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Love or Forget It? Chicken Coop Edition

Updated: Mar 16

We built our chicken coop in 2019. It's now 2023 and we've made some renovations. I've learned what I love and hate in a chicken coop and I'm going to share with you what those are.

Forget It:

Droppings Board/Litter Trays

We started with 8 chickens. My coop didn't take much time to clean, but every day or every other, I would go and shovel out the poop from the droppings board. This worked until we got 8 more chickens... and then another 10 chickens. We ended up taking the litter trays down because it was too much work to keep up with, especially when we went on vacation. We put up normal ladder-style roosts and tried the deep litter method (we haven't gone back).

chickens roosting on roosting bars, chicken coop

Water in the Coop:

Please keep your water outside! I had it inside and even though we painted our floors, the water still would spill from time to time and the flooring was ruined. We even put a bowl down for water to collect in to avoid spills. It helped until we found the OverEz waterer. Keep food AND water outside.

chickens drinking water, chicken coop

Shavings in the Nesting Box:

For the first four years of us having a chicken coop, I would put pine shavings in the nesting boxes. Whenever I would clean the coop, there were so many icky, leftover pine shavings from a bird pooping in the nesting box or an egg breaking. I now use nesting box pads. They are amazing! The chickens still fluff them but everything stays so much more clean. If one gets very messy, I take it out and shake it off or replace it. It's that simple. This also cuts down on the amount of dust we have as well.

Pine Shavings:

I have never used straw in my chicken coop, although I know a lot of chicken keepers use straw and love it. I have always used pine shavings, but have never loved them. I decided to make the switch to hemp and it's been the best switch to date. Hemp is way less dusty than pine shavings for one. Second, it absorbs more and quicker. My chickens would get old feathers and shavings stuck to their feet because their poop wouldn't get soaked up by the pine shavings that quickly. Hemp makes the coop feel cleaner and I'm so thankful we switched!


Deep Litter Method:

With so many chickens and cold winters here in North Idaho, the deep litter method has served us well. When I started to smell the ammonia smell, I put more bedding on top. I can then mix that in with my pitchfork or let the chickens do it naturally as they scratch. The more the droppings get mixed, with good ventilation, the droppings dry out, the bedding decomposes, and you get black gold! The deep litter method is a compost in your chicken coop. When we do a full coop clean, I dump all the old bedding in their run to get something new on the ground. In the cold winters, the deep litter method can help keep the coop just a little bit warmer taking the edge off of the chickens. The deep litter method also is less work for me. I only empty my coop once or twice a year. All I do whenever I go into the coop is flip the droppings from the night before or two nights before and let it be.


We have electricity in our coop. It's been great having electricity in our coop. One reason we have electricity is so that we can provide supplemental light in the wintertime. This allows the chickens to continue laying through winter and we get the benefit of having fresh eggs even when it's cold outside. Another reason we have electricity is because we have cold winters in North Idaho. We can even see some negative temperatures. For the chicken water to not freeze, we felt it was best to have electricity to plug in the chicken water heater.

Hemp bedding!! This stuff is truly amazing. It absorbs up to 4X its weight which I have seen first hand compared to pine shavings. It also is biodegradable. Throw it out into your garden once its life in the chicken coop is done. I usually put it in my chicken run for something new for the chickens to peck and scratch at. It also helps for there to be less mud in the coop in the winter if put in the run. I think it helps keep the ammonia smell down as well.

These are amazing. No dust. If a naughty chicken poops in the nesting box I take the whole pad out and shake the poop off. They are so easy to clean. The chickens haven't minded them and they can fluff the material better than pine shavings!

fresh chicken eggs in the nest box, chicken nesting pads, chicken coop


Water Nipples:

I love water nipples because they keep the water inside the container CLEAN. This makes less work for me and we can go days without needing to fill the container. But I don't feel like the chickens love them as much as drinking water naturally. I love my OverEz Chicken Waterer. The nipples do not leak and the chickens know how to use them. There are more pros than cons with water nipples. I do have a large watering system that allows them to drink water naturally from a pool of water. We use the Little Giant watering system for this. We only use this when our outside sprinkler water is on. For the winter, we fill a huge 55-gallon barrel with water and put a submergible heater in the container. The nipples don't freeze and there is no icy mess surrounding the waterer. This limits how many times we have to fill during the winter since we don't have a frost-free spigot.

So there you have it. A few things I say forget it too, things I love, and things I'm neutral about. I hope this helps your chicken coop endeavors and all the choices you have to make when it comes to having your chickens to care for.

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