Most days I spend 15 to 30 minutes doing chicken chores. The first thing I do after I get dressed and brush my teeth in the morning is make the rounds to check on the ladies and gents. Until recently, I had to go up to the main coop first thing in the morning to open up the door and let Brown Rooster and his ladies out into their pasture. For Christmas I got an automatic chicken door opener which is on a light sensor and opens up automatically after the sun comes up and closes at dusk. Even though I no longer have to open the coop door, and all of the coops have feeders with food in them at all times, I still like to make the rounds first thing in the morning and bring everyone their breakfast. One of the girls’ biggest joys in life is eating, and I tend to indulge them a bit since it’s so fun to see them diving into their breakfast. The first stop is Coco Puff and Millie’s coop which is right outside the back door. I can usually hear them squawking for their breakfast through the mudroom window while I’m getting everything ready. After visiting Coco Puff and Millie, I let Lil’ Red Rooster out of his bachelor pad coop, which is also by the back door, and I put food out for him. The next stop is the main chicken coop where Brown Rooster and his ladies live. Lastly, I go down to the coop in the front pasture and visit Ramon and his ladies. After all that it’s time to head back into the house and make the humans their breakfast!
On frosty mornings like today, I also have to defrost a few waterers for the chickens by taking out the tea kettle and pouring hot water over them. We have three electric waterers that keep the water from freezing, but there are several other waterers in the chicken yard that still need to be defrosted. You may wonder why all of our waterers aren’t the plug in kind, well at $60 each, we decided three was enough! Equally important on cold winter days is making sure that the coops are relatively clean and that means scooping poop. On cold days the chickens tend to spend more time indoors, and an accumulation of poop in the coop combined with the moisture in the air from lots of chickens breathing can make for an accumulation of ammonia in the coop which is bad news for their sensitive respiratory systems. I scoop poop 2 to 3 times a week, whatever the weather is, to keep things tidy and keep the ladies healthy. At night I make another quick round of the coops to make sure everyone is inside for the night, and then I close the coop doors to keep them safe from predators.
In addition to the daily and weekly chores, there are the less frequent chores that are a bigger job when they need doing. One of the girls’ favorite things to do is scratch about the pasture looking for bugs to eat. Eventually their favorite scratching spots become devoid of grass, and the girls continue scratching in the bare ground until they’ve made a depression big enough to take a dust bath in. After dust bathing in the same hole for a while, it eventually becomes so deep that they abandon it in favor of a new dust bath, and the result if left unchecked would be a moonscape of serious magnitude! A couple of times a year we fill in the holes with extra dirt we’ve stockpiled from another project, sand, or even clumps of sod. This year we got a truck for the farm, so it made the job of filling holes a bit easier since we could drive a load of sand right up to the pasture and then use the wheelbarrow to move it into the pasture. After filling holes, I engaged in an exercise of futility, which was trying to reseed the bare patches with grass seed. Of course the girls are always on the lookout for something new and exciting to scratch up and potentially eat, so I don’t have high hopes of much of the grass seed I planted coming up next spring, but I figured it was worth a try. In the rainy season, the bare ground tends to get a bit muddy in the pasture due to the pitter patter of so many chicken feet. Every few weeks I bring small loads of wood shavings up to the pasture and spread them in the muddy patches. This is the one chore that the ladies actually help with, and they can’t wait to get their feet and beaks into the piles of wood shavings and spread it out in search of creepy crawlies to eat.
My biggest chicken chore is cleaning out the chicken coops. I do a full coop clean out once or twice a year. If I’ve been vigilant with my regular poop scooping then I can usually just clean the coops out once a year. This is a full day job for the main coop. I start by filling wheelbarrow after wheelbarrow with the pine shavings from the floor of the coop and bring them up to the garden to compost. I won’t bore you with the remaining time-consuming details of the coop cleaning, but suffice it to say that it’s a dusty, poopy, messy job!
I am fortunate to have a very handy husband to take care of the many chicken chores that require construction skills. It seems there is always a reason that we need to build something new for our feathered friends. The first projects back in 2012 were building the main coop, secure run, fenced pasture, and the shade shelter for the main flock. As time went on, we added three bachelor pad coops for the roosters, including one in a new fenced pasture in the front yard, a small coop on the back porch for the city chickens (Coco Puff and Millie), a small nursery enclosure in the main coop for raising chicks, and a separate fenced enclosure in the main chicken pasture to isolate frisky roosters or sick chickens. The most recent additions are a repurposed truck canopy shelter and water station in the front pasture, in preparation for the two turkey hens that I hope to add to our flock soon. Once we actually get the turkeys, it wouldn’t surprise me if an additional project or two come to mind. No matter how well we try to plan ahead, there always seems to be just one more project that we need to make everything just perfect.