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how do you clean/manage the litter in a small, raised coop?

 
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I've always done the deep litter method with my ducks, in their large 8x8 house. I just go in there and turn it with a pitchfork every few days, and since it's damp with duck poop, it doesn't kick up a lot of dust.

A few days back, we adopted our neighbors' chickens and their coop. It's one of those run+coop things. I'm doing deep litter in the "run" part (the chickens actually have a large yard, and the coop+run is their nightime housing), but how do I clean the little coop?

Here's a side view of it, from when we were moving it.



The coop is at my head height, and I can barely peek over the nesting boxes to see inside. I tried using a tiny rake to scrape down the poop to the "run" area, but it wasn't easy, and I got a face-full of bedding/poop dust. I really don't want to be breathing that. Should I try to do some sort of deep litter in the small area? How?

Neither the coop, nor the run, have perches. Would putting some in help congregate the poop in one place? I'll try and get some pictures of the interior of the coop.

But, anyway, what are your tips for managing a tiny, raised coop that you can't stand up in?

 
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When I designed the current iteration of Chez Chook, I had just enough salvage siding to make a box that sat up off the ground. It's probably about 80 cm wide, 1 m high, and 2 m long. The bottom is a tray that slides out for easy cleaning. I load in about a 5-10 cm depth of clean planer shavings and sawdust and scoop it out when it starts to smell like ammonia.

On the ammonia issue: Last month I decided to try incorporating some biochar with the soiled litter (instead of changing it) when the smell appeared. I put on about two shovels' worth and in under two days the smell was gone. It's still not smelly and there are 30 birds in there every night. This is pretty amazing.
 
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Is there a way to modify the coop so one side flaps down so you can get in there to clean it?  

If you're getting dust in your face, definitely put a dust mask or bandana over your nose and mouth.  You can get nasty kinds of pneumonia from breathing poop dust.
 
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The suggestions so far are excellent. Another thing you might consider could be to put perches all along the floor of the coop part. I’d make them removable for easier cleaning. Make them close enough that walking on the floor isn’t necessary or even doable. If you did this, you could cut out the solid floor and replace it with wire, or if the run is secure enough, you could just leave it completely open down there. That should keep their bedroom clean. If this coop serves in a cold climate though, you may need to expand it. Imagine spending weeks or months locked up in that tiny apartment. Now is the time to deal with that challenge, not hours before the winter takes up arms (as I did... fortunately I had a handy tool shed to empty out and move them into.)
 
Cindy Skillman
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Oh yes... the poop dust. It’s true that you need to protect yourself from breathing it, but a bandana will do very little except tp make you more comfortable. Use a medical grade mask... available at hospital supply stores or online.
 
Nicole Alderman
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One of the sides was designed, I'm pretty sure, to be easily removable. I'm pretty sure that the person who made it, though, was a bit to busy &/or didn't know how to make hinges, as neither the coop flaps, nor the side that comes off, has hinges. Instead, the side that comes off is a piece of pressboard that is screwed on.



I'm definitely wanting to make that have a hinge and latch for easier cleaning!

It was also designed to have a bottom that pulls out...but it was also made of pressboard and is so full of pee and poop drippings that it doesn't come out!

We've got some medical grade dust masks somewhere, so I'll definitely be bringing some when I clean the coop next! When we moved this sucker, it scatter poop dust all over my husband. He got aches and pains and lung problems, but since he drinks really strong mint tea (which we added a bunch of thyme to) it seems to have got that under control. I don't want to mess around with getting that, too!

I'm going back out to make shingles for this thing. Be back tonight!

Thank you all for the great ideas!!! More are always welcome, too!
 
Nicole Alderman
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Cindy Skillman wrote:The suggestions so far are excellent. Another thing you might consider could be to put perches all along the floor of the coop part. I’d make them removable for easier cleaning. Make them close enough that walking on the floor isn’t necessary or even doable. If you did this, you could cut out the solid floor and replace it with wire, or if the run is secure enough, you could just leave it completely open down there. That should keep their bedroom clean. If this coop serves in a cold climate though, you may need to expand it. Imagine spending weeks or months locked up in that tiny apartment. Now is the time to deal with that challenge, not hours before the winter takes up arms (as I did... fortunately I had a handy tool shed to empty out and move them into.)



I'd love to know how to make removable chicken perches!

Where would be the best place(s) for them? Just in the coop portions, or also in the "run"?

These chickens have lived in this coop/run (without any yard) for 5 years, sometimes with up to 5 chickens in there. These were our neighbor's chickens, and my kids always wanted to go see them when we'd go for walks. As long as there was only 2 of them, they seemed fine in such a small coop/"run," so I'm hoping they'll do well during the winter! We usually only have 1, maybe 2, weeks of snow on the ground in our area (though this year, we had snow for a month!)

We're in the process of predator/rat proofing the whole coop/run and have put 1/4 inch hardware cloth all along the bottom of the run and up the sides. We still have to finish the door and the back, but it's getting there.

I got some pictures of the inside of the coop. The chickens thought my activities interesting, and came to investigate, which was quite serendipitous for the pictures!

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Here's the panel that was probably supposed to be easily removable.
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Inside of the coop
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View looking toward the entrence of the coop
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Another view of the "run"...which I think more of as the uninsulated portion of their coop
 
Cindy Skillman
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Great photos of the inside! That helps a lot. If you can hinge the side-wall, as you posted earlier, and replace the poop board with something maintainable (I’d staple down a scrap of linoleum on it if there’s room, or at least coat it well with glossy paint), then that would be easiest. I think I’d want to give them more space, but my opinions are indelibly colored by my experiences of this (hopefully past or nearly past) winter. Plus, a smaller place IS cozier in sub-zero temps. And for me, where I live, I wouldn’t even consider an open bottom. Jason Rhodes in (I think) VA, apparently had his chickens in an open-bottomed portable coop all this past winter, from watching his YouTube videos, but his climate is a lot milder than ours.

I have 17 hens and the number will soon be growing. I may even get a few little ducklings for one of my girls who is broody, if I can find them somewhere near, before she gives it up. Yeah, I’ve got it bad. LOL I’ve even moved on to the “hard stuff” (three beautiful little heifers). There’s probably no hope for me at this point.

I was glad to hear of your experiences with deep litter for your ducks because I’d like to get a breeding trio of ducks at some point. I LOVE deep litter with my chickens. If you really, really want to use it in the chickens’ coop, you could look at building on a deeper bottom, to contain it. I probably would lean that way if it were me, but I didn’t just kind of get stuck with someone else’s chickens like you did, and that definitely is a different situation. I think you’ll enjoy them—it was very kind of you to take them in.

For removable roosts, I think, looking at your photos, that I’d build some U-shaped brackets from scrap wood, and make them a little tight to make for a friction fit. I’d use 2x2 wood (you could paint it for easier cleaning if you like) and I’d try to place them parallel to the nesting boxes to make it easier for the hens to get in them. They won’t have any trouble with either direction, though. It’s just my own “OCDness,” really. I suppose you could also use closet rod and hardware if you wanted to. That should work well, too.

I’m really impressed with the image of you splitting off wooden shakes. I hope you’ll post some pics. So cool! Also I’d love to hear more about your ducks and how you do deep litter with them, etc.
 
Cindy Skillman
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Oh yes... perches in the run... you could, if you’re so inclined, make them some perches in the run. Since they’ll presumably be confined there, they’d have fun with that. I’ve thought about a little “jungle gym” kind of contraption. People also make swinging perches and interactive feeding devices to amuse their flocks. I’m probably not going to do that because I plan to rotationally graze mine once things melt, or at least green up a bit. It would be a hoot watching them, though. :-)
 
Nicole Alderman
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Cindy Skillman wrote:

I was glad to hear of your experiences with deep litter for your ducks because I’d like to get a breeding trio of ducks at some point. I LOVE deep litter with my chickens. If you really, really want to use it in the chickens’ coop, you could look at building on a deeper bottom, to contain it. I probably would lean that way if it were me, but I didn’t just kind of get stuck with someone else’s chickens like you did, and that definitely is a different situation. I think you’ll enjoy them—it was very kind of you to take them in.



For removable roosts, I think, looking at your photos, that I’d build some U-shaped brackets from scrap wood, and make them a little tight to make for a friction fit. I’d use 2x2 wood (you could paint it for easier cleaning if you like) and I’d try to place them parallel to the nesting boxes to make it easier for the hens to get in them. They won’t have any trouble with either direction, though. It’s just my own “OCDness,” really. I suppose you could also use closet rod and hardware if you wanted to. That should work well, too.

I’m really impressed with the image of you splitting off wooden shakes. I hope you’ll post some pics. So cool! Also I’d love to hear more about your ducks and how you do deep litter with them, etc.

We've been loving the chickens, especially my children! We would often go for walks, and the rooster is about as old as my son (who's 5), so since he was a toddler, he's wanted to see the chickens, and the neighbors let us stop by and see the chickens any time we liked. Then my daughter was born, and she loved seeing the chickens. Needless to say, they've grown up being mezmorized by these chickens. I was still stunned by just how much they love them now that we have them. They keep saying, in wonderment, "They're our chickens now"; and they go in there and pet them and carry them and herd them around. The chickens are really sweet and tolerant, too, especially the rooster.

You can see more of my cedar splitting adventure in this thread: https://permies.com/t/107629/cedar-shingles-froe-device. Since I don't have a froe (nor money/ability to make one), I've been using my axes to make the shingles. They take longer, and they're really rough, but they're working! Here's what I got installed today:



There's a lot more to do. Thankfully, I'm in no hurry, and it's a nice learning experience for me and the kids, so it's all good!



As for deep litter with ducks, my duck house is on a cement slab (here's the thread with pictures of us building it https://permies.com/t/37721/critters/Ducks-Safe-Fed-Affordably#316150)

Here's a more recent pictures (okay, it's 3 years old, but it's still what my duck house looks like!)



Mine's 8x8 with attached nesting boxes that are also at ground level. I have anywhere from 8 to 22 ducks in there (22 is really pushing it, and it's usually when a bunch of babies hatched and we're waiting for the boys to be big enough to eat). To start the deep litter, I just put down a few inches of pine shavings.

Here's my routine. Every morning when I let the ducks out:

  • I move the old/poopy bedding out of the nesting boxes and into the main area. I put new shavings in there. Ducks tend to poop on their eggs. Especially in the low egglaying season. I sometimes wonder if the non-laying females go in there, and "bare down" to lay, and lay some poop instead, often on another ducks eggs. Sigh.
  • I spread the nesting box pine shavings over the other bedding, either with my foot or pitchfork, and sprinkle a little more pine shavings on any big deposits of poop.
  • Every 2 or 3 days, I use a pitchfork and flip the bedding. This isn't intensive or thorough. It's just enough to aerate the bedding and keep it aerobic. Since ducks don't scratch and peck, and I don't have any chickens in there to turn the bedding, it's up to me to turn it. Some days, if they haven't pooped much, I just stick the pitchfork under it and lift up to give it some air. On the days I turn the bedding, I don't usually add new shavings. If you have chickens in with your ducks, you probably would only need to use a pitchfork on it as often as you ever need to with just chickens.


  • All told, it takes me maybe 5 minutes, at the most 10 on a day when I'm taking my time and doing a thorough turning (and enjoying being alone outside while my husband watches the kids. :D). I usually have about 3-5 inches of bedding in there at a given time. I should probably have it deeper, but I'm always stealing it to put in my garden beds and under my raspberry bushes and as mulch. There's no smell of ammonia, so I'm thinking the bedding doesn't need to be as "deep" as people say.

    I will mention that it usually works best for me to feed the ducks before I put them in, that way I don't have to supply them with a pail of water in there and have them dribble it around everywhere. Whatever you do, don't put a pool or tray of water! Your bedding will be a soggy mess! Even with a pail, mine tends to get soggy (I do live in the rainy pacific northwest. It's not too bad on the dry summer or freezing days), which is why I try to feed/water them outside of their house, if possible.
     
    Cindy Skillman
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    Thanks for all the info! That’s really helpful. I love the shakes. Your little chicken kingdom is gonna be so cute! Not as cute as your babies, though. :-)
    I’m off to look at your other threads!
     
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