It’s Shit Day here at Heedley’s Hens, which is not to say that it is a bad day. It is to say that this is the day of dealing with shit. Actual, literal shit.
A week of warm, wet days have melted what remained of our snow, and you know what that means!
No, you don’t. It means cleaning up a good six months’ worth of Great Dane poo, and you do not know what that means. Please do not tell me of your childhood German Shepherd who weighed 110 pounds and had Irritable Bowel Syndrome. Unless you have owned a Great Dane, you cannot know of what I speak.
(Great Dane owners nodding.)
Actually, I’m pretty lucky; I don’t have to clean up after Billie on a daily basis. She has a regular area, the little natural amphitheatre downhill from the coop and run, and she’s very good about keeping to it. This can make it tricky for The Stepdaughters to go sledding; they have to dodge the piles, and God only knows what’s under the snow.
Billie goes through cycles. When she favours the northwesterly area, I call it Poo Corner. When her preference changes to the slope, it’s The Stool on the Hill. Because I’m just that witty.
It was about an hour’s worth of hard, stinky labour (made all the worse by my ignoring the cardinal rule: when emptying the bucket, hold on to the bucket handle as the poo tumbles out), but now I can walk that area safely in the dark once more. The northern perimeter of the property has now been lined with Billie’s offerings, on predator watch. Let it not be said that she does not pull her weight around here.
Then, it was time to empty the poop pit in the coop. Long-time readers will remember last winter’s epic poop pit disaster. Those of you who weren’t here then and care to get caught up, just do a search for ROUSes, and read in chronological order. I promise you much merriment at my expense.
Not only did I not switch to alfalfa bedding this winter, I kept the sand. Let’s see you try to burrow a hole in that, beyotch. I am also keeping a much emptier, cleaner poop pit.
Now, I know, I know; one of the advantages of having a poop pit (or using the deep litter method) is that the decomposition of materials helps to keep the hens warm on cold winter nights. Sorry, ladies; snuggle up closer, ‘cuz Mommy ain’t going through that nightmare again. Not only was the infestation nasty, it took months for the story to fully resolve. Yes, the rats were eradicated by spring, but we had the worst flies I’ve ever seen last summer, thanks to an all-you-can-eat buffet of poisoned rat corpses.
With the construction of the new garden beds this past spring, I can finally use the contents of the poop pit for fertilizer. Why so late? One of our raised garden beds has been in production until very recently; I was still eating kale from the garden at Christmas, yo.
I planted my cold crop greens last April, and have been harvesting, collecting leaves from the bottom of the plants and then up the stalks as the season went, for eight solid months. I ended up with what can only be called 1-2′ kale and collard palm trees, with mighty, 2″-thick stalks. It was an excellent year for kale. The chickens thought so, too.
Having pulled up stubborn kale, collard and chard plants from semi-frozen earth, the beds were finally ready to receive the bounty from the girls’ butts. Their butt bounty, if you will. The timing will allow for the three months of composting recommended before planting cold crops in March. I’m thinking that’s gonna be some Super Kale.
There was one metaphorically shitty part of the day: I buried Buffy. The ground was finally soft enough for The Man to dig her grave, and there are now two unmarked graves in our little chicken graveyard, one to either side of Pip’s. I’ll paint the headstones when temperatures permit.
The Man and The Stepdaughters are lamenting the loss of their skating surface, but I adore this warmer, more humid weather. The chickens were able to access the full property today for the first time in weeks, and they were a joy to watch. Get those ticks, girls!
And now, I’m off for a Silkwood shower, to try to get the smell of shit and death out of my nose.
(I have a feeling that, once I have turkeys and, especially, goats, every day will be Shit Day…)