Even though we’re guessing that your chicken has lower standards of cleanliness than you do, it’s important to clean their coop at least once every week. The good news is, the more you rake out the coop, and the less build-up there is, the less time it will take. But why is coop cleanliness important, and just how clean does a coop actually need to be? By the end of this article, you’ll have the answers you need to keep your feathered friends healthy and out of harm’s way.
Just like dogs, cats, and humans, birds are susceptible to a whole host of diseases. And while it may not be necessary to be able to rattle off all of the diseases your birds could potentially get, it’s a good idea to learn how to spot a sick bird. When a bird contracts a virus and starts to get sick, there are a number of telltale warning signs that it will start to display. Identifying these signs early and quarantining sick birds quickly is the best way to prevent illness from spreading across your flock. Click here to learn how to identify a sick bird.
Virulent Newcastle Disease (vND) is a highly contagious and fatal illness that affects the digestive, nervous, and respiratory systems of birds. The outbreak of VND began in 2018 and has affected several Southern California counties. To learn how to identify the symptoms of vND, click here.
Knowing what the symptoms of sickness look like in your birds is a critical skill for every bird owner, but preventing illness from occurring in the first place is even more important! Luckily, keeping your birds happy and healthy is relatively easy.
- Clean cages regularly and keep germs out! Keeping backyard birds contained in an enclosed area is a good idea because it provides separation from wild birds that can carry germs and diseases. Unfortunately, this separation won’t stop germs from entering the cage on your clothing or shoes, or building up in bird waste. Cleaning your coop at least once a week is the best thing you can do to prevent disease in your flock. To avoid tracking bacteria into the cage, you might consider using an alternative pair of shoes, or making a clean footbath to walk through before entering your coop or enclosure. Foothbaths should be regularly cleaned and should use a form of disinfectant.
- Protect yourself! While going in and out of the coop to retrieve eggs can introduce dangerous contaminants into your flock’s environment, it can also put you in harm’s way! Backyard chickens and other poultry can carry germs like Salmonella. After you touch a bird or anything in the area where birds live or roam, make sure to wash your hands.
It’s also important to clean and disinfect any equipment used to clean your coop. Just make sure to wipe all dirt and manure off of your tools before disinfecting them, or the disinfectant won’t work.
- Limit outside contact with birds and clean shoes and skin thoroughly before contact. If visitors want to see your birds, make sure they wash their hands and forearms thoroughly before coming in contact with your flock. If they have handled or been in close contact with other birds and have not changed their clothes and cleaned their skin thoroughly, they should not be allowed to interact with your birds.
- Change water daily. In addition to washing your shoes and hands and raking droppings out of the cage, it’s also a good idea to change food and water daily to prevent contamination. Chickens aren’t the brightest of birds and have a tendency to muddy their water. Drinking water contaminated with germs and bacteria can quickly sicken an entire flock.
- Identify, Quarantine, and Report Illness Quickly! No matter how diligent you are about keeping your coop clean, your birds may get sick! Know the warning signs of diseases so that if you suspect that your bird is sick, you can take fast action to quarantine them. Once the sick bird is isolated and away from healthy birds, call your local veterinarian for advice. It is never prudent to move sick birds, so make sure to describe symptoms to your vet before taking any definitive action. If there is a known infectious disease in your area that you are concerned your bird may have contracted, you can report sick birds through the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA).
- Dealing with dead birds. If one of your birds passes away, it should be quickly disposed of by burial or incineration. In some places, you can take them to your local landfill but you should check on local ordinances for acceptable disposal methods.
Keeping your birds healthy can be easy as long as you take the proper precautions to prevent the introduction of contaminants into their home. Check out this resource for more information, and let us know if you have any questions!