A Long-Overdue Cleaning

When i injured my foot i realized that my ankle was probably not going to tolerate fifteen to twenty minutes of squatting in cramped conditions underneath roosting bars while i wore gloves and a mask to scoop shavings into a trash bag with my hands. The tray was meant to slide in and out from under the coop for easy cleaning if one had placed the coop on top of a level concrete foundation in a suburban backyard as the instructions had indicated. My ground was not level and the tray ended up wedged firmly in its permanent position, acting as a makeshift predator deterrent by providing a material that animals couldn’t dig or chew through to come up into the bottom of the coop. This meant i could not simply slide the tray out and dump the contents into a trash can. The cramped space also made it so that wielding a shovel in the pen was more of a frustration than it was worth. The best thing to do was don gloves and squat in the chicken coop over an extra large trash bag. Everything was going fine until i injured myself in a split second moment of stupidity that i regret deeply. Realizing that i could no longer physically manage to clean the coop, it became one of those things that i let go longer than i cared to. Every week the trash collection crew came with their pickup dragging a cage full of hefty bags and every week as the dogs sent them off with a ferocious sounding warning i lamented that there were no chicken coop shavings in the trash bags for yet another collection.

On the windiest day of the year, in a fit of energy and determination, i heard myself announce in an optimistic tone, “Today’s the day. I’m going to clean the chicken coop!” The rest of myself sat stunned in the chair, trying to figure out when i’d gone and lost my mind. On a windy day, cleaning the coop would have been a nightmare had i been able-bodied and in tip-top condition. What on earth was i thinking? This was sure to end in frustration and defeat. You could not hope to beat mother nature. That was not a thing. But, i had said it, and so it had to be.

I began by gathering trash bags and donning gloves and a mask. I figured i’d execute the task in stages, only worrying about one part at a time. It took me a good twenty minutes but i managed to fill two whole trash bags with shavings, poop, and old feed while squatting on the floor of the coop in an ankle brace and an off-loading boot. Getting the bags out of the pen while keeping the chickens in was somewhat of a delicate dance. Once the coop was empty i needed to fill it with new shavings. I spread some feed on the ground away from where i was working to keep the chickens busy and then filled the nesting boxes with hay, the floor with wood shavings, and cleaned the water dispenser (they like to poop in that; why, i don’t know). Usually i filled the feed container in the evening, convincing them there was an incentive to go in the hen house before dark, and i needed them to eat all of what i’d put on the ground so that critters weren’t tempted to break in to get it, so i didn’t fill their feed container just yet. As i hauled all my supplies to the shed and placed the trash bags in the can i noticed Daisy and Petunia coming to check their freshly cleaned hen house out.

They approached cautiously and had a look around. I wondered if they would notice the difference. I sure did. I had wanted to clean the hen house for so long. It seemed like an eternity and with the arrival of cold weather i realized the need to get the old chicken poop out of there was real. They would be spending more time in the coop with the window closed to hide from the elements. I needed to make sure the fumes from their own waste didn’t harm them. Of course, the chickens quickly set about eating the hay and mounding all the shavings in piles so they could peck at the shiny metal floor, but for one moment in time the hen house was clean and in order.

The wind blew shavings in my face, onto my clothes, and in my hair throughout the whole process. Old shavings and new shavings. It kept blowing the door shut while i was trying to shovel and eventually it began blowing the window open, causing it to bang against the side of the chicken coop repeatedly. Instinct was to pull the hair out of my eyes but i was wearing gloves covered in chicken **** so that was not an option. Eventually, ankle throbbing, i made the final trek to the shed with a trash can full of chicken poop and soiled shavings. The task was done. The chickens now had a clean environment and the homestead (save for the overgrown grass) was finally back on track.

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