Here you can find some of the more important things to know about designing, building, and maintaining the coop year round!
We did a lot of research online about design before we drew up our own plans and built our coop. We took something from every plan we looked at and fit it all together to work in our yard in the location we knew it was going in. But the bottom line is, make sure you know what you want BEFORE beginning and definitely have a coop in place BEFORE getting any chickens!
CLEANING: The coop needs to be filled with straw (not hay because as soon as it gets wet it can grow a dangerous fungi). I have read that pine chips or shavings are better, but the straw is more economical for us. We used to break the straw up into smaller pieces when we put it in, but we don't anymore because the chickens actually like doing it. When we put new straw in the go in and we call it 'make house.' They mess around with it, move it, break it, and even eat the seeds on the ends. They basically get it all moved around the way they like it!
The coop needs to be cleaned about every one to two months depending upon how many chickens you have. The more chickens, the more often it needs to be cleaned out. You will need to put a lot more straw in the coop for the winters so that the chickens have more insulation. We buy the straw by the bale. One bale gets us through a couple of months.
When we clean the coop we wear masks because there is a lot of dust created that we do not want to breathe in. Nobody told us to do this, but we learned quickly that the dust irritated our lungs when we were cleaning it out of the house. We do not use any chemical cleaners at all. We just remove all the straw. Scrape off any hard spots, and sweep or vacuum (with the shop vac) it out. Then we fill it with fresh straw broken into smaller pieces. Once a year we will use water to really scrub it, however it has to be done when it is dry out because you do not want it to stay wet. The best part is that the used straw and chicken poop is great for your compost pile!
We do freshen the nesting boxes regularly though! We freshen it with a blend of dried botanicals that includes lavender, marigolds, and a few other things! You can make your own blend of chicken coop-poori! We just add about 1/2 cup to each nesting box about once a week and it keeps it smelling fresh and helps keep out the buggies! The hens love it and it is perfectly safe for them.
When winter is coming we do a few things to winterize the coop for the girls, but what we do is simple!
Add extra straw - we make sure there is a good 3 - 4" of straw in the bottom of their little house. During the winter we just add more straw on top of the old straw as needed. This is OK because the house has plenty of ventilation from front to back and since we never close their little inner ramp door.
Increase the amount of their daylight - to do this we have a bulb in their little house that is set on a timer and plugged in. The light will go on automatically at about 4 AM and stay on until daylight, about 7 AM. Since the winters only get about 9 hours of daylight here, this gives them a total of 12 hours of light a day which helps increase their egg production that normally decreases over the winter. However, it doesn't increase it to same as in the summer but at least we still get eggs.
It's that simple! Read the post below (picture is link) to see how healthy the chickens are with the door open all winter!
Click on the picture above to read more about open-air coops!