Sunday, March 27, 2011

Cleaning out the Coop

A week or so ago we actually had some decent weather.  It was still cold out but sunny, a good day to clean out the chicken coop.  I clean out the coop 2 to 3 times a year.  I scrape and shovel out all the litter and put in on one of the garden spots.

It is a daunting task and not one for the weak stomached to clean out a chicken coop.  Lets face it they don't call them foul for any old reason!  I have worked with some seriously raunchy lab samples in my day, so this does not bother me at all.  I don several layers of clothing, a nice shower cap thing that my husband has to wear from one is his surgeries, gloves,  and a dusk mask.  Also I have to wear my glasses - can't be in all that dust and ick with contacts in.  Sexy isn't it?!  :o)

I gather up a shovel and the wheel barrel and off to the coop I go.  We had purchased new pine shavings for the coop and left them in the truck.  My son drives the truck over to the coop so I don't have to carry the bales of shavings.  Our coop is 8x8 and it takes 3 bales of shavings to give a nice layer for the coop floor.

The chickens start to panic because they are spooked by my get up.  Had I just walked over to them without the dusk mask and shiny shower cap they would be all running for me looking for treats.  I open the door and the goofy birds are so panic stricken they don't know which way to run.  I finally chase them around the coop and out the door.

Once I have all the birds out of the coop I remove the feed and water tanks and the blocks they each sit on.   You have to raise their food and water so they don't kick litter and whatnot into it.  You want their feed and water to be about shoulder height to the birds.  As you can see I also have ropes from the top of the coop to the feed and water stations.  This is to keep the birds off of the tops of the tanks.  Chickens love to stand (and poop) on everything so you have to do what you can to keep them off of some things.

I commence to shoveling load after load of the spent litter into the wheel barrel and taking it to a garden plot near by.  This litter is pretty well composted and pretty much just dirt now but it is still a little hot. This mean that the nitrogen levels are pretty high and the compost needs time to mellow.  This will be the last time I can throw the litter directly into this garden spot.  I will move to the next garden spot the next time I clean out the coop.  As I work on the coop the chickens have the option to free range in the yard but they are too scared to move and just huddle at the end of the run.  I think I hear a few scream, "AHHHH Monster!!!"  When I stepped out of the coop to wheel the loaded barrel out to dump it.

I takes about 4 loads to clean the coop out completely.  I inspect the fool to make sure it is holding up - which it is very nicely.  I also look for possible signs of vermin.  We built the coop very tight and so far so good no rat holes or signs of vermin!  *phew*  I do not want to deal with rats!  *shudder*
I generally change out the hay in the nest boxes as well but my husband just put fresh hay in them so I will leave them alone this time.  It looks pretty good.  You may have noticed there are only 4 nest boxes for 10 laying hens.  This is just fine as the goofy birds all lay in the same hole anyway.  I could have gotten away with just 2 nest boxes and it would have been fine.  I rarely find the eggs in all 4 holes.  Usually they are all in 2 holes.  I will do a post about the coop and our lessons learned from our design in a later post.

Once everything is cleaned out to my satisfaction, I dump in 3 big bales of shavings and kick them around to cover the floor with new fresh litter.  I also will open the window and the lid to the nest boxes to air out the coop for a few hours.  I replace the blocks and the food and water tanks, and that is it.  The chickens usually meander in after I take off my silly shiny shower cap and scary dust mask and wonder about the coop in total amazement.  I hear them whisper to each other, "wow its to clean in here!  Everything smell so new and fresh."  They cluck their thanks to me and proceed to poop everywhere again.  Ah the vicious cycle of having chickens.  I love having them and I don't mind taking care of them.
This litter will last until mid to late summer.  I will go in every now and then and stir it all up with a shovel.  That helps keep the smell down and it rotates the used litter on top down to the bottom and brings up some fresher stuff.  The chickens are pooping machines and the used litter has been very beneficial to the garden spots.  We hope to be able to plant corn in the one spot this year.  Once I am done and put all my tools away and trow away the plastic bags from the shavings....I head straight to the shower!!  The dust from the coop is very fine and it gets everywhere.

No comments:

Post a Comment