Shoveling Chicken (Stuff)

Chicken manure is no fun no matter how you do it.

As a kid my grandfather had a chicken coup with a dirt floor and from time to time the manure had to be removed. And if you've ever done this job, you know how little fun it is.

But shoveling chicken (stuff) at a commercial egg farm takes it to a level you can't even imagine. Then add to mix 20, 16-18 year old males with shovels and wheelbarrows.

1. This commercial chicken barn held 10,000 cackling chickens. That can drive you batty.

2. The chicken cages were wire and suspended from the ceiling. The eggs rolled into trays along side the cages for easy collecting.

3. The manure dropped through the cage to a concrete trough below the cages. The trough was about 4" deep as I recall and there was a concrete walkway between each row of cages. The rows were really, really long.

4. The trough was concrete which meant that nothing drained from the manure. That little piece of information took all of the fun out of the job and by now you are probably getting a visual. Let's just say the manure was quite wet.

5. We had to shovel it into wheelbarrows, wheel it out of the barn, up a 2" by 12" wooden ramp, then stop at the top of the ramp and dump the wheelbarrow into a dump truck parked at sunken loading dock.

6. We did this during the winter, so we could not open any windows, just one small door at each end of the barn. Heaven forbid that the chickens get cold!

7. Once you took one shovel of manure from the trough, all of the aroma was fully released. Keep in mind, we had a lot of wheelbarrows and shovels going!

8. We were kids, we hated the job but were threatened with firing if we went home sick. We weren't very neat, and soon there was chicken "stuff" all over the shovels, the wheelbarrows and our clothes.

9. There were fights. If you bumped into the back of somebody with your chicken "stuff" coated wheelbarrow the fists would fly. After dumping your wheelbarrow you had to trek all the way to the other end of the barn to re-enter for your next load. Chances are you'd catch an egg in the back of the head as you walked away from your "friends".

10. Within in an hour the wooden ramp was pretty much coated with chicken "stuff", which made wheel barrowing up the ramp a little more challenging. Especially if your "friends" lifted the end of the ramp while you were on it, threatening to slide you right into the dump truck. Lots of spilled wheelbarrows.

11. You had to have a lot of seniority to actually get to drive the dump truck, but if you ever get this opportunity here's a handy piece of information for you. When you dump the load, keep moving! It ain't like mulch or topsoil that makes a nice neat pile. If you are standing still and dump the load it oozes around your tires and you will be stuck in that field until somebody misses you. This was a good thirty years before cell phones.

12. Wally Taylor. This was the early seventies and Wally truly was a hippie, and a character. By noon nobody had an appetite and our lunches when untouched. Except Wally. He opened his lunch box and pulled out two great big chicken salad sandwiches and we all sat in amazement and disgust as Wally cannibalized those sandwiches.

The pay? Buck sixty an hour.

The pay off? From shoveling chicken "stuff" to teaching others around the world how to Start a Backyard Nursery.

Who woulda thunk it?

Questions? I do my best to answer all questions on my blog...