Liming the Chickenhouse

Mixing lime and water to make whitewash

Whitewashed the meat bird half of the Chickenhouse today, using the traditional purist blend of nothing but hydrated lime and water. This is an old school farming standard from Bob, completely new to me.

The lime is a very fine powder that comes in bags. Mixing was easy. A power drill mixing attachment churned it to a thickness a bit lighter than regular paint, and then on it went with big brushes.

The lime is a bit caustic, so wearing a mask when mixing, and gloves and goggles to avoid splatter, is a good idea, although I didn’t this time around (and I did take care not to inhale clouds of lime dust!).

Afterwards (it’s follow Bob’s lead), I did some reading and, not surprisingly, was quite amazed: yet another simple, inexpensive, effective approach that’s been complicated (in this case, into the costly world of high tech paints and sealants)…

Classic lime whitewash disinfects, repels insects, and preserves by sealing surfaces and wicking up water. It dries to an opaque white that beautifully reflects light to brighten up dim spaces.

Whitewashing the chicken coop

It’s also safe for animals (which, yes, includes us humans, lime can even be used in chicken litter to keep it dry).

There are lots of applications, interior and exterior, for wood and masonry. It’s not as permanent as oil or latex paint, will rub off a bit, and needs to be refreshed every year to keep it in top shape.

It’s also INEXPENSIVE: a 50lb (22.5kg) bag was about $7, and you can mix up at least 15-20 gallons from that, the way we used it. That means you could whitewash an entire small building, inside and out, for maybe $20! For big jobs, a sprayer would make it real easy.

You can tint it, and there are also various recipes that include alum, salt and other additives that may improve adhesion, but the tried-and-true basic is just lime and water.

And you need hydrated lime, NOT dolomitic lime nor calcium carbonate, aka garden lime (both are recommended for raising pH in garden soil). We got ours from the feed store.

I’m not sure how popular this sort of whitewashing is these days, but it’s certainly still used, and a few decades ago, this was a standard type of paint. Anyhow, it looks and sounds great, and we’ll see how the chickens like it!

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41 Responses to “Liming the Chickenhouse”

  1. Deborah says:

    I’m with you all the way on this. I love whitewash, or badgeon as it’s called in France. I’m using it inside on my old walls, the ones made of sandstone and rubble. Since this house doesn’t have a damp proof course, moisture needs to be wicked up and out of the walls, and no it doesn’t mean I have wet walls as it seems to balance out.

    I’ve also started on it in the chicken house and will give it another going over this summer when I refurbish that. I’m hoping that apart from the antiseptic properties the brightness will also help deter red spider mite.

    I’ve also used it on the walls and concrete slab around and under my freezer to keep that area white and clean as it’s in an old lean-to. And finally I’ve used it to paint the steps into that storage area. With the difference from bright light outside to the dark interiors of the houses here it was very easy to ‘miss’ the step and tumble the foot or so down into the store area. To my surprise it doesn’t wear off very quickly and withstands brushing. I’ve not tried washing it but since the chemical composition changes on it’s reaction with air after you’ve painted it on, I think it would withstand a bit of washing too.

    On the subject of tinting it, someone in France recommended a teabag or two in the mix. Apparently it gives it that antique look. Not tried that myself as I’m after the bright white to lighten up everything.

  2. Luciano says:

    Here in Portugal it’s still widely used as paint, especially in the South, where the weather is dryer and hotter.
    I’ve a mini tiny farm myself, with one and a half acres, altough for self consumption only, and I’m really enjoying reading your blog!

  3. Steve Mudge says:

    Neat to learn something new–thanks!

  4. Melanie J. says:

    Been rereading the Little House books again, and Farmer Boy offers the standard whitewash option, when the boys are prepping the cellar for the year’s harvest…very neat to see that it is a “tried and true” method for safely covering walls.

  5. I just love learning something new! I had heard the term “whitewash” but had no idea what its original purpose was. I am very excited to read about this and will definitely put the knowledge into use when our time comes! Thank you.

  6. gintoino says:

    Here in the south of Portugal white wash was the traditional way to paint the houses. Using it in the chicken house sound a good idea. Do you use it in the inside and outside?
    I’ve been reading your blog for quite some time now, I really enjoy it. Keep on the good work!

  7. Carole says:

    You have taught me something new and I will definitely share with my readers also.  As other of your readers have commented, I had heard of whitewash but had no idea what it was made from or that it could be beneficial to my chickens.  I will give it a try in the future.  Thanks for sharing!

  8. Mike English says:

    Came here looking for the recipe.  I’m planning on white washing an old shed I’m turning into a rabbitry and my chicken coup as well.  Funny thing is, I’m trying to become more self sufficient on…yep you guessed it, two acres.  After seeing this site and a couple of others I think I’m going to white wash my goat barns as well.

    Thanks,

    Mike

  9. Nicole says:

    Hi, I live in Toronto and I have bought a chicken. I have a yard facing SE some W sun. I have a problem. I can’t figure where to put the chicken coop or how to build it.  I have a shed at the back but it is dark and no electricity and I think the chicken needs light. Could I keep the chicken in the shed? If I kept it outside in a tracter I am afraid it will die in the two foot snow drifts in Winter. I really need someone in the Toronto area who can build a coop for me who knows what they are doing. Do you know anyone and their number , please? Thanks. N.

    • Ariel says:

      Please tell me you don’t have only one chicken? Much too late now, but for any other readers who stumble across this and think that sounds like an okay idea… chickens need a flock – 3 or more or they will get lonely and possibly even die. Electricity is not needed for a chicken house, though running an extension cord out there in the winter for a little heat. Cutting a hole in the side of the shed and screwing some plexiglass over it for some natural light would also be fine, and most people can probably manage that amount of handiwork, or hire your neighbor?

  10. Martin Perez says:

    I was pleasantly surprised to see this site. I am interested in white washing my coop and I have a couple of bags of Type S Lime that my neighbor gave me.  He heard that there are many uses and one was for painting chicken coops but he didn’t have the details on how to prepair the mixture or if Type S Lime was ok to use. Any one have an answer?
    Thanks

  11. Mike (tfb) says:

    Nicole: I don’t know of anyone in Toronto who builds chicken coops. You should try searching the web. Maybe start with something like “chicken coop Ontario” or “building a chicken coop.” There are lots of plans available online and in books, and you could get a carpenter or handy person you know to build one, it wouldn’t be difficult.

    Martin Perez: As I described in the post, we used water and hydrated lime, mixed by eye to a consistency a little thinner than paint, kinda like a bit watery pancake batter. If you experiment with a little bit in a small bucket and try painting a small area, it’s pretty easy to figure out. But there are LOTS of recipes online, some including salt and other ingredients. Search for “lime whitewash” and you’ll fine tons of info…!

  12. Brenda says:

    I was looking for whitewash information and found this great site. We have a quite a bit more than 2 acres, but most of it is wooded. We are working on bee hives for this year, just finished maple syrup and are planning to whitewash and fill up our chicken coop this week. Thanks for the great information. We have raised chickens before, but have never used whitewash. My grandmother always mentioned using it on the family farm.

    We had lots of advice on our maple syrup adventure, but did not come up with an ideal plan. The syrup we produced is very good, but much more time consuming than we were told. We used a propane outdoor cooker for this. We tried some equipment from a local guy using a large pan out doors over a wood fire. That was the fastest process, but that batch of syrup had a “smokey taste and smell”. I think I will save it for hams.

    Without spending a ton of money we would like to come up with a better and faster process for cooking down the sap.     Brenda

    • Brenda
      Check my blog and you’ll see what and how we process the maple sap. Years ago I cooked it off on top of my woodstove 10 gallon at a time (40 gallons of sap = 1 gallon of syrup).
      Rita

  13. Cally Underwood says:

    I’m brand new at keeping chickens – I have started out with 6 of them – 3 light Brahmas, 2 Ameracaunas, and 1 Buff Orpington.  I think I have 2 roosters among them, but do not know enough to figure it out yet.  They are a little over 4 weeks old, sassy, tame for the most part, and absolutely beautiful.  I can’t believe I love these chickens like I do.
    I just wanted to say that this is a fabulous site to learn new things and the photos are priceless.  I have laughed and laughed at some of the stories and photos, and then I cried about the ‘battery’ hens.  Now I’m on my way to the feed store to get some hydrated lime to whitewash the new 4′x8′ hen house my son helped me build.  I hope to send some photos soon, but meanwhile – so many of you have helped me in my endeavours, I just don’t think I would have done nearly as well if I had not discovered this site.  Thanks to all for the helping hints and photos. 

  14. Michelle says:

    Hi
    I just found your blog and think it is fantastic – thanks for this info about lime washing – i’m off to paint the entire chicken coop right now!!
    We have a tiny farm, 5 acres, and have been bumbling along producing very erratically but you have inspired me that we can do so much more with this little parcel of land.
    cheers
    Michelle

  15. C N Eiland says:

    Lime or other suggestions?—-We had pipe that leaked water under our (1960s pier & beam) home for several years. The stench and sludge was horrible. My husband sump-pumped enormous amounts of water before he finally found the leak. It was like a lake, and water lines could be seen on the beams. The plumber and myself could only imagine “what lies below”. Someone suggested using lime. My husband is concerned about going under the house if the lime is dangerous. Are there any suggestions, methods and safety tips for this situation?

  16. andys says:

    Nice to visiting here, i am looking for chicken house for about my 10 chicken families. They should stay at indoor because when it rainy days it feel cool and i think chicken house should completed with lamp to keep it warm.  I am too looking for good design for chicken house for me. And as a compare i am look at this site with nice and unique color.
    Liming to wall is good idea too, i will use it for my next chicken house. thanks.

  17. DottieTy says:

    I am delighted to be reminded of the old whitewashing method of painting the shed walls. I will do that.

    My main concern right now is an understanding of the types and uses of limes. I have a large flock of hens lots of rain and mud and capillaria worms which I want to eliminate. I hope you can give me some direction. 

  18. DottieTy says:

    Nicole:

    I’m from Toronto too! living here in the Northwest now. Your single chicken needs buds, as many as are legal. Chickens are flock animals and one lonely chicken will not survive. Get her some friends. As for the weather, if she has nice clean dry straw for bedding down she will dow fine. chickens generate an amazing amount of heat.

    Enjoy life as a chicken mama!

    DottieTy

    • Faye says:

      Ahaha, being from the Northwest as well, it took me a bit to figure out what sort of “buds” you were talking about. ;)

  19. VLAD says:

    I added blue acrylic paint to the wash,just half a cup and I got this beautiful sky colour.You can use other colours,Must be water based.

    • Mama J says:

      I’ve been scanning the posts looking for the way to tint this whitewash…thank you so much for addressing this point. My question is … would pink or green be good? I know that red is a stimulating for a chicken.. like when blood shows up on another chicken..they really get into the pecking thing.

  20. Hello! I really love to read your blog. I am visiting your blog whenever I have free time

  21. leslie says:

    Thank you  !!!
                     I have been wanting to do this I remenber my grandma’s white washed  barn when i was little she had dairy cows and chickens. thank you so much for the information. I look forward to white washing my coop soon
                                           leslie @ the chubby chicken egg farm
                                                               USA, Michigan

  22. liming says:

    thank you
    I added green acrylic paint to the wash,just half a cup and I got this beautiful lawn colour.You can use other colours,Must be water based.

  23. Tory says:

    Hi I just found this blog – very interesting.   Has anyone heard of spraying hydraded lime wash onto the chickens themselves to rid them of mites and lice??   Our local pestman just told me his Italian wife has done this for years.    Thought I’d better cast about for some second opinions?   the lice are a real headache and are on the chooks and the ducks.

    • I have a small hutch on the outside of my chickenhouse that is on legs about two feet off the ground. I use it for putting broody hens but the other hens love to dust underneath it in the summertime. I put the hydrated lime in the dusting area and it’s made a great difference in the lice population and the hens seem to be happier. I don’t have to handle the hens and the take care of themselves.
      We also use the lime in cow paths to stop the problem of sore hooves. It really helped last summer.

  24. John says:

    Chickens can be an entertaining addition to the family and building your own backyard chicken coop whether it is a portable or permanent fixture can be very satisfying. Check out to see how satisfying building a chicken coop can be.

  25. Timberworxs says:

    Very useful and something I will share with my readers

  26. chicken George says:

    I gotta thank you the hydrated lime and water white wash what a great idea .
    I am going to use this myself .The best bit is it’s cheap to do .
    You have a great blog  with lots of information .
    Many thanks
    Chicken George

  27. Excellent and informative blog. Thanks for posting this. It’s informative and enlightening. Keep up the good work.

  28. Renee says:

    Can you use hydrated lime on chicken house floors and if so can you use it in powder form?

    • Pd says:

      For anyone who comes across this now…no do NOT use hydrated lime on the floor of your coop. It is very caustic and will burn your chickens (and you). If you want to lime your floor, use agricultural lime aka dolomite aka calcium carbonate.

  29. Knight H. says:

    Hey, thanks a lot for this blog and the valuable writing here; I really appreciate everything on your blog, this is awesomeness!
    thank you again.

  30. ceciliag says:

    Love this.. I have a bag of lime in the barn and the moment it cools down I am going to paint the inside of the chook house with it.. These old buildings would just soak that up i bet. i was just cruising and found this.. what luck. good job c

  31. teeniesheenie88 says:

    Thank you for this! we just moved into a place out here in Kansas with a damp dark old cellar; wanted to turn it into a place that we could use for storage etc.
    I am originally from Ireland and have seen people whitewashing sheds etc all my life, but had never actually done it myself.
    We bought a 20lb bag of hydrated lime from a home supply shop, and just mixed it with water to a thick paint like consistency. Initially we used a ‘recipe’ we found online that included salt and a lot of water, but soon found we wanted a much thicker product so just went ‘by feel’ as it were. The mortar was crumbling off the wall in some spots, so we applied very thickly there; elsewhere we just applied as you would any paint.
    In less than 24 hours it has dried to a hard shiny white, the smell is 100% improved and the place is tonnes brighter and just cleaner all round – all for under $6!
    I am struggling to understand why whitewashing has fallen out of popularity particularly here in the US – it works as paint, primer, antiseptic and dehumidifier all in one. In these rough economic times who knows, maybe it will make a comeback!

    • Mike (tfb) says:

      “I am struggling to understand why whitewashing has fallen out of popularity particularly here in the US” – that’s what I wonder about so many things I’ve discovered for myself since doing the city-to-tiny-farming transition. Like, basic scratch cooking with fresh ingredients instead of eating all kinds of processed junk: cheaper, easier, as convenient as you chose to make it, TASTIER. Of course, living in cities as three-quarters or so of the world does now is a gamechanger… :)

  32. A great, classic material for barns and basements – inexpensive, effective, and a beautiful chalky white. So much better than paint or stain. We use it in all of our barns and it makes a vast difference.

    One word of caution: wear eye protection. it is a strong base and will literally melt your cornea off (yes, I learned this the hard way). Fortunately, it healed, but I never touch the stuff without goggles now.

  33. Just outside of Toronto here. Looking for someone who still comes to spray full size barns. Or, can I rent a sprayer do you know? White is NOT the same as paint (too gritty) so I won’t be able to use paint spraying equipment.

    Thanks for your help

  34. jodie says:

    Hi – wonder if it would help to whitewash the toe-boards of my hoophouse. they are constantly moist from condensation here in south AL.

    Also, been looking at salad driers and convinced by your info that i should just go ahead and get a used washing machine since the 5 gal are so expensive anyway. Is there anything I should look for, other than the fact that it should be in working order?

    Thanks for great info!

    Jodie

    • laura says:

      I worked in a restaurant that used to have an old washer to spin out the Romaine for Caesar salads and also clean and spin dry basil. Not sure how it would be on more delicate greens, but the Romaine held up great in there.

  35. Pam says:

    Thank you for the great blog post! We didn’t stain or paint our chicken coop (like we should have) last year and now we really need to! This is such a great solution to our problem! THANKS!!!

  36. Jewels says:

    A previous question about whether you should paint the inside of the coop as well as the outside was not answered. Can anyone reply on whether this is okay for the chicks or should it be left in the raw? We are going to be whitewashing very soon as our “TajmahCoop” is almost complete! And a good thing…our babies are growing out of the brooder very quickly. Thanks for any advice you can give on this question!

    • Mike (tfb) says:

      Yes, the lime whitewash I wrote about here is for inside. I haven’t tried it on the outside, it will be washed off to some degree by the rain, but should be fine as well, with repainting or touching up maybe every year. For the chickenhouse, though, it is on the inside where it does the real good!

      And it is safe for the chicks. That’s all answered in the post, actually hahaha :)

  37. Randy Beckey says:

    Wish I would have known this about lime years ago. We raised homing pigeons back then and the lime wash would have been great for helping keep the coups cleaner. And the cost is also excellent..

  38. Rob says:

    Once you’ve painted the inside of the coop with the lime mix and let it dry. Are you able to wash down the coop with red mite solutions every few months? Or would this wash the lime off?

    Cheers

  39. Tim says:

    Just found this topic, and it made me laugh.
    Some years ago, in Wisconsin, we hired a local ‘whitewasher’ to coat the inside basement of one of our buildings. These guys ‘real’ business was whitewashing the inside of dairy barns in the milking areas. They worked cheap, and had all the airless spraying equipment to do the job fast. We hired them.
    What we didn’t understand, but learned right after they were through, was that they were dairy barn whitewashers – not painting contractors. They just got in there and sprayed everything! Light bulbs, fixtures, things hanging on the walls – you name it. If it was there, it got whitewashed!!!
    From that experience, I can tell you personally that once whitewash has dried, it can be washed off – but not as easily as one might think. It is a tough coating. It lasted for years.
    Thanks for the memory chuckle. Love your blog – please write more!

  40. Danielle says:

    Thank you for a great website. I am looking for a recipe for lime paint for here in Australia. Our dairy could do with a bit of a spruce up and I am interested in finding out about how the lime paint goes with reducing the lice population- the wild birds bring the lice in and reinfest our hens which makes more work for us.
    Thanks again

  41. carole says:

    hi, have been given an old beehive. i know the previous owner had mite deaths & so have ditched anything with wax & am cleaning the actual hive. has anybody ever limewashed the inside of hives, or does that kill the bees as well as the mites?! any advice please

    • Betsy says:

      I would contact a local bee club or extension service. There is a reason they got rid of that and it may have to be burned.

  42. veronica thunstrom says:

    So you say lime is a bit caustic but then say it’s safe around animals and people? Kind of confused. Is it only caustic when it’s wet? I would love to try this if it is safe.
    Thanks!

    • Mike (tfb) says:

      I think it’s safe to use in this application, it’s been widely used for a long time. The powder could cause skin irritation, you shouldn’t be inhaling lungfuls, eating it or whatever, but it won’t burn a hole through your flesh, at least it didn’t on mine. I just read that one use is as a temporary filler in some sort of root canal procedure, so it can’t be that bad. You can look it up: calcium hydroxide.

      Hope that helps!

  43. Pandora says:

    I found this on another site. Thought it would help answer the questions for outside buildings. I am going to do a fence. I think int he old days they didnt use the zinc
    Outside whitewash

    1. Mix 30 pounds quicklime with 7 gallons of water.

    2. Add a pound of common salt and half a pound of zinc sulfate that has been dissolved in one gall of boiling water.
    3. Add half a gallon of skim milk. Mix together well.
    4. Paint with as required.

  44. Laurel Davis says:

    We just acquired 3 chickens & I’m interested in painting the coop’s inside. Is it too late or can the chickens be kept outside for a few hrs. since the weather’s still nice while it dries? Using this white wash method sounds the safest especially since we already have the chickens. Thank you! Laurel

  45. Lizzardo says:

    We moved from PA to WA and just finished the west coast coop. I added DE to my whitewash in Pa, just on the chance that it would help with things like mites. It certainly didn’t seem to impair stickability or permance; next i’ll interview the mites. If they come.

  46. Shiralee says:

    Hi, having just whitewashed the interior of our house in central Portugal, I can perhaps answer those questions about its toxicity — the main issue is that it is extremely caustic until it dries. If you leave it on your skin, especially in combination with areas that get rubbed a lot (e.g finger, under-arms, inside of your gumboots), you can end up with extremely painful ‘burns’ that leave scars). It’s definitely worth wearing safety googles or glasses, rubber gloves, etc when using it. Otherwise the only other real danger is during mixing, when its natural exothermic reaction makes it very hot and it can bubble up and boil over. No one seems to have mentioned it, but we also found that wetting the surface that you’re going to paint helps the whitewash bond with it (esp. if it’s cement), and it won’t wash off. Also It’s also worth watching Tudor Monastery Farm eps 5/6 (I think) to see how to make a lime putty floor — they also demonstrate how to make your own lime from limestone.

  47. Angie says:

    I’m going to try it! Thanks

  48. April says:

    How long until after you paint do your chickens need to stay out of the coop

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