Rainy Day Hens

Yesterday a nor’easter blew through. The name of the storm refers to the direction that the wind is coming from – the north and east – which around here means it’s whipping off of the Atlantic Ocean. This nor’easter brought drenching cold rain, with stretches of sleet and snow. For more than 24 hours, the rain came down in torrents. The pond is near to overflowing.

overflowing pond


The animals stayed inside. Damp air, wet ground, and enclosed chickens pooping in one place, are all a recipe for illness. I can’t count on the sun to dry things out. Rain, drizzle and snow are all predicted for the rest of the week. I usually pick out the manure every few days, and do a good coop clean on the weekend. After yesterday’s downpour, and with more to come, I decided to be proactive in my flock’s care. I got up early and did what I could.

I can’t dry out the runs, but I can rake up leaves and manure. I don’t want the girls to be milling about on rotting vegetation.

rake up


Next, I used the fine-tined pitchfork to muck out manure. I also shoveled out a wet area that Phoebe used as her litter box. She usually does her business outside, but when it storms, she goes in a corner. She’s tidy, but that pee just adds to the moisture in the barn, so I cleaned it out.

rabbit in coop


I put down lots of fresh bedding, which not only dries things out, but also gets the hens active, which helps to keep the girls healthy.

dry coop bedding


During a nor’easter, you have to close the doors, or everything would be soaked. However, the last thing that you should do during bad weather is to shut the barn up tight. Both of my coops have excellent ventilation, but even so, I opened the doors wide this morning while mucking out. Even though it was drizzling, fresh air is essential.

open up coop


I also encouraged the girls to get outside. I rarely feed scratch grains, but this morning they got a handful of cracked corn.

chickens in pen


In order to keep external parasites in check, and to keep their feathers in good shape, hens need to dust bathe. Obviously, if the run is a mucky mess, they can’t roll around in dirt outside. That’s why I provide them with a sand-filled litter box in the coop. It only works if it’s kept tidy, so I scooped that out this morning, too. (You can see how unappealing it was in this photo taken before I sifted through it.)

dirty dust bath


Lastly, I’ve been keeping the hens busy with pumpkins, which they peck at all the way down to the skin. They hadn’t quite finished the butternut squash (seen on the right in this photo) but, with the above-freezing temps and dampness, that veg was about to rot, so I tossed it in the compost pile before it could add to the moisture and mess in the coop.

pumpkin and squash


All of these chores took less than a half-hour this morning (including cleaning the goats’ stall which is a story for another day!) It was time well spent.


  1. after reading what you posted here realize I shouldn’t have lazed out and done it today

  2. The kids like to go out to the chicken pen, so one day when I was heading out, my son wanted to join. I told him he could help clean the coop. One of his comments was “Why can’t they make more eggs instead of poop?” I laughed about it, but really he brings up a good question.

    • Actually, I’m amazed at how productive chickens are! :Once you’ve mucked out a horse barn, one muck tub of manure from a dozen chickens doesn’t seem like that much :)

  3. It would have taken me way more than half an hour! I’m never good about ‘just working’. I like to ‘visit’ while I clean!

    • There are days when it takes all morning, but not only did I have other things to get to (this blog!) but that damp chill in the air kept me from wanting to spend time outside.

  4. Cleaning out the coop is always a fun time at my house. No matter what they are doing when I go out there, the hens have to come in to see what I am doing. I no sooner enter the gate of the pen or the door of the coop, and I’m descended upon; often by more than one bird at a time. My 6 month old rooster loves to sit on my shoulder and take the walk with me when I go get the mail. All in all, they are a curious and very friendly bunch. I like it that way. :):)

    Thanks for all the great tips, Terry. They are appreciated!