Top to Bottom Fall Chicken Coop Check-Up

November 4, 2018


Before the cold weather sets in, it's a good idea to give your chicken coop a good once-over. Due to fewer hours of daylight and lower temperatures, your chickens will likely be spending more time inside than usual, and fixing any potential problems you spot in your coop now is beneficial.


Starting with the roof and working your way all the way down to the foundation, you'll be sure not to miss anything as you do your inspection.


Roof


Outside: 

Inspect the shingles or roofing material to be sure it's all secured and not likely to blow off in high winds. Remove any piles of wet leaves or pine needles that have accumulated because they will retain moisture and can start to rot your roof.

Trim any tree limbs that are hanging over the coop and pose a threat if they were to break under the weight of snow.

Inside: 

Use a flashlight if necessary to check up under the eaves and along the roof line inside the coop for evidence of water damage. Repair any leaks before the cold weather sets in.

Using a feather duster, stiff brush or broom, brush away any cobwebs or dust that has settled on any of the supports or beams along the ceiling.

Walls

Using your broom or a feather duster, give the walls a quick dusting as well.  Check for any structural damage or repairs that need to be made.


Vents and Windows


Air flow is important year round in a chicken coop. Now is a good time to make sure the welded wire (1/2" or even 1/4" on all the vents and windows is best) is securely nailed or stapled to the window and vent frames. 

Use your feather duster or a broom to brush any cobwebs and dust from the vents to ensure clean air is flowing. Head outside and be sure the vents aren't blocked with leaves, pine needles or other debris.

Chickens are especially susceptible to respiratory issues, so it's important to dust your coop periodically and also make sure ammonia fumes can escape. In the winter, frostbite can be a concern, but preventing moisture from accumulating will help avoid issues with frostbitten combs, wattles and feet.

If you live in a cold climate, coop windows that can be opened and closed depending on the weather are a good idea. Check that all windows open and close correctly, and now is a good time to clean them to allow maximum sunlight in. 

Vodka and sheets of newspaper work well to clean windows, believe it or not! You don't want to use any ammonia-based or bleach products inside your coop. The fumes are too much for delicate chickens to handle.

Making your own vinegar- or vodka-based herbal cleaner is what I recommend.

Nesting Boxes


Since your chickens have likely not been spending much time in their nesting boxes (egg production drops in the fall due to the shorter days and molting season), it's possible that some opportunistic field mice have taken advantage of the empty boxes and taken up residence.

It's a good idea to empty the bedding out of all the boxes and clean out any debris. Then a sprinkle of food-grade DE (diatomaceous earth) in the boxes followed by new bedding (I love these aspen nesting pads!) and a sprinkle of Coop Confetti® dried nesting herbs will not only freshen the boxes for any of your chickens who might get the urge to lay an egg, but also help to deter bugs and rodents.


Roosting Bars


Inspect the roosting bars next. Scrape off any accumulated poop using a metal paint scraper. Check for splinters or rough spots and sand them as needed to prevent foot injury or bumblefoot this winter.

Then rub the roosts with a nice coating of DE as protection against mites.


Floors


Rake or shovel out all the old coop bedding. Use a broom to sweep out any remaining dust or debris. Check the floor carefully for any holes or soft spots, rot or other areas that might need repair.

A weasel can get in through a hole just 1" wide, so close up any potential entry points, since snakes and mice can also gain entrance through small holes. Repair any spots you need to, then head outside the coop again.


Outside Perimeter


Walk around the perimeter of your coop checking for any holes in the foundation or spots where it looks like rodents might have dug in. Stuffing steel wool into small holes should help deter anything from getting through the holes, just be sure to nail a board over the hole also so your chickens don't try to eat the steel wool! 

Rocks along the base of your coop can also help keep mice out, as can laying welded wire fencing along the ground around the coop perimeter then layering some dirt on top of it.

Clean up any fallen leaves, branches, dead vegetation or other debris that has accumulated around your coop. You don't want to provide rodents or other predators anywhere to hide.

Doors


Don't forget to check the doors of your coop. Be sure the hinges are secure and the latches work properly. Be sure that doors are aligned properly and close without leaving a gap between the door and frame. Make any repairs or adjustments you need to. 

And it goes without saying that all your coop latches and locks need to be predator-proof


Stock up on Straw and Scratch


It's not fun to haul feed bags and straw bales in the snow and ice. Stock up now on both. Be sure to store your feed and straw in a dry spot that rodents can't gain access to. 

Scratch grains are a great winter treat for your chickens to help keep them warm through the long, cold winter nights, so be sure you have a few bags of scratch in storage as well.

Especially in the cold climates, straw on the floor will keep your coop warmer and better insulated than any other bedding, and stacking whole bales along the walls to take up dead air space helps your chickens to keep the coop warm using just their body heat. Conversely, the deep litter method will help create natural heat in the coop through the winter. Just be sure to turn the bedding regularly, and check the corners for mouse nests!

Last but not least, if you have any fresh herbs still growing in your garden, hang some sprigs in your  coop. They smell nice, look pretty and offer benefits including pest-repelling and respiratory for your flock.

Getting your coop check-up done while the weather is still temperate will make your life easier, and ensure your chickens are not only comfortable but safe this winter.



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