Cleaning the Coop
There’s no way to sugar-coat it: Chicken coops get filthy. And one of your jobs as caretaker is to keep things clean (at least somewhat), for them as well as for yourself. Some forethought in the design phase of the build can make that regular maintenance a lot easier down the road.
Nowhere in the coop does a little pre-planning pay off more than around the roost, where your birds will perch and sleep for the night. The area directly underneath the roost becomes one big “drop zone,” where the lion’s share of your chickens’ waste will pile up. So it’s not a good spot for the flock’s open nest boxes. Or their feed and water. Or your access door.
Make sure that corner of the coop is easy for you to reach with whatever tools you think you may need. Underneath the usual bedding or shavings, some owners opt to put down a material like linoleum that can be lifted up, taken out, and hosed off. Some use litter boxes. Some leave wire-mesh-covered openings in the floor for the waste to fall through. Others build trays that can be pulled out from outside the coop for the ultimate in no-mess cleaning.
Whatever method you use, it’s easier to build an easy-to-clean coop than it is to make a coop easy-to-clean, so think about it up front.
Make the Nest Box Easily Accessible
Anyone who has ever had to crawl on his hands and knees into a dirty, stinky chicken coop is nodding his head vigorously at this piece of advice. Having to scoop chickens out of the way or hurry one out of a nest box just to get at the day’s eggs is messy and unpleasant (and a good way to break a few eggs in the process). Consider your coop design carefully to ensure that you’ll have easy access to your nest boxes later on. Many caretakers build their nest boxes so that they stick out of an exterior wall of the coop and feature a latching lid on top. This simple technique solves two common coop problems:
- It frees up a little more floor space inside the coop for your birds.
- It allows you to collect eggs without ever setting foot (or hands and knees) inside the coop itself.
If your coop design can’t accommodate an exterior nest box, you may still be able to construct a hatch in an exterior wall that you can open from the outside to access the nest boxes.