Sunday, November 14, 2010

Cleaning the Chicken Coop/Does it smell?

When it comes up in conversation that my husband and I keep chickens in our basement, one of the first few questions asked is, "Doesn't that smell?"

I will be honest, if we let changing their bedding go too long it does start to smell. Right before our wedding we were both too busy to change it and you could start to pick up an odor when you were about half way down the basement steps. Since the wedding, we have gotten back on track, and we change their pen about ever three weeks. It takes us about a half an hour. When it does smell, it only smells in the basement. We have never let it go so long that our entire home smells! Changing their bedding is just like when you changed your childhood pet hamster's bedding but on a bigger scale!

How we clean the coop...
What the chickens are doing while we clean out the basement pen....must be nice : )
1. First we put the chickens outside in their makeshift pen.
2. Remove all their "accessories" - the water, food, nesting box, etc. 
The pen with the bedding swept out. Didn't Jeff pick a nice pattern of linoleum for the girls?
3. We sweep up the aspen bedding which we buy at the pet store and carry it outside to our garden or compost pile.
Washing the bottom of the waterer.
4. We wash out their water and food containers with disinfectant, soap and hot water.
This is the bedding we buy for the girls.
5. Lay down new aspen bedding and put back their accessories.

A note about bedding: Using wood shavings over linoleum has worked out really well for us. The wood shavings absorb moisture and the manure quickly dries out as it gets buried in the shavings. This really keeps any smells to an almost unnoticeable minimum. The chickens also like to scratch and root around in it. It is also a cinch to clean. We just sweep it up and either put it in trash bags out by the curb, or put it out in the composter in the back yard. We usually go with aspen bedding which is a more expensive than regular pine shavings, but really keeps the pen smelling fresh and clean. Beware of cedar, though. Supposedly the strong smell given off by cedar can be harmful to chickens respiratory systems.

Clean to their majesties' satisfaction!


  1. Hi there! Just saw you made Farmer of the Day on Urban Farm, and decided to check out your blog. LOTS of great information here. My hubby and I are interested in getting more self-sufficient as well, but we haven't yet been able to add chickens to our own little urban farm.

  2. We were psyched to make F.O.T.D on Urban Farm, which has been such a great guide and reference for us! Were glad that people are enjoying our blog. We've had so much fun and learned so much from raising chickens in the basement. What initially seemed like a crazy idea at first has really worked out to be alot of fun (and a great source of good, fresh food too!).

  3. Just to let you know that your blog has reached Edmonton, Canada. My husband and I are interested in keeping backyard chickens and I was pleasantly surprised to see that the basement could be a viable option for wintertime. Thank you for this wealth of info.


  4. I've read that cedar shavings give off Phenol gas (and Phenol was very high on the "100 Most Toxic Substances" list developed by the NIH back in the late 1980s; at my research institute job, I edited that report, so I know it's no urban legend). That Phenol would be the reason cedar deters moths in closets and fleas and ticks in pet bedding...but it would be lethal to birds' more sensitive respiratory systems. Love your blog! Thanks!

    PS WHAT disinfectant did you use? I'm searching the internet for something fairly safe that will still kill the anaerobic bacteria that are under my chickens' concrete pen. Something maybe less environmentally harmful than bleach.... Ideas?