Mitch Littlefield

a 16th-generation “Mainer” from a large farming family; the storyteller of his generation


 Then came the most dreaded part of the process. Cleaning the chicken house. You, the reader, might be amazed at the amount of dung 20,000 chickens can produce in 10 weeks. I can tell you the floors of the chicken house were about a foot thick with the salad of shavings, dung, spilled grain and water, dust, feathers, and anything else you might imagine. I can also tell you it was usually rock hard, and required a lot of very hard backbreaking work to shovel it all out onto our wooden bodied dump truck named “Emma”. Emma was also used as a hay truck, a pulp truck, a firewood truck, etc. Don’t forget the smell I described earlier. Actually, winter months were a little easier to take as far as cleaning out the chicken house as the cold seemed to knock the smell and dust down a little, or perhaps it was because it was so cold your nose and mouth were usually numb. One did not heat the chicken house when there were no chickens within that needed to be kept warm. The cleaning out, spraying down, spreading the shavings, cleaning and servicing of stoves, setting up the cardboard rings process took about a week to ten days. Then the process would start all over again. Bring in the new chicks, raise them for 10 weeks, pickup crew coops them and hauls them off, clean out the chicken house, prepare for new chicks, repeat.

As I said, raising chickens was considered a way to augment a farmer’s income. There were still many other jobs to do. I told you about the haying, which took about six weeks each summer, start to finish. I told you about shearing the sheep each June, which took just about the entire month to complete. I also mentioned spreading manure on the hay fields, which took a couple of weeks in August. I described cutting firewood, pulp wood, and timber, which was a year-round job that was done when anything else of higher priority was caught up for the moment.

from Memories of Shucking Peas by Mitch Littlefield (North Country Press)