I have taken on quite a few dirty jobs on Ten-Acre Ranch since FD and I moved here back in 2008. Most folks who come from a farm background or have a few acres of land, understand that dirty work is just part of this life. Of this dirty work, cleaning up after livestock is probably some of the nastiest I can imagine. Fortunately, it does not require special know-how, but just good old common sense. Back in June of 2011 I wrote about one filthy task that I do in a blog posting titled, “Cleaning the Chicken Coop“. The following is an excerpt from that post:
“Chicken coop cleaning doesn’t take a lot of know-how. It’s one of those common sense tasks. If you fail at chicken coop cleaning 101 the first time, you will always have subsequent opportunities to hone your skills and achieve satisfaction. Basically, one removes the chicken waste, does a little cleaning and sanitizing, spreads diatomaceous earth or lime (for insect and mite control), then puts down new straw or hay. We raised chickens at home when I was a young girl. My Mom always cleaned the coop. It was our job to feed them, keep fresh water out, and collect the eggs daily. No one taught me how to clean a coop. I just knew when I moved here it had to be done.
After that first stint of cleaning the chicken barn, I discovered many short-cuts and methods to ease the “discomfort” of the task. I found it takes simple organization. Opening all of the barn doors and windows makes for excellent air flow and less dust. I wear a filtering mask. The kind with the little ventilation respirators are great for keeping the face cooler. A good pair of gloves is a must. I wear muck boots because they are easy to clean, and they protect from mice. Yes, the first time I cleaned the coop it hadn’t been cleaned in a long time. Mice had taken up residence in the poo and came running from all directions, including up my shoes and pant legs!
Having just a few common garden tools makes the job quick and easy. If I had to pick one tool it would be the garden rake. It makes for quick, concise removal into the wheelbarrow. Turning it over on the straight edge allows for scraping and dredging. Working from one end of the coop to the other makes the job go fast and easy. Being organized is the key.”
The chickens here on the ranch actually belong to my mother-in-law. Generally, I do not agree with her practices regarding care of the chickens and inbreeding of the stock, and for many years I kept myself twisted up about what I observed in the chicken barn and yard. FD teases me about the “Lori measuring stick” that I carry around, measuring my ways of doing things against someone else’s method and, of course, mostly declaring my way to be superior. When we first moved to this place, I was so unhappy with the conditions in the chicken barn that I decided to take charge of cleaning the chicken coop. Twice a year, when my in-laws were away on a religious sabbatical or trip to visit friends or family, I cleaned the chicken barn. This arrangement worked fine until I got my measuring stick out and had a fit about some “infraction” my mother-in-law was committing (at least in my eyes) and, in delivering “justice” to the situation, withdrew my help in maintaining the chicken coop. With each violation of the “Lori measuring stick”where my mother-in-law’s animal husbandry practices were concerned, I became more disillusioned and upset. I finally just quit helping or arguing my point altogether. They were her chickens after all, and she had never asked for my help nor my opinion. Unfortunately, my withdrawal of cleaning the barn only made me more miserable as the months went on… and likely the chickens suffered too.
Last fall, after a long stint of avoiding the chicken barn altogether, I finally sneaked into the coop on a morning when I knew my in-laws would be gone and finally cleaned up the wretched mess that had not been dealt with in more than a year. At last, my tormented soul could take comfort in knowing the chickens would at least have a few months of semi-comfort. Then in early June of this year I did it again. This time, I also picked a day when I had the place to myself, knowing there would be no interference from my in-laws. Coop cleaning is not a job I like at all, but I feel better doing it knowing the chickens get a break from the filth for a little while. And at least, I have finally realized my expectations of how chickens should be cared for, and arguing my point with my in-laws, has never proven productive – though my mother-in-law does always thank me graciously when she discovers that I have cleaned the barn. So now, I do this dirty job knowing I am just doing what I need to for myself, and I understand that is all there is to it. Really, it boils down to feeling good about doing a job that I feel is important for the well-being of the hens and roosters.
Maybe someday, I will manage to give that measuring stick of mine a toss. I wonder if such an act could liberate me from my expectations of how something should be done, or how someone should behave? This is certainly worth exploring…
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