As I drive to work I think of all the wonderful experiences I just might encounter today on the chicken farm. As I arrive at the farm, I look out and see the six chicken houses, all with two of their four four-foot exhaust fans running. I think to myself, well at least it will be warm inside. I start walking toward the garage; I get there and talk to my boss for a couple minutes. We discuss what houses might have problems in them that I need to look for. After our little chat I am ready to start working.
I look around the garage to find my work boots, which are old slip on shin high boots. There they are in the corner; right where they belong because those dirty things should not be seen. I throw on my boots and gloves and pick up my mask, the same one from the past couple of days.
I sometimes like to think I'm going into surgery because I have the same exact mask that doctors wear in the surgery room. I head back out the door and into the old Ford Ranger farm truck. The truck reminds me of a demolition car because it is so beat-up. I look for the keys and then I remember that this truck doesn't keys. I attempt two or three times to get the truck fired up. Finally on the third try she starts up. I press the brake put in it gear, and it conks out. I had forgotten that the truck needs time to warm up before I put it in gear. So I put it back in park and start up again. This time I let it warm up. Now I'm ready.
I go to the first house and open up the middle door on the side. As I enter all of the chickens around the door scrabble scared towards the middle of the house. I look around the house I notice the two sets of feed and water lines. The feed lines run from one end the house to the other and the water lines run from one end of the house to the other with a break in the middle and two water lines surround each feed line. The feed lines are made of metal pipe with an auger in the middle to move the feed done the line. The water lines are made of PVC pipe that runs the water to the birds. Wenches, pulleys that lower and raise the lines, located through out the house control both the feed and water lines. Both the feed lines and water lines are located on the ground when the chickens are in the house and up when there are no chickens in the lines are up. The houses have gas heaters located along the sides to keep the temperature up. There are curtains on the windows of the chicken houses that can be raised or lowered to let air in and out. This will bring the temperature down on hot days. Both the heaters and curtains are controlled by a temperature system on a computer. The computer determines whether it is too hot or too cold, depending on where you have set the temperature. The computer is located in the house and is set to determine the temperature by my boss every time a new group of chickens come in. The temperature is set at 85 when the birds are chicks, or babies, and slowly dropped to 70 as the birds get older.
I start walking up and down the house looking for dead or very injured birds. Most of the birds are dead because other birds have trampled them. I collect the dead birds and I cull or kill the injured birds that will not survive. I then tally up the number of dead and culled birds on the record sheet. As I am walking I also look for any problems that might be in the house, such as broken lines or indications of diseases. Some diseases can be noticed in the chicken's wastes. I also check the main hoppers that supply the feed lines to make sure that they have feed in them and that everything is working.
I then walk over to house number two and start all over again. I enter house two and I take a breath and I start to cough. I forgot to put my mask up and I got a face full of dust and ammonia. This breath feels like trying to breathe out a car's exhaust pipe. I have to step back out side to catch my breath. I put my mask on and go back in to do it all over again.
As I walk through I pick up the dead birds, that feel like rubber chickens. I then look down the feed line and notice that it is empty. So I start walking to the hopper and I realize that the pin that holds the hopper on the line has fallen out and feed is piled up shin high off the ground. I run down to the control panel and turn off the one feed line. The pile looks like a miniature mountain. I go back to the hopper and find the pin in the pile of feed, like trying to find a needle in a haystack. The grain feels like sand as I reach in, and luckily the pin is on the side with not as much feed. I slide the heavy hopper back into place on the line and put the pin in. Now I have to get a shovel and put all of the feed that is not touching the ground back into the hopper. After this I finish the other houses.
Now I need to collect all the dead birds from the houses. I go get the front-end loader and start it up. The sounds of the diesel engine sound much better than the old ragged truck. I drive the tractor around to each house and throw the birds into the loader. Usually this takes me two trips, however day was a good day and it only took one trip. I then take the birds into the compost or manure shed and evenly as possible spread the birds out on the ground. Next I must fill the loader up with old manure from the other pile in the shed and cover the birds up, so vultures won't eat them while they decompose. The tractor has a loud echo inside the shed. I hurry as fast as I can so my ears won't hurt as bad.
I start back up to the garage and I see my boss waiving his hands at me. I go over to talk to him and he tells me that the other boy didn't show up today. I know exactly what is coming next. He tells me that I had to do the other farm also. I think to myself, well at least the other farm only has three houses. So I drive down the road about a mile and I get ready to start all over again.