From Pipi’s Pasture: Cleaning the chicken house |

From Pipi’s Pasture: Cleaning the chicken house

Diane Prather/For Craig Press

This week I have been thinking about the outdoor chores that need to be done before winter sets in, and that has sparked memories of years ago on the Morapos Ranch when, as a kid, I had to help clean the chicken house for the winter season.

The chicken house was a log building with a dirt floor. It was old; it had been used as a chicken house before Dad and Mom bought the place. We had to step down to enter the larger of two rooms in the chicken house, and so when packing buckets of grain and water we had to be extra careful not to trip. Nesting boxes had been built in along the walls so the chickens had a place to lay their eggs. This bigger room was also where the chickens fed on grain and scraps such as potato peelings and lettuce leaves. “Automatic” chicken water devices and pans with rocks in them — so the chickens couldn’t knock them over — took care of their water needs. Mom put out pans of oyster shell so the egg shells wouldn’t be too soft.

The second, smaller, room was where the chickens roosted at night. Poles or something similar were attached to the walls. Early in the evening the chickens took their places to roost.

I like to go to bed early at night so my husband Lyle teases me that I need to hurry so I can get a place to roost.

He says the alternative is to sleep under the roosting place. I guess that some of the chickens might have done this, but, yuck, what a thought!

During the summer we opened the chicken house door in the daytime so the chickens could roam around. We locked them up at night to prevent skunks from entering and killing the chickens. Occasionally, a small snake got in the chicken house during the day and crawled into a nest, probably to eat an egg. I never found one there and it’s a good thing, too, or I would have never set my foot in the chicken house again, but our brother Duane and one of my sisters, Charlotte or Darlene, did experience a snake.

The predator that wasn’t discouraged from bothering the chickens was the badger that came out at night and dug a tunnel right up into the roosting room. Many times, during the summer, we heard the chickens squawking after dark, and Dad ran for his gun. He rarely found the badger, though, because he had escaped back through his tunnel, usually with a chicken.

Anyhow, this is leading up to the fall season when we had to clean the chicken house. We used a shovel to clean under the roosts—uck!—and to tidy the other room. We piled all of the debris outdoors and then put fresh straw in the nesting boxes and on the chicken house floor. Mom always put lime down under the roosting area.  

What is so unforgettable about the chicken house cleaning was the dust which probably contained chicken dander and mites. Even though we covered our noses and mouths with scarves, we couldn’t escape that awful dust.

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