Moving can be tough, especially when animals are involved. If you’re relocating to a new property and taking your flock with you it’s important to keep their health and safety in mind—both during traveling and when it’s time to introduce your flock to their new coop.
One of the options when moving your ladies is to take your existing coop with you to your new home; however, depending on its type and size, this might not be feasible. If you’re lucky, your new property might already have a coop or other outbuilding that can be transformed into a coop. But just as you would with your new house, you’ll want to get it into shape before the hens move in. A thorough cleaning will get your flock off to a fresh start, avoiding infestations from parasites that could linger inside the structure’s nooks and crannies. Here are six ways to start anew in an old coop.
1. Inspect the Coop
Where you live can affect what creatures might be lurking inside an existing chicken coop. Some parasites thrive in warm weather, and others in cool, wet weather. Northern fowl mites are common in some areas where they can survive off a host for several weeks, while other areas are more prone to chicken mites, which can live without a host for 6 months. Scaly leg mites can also hide in the coop, taking up residence for long periods of time inside cracks and crevices. Before you move, educate yourself on some of the common chicken problems to your new area, and check out the new digs for signs of infestation.
2. Clean the Coop
Eliminate caked on chicken poop, dust from decomposed bedding, and intruders with a simple cleaning. Begin by soaking all surfaces with a hose, letting the water sit to soften hardened waste, and then spray off when it’s softened. A putty knife can help you scrape off stubborn poo. Repeat the process until you’ve removed it all. Then scrub all surfaces with plain old dish soap and water. Soap is a natural insecticide, so it will help to kill anything left lurking. Leave no trace of the former flock inside the coop.
3. Disinfect the Coop
Some people use a very small amount of bleach mixed with water to kill germs and eliminate odors inside their coops, but vinegar works nearly as well. Vinegar is completely safe to use around your flock, even at full strength, whereas bleach is not. To kill germs, spray a 50/50 solution of vinegar and water (or full strength vinegar if you prefer) on all cleaned surfaces and inside crevices. Allow all the surfaces to dry naturally before adding fresh bedding to the coop.
4. Dig Out the Run
If the coop is attached to a run, consider digging out the floor and replacing it with fresh soil or soft sand. A run should be dug out and replaced periodically anyway because the floor is likely to be impacted with old chicken poop, bedding, and possible pathogens and parasites. Many chicken keepers replace the floor once a year. What’s great about sand in particular is that it drains well, so during periods of rain, your flock won’t have to slog through filthy mud puddles, and when the chickens make their predictable messes, a cat litter scoop makes it easy to keep the sand tidied up.
5. Prevent Infestations
Preventing infestations is much easier than treating an established one. Providing space for your chickens to dust bathe, especially during times of wet and/or cold weather, is one of the very best methods of prevention. When the flock can’t bathe to clean away oils and to coat the skin with a protective barrier, they’re at greater risk of suffering from lice and mite infestations.
Growing herbs like basil, lavender, lemongrass, peppermint, spearmint, catnip and marigolds around the chicken coop can help deter pests. The herbs can be snipped and placed inside nest boxes, or dried and hung inside the coop or run. If you can’t grow them, buy them already dried. Develop your own favorite herb combinations to help your flock avoid infestations, and to make its new henhouse smell like a henhome.
6. Inspect the Flock
Even after your flock moves into its new, clean home, continue inspecting your chickens and the coop regularly for any signs of parasites or other serious health threats, just as you always would.