One thing I haven't talked about yet with the chickens is the clean-up involved. Because, as much as it sounds like a cheesy cleaning product commercial, we actually do eat off the chicken coop floor, if you think about it. Although we give each egg a rinse before it goes in the fridge, they all start out on the floor of the coop. A clean coop is a good thing!
When we built our coop, we put in a cheap linoleum remnant over the plywood floor, which has helped quite a bit. Basically, the poo doesn't stick to it, and it's really scrubbable.
I spread about six inches of pine chips over the top of the linoleum, including in the nest boxes. I get a little lenient about the rest of the coop sometimes, but my nest boxes get poop-scooped almost every day, particularly the one that the girls like to use. I just keep a small garden spade right by the coop, which makes it very convenient to shovel the poo out and right into the nearby compost bin when I go out to look for eggs.
About once a month, all the wood chips in the coop get scooped out and refreshed with new. In the summer (when things are actually growing in the garden), I put the chips onto the compost pile to age a bit. Since gardening season has been wrapping up, I've been scooping directly onto our garden beds. There, the used bedding should age enough over the Winter to not give my baby plants nitrogen burns in the Spring. The chickens are also doing a really great job of working it into the soil. Starting the garden next year is going to be so much easier due to all their hard work!
Twice a year, the coop needs a really good scrub down. This year I did the "Fall Cleaning" in September. Basically, it involved putting on my grubbiest clothes and some hazmat gear (I kid a little, but I did wear rubber gloves and a dust mask), climbing inside the coop, and going at it with a bucket of hot water and a scrub brush. Not the nicest job, but not as bad as it would otherwise be if we didn't keep up with the small cleanings.
The outside run that's attached to the coop is covered with straw. I really don't scoop that out on any kind of schedule--just when it starts to look matted down and like it's getting sloppy. Again, in the Summer it gets composted, and now that it's Winter it goes straight to a waiting garden bed.
The problem is the ducks. They think water is for playing and making mud pies with.
In my research on the subject, it's important for ducks to have a water source available for immersing their whole heads. It allows them to clean out their nostrils, which helps prevent respiratory issues. So, the ducks have their "play water", which is a kiddie pool in Summer and a large, rubber pan of water (big enough for them to splash in, but not really big enough for a swim) now that it's Winter.
This is not nearly enough water for them, as evidenced by the layer of mud that's in the bottom of our other poultry waterers everyday. Which the chickens do not approve of. We're up to four waterers now, and I still come home at the end of the day to empty, filthy waterers that have to be scrubbed up. I have to think there's a better solution to this, but I haven't found it yet.
The good news though? Other than putting out a little feed each day--and collecting my eggy profits, of course--that's it really. They're actually very low maintenance, clean pets, particularly when I compare them to Moe (who rolls in dead animals and farts in my bed), and Porter (who sheds enough fur to make sweaters for an entire underprivileged nation and pees on the floor when she's emotionally troubled). But maybe that's an unfair comparison--after all, the chickens don't live in the house.