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Are Chickens Really That Messy?

One thing that people worry about when they’re thinking about getting chickens is that they’ll make a big mess in the garden, yard or area they’re thinking of keeping them in. But are chickens really that messy and what do they do to make a mess?

Chickens can be quite messy due to their natural behaviors like scratching, dust bathing, and regular defecation. They scatter feed and bedding material, which requires regular cleaning. However, the mess can be managed with proper coop design, regular maintenance, and establishing a routine cleaning schedule to keep their living area tidy and hygienic.

They also poo whenever and wherever they want and generally the poo they produce is much larger than anything you’d see from a garden bird and much messier. The richer their diet, the more they will poo.

I’m not trying to put anyone off keeping chickens, it’s just something which potential chicken owners should be aware of and can prepare for beforehand. The mess chickens make is not all bad and there are ways to control the mess and depending on your circumstances and how much space you have.

If a chicken has plenty of space to roam the mess is much more minimal, especially if you have a large grassy area there will be little impact to the land when compared to a small garden or yard.

Read on to find out more about messy chickens and things you can do to reduce the mess they make along with some tips on how to keep them out of certain areas and how to clean up after them.

Why do chickens make a mess?

Chickens really don’t mean to be messy, it’s just built into them to constantly forage for tasty morsels which they can unearth with their feet such as bugs, worms and seeds and pretty much anything they can find which looks like food.

If you’ve ever watched a chicken scratching, then you’ll know they work at that land like a machine and they don’t care what they take out at the same time. So if you have delicate low lying plants and flowers it’s inevitable they’ll get caught up in the path of the scratching chicken at some point.

They’re also good at kicking soil out of flower beds and on to places you don’t want it such as garden paths and grass lawns.

Another thing chickens love to do is to have a dust or soil bath and they usually like to choose an area where the soil is quite dry so it can get under the feathers and clean the skin. To do this they dig dips which they can lie in and flap around to cover themselves in soil. They love to do this as a group on a sunny day, so the whole thing can get pretty messy!

Our chickens dug up most of a flower bed doing this, but we didn’t mind too much because it was our fault for letting them in and also they looked too happy to be moved on.

Image of chickens in a flower bed

Do chickens make a mess in the coop?

In short, yes they will make a mess in the coop because they spend all night there and during that time there will be some poo, this will become more of a problem in winter when the nights are longer.

The good news is they usually roost on bars so most of it will end up on the floor and can be easily scraped out with a spade or rake. Covering the floor with sawdust can also help to keep things more hygienic and keep their feet cleaner.

Sometimes chickens do like to use the nest boxes as a toilet, so to avoid them sitting in their own muck and getting messy eggs, remove the top layer of straw and replace with fresh on a regular basis.

Dealing with a messy chicken run

You will also find that any floor covering in a run will quickly become a sea of mud as they scratch away any grass or plant life which may have been growing there.

This will become more of a problem during the winter months when the ground is particularly wet. You might want to consider covering the ground when it’s at it’s muddiest, some ideas on how to do this are:

  • Sawdust/wood shavings – this helps to cover the mud while still being able to scratch for food.
  • Straw or hay makes a good ground covering which the chickens can scratch in without getting too muddy.
  • Woodchippings – but not bark as this can contain fungus which is harmful to chickens.
  • Shingle or fine gravel

Another option if you have space is to regularly move the run onto fresh land or grass to let the other space recover.

Reducing chicken mess in a small yard or garden

With chicken keeping becoming more popular in urban areas owners are having to become more inventive with outside space. Although chickens do like space to roam and forage, it is possible to keep them in a small area.

If you have a pristine small garden or yard and are planning to let chickens lose then be prepared for a degree of mess. Chickens can quickly transform a small area into something altogether different if left to their own devices.

In this case, it’s best to be prepared by fencing off any areas with chicken wire fences where you don’t want them to go.

Make sure they can’t get through to a neighbours garden because you might not be very popular if they do! When some of our chickens were young, they spent all day trying to get into a neighbours garden even though they had plenty of space to graze. They will always try and go where you don’t want them to go.

Keep in mind that although chickens can’t fly well, they can fly a bit and can jump fairly high, so they will get into areas with low fences if they really want to.

This article was first published on October 5, 2020 by Pentagon-Pets.

The best way to clean up chicken mess

The key to keeping mess to a minimum when keeping chickens in a small space is to regularly clean up after them to keep on top of things.

Chicken poo on yards and patios can easily be brushed away using a hosepipe and a stiff brush. Take care to keep it away from areas where you sit or children play because it contains bacteria which can make you ill.

Removing chicken poo from grass can be a little tricker, but it can be rinsed away with a hosepipe or removed when mowing the grass with a mower which collects.

A good way to make use of chicken manure and used straw is by putting it on a compost heap. Chicken manure is nitrogen-rich and can be great as manure for growing plants and flowers in your garden.

It’s important to note that chicken manure which hasn’t had a chance to mellow in the compost heap can be too strong for more delicate plants and can actually scorch them in its pure form.

Do chickens make a mess in a large garden

This really depends on how many chickens you have, but for a small flock which is less than ten, if you have a large garden or some land which chickens can graze on, the mess will be minimal.

You may still want to keep your chickens away from certain areas such as outdoor tables and chairs where you eat and flower beds containing any delicate plants which could easily be scratched up.

Find out more about keeping chickens

I hope this post hasn’t put you off keeping chickens! They’re so rewarding to keep the mess becomes easy to deal with once you get used to it. It’s just important to know what to expect before you get chickens so that you know exactly what you’re up against.

You might also find the following post if you’re thinking about becoming a chicken owner:

Our recommended coop

Chicken coop for different flock sizes and different weather.

Pentagon Pet is the owner of this article that was first published on October 5, 2020.

Click here to find out more about our recommended coop.

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This article and its contents are owned by Pentagon Pets and was first published on October 5, 2020.

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