Managing Chicken Coop Smell
Tips, Tricks, and Hints to Help you Fix that Stinky Chicken CoopPromoted by Sweet PDZ Coop Refresher
Reading Time: 4 minutes
Does your chicken coop smell inordinately bad? Does your neighbor complain about the chicken coop smell wafting across the fenceline? If so, I’ve got a few tips and tricks you can employ to fix your coop, or at least understand the issue at hand.
Several things can make your chicken coop smell bad. However, the most likely culprit is ammonia. Ammonia is a natural byproduct found in poultry manure and when in vapor form, smells incredibly strong and foul.
High ammonia levels in the coop environment present a few issues, one being that it makes your chicken coop smell terrible. The more significant concern over high ammonia levels in the coop is the impact it makes on your bird’s health and your own. Mild ammonia smells are unpleasant for short exposure times, such as when you collect eggs, but consider that your chickens are breathing it 24/7. Don’t forget; your chickens are an awful lot closer to the ground than you are, so they get a stronger whiff than you do.
Chicken Coop Smell
Ammonia is easily managed in the chicken coop, but to do so, we need to understand what exactly causes the ammonia in our coop to turn gaseous. Moisture in the coop bedding plays a direct role in how much ammonia you smell in the air. In short, the wetter the litter, the higher the ammonia level in the coop.
Keep it Dry
The whole trick to keeping the ammonia from releasing into the air is to keep that bedding pack dry. It’s a simple thing to say, but there are a few major sources of moisture in the chicken coop we need to look consider.
What kind of watering system are you using? Is it leaking? Leaking or incorrectly set water dispensers are a surefire source of additional moisture. For trough waterers, be sure the edge of the lip is at the level of your bird’s back. Correctly setting this height will reduce splashing and trough fouling. Want to curtail water leaks? Use a nipple waterer. A correctly set nipple waterer will result in dryer bedding, cleaner water, and healthier birds. Chickens should have to stretch up just a little to reach the metal valve of the nipple, without jumping. Setting them at this height will severely reduce any leaking while in use.
Is your roof watertight? Does your coop have enough roof overhang to stop rain from entering the coop windows? Having rainwater reach your bedding will undoubtedly result in a strong chicken coop smell, so be sure your roof and coop are sufficient to keep your birds, and their litter, dry.
Some of us experience some oppressive humidity during the summer months. Unfortunately, unless you have an air-conditioned coop, there’s nothing we can do to fix that. One thing we can do, however, is to ventilate well. If my coop gets damp in the summer, or just overly hot, I’ll add a box fan to the window to move some air. It’s not pulling any moisture from the environment, but it will vent the ammonia so it won’t build up in the coop.
Some bugs are welcomed in the coop, but flies are one pest you don’t want to see. Wet litter packs, especially in humid months, tend to attract flies. Use a quality fly repellant or predator wasps to manage your unwelcome guests.
Your choice of bedding and how you maintain it will be a significant factor in how much chicken coop smell you get. Never use straw or hay as bedding! Both of these beddings trap moisture and give a place for bacteria to grow.
Deep Bedding Method
Use a deep bedding pack of pine shavings, such as the kind you can buy at any feed and grain store. No, wood chips from the local tree company don’t count, but nice try. I use a deep bedding of pine shavings in my barns, approximately twelve to sixteen inches deep. The deep litter absorbs moisture into the pack and allows that moisture to escape later as the coop environment allows.
Cleaning Deep Bedding
If the top of the bedding gets fouled, grab a pitchfork and turn the bedding. Deep bedding litter, since there is so much of it, means that you can go far longer between chicken coop cleanings without running into a harsh chicken coop smell problem. I wait until the bedding pack turns completely grey through and through.
Eventually, the bedding pack will need to be changed. If you have an inordinate amount of water enter the coop, such as if a waterer breaks, or a roof leak soaks the bedding, then you’ll have to change the bedding.
Outdoor coops and runs are slightly more problematic when trying to control a foul chicken coop smell. For outside coop areas, I like to suggest a focus on drainage, namely a gravel base pad with a thick sand top layer. This arrangement will allow the birds to dust bathe and play, but also let rainwater seep down through the sand and gravel instead of puddling on the ground.
Avoiding a Stinky Chicken Coop
In the end, it’s all about litter management. If you can keep a deep, dry litter floor in your chicken coops, you should escape the majority of any potential ammonia smell. Just be forewarned that, even a well-managed litter pack has an occupancy limit, so be sure you’re not crowding your birds into a coop that’s just too small.
Do you have any tricks or tips on controlling ammonia odors in the chicken coop? Join the conversation below and let us know all about it!