Chicken coop cleaning
Poultry farm operators know that disinfecting a chicken coop regularly is essential. This is because chicken coop cleaning is part of good farm hygiene and contributes to the well-being and health of the animals. This applies to breeding farms, hatcheries, egg farms and poultry meat farms. The following explains why chicken coop hygiene is important and which tools are useful. We also cover how an efficient procedure can protect farm poultry such as chickens, turkeys, ducks and geese from infectious diseases.
Cleaning chicken and other poultry houses: this is why it is important
It’s important both for animal welfare and for the farm’s profits to keep chicken coops clean. This reduces the infection risk from viruses, fungi, bacteria and parasites meaning there is no unnecessary strain put on the animals' immune system. Chicken coop hygiene through regular chicken coop cleaning reduces the risk of salmonella infection, as does vaccinating the animals. Salmonella is dangerous both for animals and humans. In addition, chickens, turkeys, and other poultry should be protected from the following diseases:
For avian influenza - also called bird flu or avian flu - there are no vaccines available as of yet. It’s therefore especially important to protect animals from this disease. This can be achieved with regularly disinfecting the chicken coop and other poultry coops, and therefore breaking the possible chain of infection within the farm.
Chickens are mainly infected with coccidiosis through ingesting feed contaminated with faeces. The risk of infection is particularly high in over-filled coops. This is because the pathogens of this parasitic disease thrive in the combination of moisture, heat and oxygen in the litter.
Fowl typhoid is very contagious and young chicken, particularly chicks, are susceptible to becoming severely ill with it. The cause of this disease, also known as pullorum disease, can survive in the litter, soil and dust for months. To avoid contamination and infection within a stock, cleaning a chicken coop and disinfecting a chicken coop is very important.
Marek's disease is a highly contagious viral disease. Losses in poultry stock can be prevented with the help of vaccination of day-old chicks and regular chicken coop cleaning for good chicken coop hygiene. As with fowl typhoid, these pathogens can survive for up to a year on hatching eggs, in feces, in the soil and in litter.
How often to clean a chicken coop - a schedule for cleaning chicken coops
In order to prevent the spread of diseases, it’s vital to clean and disinfect after each poultry flock changes. Thoroughly cleaning and disinfecting a chicken coop helps prevent viruses, bacteria and other pathogens from being transmitted to a new flock.
It’s not only the poultry coops that need cleaning and disinfecting. The lobbies, solaria, poultry runs, entrance and exits, and all equipment must also be included when cleaning and disinfecting.
Accordingly, how often chicken coops get cleaned and disinfected depends on the production cycle of each farm. The equipment used must also be cleaned and disinfected after each poultry coop is emptied.
Regardless, however, there are cleaning tasks that should be performed daily and weekly. And toilet hygiene should not be neglected either.
Daily cleaning tasks in poultry coops
Feeding stations and drinkers should be checked daily and cleaned if needed. This prevents diseases which the animals can become infected with via eating and drinking.
Ideally there would be a sluice between the lobby and the coop on commercial poultry operations. In this sluice, staff can change their clothes and shoes and thoroughly wash their hands before entering and exiting a poultry coop. Shoes can be disinfected in a tub of disinfectant solution, for example.
To keep germs and bacteria at bay, the sluice should be checked every day and cleaned if needed. For cleaning the walls, floors and shower rooms of the sluice, a steam cleaner or wet/dry vacuum cleaner is particularly suitable.
It’s important that work clothing does not leave the coop area and is changed regularly. Ideally, clothing worn at work in the coop can be washed directly in the sluice in a dedicated washing machine. If the washing machine is located in another building, the clothes should be transported there and back in a sealed container.
Work shoes or boots can be cleaned with brushes or a boot cleaner. For rubber boots a disinfection tub can be useful.
Clean the exterior of a chicken coop on a weekly basis
The area around the coop should be cleaned at least once a week. This reduces the number of germs on the farm and therefore reduces the risk of pathogens being carried to the animals. With an industrial sweeper or vacuum sweeper machine, this can be done efficiently and quickly.
In dry periods when it’s particularly dusty, it may be necessary to clean the outdoor area more often during the week. This is also the case when feed is delivered, or poultry is moved in and out of the coop. In these cases, staff must clean the area around the poultry house immediately afterwards.
When cleaning outdoors, pay special attention to removing plants and weeds, as well as other possible shelters and hiding places for rodents or wild birds. This will deter wild birds, rodents and other unwanted animals from settling around the coop.
If surfaces are maintained so puddles don’t form, the risk of wild animals settling is reduced further. The fewer wild animals there are on the farm, the risk is reduced of them transmitting salmonella or other pathogens and infecting the stock.
Tip – checklist for outdoor areas:
- Don’t have many plants around the coop
- Trim any plants back to reduce hiding places for wild animals
- Perhaps set up vermin traps and check them regularly
The containers where fallen stock are safely stored is an indispensable part of farm life. This container should be cleaned with a high-pressure washer each time it is emptied and then disinfected. If cold water is used for cleaning, a cleaning agent needs to be added.
Tip – outdoor paddock management:
Outdoor paddock management reduces the risk of disease. This means that the poultry have access to only one part of the open area. The rest of the pasture area can then be maintained as necessary.
In addition to cleaning chicken coops and outside areas, the rest of the farm should also be thoroughly cleaned at least once a year, and whenever there’s a change of stock:
- Outdoor scratching areas (outdoors, solaria)
- Runs and access points
- Facilities, coop equipment and devices
- Feed silos
- Refrigerator for medicines and vaccines
Toilet hygiene in chicken coops
In both egg production and animal fattening, the animal faeces usually remain in the house as long as the animals themselves. However, seeing as the moisture of excrement creates an environment for germs and pathogens to multiply, basic chicken house hygiene is really essential.
In animal fattening, as much litter bedding should be added as is necessary for the entire production period. In addition, it may happen that in individual cases additional litter needs to be added during the fattening process.
In egg production - especially in free-range and barn systems - litter bedding needs to be added to a coop. The majority of droppings should also be removed from the coop with the help of manure belts. These can be placed in the area of the nests. If the poultry is kept in the aviary, it is usually enough to remove the droppings using droppings belts. Litter bedding is usually not necessary in this case.
These are the best tools for cleaning chicken coops
With the help of the appropriate equipment, staff can efficiently and quickly clean chicken coops.
To ensure good biosecurity in chicken coops, a high-pressure cleaner is the equipment of choice. For cleaning the floors, walls, ceilings and perches, it makes sense to use a hot water high-pressure cleaner:
- Greasy, oily and sticky soiling is removed more easily.
- The cleaned areas dry faster.
- The waiting time for further cleaning steps such as disinfection is reduced.
- At 85 °C, water can kill viruses, bacteria, and other pathogens.
Permanent stationary high-pressure cleaners are more suitable than mobile units. If equipment has to be transported from poultry house to poultry house, there is an increased risk that it will pick up and spread germs along the way. Using separate hoses, spray guns and lances for each poultry house with pressure washers help prevent the spread of pathogens.
Advantages of hot water high-pressure cleaners
Cleaning with hot water: High-pressure cleaners clean even better at a constant pressure. Alongside improved results and faster cleaning and drying times, hot water high-pressure cleaners also have a measurable germ-reducing effect. When the steam stage is used, even delicate surfaces can be gently cleaned with temperatures of up to 155 °C. Furthermore, the machines allow for a reduction in the working pressure, the time required and the volume of cleaning agent that is used. This means that cleaning with hot water offers a number of advantages and various possibilities for optimising the cleaning process.
Sweepers and wet/dry vacuum cleaners
Walk-behind and ride-on sweepers are an effective solution for quickly removing dust and other loose dirt from large areas. This applies to both the floor in a chicken coop and the outside areas of the farm. On smooth floors, operators and staff can also use a wet/dry vacuum to clean chicken coops.
Tip – use equipment in only one coop:
Equipment should only be used in one coop. This prevents germs from being carried from one coop to another. If devices are used for several coops at once, they must be cleaned and disinfected each time.
Detergent for chicken coops
Proteins and fats are generally hydrophobic. This means that they do not mix with water and are therefore difficult to remove. To simplify the cleaning process, a fat-dissolving cleaning agent is a good choice. It’s important to use a cleaning agent that is safe for animals. Veterinarians can give advice regarding this.
Tip – applying cleaning agents using foam lances:
Foam lances are an excellent choice for applying detergents with ease. Foam lances are easily attached to the stick or gun of a high-pressure washer.
Protective clothing when cleaning chicken coops
To protect staff when cleaning chicken coops, they should wear personal protective equipment (PPE) while doing so. The PPE should consist of:
- Protective clothing
- Safety goggles
- Rubber boots
- Rubber gloves
Safety goggles are necessary to protect the eyes. A mask covering nose and mouth should be worn to protect the respiratory tract. This is especially important when disinfecting a chicken coop.
PPE should also be disposed of or washed regularly. It is advisable to take PPE directly to the washing machine in a closed container. This prevents germs from the coop from spreading across the farm.
How to clean a chicken coop: the best way to clean and disinfect a chicken coop
Whether cleaning a chicken, duck, goose, quail or turkey coop, cleaning when the flock changes is a must. It needs to be done as thoroughly as possible. After the poultry has been (re)housed, the following procedure is recommended for cleaning a chicken coop:
1. Combat flies
A poultry coop can be overrun with flies. About 85 % of a fly population consists of eggs, larvae and pupae. To break the chain of infection, it is therefore important to control the flies while they are still developing. The right agents ensure that the flies do not develop beyond larvae.
2. Mucking out
Manure, bedding, food remnants and dust need to be removed. For the first rough clean, it is a good idea to use a tractor with a shovel, wheel loader or other technical equipment instead of a pitchfork, especially in large coops.
Then, with the help of sweepers, whether walk-behind or ride-on, the remaining dust and dirt can be easily removed. The coop should now be thoroughly cleaned once dry.
Tip – remove faeces and litter:
Bedding, manure and other waste should be stored at least 100 meters away from the barn. This ensures that these materials do not come back into contact with the barn and prevents re-transmission of pathogens. Fermentation of these materials in a biogas plant can be a good option.
Especially in egg farming, dried litter and other dirt can remain even after mucking out. To completely remove this dirt, the coop should be intensively soaked. A high-pressure cleaner should be used to soak the entire poultry house as this helps save time for this step. Depending on the degree of contamination, it may also be useful to use a soaking cleaning agent.
Coops used to fatten poultry do not usually need to be soaked. Due to the short occupancy period of a few weeks, only a little dirt will settle there.
4. High-pressure cleaner
The thorough cleaning of a chicken coop includes wet cleaning with a high-pressure cleaner. In egg farming, this is used after an appropriate soaking time, and in fattening farms directly after mucking out. The floor, equipment, ceilings and walls must be cleaned with water.
As a rule, it’s advisable to clean chicken coops with cold water. This ensures that the complex structure and design of the coop remains visible. However, it’s important to use a suitable cleaning agent. Hot water can also be used in less complex coops.
Ramps, drinking bowls and perches are also key elements that need cleaning as is mobile equipment (such as feeders, laying nests, raw fiber dispensers, toys, fans) and ventilation shafts. These need to be cleaned from the outside and then from the inside.
Special attention needs to be paid to the feeding troughs and individual feeding bowls. These are particularly susceptible to contamination. A suitable cleaning agent for chicken coops helps to remove dirt and germs properly. The cleaning agent can be applied with the aid of a foam lance for optimal results. It’s important to rinse everything with clean water afterwards.
Tip – do not forget to clean the potable water pipes and taps:
The potable water taps will also need be cleaned, particularly on the inside. It is common practice to add the right agents to the drinking water for this purpose. In this way, the pipes will be cleaned regularly during the coop’s use. A pipe cleaning set can also be used during major cleaning operations.
The wet clean is followed by disinfection. However, a chicken coop can only be disinfected when all surfaces have dried. Otherwise, the disinfectant would be diluted by the residual moisture and it would no longer be fully effective.
Drying the coop can take up to two days, depending on the temperature and air circulation. If the coop was cleaned with hot water, this can happen somewhat faster.
To distribute the disinfectant evenly, it is advisable to use spraying equipment, such as pressure spray bottles and cup foam lances. These can simply be attached to high-pressure washers. For large areas, hand sprayers or sprayers on a tractor can also be helpful.
Important to note is that at the end of the cleaning cycle, the sluice will also need to cleaned and disinfected so that it can be used as usual.
Tip – carry out repairs before disinfection:
If coop equipment has to be repaired or replaced, it’s a good idea to do this after drying to coop and before disinfection.