A Thorough Coop Cleaning

I’ve cared for numerous animals, and so I can tell you that it is the modest chicken that makes a mess of every inch and nook and cranny in your barn. These birds scratch and shred anything that is underfoot. They produce copious amounts of manure, which gets turned into dust by their scratching. They shed keratin from their feather shafts which is also minced to bits by their feet. Mix this powdered manure/bedding/feather material together (as they do, what with their dinosaur feet grinding everything into bits) and what you have is a fine, sticky dust that coats everything.

For the sake of my bird’s health, and my own, and also to simply enjoy being around my flock, I keep the coop tidied up. I skip out manure twice a week. Every weekend I do a more thorough job (to read about manure management read this post.) I sweep down cobwebs with a broom. My barns are very well ventilated with fresh air, and sunlight streams in. Still, at the end of the winter, dust has accumulated.

dirty coop


It piles up in the windowsills.

dusty windowsill


The dust is so thick that it almost obscures the labels on the storage cans.

dusty label


Cobwebs drip down.

cob webs


This is not just unsightly. Cobwebs and dust hold viruses and bacteria. The dust itself impairs breathing. It all contributes to respiratory disease. So, at the end of the winter, which is finally now, I do a thorough coop cleaning.

All of the bedding is shoveled out.


Notice that I wear a dust mask. As well maintained as my coop is, that protection is necessary.

The old bedding is dumped into the manure pile at the side of the pumpkin patch.



I sweep every last bit up. See all of the dust that was under the bedding?



Next, I get out the shop vac. I even get on a stool to reach the cobwebs that have been blocking the cupola and the soffit vents in the eaves.



I wipe down all surfaces, and wash the windows to let the sun in. The storage area is tidied up, and forgotten bits and bobs that  accumulated when it was too cold to bother with them, are stored properly or thrown out.

clean storage


I don’t wash the walls. This is not a disinfecting cleaning like a commercial barn does between selling off old, and bringing in new stock. Not only is it still too cold, but I need to get the hens back into the barn. A washed barn remains damp for days, and that’s not good for the chickens.

Lastly, I put down fresh bedding. I used pine shavings for years, and it’s excellent. Recently, I’ve switched to Koop Clean, which is chopped hay and straw with a desiccant mixed in. The chickens stay active looking for tidbits in the hay, and it keeps the coop very dry and sweet-smelling.

clean coop bedding


It’s a lot of work to do this sort of thorough end-of-winter coop cleaning, but it is ever so satisfying. The air in the barns feels fresher, and it’s wonderful not tot kick up a puff of dust when feeding the hens.

The animals always come first. Now that their home is readied for springtime, I can get into the garden. I’ve already begun raking the leaves out from the perennial beds. I surprised a toad! Springtime is definitely here. The last bit of snow will be gone by the end of this week.  I have a good deal of satisfaction knowing that my coops are ready for the warm months to come.



  1. You have inspired me to do the same to my little coop.
    Any suggestion for getting cobwebs out from between roof eave ridge vents & the inside hardware cloth that is tacked over them? Do I need a nuclear powered shop vac?

  2. Happy chickens, happy Terry! Thanks for the detailed tutorial. I never knew that about spider webs.

  3. I know how satisfying it is to get a job like that finished! I’ve got a garage that needs to be worked on if I can get myself in the mood.

  4. Oh Terry, by the time I am able to have a flock of girls, I will be so well armed with the right information! Thanks so much for sharing!

  5. Great information Terry. Thank you again. We were impressed watching you hard at work cleaning the coops the other day. Now it’s great to learn your ‘system’ of cleaning. We’ve tried to get Koop Clean but no one on the West coast sells it yet. We even asked our local Grange to look into it…but so far nothing. We’ve heard ‘rumors’ that there may be a place in S. Cal that is being considered by Lucerne Farms as a distributor. Hopefully in the near future it will be available up our way. We even considered making our own since we use PDZ under our pine shavings already. How do you feel about pooh boards under the roosts?

    • Poop boards are great, if designed right, and if scraped off weekly. If they take up floor space, then when figuring out how many square feet you have per hen (min. of 4!) you can’t include the poop boards in the calculations. If they make a dark and inaccessible space in the coop, that’s bad, too. Since I do a quick pick up a few times a week, and my hens have lots of space, so they don’t scratch the manure under the roosts too much, I don’t use them. Actually, the beam in the Big Barn that the roost rests on acts as a small poop board.

  6. When I read posts like this one, I get mad all over again about all those “chickens-only-take-10-minutes-a- day” sites.

  7. We used to use damp rags to wipe down the walls if it was still too cold to hose things off. A royal pain in the rump it was. It did take off the dust, though.

    And just an ‘old wives tales’ share. Where I was in my teen’s the ‘older’ people (heavens, they were probably my age now :) ) believed that the cobwebs helped the flies to breed.

  8. Ahh… can’t wait to get my own coop cleaning started. Right now we still have over a foot of snow and the chicken yard is mucky. Another week or so I think before I can get into the coop and yard to do this right!

  9. Terry, I have recently started using sweet PDZ under the roosting bars it works amazing and isnt as duaty as one I ne think and it helps to nuetralize the poo smell and is quite easy to skip out

  10. Terry,
    What do you wash the windows with? Just warm water isn’t cutting the grim for us.

  11. A clean coop is a beautiful thing and the girls just love to explore fresh bedding! Spring is definitely here =)

  12. I’m always delighted to see your charming, little barn. Such a cute building. I too am motivated now to do a thorough cleaning of the coop and run. You can bet I’ll be using pine shavings now that I know how much the girls love the nonpoo smell and me too. Spring is a great time of year to feel alive again. So many plans. Can’t wait to see what you and Steve will be up to.

  13. Terry ……. what is that silver disc object hanging on a red string in from of the girls pop door? What is its purpose?

  14. Hello Darling Terry, I read your blog last night and I’m cleaning my coop today. Because of you I’m the happiest chicken mom in town! I did everything like you said and I got eggs all winter, even enough to share with my neighbors. I put a tarp on the floor of my coop before I put the bedding in so I could drag it out to my garden spot. I lost my favorite hen to a dog but still have four left. Thank you so much, your the best!

  15. Cleaning a chicken coop – always a hot topic! I purchased that shovel after seeing it in your blog. I paid $41 at a farmers co-op, and it is worth every penny. They had shorter handles (which I chose, due to the tight space) and a longer handled one, which I’d guess is for horse stalls? Last week I bought a small shop vac at Costco, which I also use at home with the parrots’ messes, to store and use in the coop. I haven’t used it yet, but hope the hose is long enough so it exhausts outside the coop, as I believe that fine, fine dust might just be blown right back in through the exhaust opening. My coop has many shortcomings, but one nice thing is that it opens up nicely to receive the westerly winds, and blows out a lot of that dust!

    I love the picture of the little lady leading you to the manure pile. It also shows how you are part of the flock, if you know what I mean. The chickens just weave in and out of the human path as though YOU are part of their flock, or vice versa.

  16. Terry did you explain the oak leaves in the chicken yard? I’ve been dumping bags and bags (lots!) of them in my chicken yard over the winter, and as you could guess, there is almost nothing left as the hens scratched them to pieces. I was wondering if you chose oak for a reason, like the tannins, or just that they were what was available? For us, it’s a great way to clean up our backyard which receives huge amounts of wind-blown leaves much of the fall and winter. We have several varieties of oak, and some tulip poplar.

    • Most of the trees in my yard are oak and maple. It’s what I have, so it’s what the hens get. They don’t eat the leaves, they just shred them and look for tidbits. Leaves from stone fruits, like cherries and peaches, when wilted, are toxic to goats. So those I toss back into the woods far away from the boys.