danger cleaning old coops?

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We recently moved to a small farm that has an old chicken coop. I know that it has not been used for at least the last three years. I remember reading somewhere that it is dangerous to dig out the old dirt floor due to a respiratory disease that humans are susceptible to. Does anyone have any information they can share or advice on the best way to tackle this? Thank you for any help you can give me. I am a complete novice at country living.

-- Cindy Clarke (rclarke@revelstoke.net), January 09, 2001


Three years may be long enough for any diseases to be gone but all the same I would wear a good mask when cleaning it out. We do that anyway even though I'm quite sure my hens are not sick.

-- bwilliams (bjconthefarm@yahoo.com), January 09, 2001.

A good filter mask, absolutely. There are several respiratory infections that can occur from mold and fungi spores growing in fecal matter. The feces can be dry and hard, but the spores are still there.


-- Craig Miller (CMiller@ssd.com), January 09, 2001.

I don't know specifics on this case, but I will comment that inhalation of the feces/feather dust can lead to Hypersensitivity Pneumonitis, and apparently there's no time limit on how old the dust has to be. I've had it and can't have any birds anymore because of it (common name is Poultry Keeper's Lung, or Bird Keeper's Lung). Lightly spraying down with water will help keep clouds of dust from rising as you work, but for heavens sake, get a GOOD dustmask to wear, not one of the $1.29 cheapies from the hardware store. You do NOT want HP! Believe me! I nearly died from it, and ran up a hospital bill in the thousands.

I will note tho, that what Craig said about mold spores still being present is also true, and spraying with water may activate them again. It might sound weird, but another possibility is a wet/dry shop vac, one that you won't ever be using in the house, put a filter bag in it, and wash it out well (outside!) after use.

-- Julie Froelich (firefly1@nnex.net), January 09, 2001.

Thanks for all your helpful suggestions. I appreciate the information and will be careful when cleaning the coop.

-- Cindy Clarke (rclarke@revelstoke.net), January 10, 2001.

Histoplasmosis, I believe is what it's called.

-- (thomkilroy@hotmail.com), January 11, 2001.

histoplasmosis is the most seriouse potential it comes from a fungus growing on the feces. ventelate good and use a good dust mask you might even set up a mister system to stop the dust from being generated /yes it will make it messy but healthyer but look at all the wonderfull fertlize for your fields.oh and be carful of all dusty jobs the dust masks are a lifesaver just look at a used mask and realize that would all be in your lungs

-- george darby (windwillow@fuse.net), January 11, 2001.

If you're considering a respirator-preferably get it fit tested:so it seals properly[this is available at some safety supply stores].If you don't have a complete seal,you're only fooling yourself.I prefer full face respirators[they protect the mucosa of the eyes]with a HEPA filter.They're hot in summer-but what is your health worth??A slightly cheaper alternative is the 1/2 face respirator with HEPA filters and goggles [again check the seal on the respirator].Wear coveralls/gloves/hat/boots[level C HazMat] and launder the clothes separately afterwards.Wetting down the area is a good idea too.Beyond bird borne illnesses,there is also the possibility of raccoon roundworm[rarely occurs,but it's nasty when it does].Having the respirator also doubles , when you're either spraying pesticides or mowing hay/brush["hay fever"].Be safe,good luck.

-- karl bechler (kbechler@frontiernet.net), January 12, 2001.

If you are still getting freezing weather, then IMHO you should be able to wait for a real cold one, hose down the caca really well then safetly remove the slurry the next morning when it has frozen solid - it should be fairly inert in this state. Just bust up the ice and haul it out. Any comments from the possibly better informed peanut gallery?

-- Soni (thomkilroy@hotmail.com), January 13, 2001.

Cindy, Cleaning up mouse poop would present more of a hazard than cleaning the chicken coop.To be on the safe side, do wear a mask.An equally efficient and much cheaper alternative to the store bought hepa filters is to go down to Surplus Sam's or what ever the name of your army navy store is and buy a surplus gas mask.They usually cost less than $15.00 and work very well(they are usually brand new and you should insist that they are.).If I am cleaning a biologicaly suspect area I saturate the area with a strong bleach solution from a hand pumped sprayer.The gas mask filters out the chlorine gas vapors.Works great.By the way the army uses a strong bleach solution to kill most of it's biological hazards as well as neutralize most chemical hazards.In my experience the israelie gas masks are the best for this purpose I have found.Buy extra filters if they are available and change them about every second job.also get a couple of sets of cheap throw away coveralls from the farm or paint store.And do just that throw them away!Don't try to reuse them.You may look a little funny in the mask and all but it is unlikly that you will get sick from the latest super bug either.Have Fun Greg

-- Gregory J Smith (gsmith@tricountyi.net), January 14, 2001.

What can be done to prevent histoplasmosis?

It is not practical to test or decontaminate most sites that may be contaminated with H. capsulatum, but the following precautions can be taken to reduce a person's risk of exposure:

Avoid areas that may harbor the fungus, e.g., accumulations of bird or bat droppings. Before starting a job or activity having a risk for exposure to H. capsulatum, consult the NIOSH/NCID Document Histoplasmosis: Protecting Workers at Risk. This document contains information on work practices and personal protective equipment that will reduce the risk of infection. A copy can also be obtained by requesting publication no. 97-146 from National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health Publications Dissemination 4676 Columbia Parkway Mail Stop C-13 Cincinnati, OH 45226-1998 1-800-356-4674

-- Bob Johnson (Backwoods_Bob@excite.com), January 15, 2001.

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