Spring has finally arrived here in Central Alberta and that means it time for spring cleaning. Top on the list after the house is the other house which is the hen-house. The hen-house is where the girls (our chickens) live and spent most of the winter “cooped” up in thanks the extreme weather we had. Because it was so cold this winter I threw straw in the coop with reckless abandonment never stopping to think what was going in at some point was going to have to come out. Note to self maybe a little self-control with the straw next year as in I might have gotten a little carried away. Finally with the forecast calling for something other than cold, snow, or rain I picked the day to get the job done.
This being my first coop cleaning I searched the internet for hints on how to do the job right. Big mistake there, I mean by the time I finished reading what some of the sites had to say about what can live in the coop with your chickens I was ready to place a call to NASA to see if there was a chance that I could borrow one of their space suits. To be honest short of having that on I was not going in the coop again. Then I remembered just because it’s is on the internet doesn’t mean it’s right. The internet is a place where you can go on to find cures for the common cold and end up diagnosing yourself with a rare disease and only have 3 days to live. Choosing the right site to look at makes all the difference and in this case I decided to use some of the chicken lovers groups that I am a member of on Facebook.
Picking on what most pertained to my situation I headed to the local farm supply store to pick up what I would need to get the job done. On my list a fairly good respirator face mask after deciding that the rental fee on a space suit my be a little out of my price range. A good scoop shovel and a pitch fork. Thought I showed a lot of self-control there, also I couldn’t find the aisle that dynamite would be in and I am banned from running heavy equipment (I’ll blog about why in a later story) so a back hoe was out of the question too. I came home and put on a hoodie, that I could pull the strings tight enough so that all was showing was my eyes, nose, and mouth, my old farm jeans and my knee-high muck boots. I felt that given that the cats had taken to sitting in wait outside the coop for mice to come out, jeans tucked in would be the best choice. The last thing I wanted was to stir up a little 4 legged creature and have it crawling up my leg!
With my official chicken coop uniform on I put on the dust mask and went to show my husband how professional I looked. When he stopped laughing he took a couple of pictures to show his friends what his wife was up to now. Fine with me it may have looked a little funny but at least it would work for the job. I gathered my tools and headed for the coop. I can honestly say that the coop had not smelt that bad all winter it was just that with the warm weather everything and anything that could cause odor was. I mean it actually made your eyes water and I was about to head in and stir it all up, great.
I opened the coop door to find Blue was in the middle of doing what chickens are suppose to do and she gave me that could you give me a minute here look. I politely excused myself and shut the coop door. I always feel the same way when I accidentally open the open the door on a bath room stall that is already occupiied. Thankfully it wasn’t long before Blue came out the hen door and gave me the the go ahead to begin.
The biggest problem that I have is that I can totally see me getting the job done and forget what all the work the work to complete the job. I seriously had headed in to this task with a smile on my face and a can do attitude, that changed about 3 shovel fulls in to it. I was seriously regretting the reckless abandonment of the straw I had added and did not know that my sweet little girls could produce something that smelled so bad that it made wish that I had no sense of smell. At one point I actually considered getting a pair of the ear plugs that expand in your ear and sticking them up my nose but then I thought how would I go about explaining to the er doctor how I ended up getting ear plugs stuck in my nose. The only solution to my problem was to get it done and fast.
Of course it wasn’t as easy as getting a scoop full and shoveling out the door, it had compacted in to a solid like compound that had to be first loosed by the pitch fork, raked to into a pile and then shoveled out the door. It was a slow going process and with the mask on and the hood on my hoodie securely fasten I was starting to melt. I took me a good hour to get everything out just to realize that I hadn’t thrown the straw mixture far enough out the door to be able to close it, so I had to move the mountain again.
The girls would come over every once in a while to check on my progress or lack of it and to scratch through the mixture to see if there were any bugs to be found. Because I had used the straw in the manner that I did it meant that I didn’t have any straw to replace the straw that I had taken out, but that’s okay because in my research on how to clean the coop I saw that pine shaving were an acceptable material to use and that some peoples chickens prefer them. I let the coop air out and dry for the day and then I went out that evening before the girls headed in for the night and put down pine shavings. The coop actually smelt nice and looked bigger with the extra 3 ft of straw remove. I patted myself on the back for a job well done and headed in for the night or a least till lock down time for the girls. When I went to lock them in all 4 were there and they had each laid an egg, thanking me for working so hard to clean their house I would think. They were all roosted on the top of the roost and seemed quite chatty, I told them it was my pleasure and shut the doors.
The next morning I headed out to do chores which include letting the girls out and then feeding the horses. I usually get half way through the horse chores and the girls show up for a morning visit. When they hadn’t made it over by the time I was done I headed over to the coop to see what the hold up was. As I approached the coop I could hear a heated discussion going on and wondered what the girls were so upset about.
They there were the same as the night before all on the top of the roost but 2 had moved over to the nest top nesting boxes where I had left straw as they had nests already made in it. They were all staring at the floor as if it was going to bite them and they were going between the roost and the nesting boxes as if the floor was lava and they couldn’t touch it just like the childhood game. At one point I think Blue actually gave Olive a push in a take on for the team. I tried to talk them into getting down but they weren’t having any of that. It became apparent that I was going to have to lift them on by one on to the chicken eating floor, and I did manage to get 3 of them safely to the floor of the coop where they ran it what I can only explain as if they were on a hot tin roof out the door. This left poor Olive and even though her friends had left she was not going to weaken on her stand of not touching the floor. I tried to pick her up like I had Blue, Red, and Plum but she turned into ninja chicken bobbing and weaving her way out of my grasp. I finally had to stop and regroup because this was not working. It was then that she got brave or realized that her friends were leaving. She made her way to the bottom rung and made the leap of faith, once on the floor of the coop she stood perfectly still in a I can’t believe that I am still alive manner and then she ran with that hot tin roof style that the other girls had used out the door yelling loudly for her friends to wait for her.
I am happy to say that they have become use to the shavings although they have never used the nesting boxes with the shavings in them. Next winter I will control the amount of straw I add but at least I now have all the tools I need to get the job done right.
Have a Beautiful Day