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Do Chickens Smell? [What Can Chicken Keepers Expect?]

If you are considering keeping a flock of chickens, then one of your primary considerations will be whether they could smell. Is this something inherent to keeping chickens, or can odors be minimized, reduced or eliminated entirely? This may be a game-changer for you, as it were for me. Before getting these birds, I decided to spend some time researching all about them – their habits and tendencies when it comes to the subject. Below, you will be able to access the information I found.

So, do chickens smell? Chickens do have their own unique smell, just like every other animal and choice of pet. However, chickens do not smell any worse and this smell is not natutrally offensive. What can get pretty stinky are chicken coops that are not properly taken care of and cleaned. Feces, soiled bedding and rotting food are the main offenders that need to be carefully managed and regularly changed.

One time you would only see live chickens walking around in the country. Nowadays though, backyard chicken coops are becoming ever more popular.

More and more people are trying to be a bit more self-sufficient, and some people just like chickens. Though more chickens are moving to urban and suburban areas, there are some concerns by people living in the neighborhood with these birds.

Chickens are actually quite affectionate birds and become very attached to their owners. It is not out of the ordinary to see a chicken follow their owner around.

Plus the fact, they can provide delicious and nutritious eggs which are a fantastic perk of owning them.

But, their potential smell is a concern for many; especially for those with neighbors nearby or if you want to keep your backyard smelling fresh.

Let us now take a closer look at the smell of chickens, causes for offensive odors and some practicals strategies to make the coop smell better!

Are Chickens Smelly?

Chickens shouldn’t be smelly if they are properly looked after and kept in a clean environment.

Just as a pet owner has a responsibility to take care of their dog or cat, chicken owners have the same responsibility to care for their chickens.

A clean chicken, living in a clean coop, won’t be so smelly that it’s an issue. They do have a distinct smell to them, as do other animals like cats and dogs, but you wouldn’t say they stink, unless of course they were unkept.

The biggest issues with people thinking that chickens are smelly really comes from the chicken coops and misinformation.

In Urban and Suburban areas, residences are right next to each other, and if a coop is not properly cleaned on a regular basis it can emit a smell, and when your yard is right next door, chances are you’re going to smell it.

However, if a coop is maintained properly, and on a daily basis, it won’t be an issue, even if you share a fence with the owners of the chicken coop.  

Why Do My Chickens Stink?

If you are finding that your chickens stink you might first want to check to make sure that their coop is dry and clean. If the smell is coming from the chickens, and not the coop, then you should contact your local veterinarian who has experience with fowl.

In the majority of cases, the stink is from the coop however, so you don’t have to worry.

The coop should be cleaned from food and water on a daily basis, clean droppings and replace bedding once a week and you should do a deep clean twice a year.

If you maintain a cleaning schedule like this then you shouldn’t have to worry about your chickens, or the coop, stinking and your neighbours complaining.

My uncle kept racing pigeons, and it was the same with them as with the chickens. You couldn’t smell anything unless you actually went inside the coop and what you could smell was the wood shavings that he used for bedding.

Stink will build up if food is allowed to rot and chicken droppings aren’t picked up regularly. Chicken droppings make a really good compost for your garden, and even some farmers use in on their crops instead of other manure.  

How Do I Stop My Chickens from Smelling?

The number one factor to keeping chickens from smelling is to ensure that your coop is clean and dry.

Water and dampness can cause a lot of problems for the coop and the chickens. It is completely vital that the chickens have dry bedding and it should be changed once a week, or more often if it gets wet.

Another factor that could cause a coop to stink is leftover food that has started to rot. The leftover food and water should be removed on a daily basis to prevent food rot and from attracting other animals, like rats and rodents.

The food has nothing to do with the chickens though. You wouldn’t want rotting food in your house, so it’s the same with the chickens because of course it will smell.

Ensuring that chicken droppings are removed at least once a week will also help keep the smell of your chickens down.

In fact, by not cleaning out their coops regularly, it’s a form of abuse and you could lose your chickens, or worse, face a fine or jail time, depending on where in the world you live.

If you find that moisture, or rain, is getting into the coop on a regular basis, you may need to do some major repairs to prevent the water from coming in contact with the chickens’ bedding.

The dampness is bad for the coops as it will lead to rot and mold, which not only smell, but are also very unhealthy for your chickens.

How Can I Make My Chickens Smell Better?

Having a clean, dry living quarters will help keep any stench away.

In addition to keeping the coop clean and dry, mixing herbs and other nice smelling items, such as rose petals, in the bedding can help prolong a stink from coming on.

Chickens are a big commitment, you need to not only do daily cleaning, but you also have to do weekly cleaning as well. If you notice that your coop is starting to stink, you may need to clean more frequently.

In areas that have hotter temperatures, more humidity, and lots of rain, you will find that you may need to clean more often.

Keeping any moisture, rotten food, and droppings out will dramatically decrease the chances of your chickens smelling.

We smell better when we shower and put on clean clothes, it is really no different for the chickens, except their clothes is their bedding.

If you notice that one of your chickens is sick, or they are smelling worse than they should, remove them from the coop to prevent others from getting sick.

Contact your veterinarian and they may be able to help you understand what wrong and what actions is needed to be carried out.

Another thing to do is to have fans in the coop that help circulate the air so that there is always fresh air passing through, keeping stale, stinky air out.

In Summary

Chickens are not just good for eating; they make great pets and are able to provide sustenance for families. Some people are against backyard chicken coops in urban and suburban areas as they are under the belief that they are dirty and smelly.

In actuality, chickens don’t smell any worse than any other household pet. Yes, the chicken coops can smell, if not looked after properly. But the same can be said about kitty litter boxes.

I think the biggest difference is that litter boxes are in someone’s house, away from public, and chicken coops are out in the open.

The same laws that protect family pets from abuse and mistreatment extend to chickens as well. If someone is not providing the best environment for their chickens, they are at risk of losing them, just as someone who mistreated their dog would.

Daily cleaning and elimination of leftover food and water is extremely important. Chickens’ bedding should be replaced with fresh, dry bedding on a weekly basis, if not sooner.

Moisture seems to be the biggest nemesis of chicken coops. Keeping them clean can go a long way in ensuring that they do not stink.

If by chance you notice that it is in fact your chicken, and not the coop, that is smelling worse than normal, contact your local veterinarian.

Make sure that the vet is experienced with fowl or farm animals, so that there is a better chance that they will know what is wrong.

To help keep the stench down herbs and flower petals can be added to the dry bedding. However, it is still important to ensure that you are getting rid of the left over food and keeping the bedding dry.

I also believe that educating people is an important step as well. Many neighbourhoods are against backyard chicken coops based on misinformation.

Sure, the coop can smell if not kept up, and in those cases the owners should absolutely be held accountable.

Most chicken owners love their chickens and only want what is best for them. Several people have chickens that they rescued from a slaughterhouse, and they want to provide them with the best possible life they can.

Just like with any pet owner, you are bound to come across people who are not particularly good at owning chickens.

Whether that is intentional or not, it is going to happen. Perhaps with the chicken coop being outside, neighbors will start to notice if there appears to be a problem and will help the chickens, and owners if needed.

Related Questions

What do you do with chicken poop? Chicken keepers generally use bedding designed for used in chicken coops. Bedding is often made of materials like wood shaving, sawdust, saw or hemp. This provides comfort for the chickens, collects waste and enables odor to be minimized. Coop or run bedding can then be collected and removed, and either composted or disposed of manually.

Do chickens have the sense of smell? Chickens are able to smell, and it is believed that they can smell as well as humans. This enables them to smell out food and has proved a survival advantage for these birds.