If you’re raising lots of chickens in a somewhat cramped space, you may need to occasionally clean out the area. While the issue of chicken dust isn’t commonly associated with breathing issues, exposure over long periods of time can absolutely be harmful to your respiratory system. It not only stinks, but it can cause symptoms that mimic asthma if precautions aren’t taken. You could also be exposed to rabies and a myriad of fungal infections.
(Quick List) Dust Mask For Cleaning Chicken Coops
Best Dust Mask For Cleaning Chicken Coops
Luckily, there are quite a few products on the market that can help mitigate this issue. Your cleaning process may change according to the farming setup you have. A dust mask might not be as important for free-rage farmers, but they’re still an important safety tool for every chicken farmer to have on hand.
Below you’ll find what I’ve found to be the 5 best dust masks for cleaning out chicken coops, as well as where you can pick one up for yourself.
1. Protect Life Disposable Dust Mask
The Honeywell Nuisance Disposable Dust Mask offers some protection from dust that may contain fungus spores that can be found in chicken coops.
The mask features an adjustable strap and a contoured fit which is important for blocking out contaminated particles. Some respirators effectively act as a blanket on your face, which can cause a buildup of heat. This can become uncomfortable over time, so you may be interested in a different design if you’re worried about comfort.
This product has a few strengths. It has two adjustable straps and an adjustable nose piece. This makes it easier to get a good seal, which is a critical part of the face mask. It’s also designed to filter out dry dust particles, which are the primary concern when you’re cleaning out a dirty chicken coop. It’s also been reported to be sturdier than some other products, so you could expect it to be pretty good at catching the fine particles that could potentially cause breathing problems.
2. 3M Cool Flow Respirator
Secondly, there’s the 3M cool flow respirator. This face mask is especially comfortable when worn for extended periods. Its 95% filtration rate is helpful when you’re dealing with detritus that gets thrown up into the air when you’re disturbing used chicken bedding, but it may not be as effective at filtering out mold particles. Still, it’s better than no respirator at all.
This product is an excellent choice if you need multi-use filters. It’s perfect for use while mowing lawns, and it is medically graded. If you’re using it properly, this face mask should do everything you need it to.
Dangers Of Inhaling Chicken Manure
You may be looking for more details about the dangers of exposure to chicken manure. The CDC published a document that’s packed with information on this subject. If you’re interested in learning more, it’s a great starting resource. The most common dangers have to do with mold exposure, but there are also other diseases that can be spread through chicken manure.
Histoplasmosis and other funguses
Histoplasmosis is a disease commonly associated with chicken dust exposure. According to the CDC, histoplasmosis is spread through a fungus, and it can cause respiratory damage. After an individual is infected with histoplasmosis, they typically experience symptoms within ten days, but they are usually very mild.
If you catch it, you won’t be contagious. In order for it to spread, someone must come into contact with dust that carries the spores of the fungus. Unfortunately, severe cases of histoplasmosis can resemble tuberculosis, so you should make sure that you’re taking precautions before thoroughly cleaning out your chicken coop.
Although it’s not terribly common for chickens to catch and spread rabies, there is a danger of rabies exposure. Bats can enter chicken coops through vents in the ceiling or other holes in the walls and roof of the structure. This is something to be aware of because it is far more common for bats to carry rabies than chickens.
If they make a habit of spending time in the coop, bat droppings could accumulate with the chicken droppings. This makes them especially hard to see, and you might accidentally be exposed to it without being aware of the danger.
While this isn’t terribly likely, it’s definitely a danger that you should be aware of. Avoiding it is also fairly simple. Just make sure that you’re wearing long pants, boots, long sleeves, and gloves while you’re working to clean out the coop.
What To Look For When Buying Dust Masks For Cleaning Chicken Coops
The CDC also outlined a few guidelines for picking out a protective mask for dealing with chicken manure. There are some features that make it less effective at protecting you against the specific dangers that come with owning chickens.
Avoid Negative Pressure Masks
Firstly, they recommend avoiding negative pressure masks, which haven’t been recommended in this article. They’re undesirable because they can get loaded down with dust fairly quickly. Replacing the filters can also be a hassle. While they do tend to keep a good seal, they have some drawbacks.
Use Disposable Masks
While the best solution is a mask that has a perfect seal, this is an unrealistic standard for a lot of people who just raise chickens at home for fun. Disposable face masks also have the advantage of being easily replaceable. Rather than having to change a filter or continually reinvest in new equipment, you can simply buy a new one for a relatively low price. You can maximize the value you’re getting from your disposable face mask by checking for a few features.
The mask should have an adjustable strap. This will allow you to get a tighter seal and make sure that you’re only breathing filtered air. You should also make sure that the filter has an adequately contoured and adjustable design. This will also help you keep a tighter seal.
Ability To Filter Out Harmful Spores
Generally, chicken dust is harmful because it may contain spores. Because of this, you should be looking out for face masks that protect you against dust and other tiny particles. If you’re planning on wearing the mask for a long period of time, you can also consider the comfort of the gear as well.
Balance Comfort and Effectiveness
Some face masks are designed to avoid heat buildup that can make wearing the face mask uncomfortable. These features shouldn’t compromise the effectiveness of the face mask overall. Still, some people might favor comfort over effectiveness in some situations.
For example, if you are working in a well-ventilated area, it’s hot outside, and there is a low concentration of dust, it might be safe to sacrifice a a small amount of air filtration in exchange for a more comfortable mask.
Easiest Ways To Clean A Chicken Coop (Tips)
The cleaning process is almost always unpleasant, but there are quite a few things you can do to make it go more quickly.
Spray down the bedding first
This step might seem like it would make the problem worse rather than better. Of course, wet bedding is probably going to smell worse than if it were dry. There is still a benefit to getting the waste wet first. If the hay and manure is wet, it will kick up less dust when you start scooping it out. While it might make the scent worse, it can ultimately minimize your exposure to harmful dust particles.
Keep a well-ventilated area
Keeping a constant airflow is important for your comfort and your health. A very strong scent of ammonia can accumulate and make the cleaning process nearly unbearable. Just make sure to open up all the doors and windows first. This will also work to minimize your exposure to harmful particles.
Don’t use harsh chemicals
Products like bleach are not safe to use in your chicken coop. They aren’t safe to breathe in, and bleach exposure can harm your chickens. Additionally, there is no need to house chickens in a sterile environment, so cleaning with bleach is overkill anyway. A good alternative is a vinegar mixture. While vinegar isn’t particularly pleasant to smell, it’s definitely safe, it won’t harm your chickens, and it can help you keep your mess under control more effectively than plain water will.
Move out your chickens beforehand
This might seem like a no-brainer, but it can be helpful for new farmers. Without having animals around to create more messes, you’ll be able to work faster and get the project done more efficiently. It also reduces the risk of any cleaners getting spilled on an animal.
Don’t be afraid to ask for help
Raising chickens takes a lot of work, and doing it all yourself can be overwhelming. You can ask a friend of yours to help you out with cleaning, but you can also seek out the advice of a more experienced chicken farmer if you feel like you’re not quite up to the task.
If you’re planning on cleaning out your chicken coop and the bedding is dry and dusty, don’t take chances. Breathing in chicken poop dust can by very toxic to humans and can make you quite ill.
So before heading out to do the cleaning chores out in the coop, grab one of these dust masks to take along with you. Try doing what I do and just leave the whole box of dust masks out in the coop or garden shed so they’re near by anytime you might need them.
Here’s another look at the dust masks I recommend:
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