As the year oozes in to November, I have a strong suspicion that the opportunities for a full on Palace scrub are probably ebbing away. So today, despite having a hideous dose of woman flu, I decided to give the girls' residence a deep clean. Armed with scrubbing brush, dustpan, broom, bucket and disinfectant I headed outside to disrupt the chooks busy schedule of lazing about the place and pooing in inconvenient places.
First, I had to remove all the aubiose from the run. Removing all of the chicken paraphenalia (drinker/feeder/grit hopper/interesting perching log) I shovelled the well used bedding in to a bucket before emptying said bucket in to the bin. Theoretically, this should take no more than ten minutes. It takes significantly longer when a very bad tempered chicken decides to 'help'. As I began to fill the first bucket, the relentlessly arsey ASBO Chicken appeared in the doorway. She watched me half fill the bucket and then jumped up in to it. Suddenly I found myself with a loaded dustpan staring down at a hissing Maeve. I deliberated for a moment, and then unceremoniously dumped the contents of the dustpan in to the bucket anyway. This did not please our would-be dictator, and she squawked and flapped her displeasure. She still didn't get out of the bucket, though. After emptying another two fragrant loads over Maeve, I realised that she was not going to admit defeat and leave voluntarily. Briefly, I considered emptying her in to the bin with the bucket's contents. In the end, though, I bribed her with imaginary corn. Cupping my hand and cooing 'Chook, chook, chook!' at her, I led her from the Palace grounds. She eyed me with suspicion initially, but greed got the better of her.
As Maeve hunted for the invisible corn, I turned my attention to the coop. Removing the perch block, I emptied all of the old newspaper and started sweeping out the nest boxes. Celia is still broody, and clamped determinedly to the fourth nest box. Gingerly, I reached out to move her. She managed to get the soft flesh between my thumb and first finger and give it a really good twist. I treated the psychotic harridan to some inventive swearing before using the sleeves of my coat like oven mitts and dumping her on to the lawn. She lay there muttering like a boneless tea cosy for a moment before drunkenly staggering off. Now the Palace was empty and clean. Good.
The ramp and perch block tend to get rather mucky so I always scrub them down with a weak disinfectant solution. As I set about scrubbing the ramp, Hilda and Gladys wandered over to investigate. With every upward scrub the cleaning mixture sprayed skywards. The two adolescent newbies thought this was brilliant and took to running back and forth in front of me, looking for all the world like toddlers in a sprinkler. Unfortunately this water was rather mucky and Hilda is now covered in dots of poo. Lovely.
Before replacing the run bedding and nest box woodshavings I sprinkled the Palace liberally with red mite powder. I have yet to have an outbreak of the dreaded mite, but it is better to be safe than sorry. Once everything was dry, I returned it to its rightful place. There is something inherently satisfying about cleaning out the hens, and I stood back to admire its pristine cosiness. The hens wandered over to investigate the new arrangements. We then all stood for a moment, taking in perfection. Sadly the spell was broken as Mabel defecated on the doorstep and then Doris booted aubiose in to the drinker, but it was nice while it lasted.
I like to think that they appreciate my efforts.