Natural Coop Disinfectant

I keep my two barns mucked out and clean. Inside of my coops, the air is fresh and the bedding is dry. But, the reality is that chickens poop. A lot. Hens defecate, not only when they’re running around outside, but also while they’re sleeping. The manure accumulates under the roosts and, in the case of my barn, on the beams. (Some coops have poop boards, where manure collects rather than dropping into the bedding. These still need frequent scraping off.)

poop board


In warm weather, that manure is a breeding ground for flies. Keeping the manure managed, by frequent cleaning and composting helps to control the insects. But, wood can absorb damp and enough fecal material to harbor flies, so I take one more step. After removing the manure, I spritz the wood with my homemade chicken coop disinfectant.



This disinfectant effectively kills flies, especially the tiny ones emerging from the muck. But, it doesn’t harm or bother the hens at all, as can be seen in this photo. While I was cleaning and spritzing, the chickens ignored me while they had their usual morning drama over the one and only nesting box that everyone wanted to use.

nesting box


This disinfectant is inexpensive and very easy to make. It’s simply white vinegar that has had orange peels steeped in it for a month or more. It’s especially easy if you know the professional cook’s method of peeling oranges. Here’s the tutorial!

How to Peel Oranges Like a Pro:

Cut off both ends.

cutting oranges 1


Set the orange on a cut end, and using a sharp chef knife, slice off the peel, including the pith, by following the curve of the fruit. Note where my fingers are – holding the orange securely, and yet out of the way of the knife! (This is the knife that I have had for 25 years. One good knife can make kitchen tasks so much easier!)

cutting oranges 2


Use the perfectly peeled orange for fruit salad or other recipes.

cutting oranges 3


The peels go into a container with inexpensive white vinegar, then left in a pantry and ignored for a month. (A longer steeping time is fine – I’ve let mine sit for four months.) Use peels from at least three oranges for a 2-quart container (as shown.) But, there’s flexibility to this recipe – if you’re peeling five oranges, go ahead and use all of the peels. Lemon and grapefruit peels should also work as they also contain citrus oils. (Grapefruit seed extract is also touted as a disinfectant, but that’s not the same as the oils in the peel, and I have no experience with it so can’t give advice on it here.)



When ready, it will look like this:

oranges in vinegar


The citrus oil from the rinds, combined with the vinegar, is a potent disinfectant. I pour the liquid into a spray bottle and keep it at hand in the coop (labeled, of course!)



This year, I’m going to put the rinds under some rocks in a stone wall where wasps build a yearly nest. I’m hoping that this will persuade them to go elsewhere. I’ll let you know if that works!

Let me know if this tutorial inspires you to make up a batch. If you start today, it will be ready for fly season.


  1. I use this cleaner in my home!! I never thought about using it in the coop!! Thank you!!

  2. Terry, LOVE the natural disinfectant! I want only natural products for my ladies, when we get them. I have an arsenal of your instructions, printed and ready to go when we do! Went to a chicken lecture at a local feed store, given by a feed company. I am proud to say, from reading YOUR blog, I knew EVERYTHING she talked about! She didn’t have time to get into a ton of specific information. SO, here’s my wish: that you distill ALL of your chicken knowledge, tips and tricks into ONE BOOK! Maybe you’re already working on it. I’m just saying that YOUR book would be more valuable to me and others, because it’s based on years of experience, PLUS I love your philosophies regarding animals. No anthropomorphism from you – yet you love and care for them until the end of their days. You combine these well. I will be the FIRST to buy the book!

    • Thank you, Karla. As far as a book goes – my Farmstead Egg Guide and Cookbook does have chicken info in it. And lots of recipes :) My agent did shop a chicken keeping book around to the publishing houses, but it was declined. The truth is that publishing brings in very little income, and writing (writing well that is!) takes a great deal of time. This is why I’m so thankful for the people who support the writing on this website through the “cups of coffee.” It keeps me typing away!

      • Wow, can’t believe the chicken keeping book was declined. Sure, there are lots of “dummies” and “idiots” books out there, but truthfully, so many of us have come to regard you as a trusted expert – from vast experience. Maybe self-publish? I will send you some cups of coffee!!!

  3. I wish I had known about this a month ago … I need to disinfect a previously inhabited coop before introducing new birds to it, and the people at the local feedstore recommended Virkon. I read the ingredients and I have no doubt that it will work, but I would rather not use harsh chemicals if I can avoid it. Someone else suggested hydrogen peroxide instead. What do you think about that?

  4. In my “other” life I had chickens and I could have used a little bit of your common sense knowledge. I do miss them and check your websites daily or more, just for fun and memories.

  5. First of all, time and sunlight does wonders. Vacuuming up all dust removes many germs. A coat of paint can seal up cracks where mites might have lived. No coop that goes into an outdoor run is perfectly sanitary – dirt can hold onto parasites and germs for a long time. Hydrogen peroxide seems innocuous, but it is harmful when inhaled, and I’d be very careful if using the quantities needed to clean a building.

    • Thanks for the advice, Terry. I will just use plain vinegar for now, and put up a batch of citrus vinegar for future cleaning.

  6. Okay, so this is one of those, “Well, duh, fool (me), moments. And I have a whole bag of grapefruit sitting here in the kitchen. *shakes head*

  7. Hi Terry,
    Perhaps I overlooked it but I don’t see how many oranges and how much vinegar.
    Thanks for all the wonderful posts!

    • I didn’t put in exact amounts – it’s flexible. I’d say peels from three oranges in a half-gallon container of vinegar. More peels if you’re making a lot of fruit salad :)

  8. I love the disinfectant idea. however, my favorite part of this is watching your silly chickens do exactly what mine do every day. Poor neglected chickens have to share ONE laying box!!!! it’s so awful. call PETA. apparently the other (at least) three that I see from that picture are unfit for chickens. HA!

  9. Yes I will definitely be making a batch of this. Thanks for the tips and advice.

  10. I have been using apple cider vinegar w/a few drops of Dawn liquid detergent for years in my bird room. It is safe and effective. Apple cider vinegar is a natural disinfectant so no orange peels are required.

    • The citrus oil has additional cleaning/sanitizing properties beyond what vinegar can do. That’s why you see the “citrisolve”-type products for sale.

  11. I will be trying it here. Hope I have the patience to wait on the first batch! Thanks again for another of many useful tips.

  12. Love the disinfectant idea, but how many oranges do you use? Would grapefruit work too, or other nectarines and such? Thank you.

  13. Could you grind the orange peels a little in a Vitamixer to release more oils before steeping?

  14. I love your idea for fruit salad but oranges in my kitchen usually are juiced for adult beverages. LOL. But, I’d still be able to use the peels for the disinfecting spray…I feel a need for a fancy drink! The chickens made me do it.

  15. Yes, it inspires me to make up a batch! We have horses and sheep, too, and I’m thinking I’ll be using this in more than just the henhouse!

  16. Simple AND practical. I’m going to get on that as soon as I get some vinegar. Thanks.

  17. I wipe down the perches regularly with pure eucalyptus oil (mainly to deter mites) and spray the coop with eucalyptus oil-in-water. It makes everything smell nice. I will put the oil in vinegar in future for some extra oomph. Thanks for the tip.

  18. wow Terry I’m going to try making and using this instead of bleach diluted in water for my chicken coop Ty

  19. I just think it is so hilarious how the hens all want to go in the same box. So funny! Thanks for sharing that photo!

    • Funny, until one of the girls, with her dinosaur feet, smashes another hen’s egg while she’s shoving everyone else aside. I try to collect the eggs a couple of times a day to prevent that, but I can’t always get out there. Nonetheless, even I laugh at their antics.