Poultry dust frequently will contain mites, various types of bacteria, fungal spores and dead chicken skin and has the potential to make you extremely sick if you don’t get it under control. This is why it is important to know how to keep chicken coop dust down.
Why is my chicken coop so dusty?
Chickens pecking and scratching the ground and cleaning out your chicken coop will stir up the bedding material. Chicken coop bedding is filled with chicken poop, feathers and scattered feed. This is what makes a chicken coop and chicken run so dusty.
Poultry dust particles have the potential to make you sick. Inhaling chicken poop dust can give you a bacterial, viral or fungal infection.
How to Keep Chicken Coop Dust Down
1. Bedding Material
When choosing a bedding material, it is best to use one that will help to cut down on dust particles. You aren’t going to be able to find a completely dust free chicken bedding, but you can find one’s that will cut down on the amount of dust particles.
Large flake pine shavings seem to do the best job. It is super absorbent (cutting back on smell), can be used in your compost pile to make garden soil and at the same time produces the least amount of dust particles, compared to other beddings.
| PINE SHAVINGS|
|1. VERY ABSORBENT|
2. LESS SMELL
3. GREAT INSULATOR
4. GOOD FOR COMPOST PILE
|SAND||1. BACTERIA THRIVE IN SAND|
2. NOT A GOOD INSULATOR
3. CAN FREEZE IN WINTER
4. CAN’T COMPOST
|STRAW / HAY||1. DOESN’T ABSORB|
2. PRONE TO MOLDING
3. PRONE TO SMELLING
4. NEEDS CLEANED MORE
|GRASS CLIPPINGS||1. DOESN’T ABSORB|
2. CAN ADD TO COMPOST PILE
3. PRONE TO SMELLING
4. NEEDS CLEANED MORE
|LEAVES||1. DOESN’T ABSORB|
2. PRONE TO SMELLING
3. CAN ADD TO COMPOST PILE
4. NEEDS CLEANED MORE
|SHREDDED PAPER||1. CAN LEAD TO BUMBLEFOOT|
2. DOESN’T ABSORB
3. SLIPPERY WHEN WET
4. CAN LEAD TO SPLAYED LEGS
IN YOUNG CHICKS
5. NEEDS CLEANED MORE
6. CAN ADD TO COMPOST PILE
The “deep litter” method works best. Using this method, you only have to do a deep cleaning two times a year.
- Start with adding 4-6 inches of large flake pine shavings to your coop floor.
- Over time this will decompose as your chickens poop and turn the bedding.
- Over the next several months continuously add more bedding to maintain the 4-6 inch depth.
- You do not need to turn the bedding. Your chickens will do the work for you!
- Deep litter method generates heat. So it helps to keep the chickens warmer at night when they are roosting.
- Plan to clean the chicken coop in the Spring, when the weather begins to start warming up again.
2. Chicken Feed
Feed stores frequently sell chicken feed in pellets, crumbles and mash. When you can, choose pellets for your flocks. This will produce the least amount of feed dust particles.
Baby chicks need to eat either crumbles or mash. Choose the crumbles for chicks and switch over to pellet feed around 16 weeks of age.
Don’t keep your chicken feeders inside a chicken coop. It is best kept out in a covered chicken run where there is good ventilation.
Another alternative is fermenting the chicken feed. This is done by adding dechlorinated water to your daily chicken feed and letting it soak for 3 days before serving it to them. This has numerous benefits, including decreasing dust particles from feed.
- Less dust particles from chicken feed
- “Unlocks” additional nutrients.
- Chickens eat less due to increased nutrients.
- Decrease poop, because of decreased feed consumption.
- Healthier chickens.
- Better tasting eggs.
- Thicker egg shells.
- Decreased feed cost because the chickens will consume less
- Releases probiotics.
- Better digestion.
- Happier chickens.
For step by step instructions on how to ferment chicken feed, read my article How to Ferment Chicken Feed – 6 Simple Steps (Photos).
Provide your chicken coop with good ventilation. This helps to ensure that any wetness, such as spilled water and poop can dry out. In other words, it decreases the moisture level in the coop.
Less moisture helps to prevent the growth of bacteria, mold and fungus.
Increased ventilation will also reduce the smell of ammonia from the chicken droppings.
To Increase Ventilation:
- Add a screen door.
- Add a window with 1/4″ hardware cloth.
- Provide additional vents on all four walls of your coop.
- Install a skylight.
- Add a wind turbine vent on the roof.
Try to keep on a good coop cleaning maintenance schedule. If you let it pile up too much, it is likely to have the potential to create a lot of dust during a cleaning.
Letting the droppings, food particles and debris build up for too long without cleaning can also cause unwanted chicken predators and is a great growing medium for various bacteria, fungus and mold.
Is the Dust Dangerous to Breathe When I’m Cleaning the Coop?
It is extremely dangerous to breathe in the dust particles when you are cleaning the chicken coop. Infected droppings can become airborne when disturbed (cleaning a coop). Tiny dust particles can carry fungal spores, bacterial and viral infections that can be inhaled into your respiratory system.Can Cleaning a Chicken Coop Make You Sick? (9 Tips)
According to the CDC, they recommend that you “Stay outdoors when cleaning any equipment or materials used to raise or care for poultry, such as cages or food and water containers.”
5. Protective Gear
As a precaution, when it’s time to clean your chicken coop, to prevent contracting any chicken to human diseases you should always wear protective gear.
Protective gear that you should wear when cleaning a chicken coop includes the following:
- Coop Boots
- Long Pants and Top
For more details on how you should dress when cleaning out your chicken coop, read my article How to Dress When Cleaning a Chicken Coop-5 Best Tips.
Chicken to human diseases that you can contract by inhaling chicken coop dust during a cleaning include the following:
- Campylobacter (Bacterial)
- Histoplasmosis (Fungal)
- Exotic New Castle Disease (Viral)
- Avian Influenza/Bird Flu (Viral)
6. Location of Dust Bath
Chickens absolutely love to take dust baths! It is hilarious to watch them fling bedding and nestle into a hole so they can clean themselves. Stand clear though, because they can fling whatever cleaning medium they are using pretty far!
Make a special area outside of the chicken coop, in an open chicken run, where your flock can go to take a dust bath. Chickens enjoy dust bathing together, so make sure that you provide an area big enough for multiple chickens to clean.
The best medium to use for chicken dust bathing would have to be sand mixed with a little dirt. It also doubles as a good source of grit.
By bringing your dust bathing area to a location outside of the coop, chickens are likely to lose more of their dander(dead skin) and feathers outside when dust bathing outside.
Chickens like to shake off right after a dust bath and begin preening. If your dust bathing area is outside of the coop, they are likely to find an area to preen each and every feather.
7. Use a Chicken Tractor
A chicken tractor is portable chicken coop without a floor that can be easily moved every few days. This has many benefits, the first being it eliminates you having to deal with chicken coop dust!
Benefits of Using a Chicken Tractor
- You don’t have to deal with chicken coop dust!
- Chicken poop naturally fertilizes the land.
- Your chickens will peck and scratch the land, turning the soil, preparing it for planting.
- Chickens protected at all times from predators.
- Chickens can “free range” without eating what you don’t want them to.
- Less cleaning needed.
- Fresh greens for chickens daily.
- Chickens have access to grubs and various other bugs in the soil.
8. Don’t Overcrowd
Don’t try to fit too many chickens into a coop or a chicken run. Too many chickens in an area that doesn’t provide enough room for them to move around freely is going to accumulate a lot of poop quick.
CHICKEN RUN: Each adult chicken needs at least 10 square feet to scratch and peck the ground, flap its wings and explore. So, if you have 4 adult hens, you will need a minimum of 40 square feet. This is the equivalent to an area 10′ x 4′.
CHICKEN COOP: Each adult chicken needs at least 2-4 square feet of space inside of their coop. The lighter breeds closer to 2 square feet and the larger breeds closer to 4 square feet.
ROOSTING SPACE: The hen house should also provide enough roosting space for each chicken. Each adult chicken requires about 12″ of roosting space.
What Will Happen if My Chickens Don’t Have Enough Space?
- If you don’t provide enough space, chickens are likely to knock each other down when they are trying to squeeze in to roost. Many will eventually give up and “roost” on the bedding below. This isn’t sanitary for them and will likely get pooped on from hens or roosters roosting up above them.
- Crowded chicken coops create increased bickering between flock members, more aggressiveness and feather plucking. Chickens that are bickering more with each other are likely to peck at each other, sometimes creating sores.
- Crowded coops produce more poop, bacteria, fungus, mold, etc. This can lead to more infections and diseases within the flock.
- Hens living in crowded conditions are also likely to produce less eggs and the eggs are more likely to be dirty or broken due to too many hens fighting over the nesting boxes.
9. Misting Coop Instructions
CHICKEN COOP: Misting your chicken coop prior to cleaning will help cut down on dust particles. Only do this if you are planning on cleaning your coop right away.
Heat and moisture in a chicken coop is the perfect breeding ground for bacteria, fungus and molds. So it is important to remove all the old bedding if you use this method.
This works especially well if you are planning on putting the old bedding in your compost pile!
CHICKEN RUN: For areas that you don’t use bedding material and instead have dirt, it’s ok to mist these areas off prior to cleaning. Just make sure that you don’t add too much water that it remains wet or creates puddles of mud.
HOT DAYS: On hot days it is ok to use a mister to cool the ground for your chickens. Some chickens may even walk through the mist. Others are particular and may stay away. But I have found that misting the ground on hot days will help to cool the ground, providing a nice cool spot for my chickens to dust bathe.
Conclusion: How to Keep Chicken Coop Dust Down
- Use bedding material that will create the least amount of dust.
- Use pellets for adult chickens and crumbles for chicks.
- Provide good ventilation.
- Routine cleaning of coop.
- Wear protective gear.
- Locate dust bathing area outside of chicken coop.
- Use a chicken tractor
- Don’t overcrowd the chickens.
- Mist the coop before cleaning.