I stand before you a broken woman. Innocent, no more. The days of blissful Farm-Maiden-ness… well, they are long gone. I spent better (?) part of 7 hours on Saturday mucking out, hosing down, spraying with vinegar, and whitewashing the inside of the coop to rid our farm of mites and lice and other things we shall never speak of. My boots, which work on a regular basis, had never seen the likes of our Saturday. They are officially broken-in. No fashion wellies on this farm. You gotta pull your weight.
Now, to be fair: it’s not the chickens’ fault. They’re birds. Birds get bugs. All the nice people in all the farm stores and internet farm forums said the same thing: birds get bugs. I just thought… I hoped… I pretended… that two people who love each other and have the best intentions of keeping their animals happy would NEVER have bugs in their chicken coop. Apparently, it takes a little more effort than that. Well played, Nature. Well played.
The coop- the big house– has been in action since 2008. I read that post and I laugh. I roll on the floor and cackle. “But they are so easy and so funny.” Blah. blah. BLAH. I’ve always gathered eggs daily and freshened hay accordingly. It’s not always pretty- rain makes mud, raccoons ravage, winter is long and stale- but you clean as you go and life goes on. Amazingly, it 4 years for any buggy creature to realize there was a nirvana within the walls… hay, feed, feathers, a little mud, and the occasional broken egg. Add in Michigan’s recent summer of 100° days and you’ve got a perfect storm for a crawly explosion. Good intentions, be damned.
While the coop (and water and feed and nesting boxes) gets cleaned out regularly, this was the first time it received a Deep Clean. After clearing out the feed bins and tools, I brushed, scraped, and pitch-forked all the bedding out of every crevice and corner. Then I sprayed it down with regular ol’ water from top to bottom. This cleared out all the cobwebs and dust that had moved in with the ladies over the years. Messy. By this time, I was soaked and nasty and completely emotionally defeated. Also, I gagged a little bit. There may have been a few tears. I used 100% vinegar and a backpack sprayer (similar to this one) to disinfect the coop before whitewashing. I used this recipe (Mother Earth News has one, too) for my whitewash:
1 gallon water
1 lb. salt or 2 cups
5 lbs. HYDRATED lime (white and fine like talcum power)
-mix in a 5 gallon bucket little by little (aim for pancake batter consistency)
Whitewashing brightens everything up inside small, dark barn spaces and has a little antibacterial action going for it, too. It’s also much cheaper than paint. I also painted the bottom of our apple tree saplings to help keep the sun and bugs at bay.
Everything I know, I learned. The hard way. So, lest you think I am SuperWoman living a dream out here in the country where the stars are bright and the moon is high… well, I am. But it’s not always local beef and free-range bliss.
Because birds get bugs.
And I, I am a better farmer for it.
Surely, you’ve had some humble pie in your lifetime as well, Friend? Lay it on me.