Is a poop tray worth it?

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When I was designing our first chicken coop I was fascinated by the idea of building a removeable poop tray into the final version. This is where you create a slatted floor to your henhouse and put a cleanout tray beneath it. The hens’ droppings fall through the slats and collect in a tray for removal. Another variation I’ve seen is a raised henhouse where the entire floor is removabale (or at least tippable).

As I looked into it more, I began to notice that the coops that needed built-in poop trays were the ones where the henhouse was too hard to access in the first place. The trays made cleanup not so much easier as practical at all.

But I wanted to design a coop with ample, waist-high access to the henhouse. No part of the henhouse would be beyond arm’s reach. So while the poop tray might have been an elegant solution to a problem — it was a problem that our coop wasn’t going to have.

To clean the henhouse on The Garden Coop, we simply open the large henhouse access door and brush everything out into the run area where it mixes with the straw and droppings in the run and begins composting in place. We then add some fresh straw to the henhouse. That’s it. Some people will paint the floor of the henhouse or cover it with linoleum.

You can do the same with The Garden Ark. In fact, building a poop tray into either of our designs would probably make them more of a hassle to clean, and possibly harder to secure. And really, you want to have easy access to the henhouse anyway.

Now, some people still like to slip in a board or tray on the floor beneath the roost to collect the bulk of the droppings. You can do that on our coops, but you don’t have to.

I advise friends and neighbors who are building their own coops to follow these same principles:

  • Raise the henhouse
  • Create ample (human) access to it
  • Have that access open near or into the run

If your design requires a built-in poop tray, then please, for the health and happiness of all involved, put one in. If not, then save your money and time for the added features that really make a difference.

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2 Responses to “Is a poop tray worth it?”

  1. Emily says:

    Hi –

    We have finished our Garden Coop (yay!!!) and are about to move our 8-week olds out to the coop. I’m a bit confused and unsure about what kind of litter/manure management system to use and would appreciate advice. I was thinking poop boards, but the above notes are compelling, and they may not be helpful. Next decision is whether to use shavings or sand in the hen house. Many seem to like sand, and they just rake/scoop the manure out every couple of days in a minute or less.

    If I use shavings instead, with 6 hens, how often do you think I would need to change the whole bedding in the hen house? Do you try to scoop out the poop in between changes?

    Also, what do you do on the floor of the run? Right now it is dirt/gravel combination. Would you suggest covering it all in shavings? Using sand out there as well? Or just starting with the gravel and scooping the used litter (assuming I use shavings) from the henhouse onto the floor when I change the henhouse and just let that build up? If I do that, how often do you then shovel out the entire run area?

    Thank you very much. I really appreciate the help. Cheers!

    • Emily, thanks for your question and congratulations on finishing your chicken coop!

      We use pine shavings in our henhouse and allow a deep litter to build up in the run, pretty much as you’ve described. So you can spot clean the henhouse as needed (every couple days? week?), removing only the shavings that have caught the nighttime droppings by simply brushing them down into the run area. Then we keep plenty of straw or shavings in the run to capture the daytime droppings as well. This all gets mixed in by the chickens — or we help it along every now and then with a rake or pitchfork — and it composts in place. We only need to clean it out about once or twice a year. Some advantages of deep litter are that you can use the compost in your garden, it provides some warmth in the cooler months, and it purportedly has some benefits for their health.

      I have yet to try sand, so maybe someone who has can chime in to offer you more perspective there. But make sure you check out this post (including the comment chain) from Erica at Northwest Edible Life about her sand/deep-litter hybrid setup. She’s got a Garden Coop and has tried a few different things, so you can read what has worked for her. Hope this helps.

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