Today I dashed down to the allotment in my oldest clothes, ready to tackle the mammoth task of digging out the main coop. Over the last few days, Cliff has been busy spraying the coop with diluted jeyes fluid to kill off any bugs or disease in the coop. This was a temporary fix before digging out the old soil and bark which would still hold nasties.
Armed with my trusty (and rusty!) spade, I made a start beneath the perches. It was incredible to see how much the soil had been built up under the perches. The soil was sodden and in some areas quite compacted, I knew it was going to be a long slog! Fortunately, Cliff came to help and together we dug out half the coop floor, traipsing wheelbarrow after wheelbarrow out and dumping it onto the plot. This old soil, whilst not good for chickens, will be wonderful for growing this year’s potato crop in! The digging and hauling the wheelbarrow was exhausting work but we made good headway. We would have made faster time if Hattie hadn’t had to constantly get in the way and forever had to be shooed away from the open coop door.
Next, Cliff pottered off to find some wood to make a new perch to try and keep our girls from roosting on top of the food bins. They have made a horrendous mess of the top of the bins. Hopefully this new perch will keep them happy and away from the bins! As a finishing touch, Cliff sorted out the old perches with a few nails, stabilising them so they won’t disintegrate as chickens roost on them!
We kept meaning to stop for a break but by this point, we had made so much progress, it seemed silly to stop. Together we managed to dig out the remaining half of the coop and scavenge for odds and ends of chippings or shavings to give the girls a nice floor. The instant anything was out down, they all rushed to check it out and spent most of the afternoon busy scratching through it. The last three or four wheelbarrows removed, Hattie stopped from making her 100th bid for freedom (making it to the threshold of the coop this time) and the shavings spread out, it was time for a well deserved break!
We found Phil in the clubhouse making tea as we arrived hot, tired but mildly triumphant at our success. Tea was drunk as we sat and considered the state of British politics before heading off to complete the coop. My last job for today was to disinfect and clean all of the food and water feeders as well as the bins. Dilute jeyes fluid to the rescue again! As the water and food feeders were drying, I tackled the bin lids and the small blue storage bin. These tool some serious scrubbing and cleaning with cold water in January is not for the weak-willed. Fingers frozen, I completed the washing and left it all out in the sun to dry whilst I refilled the water and food feeders for the girls. Honestly, after all the worms and other bits they had found today, you would have thought that they wouldn’t be interested in food. Wrong. I was swamped by a pack of ravenous chickens who pretended they hadn’t been fed in weeks. Idiot animals!
Lastly, I put the lids on the bins and checked around the coop. Cliff stopped by to say goodbye. As he was about to go, he spotted Molly had got hold of an elastic band. Who knows where it came from, but if she ate it, it would be curtains for her. I managed to catch her but couldn’t see what she had done with the elastic. Judging by the loud protestations she was making, I was reasonably sure she couldn’t have swallowed it. But where was it?! What followed was 5 minutes of desperate sifting through the shavings and chippings to try and find it. I had pretty much resigned myself to staying forever rather than let it stay in the coop overnight where some dopey bird would eat it, when my fingers chanced upon it. What a relief. I stashed it in a zipped pocket and left the girls with clear instructions not to do anything else stupid.
I left covered in dirt (all sorts, doesn’t bear thinking about what of dirt!) and abundantly thankful that there are always so many generous people on our site. There is always someone who will give you their time, equipment and expertise to help you, no matter how seemingly daunting the task. I definitely couldn’t have pulled the coop cleaning off without the help of Cliff! He says he takes payment in cake – so I will have to see what I can find tomorrow!
So the plan for tomorrow is to check over the coop and decide where all the manure is going to go. My initial thoughts are it should go into the middle of the plot, adjacent to the bench to try and raise the level of the soil.