As cooler weather takes over, we must take precautions to better protect our farm animals. Depending on the animal, their ability to cope with cold can vary quite a bit. Larger livestock animals handle the cold reasonably well as long as fed and sheltered properly, but chickens can be a bite more high maintenance. Depending on the breed of chickens you have and how well they tolerate cold, you may find that they do not wish to set foot outside of their coop for much of the winter. While this appeases them, what it that means for you is more work.
Chickens are nice to have for a long of reasons, but the can be pretty dirty creatures. They have no regard for where they relieve themselves, not that many farm animals do. The difference with chickens is that it all occurs in a confined space on any and every surface, all of which must be cleaned by you in order to keep everyone, including yourself, in good health. Since winter makes coop cleaning a double duty type of job, why not make it as easy on yourself as possible?
A good start to making your chicken coop easier to maintain is to use sand as flooring. Have you ever had to clean a cat’s litter box? Well, a chicken coop with a sandy bottom operates in much the same way. When droppings hit the sand, they simply remain intact in harden rather than dropping through crevices in straw and spreading about. In order to clean droppings from sand, you can use the sifting device of your choice in order to collect chicken droppings and remove them from the coops.
Since chickens are unconcerned with where they leave droppings, their roosts will become dirty from time to time. Cleaning these can be a tough job, but being able to remove them from the coop will make it a far smaller job. Having removable roosts as well as dropping boards means being able to take them outside and hit them with the hose rather than standing hunched over in the coop as you labor away. In order to create these in your specific coop, a little imagination may be necessary. However, using joist hangers in which to slide mounts is a start.
As far as nesting boxes go, don’t make those a permanent fixture. Instead use old milk crates or five gallon buckets which can be easily picked up and dumped, cleaned, and refilled. If your nesting boxes are built into place, the job of cleaning them becomes much harder as you attempt to get in every nook and cranny. Instead, make them mobile so you can get the job done faster. Step up your game even more and consider using hanging waterers with chicken nipples. There is no way to spill these and chickens are unable to contaminate their own drinking water as the bucket remains sealed. Additionally, use feeders that decrease spills and contamination, such as PVC feeders with holes sized appropriately for hungry beaks to reach inside.
Any touchup cleaning that needs to be done inside the coop can be done inexpensively but effectively with apple cider vinegar. This is a wonderful cleaning tool as it cuts through most any kind of messes chickens can create. Though the smell is strong, it dissipates quickly, leaving coops clean and disinfected. Just keep in mind that apple cider can be harmful to metal if it is left in constant contact, so avoid letting any metal parts soak in it and don’t use it in a metal waterer.
Taking these few steps to make your chicken coop better will take some time, but will also free up some time in the long run. Since your chickens are going to be bedding down for winter with no interest in their own personal housekeeping, you might as well make the job as easy on yourself as possible. With any lucky, your chickens might even appreciate it and reward you with continued egg laying through the winter months.