Managing Chicken Coop Smell

Tips, Tricks, and Hints to Help you Fix that Stinky Chicken Coop

Promoted by Sweet PDZ Coop Refresher
Managing Chicken Coop Smell

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.

The Culprit

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.

The Problem

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.

Manage Chicken Coop Smell

Water

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.

Weather

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.

Humidity

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.

Bugs

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.

Bedding

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.

chicken-coop-smell

Outdoor Areas

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!

16 thoughts on “Managing Chicken Coop Smell”
  1. I use horse pellets for stalls on my chicken floor. I just scatter the pellets on the floor and as the chickens walk on them they break down. Also, very easy to clean up. I forget the name, but it is a sandy product used for horse stalls and where the chickens roost at night I spread some of this there and it absorbs and makes easy cleanup.

  2. I agree. I use the stall pellets in the run area to absorb moisture and keep it smelling fresh. It mixes in with the soil and waste. And the granular stuff is called Sweet PDZ. I use that on the coop floor and it works great!

  3. horse stall pellets? Do you mean the nutritional horse pellets they eat? You use it for your coop floor /and/or in the run? Just clarifying.. a good idea!

    thx

    1. No, ma’am, I’m talking about the pine pellets for horse stalls. Once wet they puff up and crumble and help to keep the run less muddy.

  4. I put a tarp on the floor of my coop and cover it with pine shavings. Under their roosts I put plastic boot trays with diatomaceous and pine shavings. When I clean the coop I pull the boot trays and any poo that misses the trays and clean the nesting boxes.

  5. I have 1 chicken and it has stopped laying eggs which I don’t mind understanding enough. She stays in her coop all day and I have to crab her to get her out she has a feed but then straight back to her coop can you help

    1. 1 have a 8 x 20 ft fenced in chicken yard. Inside of that 2 raised coops that are bedded down with hemp with runs attached for 10 laying hens. The coops do not smell but when the yard is wet from rain is he soul smells and I live in the city. What can I use to sweeten the soil. No way because of injury can I get gravel back there or afford it. Tried to get it in sacks but not avaible. We use to use lime with the horses but not sure safe to use with the girls . Don’t want to hem get a chemical burn.

  6. Carmen Knowles you need more than 1 chicken. Hens are social creatures and thrive in a small flock. It sounds like your bird may be a bit depressed.

  7. I just use builders sand on the floor of my coop. It is a natural desiccant. Just use a kitty litter scoop every morning and the poop goes right into the nearby compost bin. Regular raking of the run, depending on the weather will keep it clean. Sprigs of basil in the coop keep it insect free all day and smells great too.

  8. I use sand in both my coop and run…the coop is inside the covered (roof) run, so both areas stay dry.
    Cleaning daily to remove waste and raking the sand keeps it dry, and odor free.

  9. Hello from Florida, we use Navel Live Oak leaves or Pine Straw to negate the ammonia (chemistry). It’s generally free or Pine Straw in Small Bales for sale in most areas.

  10. I live in Mexico. It’s hurricane season so it rains a lot and my chicken pen really stinks. How can I reduce the smell?

    1. Hi Evelyn,

      You can try the deep bedding method. Use wood chips, or straw, 2 to 4 inches deep. When the birds have compacted it down by an inch, add another inch or two. This will help keep down the smell, AND provide you with some amazing compost. Every 3 months, stir up their yard and rake out the underlayers into a pile outside of the coop area. Let those piles sit for another 3 to 4 months to finish composting and then use on your garden.

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