One of the dirtiest jobs when it comes to keeping chickens, is cleaning out the chicken coop. Whether you keep a small amount of backyard chickens, or you have a more commercial chicken operation, cleaning the chicken coop is never fun and it is never good for your lungs.
You get dusty and smelly and there is chicken feces everywhere, not to mention all of the microscopic matter that is floating around, which you are breathing in.
I am sure that before you go out do to the dirty job, you throw on some old clothes or coveralls to protect your clothes, maybe put a hat on to keep your hair or head clean and put on those trusty rubber coop boots.
But what are you wearing to protect your lungs and respiratory system? Disposable face masks or a dust mask? Perhaps no respiratory protection at all?
It is common practice to protect the areas you see often from dirt and dust and whatever else is flying around while shoveling or spraying a coop out, but it is so important to make sure you protect your health as well.
Dust particles and droplet particles in the chicken coop are carrying a lot more on them than you realize.
The Research On Airborne Chicken Coop Particles
Before I did my own research and started using the proper mask for cleaning a chicken coop, I would just hold my breath when I was in there shoveling and would breathe when I brought the piles to the composter.
Sound familiar at all? Well tell me, does this sound familiar as well: a sore or tickly throat afterwards or into the evening, maybe some coughing and sniffling? Same.
So I decided to do my own research into what exactly I was breathing in to my respiratory system when cleaning out my coop.
I am here to share that research with you today, and to share the masks that I found to be best for cleaning a coop out in terms of:
- Respiratory safety
- Comfort level
- Multi-purpose (I wanted a mask that would work elsewhere for us to get the best bang for our buck)
- Adjustable so both my husband and I can share the mask for a variety of jobs
- One that was either returnable or had a warranty
Here are the findings.
What You Are Breathing In When Cleaning A Chicken Coop
That dust that is flying in the air while you are cleaning is called poultry dust.
This dust is comprised of:
- Chicken droppings (aka chicken poop/fecal matter)
- Dander or dead skin
- Wood shavings or bedding particles from whatever chicken coop bedding material you use
- Dust mites or red mites (alive or dead)
- Dirt from chickens dust bathing and shaking off
- Fungi or mold
- Ammonia (levels vary depending on chicken coop size)
Why Poultry Dust Is Dangerous To Breathe In
Whether you have all of the chicken coop doors open during the time of cleaning, (even if you have automatic chicken coop door openers), dust and microscopic particles are still floating around during the coop cleaning.
According to The Quick Guide To Poultry Dust by The Health And Safety Executive (The HSE) from the Government of the UK, there is a risk of respiratory disease for people working in this type of agricultural setting:
Respiratory disease (a disease affecting our lungs and breathing tubes) is a major occupational health risk for people working in agriculture. The number of occupational asthma cases is double the national average. Studies have shown that poultry workers exposure to poultry dust can be substantial.
Workers with occupational respiratory disease may develop permanent breathing problems, becoming disabled, and unable to work. This not only affects individual workers, but has wider cost implications for employers and the poultry industry as a whole.
The HSE goes on to describe different respiratory problems that can occur, when there is risk of this happening (laying down chicken coop bedding, catching the chickens, etc), and how to prevent this.
This Dust Is Also Dangerous For Your Eyes
The eyes are very sensitive and infections can easily find their way in.
The the microscopic size of the dust particles mixed with dried feces and other things in the coop and that float around the air during a cleaning, you may have come to this article thinking of finding purely lung and respiratory protection, but you do not want to get an eye infection from this stuff either.
Ammonia In A Chicken Coop
There is also the build up of ammonia to consider; this may not be something to worry about with a small, backyard chicken coop, but if you are working on a commercial chicken farm that keeps chickens in a large, enclosed building, you may want to learn more about ammonia and chicken coops below.
According to the NASD regarding ammonia in a chicken coop:
Ammonia is considered an irritant and readily impacts the eyes and respiratory tract. Ammonia can increase the susceptibility of the respiratory system to airborne pathogens. This is due to impaired mucus flow and ciliary action in the upper respiratory tract which is the first-line of disease defense in humans and poultry.
Recent research has shown that ammonia levels can easily exceed OSHA and ACGIH recommended levels. The recommended level for short-term exposure (15 minutes) is no greater that 35 ppm.
How To Prevent Respiratory Issues From Poultry Dust
According the HSE again, to prevent agricultural-related respiratory problems, you should "[...] wear the correct Respiratory Protective Equipment (RPE) for the job (eg dust masks; air-fed hoods, visors, helmets etc)".
We did a lot of research on the best respiratory equipment and dust masks for cleaning any chicken coop and chicken manure/chicken dust, both in a backyard setting and in a commercial setting.
We found an easy to wear respirator where one size fits all, it seals around the face and has the proper filters for this type of protection for each job. We have an option for both backyard chicken coops (in a full face or half face size) and an option for commercial chicken farmers that gives the added protection from ammonia fumes.
Not only do we wear our mask we are recommending for out chicken coop, but we also wear it for cleaning around the house when necessary.
We use our mask with cleaning chemicals, when we mix cement (happens around here more than you would think somehow haha), my husband wears it to protect his lungs from the honey bee treatment he does in the fall and he also finds it quite useful in the garage.
This is also a great mask to protect yourself from painting fumes.
This is a great, multi-purpose/multi functional mask, and we are going to share our research and why we use it around our backyard farm.
(Do you like this picture (above) of me in my mask with our sweet girl, angel? I laugh every time I see this one!)
The Best Mask For Cleaning A Chicken Coop
When looking for a good dust mask or respirator for cleaning your chicken coop, you are going to need one that:
- Fits you perfectly (adjustable options are best)
- Seals around your face
- Has an N95 or equivalent rating
- Has the proper filters (for dust, bacteria, ammonia fumes, chicken poop and other airborne particles)
- Comes with full face options for eye protection or half face options
- Is easy to return or has a warranty (this tells you it is a good company in my opinion)
The Best Respirator Mask For Agricultural Use
The respirator we wear to clean our chicken coop (as well as use for other agricultural purposes around here) is the PD 100 and 101.
This mask is a full face respirator, but I also have the half face respirator as well, the T-61. I typically opt for the full face respirator though, especially if it is just super dry out where the dust is really going to be flying around.
The full face mask protects my eyes; I wouldn't want that chicken coop dust to get in my lungs or my eyes.
There are also water droplets that fly around when I pressure wash the coop for a really good cleaning.
I personally find that the full face option is the best for this situation, but if you are only looking for nasal and respiratory protection the half face will do that job for you.
Best Respirator For Coops | FEATURES
1. Anti-Fog And Impact Resistant Lens (full face model only)
The full face respirator mask is anti fogging and is impact resistant. The impact resistance was never a factor for me in choosing this mask to clean out my chicken coop, however, the anti-fog aspect is good to have.
I really like to give the chicken coop a good cleaning with the high pressure hose in the summer and it is so great having a lens that doesn't fog up while doing this, plus it keeps that spray-back out of my eyes when it splashes off the walls.
2. Adjustable Head Straps (both models)
These masks (both the full face and the half face models) have adjustable rubber straps that you can tighten around your face in several different places.
The full face respirator has a 5 point adjustable strap system and the half face has 4 adjustable straps to allow for a perfect, sealed fit around the face. It is good to note that these masks are silicone-based around the nasal area, so they are as comfortable as a mask can be.
When wearing these masks, I tighten them with the adjustable straps (just tug on them with one hand and they automatically cinch up so they are super easy to tighten) and I put my hands over the filters to see if air can get in anywhere.
If there is no air coming in when your hands cover the filters, it is a good seal.
The seal is always perfect after years of use.
My husband also wears these masks for his own projects in the garage and around the yard, and does the same thing: adjusts them to his head size (which is much bigger than mine) and they both seal really well for him as well.
So these will fit and work for any adult in the family.
3. Respirator Mask Filtration
This is the most important part of the respirator or mask you are choosing.
A quality respirator mask for agricultural use will have an N95 or N95 equivalent rating which means that it will block 95% of small particles. A small particle means somewhere around the size of 0.3 microns.
To put this into perspective, the cross-section of an average human hair is between 50-75 microns, and a human red blood cell is 5 microns. So 0.3 microns is microscopic protection for your lungs from the proper chicken coop mask.
4. 1 Year Warranty + 30 Day Return Policy + FREE Shipping
To make sure you get the proper mask for your chicken coops and not a knock off version (as there are some out there), I recommend purchasing it directly from the company, especially since it comes with a 1-year factory warranty, so you can return it easily. They also offer free 30 day returns.
They also offer fast, free shipping, which is always nice.
5. Practical For Other Farm/Agricultural Use
This is a great multi-purpose mask with which most farm projects can be done using the filters that come with the PD-101 respirator (P-A-3 filters). This mask and filter combo provides excellent particulate filtration while filtering out hazardous chemicals. You can read the full (long) list of everything these filters protect you from on the company website right here under "chemicals filtered".
The P-A-3 Organic Vapor and Particulate Filter that comes with the PD-101 Respirator is a well rounded filter that protects against pesticides, animal feces, and particulates down to .3 microns.
I also mentioned above that my husband uses this mask to protect him from the bee treatments we do each fall for our backyard hives. We are super happy to have these masks around.
How To Properly Store Filters
When you are not using the mask, it is easy to take the filters off and keep them in a Ziplock bag, or this company has special storage bags specifically made for your mask and gear.
Storing your gear in a bag will ensure they stay good for a long time, and you can always order more filters for your mask directly from the company (if you end up purchasing this mask, be sure to bookmark this page so you know where to get your filters from when it is time to get new ones).
If purchasing a mask, it is really good to know that their filters were actually engineered with the intent of providing users with ease and convenience when changing them out.
SUMMARY: Best Mask For Coops
The Best Mask For Backyard Chicken Coops
In sum, the best respirator mask for any backyard chicken coop will be the PD-101 full face or the T-61 half face mask due to their N95 equivalent ratings, the filters on them, the adjustability of the masks with the easy one-pull harness system and for the 1 year warranty you get when you order directly from that company.
Either of these masks will properly filter your airborne fecal particulate matter, dust, bacteria and everything else that you may encounter as chicken keeper who will come into direct contact with these microscopic floating dust particles.
The only difference is the included eye protection you get with a full face mask in the PD-101.
These are the best mask options for backyard chicken keepers.
Best Mask For Commercial Chicken Coops
If you are working in a more commercial setting where you have a large barn or enclosed space where the chickens are, we have a different mask recommendation for you.
In these commercial agricultural buildings, there will be a higher ppm of ammonia from the chickens, so we are recommending the ST-100X full-face respirator with N-B-1-A 40mm filters.
This mask is specifically made to filter ammonia/methylamine and will still filter all the airborne particulate matter that come from the chickens as well. It just has that added layer of protection for the ammonia fumes.
The N-B-1-A features a lightweight design with low breathing resistance to maximize comfort while using over long periods of time. The filters are CE 2834 certified and have a 5-year shelf life.
This mask may be a bit overboard for a small backyard coop unless you have a very big flock in an enclosed building where ammonia can build, but no matter what, you are going to want to wear a mask when cleaning your chicken coop, regardless of its size.
It is just a matter of finding the proper protection for the coop that you are cleaning.
Protection When Cleaning A Coop | Wear The Proper Respirator
So, next time you are cleaning a chicken coop, put on your dirty clothes or coveralls, a great pair of rubber boots, disposable gloves, and now for your own safety, your protective gear in the form of a high quality respirator mask that will properly give you clean, filtered air.
It is really easy to get a proper mask and wear it whenever you are doing a dirty job, or a job where you may be exposed to hazardous fumes.
In raising chickens, we know that cleaning a chicken coop is one of the dirtiest jobs out there.
Between the chicken coop dust particles (and the chicken poop/chicken poop dust itself), there are also other tiny particles and harmful airborne contaminants that cause respiratory system issues and other potential lung damage.
Here is a list of some helpful things and proper attire you may consider getting in addition to a good respirator mask for cleaning chicken coops:
- A good quality (comfortable) pair of chicken coop boots (Our absolute favorite are these chicken coop boots because they are full rubber on the outside and are insulated for super comfortable boots and warm in the colder months - I would buy these 100 times over again)
- Protective coveralls to wear overtop of your clothes
And we will also share some really inexpensive equipment to help make that job easier as well:
- An ergonomic, steel shovel
- THIS high pressure hose nozzle (I know this specific option from Amazon is very cheap but let me tell you - it is the BEST hose nozzle we have had and we have several around just for our coop cleaning!)
Cleaning A Chicken Coop Helps Prevent Problems
Flock owners know it is a dirty job, but cleaning a chicken coop results in much happier backyard chickens as well as healthier chickens. They love new, fresh bedding and new food and water.
It always makes me feel good cleaning the chicken coop out several times a year to hit that reset buttons for the flock. It also helps keep chicken dust particles down when they fly up to the roosts and down again.
Keeping a clean chicken coop also helps eliminate flies by removing chicken manure (and it also helps eliminate the potential for fly strike), it keeps mite population down as well as the potential for bumble foot and some of the other most common diseases that can be passed around in a dirty chicken coop or through direct contact to the buildup of fecal matter.
When you raise chickens, it is so important to know that a good coop cleaning can really be great in the prevention of contracting diseases.
Cleaning the chicken coop is much easier with the right tools and gear, and it is totally worth investing in your health so you are not inhaling hazardous fumes.
Compare Prices Of Chicken Coop Masks
Best Storage Bag
Here is the storage bag that will work for the proper care and storage of any of the above mentioned masks in this safety article.
We hope you found this article for the best mask for cleaning the chicken coop informative and helpful. Chicken coops can sure get dirty and between the dust and water particles that float around during the cleaning as well as the other harmful particles you don't want to breathe in, it is well worth investing in the proper protective equipment.
Especially when you can use this mask for so many other projects and you can share it with others in your family, regardless of their head size.
Here are some other chicken-related articles you may be interested in:
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