But what of the mice who live in the poop pit?, you may ask.
Yes, they live there. That’s been established. I can see the passageways they have burrowed in the mountain of chicken poop and wood shavings in the poop pit, 5′ x 2′ x about 1′ deep. Home, sweet home.
I can’t evict them until the spring; were I to empty the poop pit out, the hens would lose the benefit of the heat it produces while they’re roosted at night, one of the reasons we decided to go this way. But I can damned well be sure I’m not feeding them.
You might remember my temporary solution to the problem. I knew it was a feeble attempt, at best, and, sure enough, I went into the coop a couple mornings ago to find the cardboard chewed through in one neat little circle, exactly the dimensions of one of the openings. All the feed was gone, of course.
Time to get serious. To refresh your memory, the feed tube looks like this:
The inner section is ten inches in length, and four inches in diameter. The holes are 2 5/8 inches in diameter. The Man suggested I wrap the tube with a scrap of hardware cloth, but I really didn’t relish the though of wrestling with hardware cloth twice a day. That stuff is vicious. I’m still tending to wounds received in the line of duty when we used it to build the run last summer.
I stopped into ACE hardware to see if I could find a more permanent sleeve to slip over the tube, something flexible in metal, or a durable plastic, something that could be easily wrapped around the tube at night, and removed in the morning. Something cheap.
I looked on my own first (would you want to explain this situation to someone?), but I finally broke down and asked for help. I was met with disbelief and bemusement at first, but then the sales assistant really got into solving the problem. It’s a small store and we couldn’t really find something that would do what I wanted.
Then she blew my mind.
It’s not that I’m not a creative thinker. It’s that, having come up with a creative solution, I develop blinders, and can’t seem to see any other way to deal with the issue. When Pip insisted on laying her first eggs from atop the roosts, four feet in the air, and leaving their fates in the hands of pitiless gravity, all I could think of what how to keep her from getting up there. It took The Man to change the question: how can we keep her eggs from breaking? Thus, the egg hammock was born:
This time, my ACE Hardware sales assistant changed the question from “how can we wrap the tube?”, to “how can we plug the holes?”.
I swear, angels sang. Plug the holes!!! Of course!!!
We looked for rubber or metal plugs, but nothing was exactly the right size, and, at about $6 a “plug”, much more than I was willing to spend. I decided to go home and look for a solution lying around the house, now that the search criteria had changed. In the meantime, the tube went uncovered one night, and the mice had their fill. Which is galling. I do believe I actually growled.
It wasn’t until I was rinsing out some recyclables left by sink (because the recyclables are always left by the sink…it seems rinsing them out and putting them in the recycling bin six feet away is either arduous, or requires a special skill set that only I possess), and it all became so clear…
Yogurt containers. The little, single-serving ones. With their tapered shape, they would be the perfect fit for the holes. They could be filled with something heavy, and easily wedged into the four holes on a nightly basis. And they’re free.
So, last evening at sunset, after the girls had filled their crops to bursting and were up on their roosts, I screwed the containers into the holes, and filled them with those huge, heavy staples they use for fencing, the ones that need to be hammered in. Pointy side UP.
The containers were untouched this morning, and the feed was untouched. Success.
Funny thing, though. On the nights when I have successfully closed off the feed tube, I have noticed that there is nothing or not much in the way of chicken poop to clean off the edges of the poop pit. The answer is unthinkable, and yet undeniable.
The mice, without feed to snack on, are eating the chicken poop.
How’s that for recycling?!