Tuesday, June 30, 2009


...that's cleaning out the hen house. Now with added mites. Urgh!

This surely must be one of the most hateful jobs, especially on a hot and humid day in a confined space. On a scale of 1 - 10? Probably in the minus figures along with my personal bĂȘtes noirs, filling in the tax return and tackling those 'soaked-in-the-sink-overnight pans'. Neither of those come with mites though- they bring an extra nasty element to the job.

Firstly analyse the task. One empty hut with a layer of straw on the floor and shavings in the nest box. Not too bad a prospect. A quick 20 minutes with the wheelbarrow and shovel and the job will be done. I tentatively lift up the perch and see dozens of minute mites scurrying from the sudden light. Little tiny things almost invisible to the naked eye. Bugger. The job now takes on another dimension. I eat a sustaining lunch and plan my assault. To be clothed or not? I'm not suggesting this is a task to be carried out naked but it is a hot day and from experience I know that my clothes will go straight to the washing machine afterwards. I decide on shorts and tee shirt - a decision I am soon to regret. I find my shower hat.

By the way, is anyone itching yet? Finding a hand sneaking up to scratch an itch which seems to be creeping through their hair? Just the suggestion usually has that effect. (I remember a talk by the school Nurse about Head Lice that had everybody in the audience scratching discretely...but that's another story.)

Anyway, 10 minutes later I am crouching at the door of the hen house, cursing the fact that I threw in whole straw as litter rather than chopping it first. It is proving a pain to shovel and I'm too idle to go and fetch a fork and do the job properly. I'm beginning to itch too. I just know that mites are on me and around me. There's a tickle on my eyebrow and something is creeping around my ear. Any skin uncovered is crawling. Ugh.

Well, pretty soon the house is empty and swept out and I set to with a blow torch, paying particular attention to all the nooks and crannies. I do this while squatting in the house itself. It is a confined space and is heating up by the minute. If you ever imagined me sylph-like, graceful and elegant that illusion must surely be shattered now. I am a small hot, itchy person in a hen house, in a shower cap, with a naked flame.

The next stage of my vendetta involves spraying with something stinky. Its horridness envelopes me so that stinkyness can be added to my list of current attributes. I read on the bottle afterwards that it is in fact only a deterrent. No good enough. I want these critters dead.

However, the job is done. I feel absolutely vile as I scratch my way back to the house, cursing all insects - a shower is an urgent priority. Alan backs away as I come near; though I assure him they only really bother poultry and birds, I can see he is not convinced.

I later place an order for Necromite - a silica-based product, a Diatomaceous Earth - which promises death to red mites by dessication. It sounds suitably deadly. I shall treat this newly cleaned house and the other two which are in use. This will involve the cleaning circus all over again. Oh. Doom. Despair. Even then I doubt if I shall be rid of them completely but hope to get them to a fairly low level before they become too much of a problem to my small flock.

Off now to rebuild my shattered image; smell roses and stroke kittens...anything but come into contact with poultry housing for at least 24 hours.


ChrisH said...

Bleurgh!! Lovely image of you crouched in the hen house dealing death to mites in a shower cap (you that is, not the mites!). Are they same as the red spider mite things we've got all over our terrace at the moment - 'cos there are gazillions of them this year... or do hens have their own mites? Yuk again! Stiff drink for you after that I should imagine!

Eliane said...

That sounds really really horrible. Thankfully I don't think we've encountered red mite yet but I do spray the diwhatsit earth in regularly. I couldn't get in our hen house if I tried - like Alice in Wonderland stuck in the Rabbit's house. Have now realised this is a good thing.

Rachel said...

Yes, lots of scratching going on here.....thank you so much.

When my parents kept chickens, we once had a plague of fleas - much the same treatment, clearing the henhouse, blowtorch, powdering indignant squawking birds in between their feathers, and scratching, scratching, scratching. Kind of you to allow me to remember that!

Hopefully you are now scrubbed and fragrant and enjoying a large well-deserved G & T.

Wipso said...

Just as well I shortened the trousers last week eh? I've always wanted hens in our back garden but for some strange reason I really don't now. Thanks for the insight.

Lindsay said...

I had the same experience some years ago. The hens looked restless - they slept in an old stable. We found a dead pigeon up in the loft crawling with mites. I had a complete stable and loft to de-mite. We got a smoke bomb from the vet. I was covered with mites and despite endless showers and hair washings live mites crawled out of my hair for about four days!!!!

Pipany said...

Yep, working up to this one myself and sooo looking ofrward to it. I have read of herbs which you can rub on the hens or hang in the house to keep them away, but i have my doubts. The 'real' side of country living! x

Fennie said...

Oh lovely! Poor you. I think I'd have been tempted to have left sleeping hens to lie. Well-earned glass of chilled Pinot Grigio awaits, methinks.

elizabethm said...

My skin is crawling right now and surely we must have mites too one day soon. They probably migrate north.
Why did you want chickens exactly?
Think Fennie is spot on with the Pinot Grigio.

Pondside said...

Ick and double ick! We always choose a damp day to shovel out the hen house, just to keep down the dust a little bit. I must add a shower cap to my outfit though - thanks for the tip!

Calico Kate said...

Eeeew! Fair puts me off having hens ever again! But it was the bestest shower ever though!