Coop Odors: How Nutrition Can Help

Sometimes your coop gets a little smelly, which can be a little embarrassing. In this post, we'll give you the scoop on coop odors and break down how you can help your hens live their best lives by reducing odors in their home.

What Causes Coop Odor?

Although chicken poop can be stinky, the most likely culprit for coop odors is the colorless gas ammonia. A combination of hydrogen and nitrogen, ammonia has a sharp, pungent smell, similar to vinegar.

Chickens that are exposed to this gas can develop permanent damage to lungs and eyes and will avoid the coop if levels are too high. Ammonia can cause damage at very low concentrations, well below the level that the human nose can detect. So, if your coop smells like ammonia, clean it immediately!

Fixing a Stinky Coop

While cleaning is the obvious first step, it only provides a short-term solution to the underlying problems causing coop odor. There are several longer-lasting measures you can take to eliminate odors and make your coop a more pleasant place for you and your birds.

Eliminate Moisture

A dry coop is home to happy, healthy hens. Moisture not only contributes to ammonia odors, but it also fosters conditions that favor parasites and bacteria. Here are some tips for keeping the moisture low in your coop:

  • Every few days, check for and replace damp bedding.
  • If you use the deep litter method, clean out the upper layers several times a year, keeping the lower layer, which contains helpful microbes that break down bedding and waste.
  • Immediately repair any roof leaks you notice.
  • Turn the litter if your chickens don’t do so on their own.
  • Add high-carbon materials that don’t pack easily, such as kiln-dried wood shavings, ground dolomitic limestone, or products containing zeolite.
  • Provide good ventilation. An air-tight coop might sound like a good idea, but air circulation helps dry out litter and prevent odors.

Choose Feed Wisely

Your choice of feed can also reduce coop odors. Odor can be caused by waste protein from undigested feed. You can combat these smells by choosing feeds with the following plant extracts and essential oils:

  • Saponins. Additives called saponins, which include yucca, reduce ammonia production in a chicken’s body. As a result, they can increase the bird’s nutrient absorption and reduce the amount of proteins your chickens excrete.
  • Phytogens. Yucca is also a phytogen, one of a number of plant-based compounds that are increasingly being used in animal feeds. Other phytogens include essential oils, herbs, and spices. These compounds work with yucca to reduce waste protein by increasing digestibility, balancing gut microflora, and reducing gut inflammation, again contributing to better use of feed.
  • Proteins. You can also choose feeds that are more easily digestible, such as processed feeds available in pellets or crumbles, rather than whole grains blends. Feeds that are lower in crude protein can also help reduce odors; however, remember that your laying hens need 16% crude protein to stay healthy.

Our stores carry Nutrena NatureWise feeds, which can make an excellent part of a feed program designed to help reduce coop odor. Just remember that if you make a change to a new feed, you'll want to switch slowly from your current feed to ease the transition and help your birds feel more comfortable with the change. If you have questions or concerns, our staff is standing by to help you out. Just call or stop by anytime!


NOTE: This post is adapted (with permission) from content proudly brought to you by our partners at Nutrena and Cargill Animal Nutrition. The original article appears here.

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