Cleaning your chicken coop can be a tedious job. At times it is even just plain gross. Sometimes you can put off cleaning the coop for later. But there is one sign you should be aware of that tells you it can no longer be ignored. So how do you know when to clean out the chicken coop?
Let’s face it, chicken coops can smell, especially if it is a coop or enclosure for meat type birds. Our Cornish cross chickens can make a coop smell horrible. They are eating and pooping machines! Regardless of whether you want to or not, usually there is no putting off cleaning a meat bird coop. But what of an egg laying chicken coop?
Often, you can freshen up the coop by simply adding more bedding, also called litter. I use large Pine wood shavings. One reason is availability, another, ease of cleanup. Another bonus is the Pine smell that helps mask odors. At one time I used hay because it was free but I found it packs very tightly and is extremely difficult to remove from the floor. Also, it did little to mask odors.
But, regardless of what you use as litter, there is one time you MUST clean the coop and cannot gain more time by adding litter. Do you know when that is? It is when you smell ammonia.
The ammonia smell results from the chemical decomposition of uric acid in the chickens droppings by bacteria in the litter. The ammonia is always present in the coop but a strong ammonia smell is harmful to the health of your chickens. Proper ventilation helps control the concentration of ammonia in the coop.
High concentrations of ammonia in the chicken coop affects the mucous membranes of the respiratory tract and the conjunctivae and corneas of the eyes. Damage to the respiratory system increases the chances the chickens will get a respiratory infection, especially E. coli. It also has an effect on the overall livability, weight gain, feed conversion, and the immune system of the chickens.
People smell ammonia at concentrations between 20 and 30 ppm. Concentrations of 50 ppm have been shown to cause damage to chickens. Which means, if you can smell ammonia, the concentration is getting close to the point of causing irreparable damage to your flock.
If you smell ammonia, clean out the chicken coop as soon as you can to minimize any damage to your flocks respiratory system or eyes.
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