Make your own coop cleaning dust mask

I've previously talked about how it's important to wear a dust mask when cleaning the chicken coop. It can prevent birders lung and histoplasmosis. Plus, who really who wants to breath in coop dust? It's mostly dried poop and feather dander! Up till this recent issue we're all going through, I never gave it a thought to just buying a box of masks any time I needed them...till there weren't any left! So I decided to make my own dust mask for cleaning my chicken coop.

Make a coop cleaning dust mask. pattern

Obviously a homemade mask is nowhere near the same as the ones you buy for hospital use, but they do keep the coop dust out of your nose and mouth very well. Since these masks are made of fabric, I really only need 1 or 2 since I can throw them in the washing machine between uses. This is definitely going to save me money on coop cleaning masks!

I happened to have a few medical style masks (albeit the cheap ones) so I decided to model my pattern after those. It's a very simple pattern and you can use almost any tightly woven fabric. All you need is fabric, some elastic and a sewing machine. 

Once again this is not a medically approved mask. If you want to make one of those you can find some amazing patterns online from more advanced sewers that have pockets for filters and all that. This is a very simple dust mask pattern made from one piece of fabric and 2 pieces of elastic. You can even stitch this by hand if you don't have a machine.

Do I have to wear a mask to clean the coop?

You absolutely need to wear a mask any time you clean the coop! As mentioned earlier, both histoplasmosis and birders lung can be contracted from breathing in the dust that's stirred up when cleaning the chicken coop. Breathing in dust frequently can also cause occupational asthma. Plus with the virus issues going around lately, we don't want to give our lungs any more problems right now!

One of the reasons that you can use a homemade mask or a dust mask for coop cleaning but not medical use is the size of the dust or spores we're avoiding versus the size of viruses. That link shows the amazing size difference. Remember, you can see the coop dust floating in the air when you stir things up, you cant see viruses.

So let's get started on a quick coop cleaning mask. You're going to need fabric and elastic. I prefer 100% cotton fabric and 1/4" elastic. I used 1/4" elastic since it's thin enough to tuck behind the ears. If you don't have elastic you can use ribbon and make ties instead. Prewash fabric before cutting to prevent shrinkage later.

How to make a dust mask pattern.

I measured out my disposable mask to start and used that as a pattern to cut my fabric. Based on the size of that mask I decided on 8x6" for the finished product. I know it looks like it's only around 4" high but those folds need some extra fabric to be able to expand. Since I only wanted to use one piece of fabric and added in the seams, I increased it to 9x12.5" for my cut of fabric and will be folding it. 

Warning: I'm adding a LOT of pictures since sewing instruction is not my thing! Hopefully I can make this make sense...

How to make a coop cleaning mask

Cut 1 piece of cotton or other tightly woven fabric, 9 inches wide and 12.5 inches long. If you have a pattern that needs to go in a particular direction orient it before cutting. Wide is ear to ear, long is eye to chin but will only show half.

Cut 2 pieces of elastic 6" long each. This is going to look small, but it's not. 

Fold fabric in half, pretty side in. 

How to pin elastic, dust mask

Pin elastic inside the fabric and as close to the corners as you can get. I put my pins on the inside for this part. Place the pins so that the ball is outside the fabric like in the picture, that way they can be removed easily. Fold fabric back in place and secure with pins.

Start sewing about and inch away from the middle of the top and continue to the fold making sure to secure the elastic. 

Stitching the straps into dust mask

Start at the top again and start sewing about an inch from the middle going in the opposite direction this time. So you should have about a 2" wide space at the top with the rest of the seams secured. Remove pins.

Turn your mask right side out by pulling through the hole you left in the top center. Straighten the seams and pull out the corners as best you can. Your mask will now look like this. 

Dust mask pattern

I do a lot of ironing as I sew, I think it helps things to lay better. At this point I pressed the mask flat, making sure to fold in the edges on that open spot first. Leave the iron on, you'll need it one more time. Next you're going to add your tucks. 

Pinch the fabric at the middle of the mask and fold it down, pinning in place at each end so you have a tuck or pleat like the picture below. Do this one more time above the middle and again below the middle so you have 3 tucks. Press again with the iron. 

Pins and sew tucks, dust mask

Please excuse the cat, she's nosey.

Now you're just going to run a stitch up each side and stitch the top closed where you flipped the mask right side out. I hand stitched the top closed, but you can machine stitch it if you prefer. Pull your pins out and you're done!

Please excuse my weird stitching on the ends, my machine had two different colored thread in it. *sigh* It's 25 years old and the foot pedal crapped out during this project, so I hand turned a lot of it and couldn't refill the blue bobbin! lol 

You'll probably want to pick thread that matches, I went with a different color so my stitches would be more obvious.

Finished product: coop cleaning dust mask

If you don't have elastic and decide to use ribbon instead you'll need to cut 4 pieces of ribbon 9" long each. Fasten them inside the pouch the same way I show for elastic. Make sure all the ribbon is pushed towards the middle/bottom of the pouch to keep it from accidentally getting sewn into the seams. 

I really hope I explained this correctly. Obviously I don't normally write sewing tutorials. With medical and dust masks being harder to find though, those of us that run out will not be able to get them. It's not healthy to clean a chicken coop without something keeping you from breathing in dust! At the very least, tie a bandanna around your nose and mouth or use some type of lower face cover.

Making your own mask will not only save the current low supply of masks for medical personnel, but save us money as well since you will not need to buy new masks if you make yourself a few. I'm positive I used less money in supplies than I would have paid for a box of masks!

Remember to wash your mask between uses and use it every single time you clean the chicken coop. Happy sewing!


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  1. I'm so glad you brought this up as I just recently got my 1st flock of chicks. It hadn't occurred to me to cover my face when cleaning my cages. My chicks are 7 weeks and 5 weeks old. I have 19 now: 4 buff Orpingtons 5 Isa Browns 5 Easter Eggers 2 with feathered feet and muffs(?) And 3 ???

    1. Congrats on the new flock! I actually didn't wear a mask for probably my first year of chicken keeping. Then my husband insisted and I thought it was silly so I decided to research it to prove that he was wrong...and he was right! lol I've worn one ever since.

      Good luck with your new chickies!

  2. I'm so glad you brought this up. I am new chick mom and it hadn't occurred to me to use a mask when cleaning! Thank you.

  3. This comment has been removed by the author.

    1. Typo - thanks for the pattern. Elastic is now a scarce and expensive commodity what with all the seamstresses out here!! Stay safe everyone.

    2. You're welcome! I have noticed that. I read that people are using hair ties from the dollar store. I actually used ribbon to tie around the ears on one and it works that's an option if you can't find elastic.

  4. Thank you so much for sharing this with US!! I have had my back yard chickens for 4 years now and I have never thought to use a mask. I am a asthmatic and I am usually the one to clean out the chicken house. I have had problems after I had cleaned and days later I would get sick to the point I thought I had the FLU! But I would eventually feel better and go back to doing the same thing when it was time to clean the chicken house.
    From now on I will wear a good mask and gloves. And take your advice doing the steps you shared with US!!

  5. So, does the cloth masks actually block the hismoplasma spores? I ask because I have a history of lung damage from histoplasmosis and just got my first chickens. I'll wear the respirator mask if I have to but the cloth ones seem cheaper in the long run if I just have to throw them in the washer.

    1. Because of the size of the spores, yes a dust mask would block the spores from getting through. There's a link up above that says size of the dust or spores we're avoiding versus the size of viruses...and it goes to a site that explains the size difference. You should probably ask your doctor though to be on the safe side because he may be worried about more than just these spores.


  6. I'm glad I came across this.. I just got 8 chics for the first time. I have 2 Black Buff Rock, 2 Golden Sex Link, these are about 1.5 weeks old 4 different color Bantams 2.5 weeks old.. i am actually making mask to donate with a group that started in Louisiana, grew National in 1 week and International in less than 2 weeks.. So I do have a mask... In relation a few other comments and feedback from Health Care workers. I've been using homemade elastic with T-Shirt yarn.. It's much ore comfortable than elastic. I also folded it in half and put a dart on top and bottom . It helps give a lil more flush fit.. You can put a wire for the nose too.

    1. That's a great idea! I will look for T-shirt yearn. I honestly have not had much luck with putting the wires in, but I will try again! Thanks for the tip!