If I had to pick the most unpleasant aspect of being a chicken owner it would be the smell and the flies. But not to worry, because it doesn’t have to be a problem any longer. Flies and a bad smell are the result of the same thing, the chicken’s manure. Depending on the number of chickens, and how much space they have, there might be a large concentration of manure in a small area. So what can be done?
Let us break this up into two different areas: inside the coop, and outside the coop. The best way to deal with the problem inside the coop is to use animal bedding. If you have no idea what animal bedding is, this might be your first problem. Straw and hay just won’t cut it, the reason why is that they just aren’t that absorbent. Imagine a litter box filled with straw and you can get my drift. Now, back onto animal bedding. There are two main types: pellets and shavings. Pellets are normally made with very fine sawdust of pine or fir that is condensed into pellets that are a little larger than an eraser on a pencil. Shavings on the other hand are just that, pine or fir shavings that are like smaller sawdust. I personally prefer the pellets, because they seem to work better and last longer. The animal bedding acts like cat litter, absorbing and coating the manure. This keeps the smell down and the flies away just like we want. Straw and hay can’t do this. Remember that a bag of animal bedding only costs about $4 – $8 a bag, which should last a number of months. Just like with cat litter you can always use a dust pan or even a cat litter scoop to clean out the used portion, this should help it last longer before throwing it all in the compost.
If you have a movable coop or chicken tractor you can solve the problem easily by moving it around your yard. If you have a more permanent coop you might have a dedicated outside fenced in area called a chicken run. The chicken run is a little different than the area inside the coop because you also have to worry about good old Mother Nature. The best thing to use that I have found is Hemlock Mulch. Any smaller sized mulch will work, but Hemlock is great to work with as it is sliver free (who knew that wood could be sliver free, amazing!) What you are really wanting is something that will mix in and help break down the manure, but not too fast or too slow. Larger bulky mulch won’t mix in that well, and animal bedding will break down too fast dealing with the chickens and Mother Nature. Mulch in the run will have the added benefit of keeping your chickens out of the mud, which is good for them, and will help keep your eggs cleaner, which is good for you.