How to Use Lime for Chicken Coops: A Complete Guide

Agricultural lime in plastic bags for chicken coops

Learning how to use lime for chicken coops is crucial for anyone looking to maintain a healthy poultry environment. It not only enhances the coop’s cleanliness but also ensures your chickens’ well-being. 

In this guide, we’ll explore the ways lime can enhance the environment of your chicken coop. Additionally, we have included a section on how you can implement this practice effectively!

Is It Safe to Use Lime in the Chicken Coop?

Small chicken coop and fenced area

Using lime in a chicken coop can be safe, but it’s important to choose the right type and use it correctly. Hydrated lime or slaked lime is highly caustic and can harm chickens. In contrast, agricultural lime, which is crushed limestone, is safer as it helps control odors and reduces moisture.

Generally, ventilation is key when using lime in coops. While agricultural lime is safer than hydrated lime, it can still cause respiratory issues if the coop is not well-ventilated. 

Farmers should apply it in thin layers to avoid creating lime dust clouds. Regular cleaning and lime application schedules can also help maintain a balanced environment.

Furthermore, it’s crucial to monitor the chickens after applying lime. If there are any signs of distress or health issues, it’s important to stop using lime and seek advice from a veterinarian.

Benefits of Using Lime for Chickens

Garden lime spread on garden soil in chicken coop

The use of lime in chicken coops offers a variety of benefits, each contributing to a healthier and more sustainable environment for poultry. Here are some of the key benefits of using lime in chicken coops.

Odor Control

One of the primary benefits of using lime in chicken coops is its ability to control odors. Lime absorbs ammonia and moisture, which are the main causes of bad smells in chicken coops.

This results in a fresher and more pleasant environment for both the chickens and their caretakers.

During my time volunteering at a local farm for research I was conducting, I observed notable improvements in the chicken coops treated with lime. 

While I didn’t measure the pH level of the litter myself, the other caretakers informed me that applying lime typically raises the litter’s pH to 12. This helps destroy the cell membranes of pathogens. 

This not only made the environment more pleasant but also created a healthier coop for the chickens. They appeared more active and exhibited fewer signs of distress in the lime-treated coops.

Moisture Absorption

As mentioned, lime is highly effective at absorbing excess moisture. Moist environments are breeding grounds for bacteria and parasites, which can be harmful to chickens. 

By keeping the coop floor dry, lime significantly reduces the risk of diseases associated with damp conditions.

Beyond absorbing moisture, lime’s property of increasing litter pH aids in creating an environment less conducive to the growth of pathogens. 

This further ensures the health of the poultry by minimizing the risks associated with bacterial and fungal growth in damp conditions.

Pest Repellent

Lime acts as a natural deterrent for various pests, such as mites and lice, that can infest chicken coops. These pests are not only irritating to chickens but can also lead to health issues. 

Fun Fact: Aside from deterring common pests, the use of lime in poultry houses is effective in controlling serious diseases like avian influenza, Newcastle disease, and ornithosis

Soil pH Balancing

Using lime in the area around the chicken coop can help in balancing the pH level of the soil. 

Chickens require a certain soil pH to maintain their health and well-being. Lime neutralizes acidic soil, ensuring a healthier living environment for the chickens.

Moreover, while balancing soil pH, lime also decreases soluble phosphorus in the soil

This reduction in phosphorus levels helps minimize environmental impact, particularly in terms of runoff, thereby promoting a more sustainable and eco-friendly approach to poultry farming.

Different Types of Lime and Their Uses

A type of lime used for agricultural or chickens

Understanding the different types of lime and their specific applications is ideal for effective and safe use in chicken coops. Below are the various forms of lime, their unique properties, and ideal uses.

Agricultural Lime

Agricultural lime, made from crushed limestone, is the most commonly used type in chicken coops. 

It’s gentle and safe for chickens, making it ideal for regular use. It’s also excellent for controlling odors and absorbing moisture.

Hydrated Lime

Hydrated lime, also known as slaked lime, is more corrosive and should be used with caution. 

It’s highly effective for sanitizing and disinfecting the coop, but it can be dangerous if chickens are exposed directly. 

It’s best used in areas where chickens do not have direct contact.

Dolomitic Lime

Dolomitic lime is similar to agricultural lime but with added magnesium. This type is beneficial for soil health, especially in areas with magnesium-deficient soil. 

While not as commonly used in coops as agricultural lime, it’s useful for enhancing the soil quality around the coop area.

Quick Lime

Quick lime, or calcium oxide, is a fast-acting lime variant that is used for more aggressive treatments. It’s not recommended for regular coop maintenance due to its caustic nature. 

Quick lime can be used for major cleanings or disease outbreak control but requires careful handling.

How to Use Lime for Chicken Coops

Backyard chicken coop for small flock

Proper application of lime in chicken coops is essential for maximizing its benefits while ensuring the safety of the chickens. Check this step-by-step guide on how to use lime effectively and safely.

Step 1: Choose the Right Type of Lime

Start by selecting the appropriate type of lime for your chicken coop. Agricultural lime is generally the safest and most recommended option for regular use. 

It’s effective for odor control and moisture absorption without the harshness of hydrated or quick lime.

Step 2: Prepare the Coop

Before applying lime, thoroughly clean the chicken coop. Remove all bedding, droppings, and debris. This ensures that the lime can work effectively without being hindered by layers of waste.

Step 3: Apply Lime Carefully

Wear protective gloves and a mask to avoid inhaling lime dust. Sprinkle a thin layer of agricultural lime over the coop floor, focusing on areas that tend to be moist or have a strong odor. 

Avoid creating dust clouds, and ensure the lime is evenly distributed.

Step 4: Reintroduce Bedding and Chickens

Once the lime is applied, lay down fresh bedding over it. This helps to prevent direct contact between the lime and the chickens’ feet. 

After the bedding is in place, you can safely reintroduce the chickens to their coop.

Step 5: Regular Maintenance

Incorporate lime application into your regular coop maintenance routine. Reapply lime every time you clean the coop, typically once every week or two, depending on the size of your coop and the number of chickens. 

Regular application helps maintain the benefits of lime over time.

Step 6: Monitor the Chickens

After applying lime, keep an eye on your chickens for any signs of discomfort or health issues. 

If you notice any adverse reactions, consider reducing the amount of lime used or consulting a veterinarian for advice.

Precautions and Safety Measures

Ensuring safety while using lime in chicken coops is as important as the benefits it brings. Here are some key precautions and safety measures to keep in mind: 

  • Wearing protective gear: Always wear gloves and a dust mask to prevent skin irritation and lung harm from lime dust.
  • Selecting the right type of lime: Opt for agricultural lime, which is less caustic and safer for use around chickens compared to other types like hydrated or quick lime.
  • Ensuring proper ventilation: Keep the coop well-ventilated, especially immediately after applying lime, to disperse dust and reduce respiratory risks for the chickens.
  • Avoiding direct contact with chickens: Apply lime in a way that prevents direct contact with the chickens, such as covering treated areas with bedding.

By adhering to these guidelines, you can effectively use lime in your chicken coops, enhancing their environment while maintaining safety for both the chickens and their caretakers. 

Diatomaceous Earth vs. Lime for Chickens: Which Is Better?

Diatomaceous earth powder in jar 1

Determining which is better between diatomaceous earth and lime depends on the specific needs of your chicken coop and the challenges you face in maintaining it.

Diatomaceous earth is a natural pesticide, excellent for controlling parasites that harm chickens. Meanwhile, lime is used for managing environmental factors like odors and moisture. 

Diatomaceous earth stands out for its ability to effectively deal with pests such as mites and lice. It works by dehydrating these pests, making it a great choice for coops plagued by infestations. 

Its natural composition also makes it an environmentally friendly option for pest control, which is a significant advantage for those looking for sustainable solutions.

Lime, on the other hand, plays a crucial role in maintaining the overall hygiene and health of the coop. 

It excels in absorbing excess moisture and neutralizing odors, creating a more comfortable and healthy environment for the chickens. 

This aspect is particularly beneficial for preventing the growth of bacteria and parasites that thrive in damp and unclean conditions.

In terms of addressing specific needs, if the main issue in the coop is pest infestation, diatomaceous earth is the more effective option. 

However, for general upkeep and creating a healthy living space for the chickens, lime is more suitable. 

For comprehensive care, using both diatomaceous earth and lime can be an excellent strategy, as they each address different but equally important aspects of chicken coop maintenance.

Fun Fact: Did you know that adding just 2% diatomaceous earth to the diet of certain breeds of commercial egg-laying hens can lead to some remarkable benefits? 

In a study, Bovan Brown hens fed with DE not only had significantly fewer internal parasites but also laid larger eggs with more albumen and yolk compared to those on a control diet. 

Additionally, both Bovan Brown and Lowmann Brown breeds showed increased body weight and egg production when fed with DE. 

Where to Buy Lime for Chicken Coop

When buying lime for chicken coops, the first choice for many chicken owners is farm supply stores. These stores usually have a good stock of agricultural lime, and the staff can offer valuable advice on its proper use. 

They understand the local soil conditions and can recommend the right type of lime accordingly.

Another option is to look at gardening centers or home improvement stores. These places often carry a range of lime products suitable for different purposes, including use in chicken coops. 

While they may not have the specialized knowledge of farm supply stores, they offer convenience and variety.

Online retailers are a convenient alternative, especially if local options are limited. They provide a wide selection of lime products, often with detailed descriptions and customer reviews. 

This can be particularly helpful in comparing different brands and types of lime to find the best fit for your coop. Remember to check shipping costs and policies to ensure it’s a viable option for your location.

Scientific References

Bennett, D.C., et al. Effect of diatomaceous earth on parasite load, egg production, and egg quality of free-range organic laying hens Science Direct (2011)

Materechera, Simeon et al. The effectiveness of lime, chicken manure and leaf litter ash in ameliorating acidity in a soil previously under black wattle (Acacia mearnsii) plantation ResearchGate (2002)

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