages and cage free
• All in one units and tractor style
• Ark and hoop
• Shelter with free range enclosure or with total free range access
• Pastured poultry with mobile housing
Enter state of confusion…
I once again took myself off to my pile of books (this is starting to become a trend) and discussed with my friends who had already started the journey, and I can now tell you what a chicken tractor is. A chicken tractor is a roofed coop with an open bottom that can be moved from one place to another. Still none the wiser? Basically it’s a mesh cage with a couple of small pram style wheels on one side with an area for nest boxes built in (we will come back to nest boxes later). You lift one side and roll the wheels like a wheel barrow to another place in the garden. The chicken tractors do come in a variety of sizes from the small pram size wheeled unit I mentioned to much larger ones that literally require a tractor to move them. These types of chicken coop are brilliant for moving the chicken coop around for the chickens to turn over the soil and fertilise it.
I was not planning on hoofing a large chicken coop around the garden on a regular basis so decided that this style of coop probably wasn’t for me. I narrowed down the fields and the coop that appeared to suit my life style budget and garden was a “Super Deluxe Chicken Coop Lazy-boy 5000″… But the wife said ‘No’! I plumped for the ‘All-in-one unit’, which is considered to be good for urban gardens , has a variety of sizes and can accommodate for the cold weather.