One of the most important aspects of animal husbandry is a clean home. Just as you would keep your own home clean and free of pests and disease, the same is true for any animal housing. Learn how I deep clean and maintain a mobile chicken coop (a.k.a. chicken tractor).
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Particularly important is the removal of waste in keeping a clean and safe place for your animals. Unlike humans in the modern world, waste removal for all captive animals involves the intervention of people. If only chickens knew how to use a toilet! Ha! But I digress.
If you would like to build your own chicken tractor, you can find more about it here. I also try to give regular updates about how the chicken tractor is working on our urban homestead. I regularly move it around the backyard and they get fresh bugs and grass daily with predator protection. And we get yummy eggs.
I opted to not have a built in waterer (which I sometimes regret) but inside the coop I have a waterer (on a stand), oyster shell feeder and a feeder that is attached to the coop. All of these things need to be remove in order to deep clean the coop.
The beauty of the chicken tractor is there is no floor. The only bedding is inside the nest boxes. With such a small flock (just 4 hens), I had 3 nest boxes which I just cut down to two. This is more than enough for them to all have a safe spot to lay their eggs. They also have 3 roosts. Those are permanently attached and get cleaned.
Check the forecast and opt for a drier week with a fair bit of sun if possible. This will help the coop dry quickly and not get re-muddied immediately after cleaning.
Supplies: sponge or brush, dish soap, bleach or vinegar, hose with sprayer. Preferably you have good boots and gloves, maybe even a mask to prevent splash back on your face.
I moved the coop the cement driveway. You can definitely clean it out on the grass but the area will be pretty muddy when you are done. Once its muddy, the coop is pretty hard to move. Not impossible, just much more difficult. If you leave the coop in the muddier area, the chickens won’t mind too much but then they will quickly get the coop dirty again.
First, I remove everything that needs a separate clean. The waterer, feeder and oyster shell feeder are put to the side. Second, I spray the entire chicken tractor down with water. We have large pecan trees that drop plenty of leaves and pollen which needs to be removed by hand. I also remove any bedding from the nest boxes.
Soap and disinfectant
I mixed a bucket of soap and then added vinegar later to disinfect. The third step is to use the soapy bucket of water and wipe down all the surfaces I can reach. The very edges of the coop are covered with hardwire mesh which is hard to clean between and gets the most debris stuck in it. In the future, I will likely invest in a mini power sprayer.
I also wipe down the roof and roosts with the soap mixture. The vinegar is mostly for the areas the chickens will touch. Be sure that whatever disinfectant you use, you need to thoroughly wash off and let dry before putting the chickens back. The last thing you want is any kind of chemical burn on your animals.
Alternating between spraying off the area and washing with soap and vinegar until the coop is clean is the best strategy. I also tip the chicken tractor up on the nest box end so that I can get inside to the roosts. I have also laid it on its side for the same reason. The chicken tractor is lightweight without a floor and is easy to move around in different ways.
Rinse and dry
I spent a good 20 minutes on rinsing alone. The entire process of deep cleaning , from prep to clean to finish, took about 2 hours. Including cleaning the accessories. First I make sure all the areas on the inside have been blasted with water, then the edges, roof and wheels.
During this time I also emptied the waterer, feeder and oyster shell feeder. I washed, rinse and let these dry before reassembling. Given that is close to summer here, the entire chicken tractor dried rather quickly. While I was cleaning the other items, the coop was dry and ready to be put back together.
Move back and add chickens
Once everything was dried, I moved the coop back to where I wanted it to be before I put the items and chickens back in. Its considerably lighter without the feeder full of feed and thus easier to move. I try to not move too far from where they were previously as they have gotten confused before and unable to find their coop before dark. (They roosted on the fence and I had to go out and retrieve sleeping chickens in the dark!).
Once back in its temporary home, I put the feeder, water and oyster shell feeder back in. The chickens are trained to come home to their chicken tractor when they hear the delightful sound of chicken treats hitting the hardwire mesh of their door. The *ting, ting, ting* of the corn and seeds hitting the door means “come home” and they run right in. I usually have to lift it a little for them to fit in quickly.
As soon as they are all in, I put the wheels down and call it a day. I decided to add the pine shavings, small box and a new chicken swing after they were safely inside. The main reason for this is that we have two dogs that give the chickens a hard time and at any moment, either one of my children are liable to let the dogs out. During the clean, the dogs are safely inside and the chickens are free to roam about the yard.
That’s it. It is pretty simple, just takes some time. I also used this time to make any repairs or modifications. This time, I added a small piece of roofing material to help with a minor leak. All in all an easy weekend project that makes birds and people happier. Hope it helps!
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