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If you’re anything like me, in these cold, dreary months, you tend to think of ways that you can spruce up the outside…when it gets warmer, that is! For me, winter is all about outside DREAMING and inside DOING. One of the things I’m daydreaming about is whitewashing my chicken coop and barn.
I have been thinking a bit lately of having a beautiful, white chicken coop, and cheery white inside the barn. With the reduced light hours, all the wood inside the coop seems so dark and dingy. After doing my horseshoe farm sign a few months ago, the thought of whitewashing came to mind.
Whitewashing is so cheap and easy, you’ve gotta try it! As a bonus, it has some great benefits as well. And you might feel a little like Tom Sawyer!
How to make whitewash for barns and coops
1 gallon warm water
2 cups salt
6-8 cups hydrated lime
Starting with 1 gallon of warm water, mix in 2 cups of salt until it is fully dissolved. Wearing a face mask (lime dust is hard on the lungs), pour in 6 cups of hydrated lime. Mix until it is thickened up slightly. It should be near the consistency of thin pancake mix. If it is still too thin, add more hydrated lime until it is the consistency and color you would like.
Lime is hard on bare skin, so make sure you wear gloves, and don’t breathe the fine dust that the lime releases into the air. If you do get lime on your skin, wash the area with vinegar to counteract the alkalinity of the lime.
It is important to note, this recipe calls for hydrated (also called masonry) lime, not barn or garden lime. It is very cheap and you can get it at any hardware or home improvement store.
You can find other, supposedly more durable recipes (and milk paint as well) at NewLifeOnAHomestead.
Painting the coop and barn with whitewash
I suggest starting with a clean surface. Brush off any dirt and wash any areas that need more cleaning, then allow to dry. If the area is potentially contaminated with bacteria or diseases, wash with a diluted bleach solution.
Mix up your whitewash, and simply slop it on with a large brush. You can also use a paint roller.
When you first apply the whitewash, it will look like you just painted the wood with water. But relax, as soon as it dries it will be a nice, bright white.
If you want thicker coverage and a brighter white, apply another coat after the first coat has dried. I used 3 coats on my horseshoe farm sign.
Since this is a wash and not a paint, it will rub off and wear off after some time. You can expect to have to re-wash every year. Just plan on putting on a new coat of whitewash each spring.
Where to apply whitewash
This basic whitewash recipe is best to use in enclosed areas. When the whitewash gets wet (even from excessive moisture outside), it will turn clear again. Plus, rain can actually cause the whitewash to leave a chalky runoff to your other surfaces.
Clean, unfinished wood is the best surface to whitewash, but you can also whitewash brick. Whitewashing over paint is not recommended, as it will be difficult to penetrate the existing paint.
Inside the coop or barn, on the roost bars, in wood-framed greenhouses, or even in an enclosed porch are good places to paint with whitewash. Benches and furniture aren’t very good to whitewash, because the chalky finish may rub off onto your clothes.
Benefits of whitewashing
It brightens the dark wood.
Especially in the winter months, the dark, dingy inside of your chicken coop can actually decrease your hens’ laying. If you choose to use supplemental lighting in the coop in the winter (see my winter care for chickens post here), whitewashing will help reflect the light. A bright, cheery coop actually reflects the available light and helps them get more of the UV rays that are oh-so-important for egg laying. Plus I think they just lay better when they’re happy! And who can be happy living in a dark, dingy place?
Whitewash is antibacterial.
Because of the lime in whitewash, it is mildly antibacterial. Lime is very commonly used to disinfect and deodorize barns and stalls. Thus, it can be very beneficial in helping keep roosting bars and coop areas more sanitary. Washing and scrubbing whitewashed walls and roost bars will shorten its lifespan, but since whitewashing is so cheap and easy it’s not usually a big deal.
Whitewash repels insects.
Another important function of lime is repelling insects. This makes whitewash super helpful in the often bug-infested chicken coops and barns. Flies, mites, and lice can be greatly reduced simply by using whitewash in the coop. If you’ve ever dealt with mites in your chickens, you know how difficult it can be to get rid of them! Mites like to live in any nooks and crannies in your wood, and they often lay eggs there. Whitewashing will help keep them at bay. A good coat of whitewash will even discourage wasps from building a hive in your coop.
Whitewashing reduces the chance of mold.
Lime is a drying agent. Whitewashing the unfinished wood in the coop and barn can help pull out some of the moisture that the wood may tend to normally soak up. As we all know, excess moisture can lead to mold and harmful bacteria. Applying a couple thick coats of whitewash over areas that are exposed to more moisture will help protect the wood from rotting.
Whitewashing is a much safer alternative to paint.
Paint has lots of chemicals, including VOC’s. VOC stands for “volatile organic compound”, and lets off harmful gasses. I don’t know about you, but I don’t want that in my coop! Chickens especially have delicate respiratory systems. Why add chemicals and gasses that can irritate their lungs? Whitewash is a much safer option for the inside of your coop and barn.
Whitewash gives your coop a charming, traditional feel.
As with most homesteaders, I love the vintage, traditional feel of old barns and houses. I am just drawn to the charm of everything old-fashioned. Whitewashing doesn’t “paint” things like normal paint. It will show the grain of the wood, and will show lots of weathering. So charming, I wish I could use it on the outside of the coop and barn! We get so much rain and moisture in the winter, though, that I’m afraid it wouldn’t last long at all. I might have to search for a more rain-resistant whitewash recipe!
Whitewashing for happy animals!
Whitewash is beneficial for so many reasons. I’m definitely going to whitewash the inside of my coop this spring. And, if I get motivated enough, I might do the inside of the barn as well!
Are you tempted to whitewash? Have you whitewashed your coop? Please share your experiences and inspirations with me in the comments!
If you are new to raising chickens and would like some guidance, check out our e-book, Chickens For Newbies. It has all the information you need to start raising happy, healthy chickens!
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