All around the world, every animal keeper has to deal with the smell from animal droppings. Chicken being no exception, can generate a whole lot of awful smells that might even land you in trouble with your neighbors. You do not have to struggle to hold your breath every time you enter the chicken coop to inspect and collect eggs.
It is very easy to rectify this smelly problem fast. With a few basic steps, you will have a fresh smelling coop and definitely, happier chicken.
Where does the smell come from?
Before we delve deeper into this stinky issue, we have to first establish where the smell emanates from. In ideal conditions, a hen or cockerel is by no chance smelly. The smell comes from the chicken droppings. This is especially true in places where the chicken coup is not regularly cleaned. A hen can produce up to 20grams of droppings per day depending on the feeding. If unchecked, a huge flock can produce a lot of dropping which piles up producing an awful smell and attracting a lot of flies.
Like any other animal droppings, the chicken feces contain an element of ammonia. This ammonia comes from bacteria that constantly releases the gas as it decomposes the droppings. This is what is responsible for the smell that comes from the feces. Ammonia, when in vapor form, smells strong and foul.
How ammonia smell affects the chicken
Ammonia is not only bad for you but for your chicken too. High levels of ammonia in the chicken coop will discourage the chicken from feeding. This will in turn affect their growth and egg production. In addition to being discouraged from feeding, the chicken also risk contracting conjunctivitis and even respiratory tract damage.
Factors affecting the pungency of the smell
Well, unless your coop is well ventilated, it will smell terribly if the level of humidity is high. Humidity encourages the ammonia in the chicken poop to vaporize and the pungency to increase. Thing will get worse if it is a hot and humid environment. Not only will it be uncomfortable for you but also will be uncomfortable to the flock.
Rainy weather sometimes forces rainwater into the coop. This then soaks up the litter in the chicken coop thus vaporizing the ammonia in droppings releasing it into the air. Also, very hot weather contributes to vaporization of the ammonia in chicken poop.
- Population of the flock
This one should be more obvious to you. The general rule is, the more the chicken, the more the poop. This will translate to a smellier coop. Always try to maintain the recommended spacing for each chicken to avoid overcrowding the coop and piling of chicken droppings. Also, adequate spacing will allow you to easily clean the coop.
- Type of coop
There are different types of chicken coops available out there for you to build. Depending on your plans and resources, the coop you choose may have an effect on how pungent the smell from the coop will be. Depending on whichever design you choose, try and ensure good airflow into the coop to ensure the smell is kept fresh with natural airflow.
How to manage the smell
Managing the foul smell in the chicken coup is pretty easy. We only have to pin the main culprit (ammonia) in the droppings and we will have solved our problem. The thing with ammonia is that its concentration in the air increases with the amount of humidity in the air. So, the wetter the chicken coup, the stronger the ammonia smell in the air.
High ammonia levels in the coop environment brings about problems. The problem with ammonia is that it makes your chicken coop smell horrible. Apart from the smell, the more significant concern with the high levels of ammonia in the coop is the impact it makes on your bird’s health and your own.
Consider how far from the ground your nose is positioned as compared to that of your chicken. Now, if you feel that the ammonia smell is strong, what about your chicken that are closer to the ground and are in the coop for most of their lifetime?
How to keep the chicken coop smelling fresh
Now that we have established that water is the biggest contributor to ammonia in the air, you now need to pin down how the water gets to the coup.
The whole issue of keeping the ammonia from releasing into the air is to keep the litter dry. As simple as it is, it goes a long way in keeping at bay any smell. The few sources of water that find way into the coup include;
- The chicken drinkers
Improper sizes of the chicken drinkers may also lead to water trickling to the litter as the chicken drink the water. The edge of the lip of the drinker should be at the height of the birds back. You might as well switch to the nipple drinkers which is more modern and minimizes leakages.
If the roof of the coop was not properly built, rainwater may enter the coop through the unsheltered windows. This makes the coop vulnerable to harsh weather of both rain and sunshine.
- Seepage from the ground
If your coop was built on land that was previously swampy or waterlogged, water will tend to seep to the surface thus increasing the ammonia vaporization leading to a more pungent smell.
Other ways of keeping the coop smelling fresh include;
- Ensuring good circulation of air
Air circulation is good not only to reduce the smell in the coop but also helps dry out the litter. You can do this by building coops with large closable windows or vents. Also, if you have the financial capacity, install air conditioning in the coop. The chicken will enjoy ambient temperatures free from bad smells and excess humidity.
- Cleaning out the bedding
The bedding or litter in the coop should also be regularly changed. Rotting matter plus the chicken droppings are not ideal when you are trying to freshen the air in the coops. If the chicken are many in number, ensure that you change the litter daily. By doing so, you also reduce the risk of disease.
- Using herbs and petals
You can also try planting fragrant flowers around the chicken coop. This will not only brighten the environs of the coop but also improve the smell of the place. You should however not place the flowers too close at a place where the chicken can access. Some of the leaves may be edible to poultry and the flowers may end up not surviving constant bites from the chicken.
- Using the deep litter method of bedding
The deep litter method of bedding allows you to form farm compost using chicken droppings on the floor of the coop. To do this, you use wood shavings or sawdust from your local carpenter and spread it on the floor of the chicken coop. The chicken droppings will land on the layer of shavings. Over time, the chickens’ foraging behavior makes the chicken scratch over the shavings effectively mixing and aerating the mixture. This method of bedding allows for a clean, non-smelling coop with an added bonus of ready farm compost.
- Using agricultural lime
The use of agricultural lime is also an effective way of reducing the smell from a chicken coop. This is very essential especially during wet seasons. Not only does it mask the smell but also neutralizes the pH of the droppings.
- Using Enzymatic Treatment
Though uncommon, you can use enzymatic treatment by applying it on the walls and floor of the coop. The enzymatic treatment works by breaking down the enzymes in the feces to neutralize the smell
- Using an air freshener
When all else fails and you are just about to give up, you can try using air fresheners in the coop. try the ones that you hang on the ceiling or wall away from the reach of the chicken as opposed to the ones that you have to spray.
Keeping chicken in your backyard or homestead is a very important venture and you should enjoy every bit of it. Chicken coop smell is a very common problem many farmers around the world contend with. You can easily solve the issue with the many tips I have shared in this article. Keeping the coop smelling fresh will translate to happier chicken and a more productive venture. Never let the smell be a hindrance to the success of your business or hobby.