we’ve all been there. You spend an afternoon cleaning the chicken coop, and by the time you go inside for the night, you’re coughing, hacking, and overcrowded.
All this chicken coop dust is making you sick, isn’t it?
Chicken coop dust, also known as poultry dust, is a mixture of bedding material, chicken droppings, bird feed and other components that are naturally found in your chicken’s habitat area. Although it is difficult to avoid, chicken coop dust can have major health consequences if you are not careful.
Because of this, it is important to protect yourself when you are cleaning your chicken coop or working with poultry in any capacity.
Here’s what you need to know.
- 1 What Causes Chicken Coop Dust?
- 2 Is chicken coop dust harmful?
- 3 How to Limit Chicken Coop Dust
- 4 Could Your Chicken Coop Make You Sick?
What Causes Chicken Coop Dust?
Chicken coop dust or poultry dust is a combination of feathers, dander (dead skin), bedding material, bird droppings, spilled feed, dust mites, and other microorganisms and endotoxins such as bacteria and fungi.
No chicken coop is truly free of poultry dust as it can be found in coops made of all kinds of materials and bedding with almost anything, including wood shavings, sand and straw.
Poultry dust is present in all settings in which chickens are raised. However, some activities do generate dust or cause a little more movement.
Some copies contain more dust (or more harmful dust) than others. This depends on the age or production type of the hens (young chickens generate more dust, which is why you may notice that your brooder box is dustier than your actual coop), the type of housing and the work you are doing. are.
Some activities also generate more dust. This includes:
- manure removal and removal
- chicken coop final cleaning
- catching chickens
- Keeping young birds or chicks in the chicken coop
- bedding (especially if done by hand)
Other activities, such as sweeping, using air blowers, vaccinating birds, or using mechanical equipment inside your chicken coop can also blow away more dust.
Is chicken coop dust harmful?
The good news about chicken coop dust is that, for the most part, you’re unlikely to inhale enough of it to cause major respiratory problems. Poultry dust is most problematic for workers in commercial poultry homes and less likely to cause problems for backyard flock owners.
That said, it can still cause significant health problems such as:
- difficulty breathing
- cough production
- chest tightness
- itchy watery eyes
- Sore throat
- runny nose or sneezing
- flu-like symptoms
There are other factors at play when it comes to your health and that of the chicken coop.
For example, the chicken coop also contains ammonia.
You really can’t get around it. However, it is found in higher concentrations in the winter months, when ventilation is poor.
An airborne irritant, it can affect your respiratory tract and your eyes.
There are other risks presented by chicken coop dust, although these are less common. The dust in your coop can harbor endotoxins or bacteria. Depending on what type of bacteria they are, they can seriously affect your health.
Histoplasmosis is another rare disease that can be spread through poultry dust. It is an infectious disease caused by a fungus called Histoplasma capsulatum.
Most commonly, histoplasmosis affects the lungs. However, it can also affect other parts of the body, such as your adrenal glands, skin, liver, eyes, or central nervous system.
It is more dangerous for people with weakened immune systems. The disease is more common in areas with moist environments, moderate temperatures, and rich soil.
It is spread by droppings of chicken as well as other flying animals (including bats, pigeons and starlings). However, it does not affect the birds due to their high body temperature.
It produces tiny spores that can be ingested and cause symptoms that are severe and similar to tuberculosis in nature.
How to Limit Chicken Coop Dust
Here are some tips on how to limit the amount of poultry dust produced inside your chicken coop. It can also help you limit its impact on your overall health and wellbeing.
1. Routine Cleaning
Here’s the deal – chicken coop dust isn’t just bad for you. It is also harmful to your chickens. Therefore, regular cleaning is necessary to keep everyone healthy. This can help improve air quality, which is affected by increased poultry dust and ammonia levels.
How often you should clean your coop will depend on several factors. For example, consider the size and style of your coop, how many chickens you have, and how long they stay in the coop each day.
Weekly cleaning and replacement with fresh bedding is a good idea.
You should also do a thorough deep cleaning a few times per year (even if you’re using the bedding deep litter method). Wear gloves and a mask when scraping bedding, and don’t forget the nesting box, too.
2. Choose the Right Bedding
Some types of bedding are better than others when it comes to the chicken coop and your respiratory health.
Wood dust is the most harmful.
Softwood shavings (such as those from yew, cedar and pine) and dust have been linked to occupational asthma, rhinitis, and skin problems.
If you use wood shavings, stick to ones that are large or flaky. Pine is a good choice but avoid cedar as its smell can be toxic to chickens. Hemp bedding is another unique option that is becoming more popular day by day, although it is expensive.
3. Improve ventilation
As you might expect, improving the ventilation in your chicken coop is a good way to reduce the amount of dust floating around.
Ventilation can also improve the incidence of other health problems, including frostbite, in winter. Make sure your coop is adequately ventilated with windows that can be opened or even add barn fans if necessary.
While you don’t necessarily want your coop to be drafty, good ventilation will help clear that dust (and make it a lot less smelly there, too!).
4. Keep the Appropriate Flock Size
Don’t crowd your coop.
A large population of flocks is not only going to produce more dust and more ammonia in the short term, but it is also going to increase the chance that your chickens will suffer from respiratory problems as a result.
Keep coop populations at a reasonable level, ideally allowing about 2-3 square feet per chicken inside the chicken coop (but the more space you allow, the better).
5. Use a Respirator or Mask
Since most of the negative health effects resulting from chicken coop dust will be related to your respiratory tract, you may find some protection in wearing a respirator or mask.
Your lungs can clear some dust from coughing and sneezing but ultimately, if the chicken coop dust is heavy, they may not be ready for work.
Wearing a mask will prevent some of those dust mites from getting into your lungs and can reduce the chances of health effects.
It’s also not a bad idea to wear other types of protective clothing and equipment when cleaning your coop or working with your chickens. Long sleeves and gloves especially can reduce your risk of coming into contact with any bacteria or fungi in the chicken coop dust.
6. Try Chicken Tractor or Free Range
In some cases, ditching the chicken coop entirely may be a better option.
Instead of keeping your chickens locked inside the coop all day, try freeing them so they can stretch their legs. They will spend less time in the coop and create less dust. That means less cleaning for you, even if you need to lock them back in at night.
Another option is to try raising your own chickens in chicken tractors. These can be moved every single day so that the amount of dust generated is practically non-existent. True, it may not be the best option in winter time if you have heavy snow load.
However, chicken tractors work wonders in reducing poultry dust in the summer, fall and spring months.
Could Your Chicken Coop Make You Sick?
Hopefully, this article didn’t scare you into raising chickens!
While you can get sick from chicken coop dust, your chances of getting sick when working with some backyard chickens are fairly low. More often than not, respiratory problems are experienced by workers in commercial chicken houses — not backyard chicken keepers.
That said, you can still get sick from a chicken coop, so it’s important to take the steps listed above to make sure you — and your flock — stay healthy at all times.
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