As I compose blog posts in my head while I tend to my chickens, one of the recurrent themes is that the art of chicken maintenance is all about handling the poop–specifically, and here it goes, the coop poop.

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When dealing with the dreaded coop poop, nothing beats the hand rake at keeping the stuff at a reasonable distance.

We have a variety of coops (more on this in a later post), so our coop poop approach varies.  Today’s topic will deal with our oldest and first coop design and the absolute, most important tool for the job.

Our first coop was designed and built by Adam, my brother-in-law.  He saw it as a building challenge.  We discussed what we wanted out of a coop: movable through the garden rows,  nesting boxes that opened to the outside, a retractable ramp to close the hens in, and a screen skirt with a removable door for their scratching pleasure.  The idea was to move the chicken tractor/coop up and down the rows, with the hens scratching underneath and going up to roost at night.

Things don’t always go as planned.

The A-frame design is a good design: sturdy, stays put in wind and accessible–especially with a large side door.  We kept that basic design for our second large coop last summer.  Yay A-frame design.

We did not, though, anticipate the demands of the coop poop.  Here’s how: when constructing a door or access way, it is easier to clean if the opening extends down past the floor level.  That is, the easiest cleaning comes from a smooth scrape out.  We did not anticipate this.

While seemingly providing good access, the lower lip becomes an obstacle to a clean sweep.

While seemingly providing good access, the lower lip becomes an obstacle to a clean sweep.

We thought that a good nesting box, located at both ends of the A-frame, needed borders, much like a raised bed.  So, our doors have a lip around the bottom–good for holding in straw or bedding, bad if you then want to scrape out that straw or bedding with minimal effort.  (see picture to the right, with the removable door removed)

Enter the hand-rake.  Extending about a foot from my hand, my trusty hand rake offers me two options for coop poop removal: the three-pronged rake for grabbing the straw, and the hard edge for scraping the extra sticky droppings and, when the straw is extracted, shoveling the dust and dropping up and over the wall’s lower lip.

So, if you create a coop which has a level that is not open to the outside at the floor, then a hand-rake should be on your shopping list.

Happy chickening.