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Washing a Chicken Coop - What Products Are Safe to Use?
March 22, 2012
10:39 am
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Leah's Mom
Northern Indiana
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I am in the process of preparing a coop from a building that was originally used as a garden shed.  

I have completely “shop-vacuumed” the shed and I’m ready to wash the walls and floor.  In addition to the normal dirt, there were various animal droppings inside so I want to be sure it is washed down well before introducing my little flock.

 My question is:

What product do you recommend to put in the wash-water for cleaning?

I’m concerned about the residue that remains on the wood as well as fumes.  No mater how well you rinse, there will be some left-over and I want to be sure it is not toxic/harmful to the animals.

I’ve read to wash down with a regular detergent (like dishwashing detergent), rinse, then wipe down with a weak bleach/water solution.

Any input is appreciated

happy-flower

March 22, 2012
11:08 am
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JulianaO
Nashville, TN
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Leah's Mom

I don't have chickens but I do have two birds (a Cockatoo and a Love Bird).  I use either vinegar and HOT HOT water - or - Simple Green/water to clean their cages.  Both methods are non-toxic for all of us.  I have used a water/bleach solution (weak bleach) but I think with a wooden coop the bleach may still be a problem.

Best of luck.snuggle

 

Juliana

March 22, 2012
12:28 pm
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BuckeyeGirl
N.E. Ohio
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If there's plenty of time to dry out and air out, I use a bleach solution...  and a fairly strong one, rinsing if possible, not worrying much if it isn't.

The chlorine in bleach which is the active ingredient, evaporates well in time, but time is the question.  As long as there is time for it to dry and air out that's what I'd use.

Located in N.E. Ohio

March 22, 2012
1:24 pm
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Leah's Mom
Northern Indiana
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Thanks to both of you - and welcome to Juliana!

March 22, 2012
1:27 pm
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Leah's Mom
Northern Indiana
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Someone sent me a note to say they use this instead of bleach so I thought I'd include it here:

__________________________________ 

"I remember reading on this forum to use vinegar and peroxide to sanatize. 

NOTE: Do not mix these 2 in the same container.

Put one in a spray bottle and then the other in a separate spray bottle.

Spray one and then the other (doesn't matter which order). Then rinse. Acts like bleach, but much better for the environment. I use this combo in the coops, feeders, waterers, etc. Works great on sanitizing cutting boards too."

March 22, 2012
2:53 pm
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Ross
Bel Air Maryland
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For chicken coops I recommend white wash made with hydrated lime and water. Paint the walls and the floor and allow it to dry. It is very antibacterial.

March 22, 2012
10:34 pm
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Leah's Mom
Northern Indiana
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Ross - that may be a good "last coat" after washing everything down.  I'll have to do a little research on that one!  Where would one find the lime if I decided to use it?

March 23, 2012
12:13 pm
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Ross
Bel Air Maryland
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My local farm supply carries it in fifty pound bags.

March 23, 2012
3:21 pm
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BuckeyeGirl
N.E. Ohio
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I know that farmers for years and years have used whitewash made from lime and water, (and sometimes with other additives) to paint on their barn walls, inside, and sometimes outside too especially if there is a rubblestone foundation, to lighten and brighten, and also to kill mites, bugs, insect eggs, lice and many other little nasties. 

I always thought that that’s all it did, but I’ve been reading up on it and it seems there is at least some antibacterial action involved too.  There is some indecision about how much of that is true depending on what you read, but there seems to be some sense to it.

Keep in mind that IT MUST BE HYDRATED LIME!!!  This is also called slake lime, builder's lime, or mason's lime, but be VERY sure it’s hydrated lime!!!!  I knew you had to mix it the night before which is somehow how slake lime becomes slaked lime… old words for an old process, but that’s a good thing too.  I’ve always heard it had milk in it too, but it seems that’s not necessary, probably not at ALL necessary, and probably has the potential to be rather smelly too!  laugh

It IS safe for animals, even if they lick it, because it’s not any chemical in it that kills bugs, it’s the action of drying things out when it ‘cures’ after you paint it up (which keep in mind takes a day or so!).  It will rub off on you and your clothes too even after it's dry, but I don't remember there being any trouble brushing it off of your clothes.

To kill insects, eggs and larvae you really should strip all bedding out of it, and clean it well first, otherwise the bugs just take refuge there.  Since the whitewash is fairly thick if you soak it overnight properly, it seals cracks and coats bugs and their progeny and suffocates them, also when it ‘cures’ it dries them up and dehydrates them.  Of course, some sawdust and straw always seems to get painted into corners, and stuck around the edges, but it’s not really the end of the world to most farmers.

Now, I’ve always thought that some of the good that is done from this may well be that all old bedding gets taken out and renewed, the white walls are bright and easier to keep clean and it’s just great to work in the “new-made” barn!  BUT!  It’s also true that as the thick, slightly pasty whitewash dries it sucks the life out of bugs and their eggs and larvae, which is a good thing. 

Fias Co Farm has as nice a write up about doing it as I’ve seen anywhere.  I’m including a link to it for everyone to read.   http://fiascofarm.com/recipes/whitewash.html

Located in N.E. Ohio

March 23, 2012
5:46 pm
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Ross
Bel Air Maryland
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The active agent in whitewash is the calcium. Slake lime is also called quick lime and will react quite voilently with water to form calcium hydroxide. Calcium hydroxide reacts with atmospheric CO2 to form calcium carbonate which is your common limestone. Adding milk would help to make it a little stickier. Milk was often used as a paint component.

March 23, 2012
9:31 pm
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Leah's Mom
Northern Indiana
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Thanks for that BG  and Ross too. 

I just read Molly's article at Fiasco...I really love her website!  Thanks for the lead.

March 24, 2012
8:32 am
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BuckeyeGirl
N.E. Ohio
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Just got to say this! ( I was the Safety NCO for almost every assignment I was at after my first, probably because I really am a mother hen and they found out I got really MEAN when one of my troops took some stupid risk )

Be SURE to pay attention to the warnings about how caustic hydrated lime is, and wear the mask and gloves while it's in powder form, and gloves and probably goggles while applying the wash.  It's very safe after it's cured, but watch your skin/eyes/lungs while doing the job.

After all this research I've done, I've decided my coop needs to be whitewashed too so I'll be scraping it down to bare plywood this summer.  It's been so dark and gloomy this past winter, I've really decided this is the answer for me, so I have a real project this summer.  The door needs some repair and the paint never really got totally done, and now this too.  It'll all be worth doing though!

Located in N.E. Ohio

March 24, 2012
10:43 am
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Leah's Mom
Northern Indiana
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Ah...isn't it interesting the inspiration you get from the forum?  Before you know it you're doing things you didn't even know you wanted to do!

whip

March 24, 2012
10:46 am
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Leah's Mom
Northern Indiana
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Oh...one more thing...

We have a lovely pressure washer BUT my husband thinks I shouldn't use it as he had read somethere that the pressure washer can force so much water into the wood that it has trouble holding paint.  I guess someone tried it for some project they were doing and tried to let it air-dry for a long time, but when they tried to paint it wouldn't hold due to too much impregnation of water in the wood.

Now my thought was that you don't use the highest pressure (duh) and adjust it to where it makes sense.

However, I'll be using the old "bucket and elbow grease" method unless I can find something convincing to the contrary  no

So...any thoughts on the pressure washer on the bare wood?  (interior)

March 24, 2012
11:04 am
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Ross
Bel Air Maryland
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Unless the wood is really funky you don't need to be real fussy about the cleaning because in the future you will just scrap the **it off the walls and slap on a new coat of whitewash. Remember it is a hen house not your kitchen.

March 27, 2012
8:52 am
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Linda Goble
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Can you paint the wall with regular paint ?   Like a kitchen an bath type ?

March 27, 2012
9:00 am
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Leah's Mom
Northern Indiana
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If we end up putting insulation in the coop with plywood over the insulation, I'm planning on painting it just to make cleaning easier.  We're not sure yet on the insulation, however.

I'm also going to put in an inexpensive vinyl flooring over the plywood floor.  The bedding will go over that (I'll do deep bedding - probably only changing once a yr.).  That way when I clean up it's easier to clean the floor since it isn't soaking into open wood.  The bedding should be deep enough that they don't see much of the vinyl!

March 27, 2012
9:25 am
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Ross
Bel Air Maryland
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Linda Goble , you can paint it with any sort of paint but you won't get the benefit of the lime in whitewash.

 

Leah'smom, When we had to scrape the year's worth of bedding and droppings from the hen house floor we had to get pretty serious with flat scrapers and square point shovels. Vinyl flooring might make it easier to clean if you can keep from tearing it. We didn't need insulation in Connecticut when we kept chickens.

March 27, 2012
9:29 am
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Leah's Mom
Northern Indiana
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Ross... I hear so many different opinions about the insulation for winter.  Some say yes, some say no.  That's why we're still trying to decide if it's worth the trouble!

March 27, 2012
11:18 am
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Ross
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If chickadees in their feathered coats can survive winter in Maine then chickens certainly can weather the cold in a hen house. If they are quite cold they tuck their heads under their wing and squat on their feet when they are roosting.

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