|Farmer Man shovelling the....|
Number one priority for us was cleaning the chicken coop. Not a wash down/scrub down kind of clean; it's still way too cold to be using water that would freeze too quickly. It was time for hauling out the existing bedding and refreshing it with new. We'd been waiting for a warm enough day when we were both around - not an easy thing to co-ordinate with Farmer Man working off the farm! We'd tried a 'deep litter' method whereas you don't haul out the bedding, you top it up. Theory is that the mix of bedding and manure composts in place, providing some warmth. We've decided it's not our favorite method; the depth built up quickly and it was kind of slippery. Plus, the chickens' feet seemed dirtier all the time so the eggs were dirtier!
Watching the weather forecast we knew Sunday would be the day! High forecast to be around the freezing mark and both of us free. The endeavor starts with kicking the chickens out of the coop - one of the reasons we want a nice day. With their hatch open and a number of them already outside, we lured the rest out by throwing scratch grains out in the pasture. The flurry of activity from the outside chickens always draws the others out - if there is even a rumour of tasty treats, chickens hustle over to see what's going on! Once they chickens were largely all out, the open door to the coop covers the hatch so no one can get back inside. A few hens didn't make it out and Rocky the Rooster chose to stay with them, so we had to work around a few bodies!
The litter was, particularly under the roosts, about a foot deep. We use mostly wood chips for litter, with some straw/hay mixed in because that's largely what we use in the nests and it gets kicked around. With the deep litter method, when the chips are quite soiled with manure, you put another layer of wood chips on top. The result was something in weird, dense, plastic layers. It was heavy and didn't break up easily: once you got a shovel under it, when you lifted, it bent rather than breaking. It was hard work and it took three tractor buckets to clean it out! It didn't smell all that bad, fortunately. A quick sweep and we put down another couple of bales of wood chips and everything smells better and looks better!
A few more things got done as well. Snow has been pushed off the roof of the house, the path up to the barn and the chicken coop has been cleared, the barn got a good sweep. It's not exactly Spring cleaning, but it's a start!