Friday, April 15, 2011

It's a Dirty Job: Cleaning Out the Chicken Coop

Lately, the sun has been shining and daytime temperatures have gotten well into "shorts weather," as the girls refer to it. We've been listening to the woodpecker pecking away at a new nest opening and at night (and sometimes during the day) we could hear frogs chirping down in the dry creek. Clearly, spring was here, which could only mean one thing...
It was time to clean out the chicken coop in preparation for our own chickens.
Grade A spiderwebs, no?

I knew this wouldn't exactly be an easy task, since, based on the accumulated..."debris" the coop it appeared that the previous owner postponed the last scheduled cleaning of the coop in anticipation of his own move. Now we were stuck with an overdue coop and when I mentioned cleaning it to TMOTH he said, "Have fun with that."

Whatever, the girls were excited about getting chickens so I knew they would help me. Right?

In light of the thriving population of mice inhabiting the coop (and the possibility of hantavirus) I decided safety was the best approach and declared that anyone helping with the coop clean-out would need to wear a long sleeve shirt, long pants, a handkerchief over their hair, washable shoes, eye protection, work gloves and a disposable face mask. I take contactable zoonotic pulmonary viruses seriously.
Ready for hantavirus...and Ebolavirus, just in case.

Unfortunately, I chose the warmest morning in nearly six months to undertake this project, which meant once I announced that today was THE day for the project the girls were no longer interested in helping me and instead decided the rope swing was feeling neglected.

Funny that I should feel like the Little Red Hen while cleaning the coop, no?
Today is a good day to shovel.

Anyway, I started by using a broom to sweep down the copious amounts of spider webs (and dust) and then moved on to the shoveling. I began shoveling next to the coop door, and the loads had a certain satisfying cleaving pattern. Based on how quickly that section went I was sure I'd be done in no time.

Of course, since I'm new to chickens it never really occurred to me that the worst part would be under the roosts. By the time I got back there I was melting and the goggles were fogging up (not to mention, the claustrophobia was kicking in). Unlike the area near the door, under the roosts was a good five-to-six inch moist and smelly layer waiting for me. Ugh.

Suddenly the shovel loads were not quite as satisfying.

I had been placing my shovel loads into our old plastic wagon, which straddled the coop door. We don't yet have a wheel barrow so this was the next best thing. Unfortunately, I filled the first load so heavily that the wagon's bulging sides lodged the wagon in the door frame. So...I had to squat (nearly putting my face in the wagon contents) to lift the load up and over the door threshold.

Don't overfill your wagon or wheelbarrow, people. Lesson learned.

My plan was to dump the wagon contents in a corner of the back half-acre, since the manure was still too "hot" to add directly to a garden. Unfortunately, the path required for that plan meant that I would have to pull the 100+ pound wagon of manure uphills several hundred feet.

Change of plans.

I decided to dump the wagon contents at a closer corner of the back half-acre which would require uphill pulling only after the wagon had been emptied. Genius! Well, genius except for the part where I forgot to get my foot out of the way before switching directions.

After getting the first load dumped (and being thoroughly drenched in sweat and dust by now) I decided that my goal to finish emptying the coop that day may not happen. Instead, I resolved myself to get at least three wagon loads out.

And three loads it was because after the dumping the third load I realized that a wagon wheel had broken. Sometimes the universe helps you stick to your plans.
Wagon broken. Watch out for the cholera.

A week later (and on a much cooler day) I finished up the worst of the coop cleaning. Now we just have to hose everything down, replace the roosts and get bedding, feeders and waterers installed.

And, of course, get chickens. Which we may or may not already have...because sometimes I'm not a very patient person.

--Rational Mama


  1. Best.Coop.Cleaning.Post.Ever!
    Good call on the mask. And if I lived near by I'd so let you borrow my wheelbarrow!!

    I have to say though, the pic of your shadow in the doorway with the light behind you is AMAZING! Photo contest or blog header or something... such a great photo. ;)

    Lastly, don't forget how the story of the little red hen ended. I say when you make your first amazing souffle (or quiche or omelet) with your own eggs, you don't share it with anybody! Remind them all that the rope swing needs some attention. ;)

  2. Thanks for the compliments (and the plug, if that was you :) ). I thought I was done taking pictures when I headed into the coop and was really struck by the silhouette, so I ran back and got the camera. Now that most of the "grossness" is out of the coop I'm hoping that volunteer recruitment will be more successful. :)

  3. It was me. You had me laughing so hard in this post I HAD to share it. ;)