The Clinton Herald, Clinton, Iowa

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January 16, 2013

BICKER: Dressing up for the winter weather occasion

CLINTON — Since winter started in late December, I have felt like little Nanook of the North traipsing out to my chicken house. I am bundled from head to toe.

I’m not sure I would get a fashion nod from Ralph Lauren, but my insulated pink chore coat looks pretty snazzy.

Over the weekend, I made the executive decision to clean out my chicken coop. No matter how cold or how hot it is outside, this job has to be done. I think, after all this time, my girls greatly appreciate my efforts. To speed this project along, I enlisted the help of my handy-dandy chicken intern, you guessed it, my dad. What a lucky guy. Yes, Dennis, the chicken herder Bicker, was called in for duty.

Since temperatures were less than desirable on Sunday, we dressed for the occasion. My dad looked just like a runway model in his attire. He donned a pair of snow pants that I’m pretty sure were older than me. These pants slid down many snowy hills when my dad and I went sledding 30 years ago. Those pants were apparently made to last. Who knew they would some day be worn to clean out a chicken coop?

My chicken coop project gave me a great excuse to try out my new insulated coveralls. I can’t think of a piece of clothing I enjoyed putting on more. It was thrilling — the feeling compared to watching a “Donna Reed Show” episode I’ve never seen before. Coveralls should be required apparel everywhere — at the office, at home lounging around on the sofa or out and about doing errands. They definitely have my stamped seal of approval. They are fantastic. Every man, woman and child should own a pair. My coveralls were topped off with my chore coat and a nice warm, wool scarf to protect my face from frostbite.

Cleaning a chicken coop in the winter is definitely not for the weak. My dad started off with the shoveling and I made trip after trip dumping dirty bedding behind the coop. My girls handled the process very well — they were real troopers. Of course, what do you expect from the best chickens in the Midwest?

As my dad cleared the coop out, one of my hens watched both of us very intently from one of the nest boxes. She was keeping close tabs on both of us while sitting on her eggs. To acknowledge her presence and to let her know she was appreciated, I waved to her each time I came back from dumping the dirty bedding. Oh, how I love my girls.

After awhile I think cleaning out the coop started to get to my dad. Since the girls listen to an all sports radio station out of Chicago, my dad started to get a little loopy. Unfortunately, it didn’t help matters that the radio was turned up full blast. All of a sudden, out of nowhere, he started swinging the broom around and calling out random football plays mimicking the announcers on the radio. I couldn’t help but laugh. And to top it off, he sounded like a very believable Kermit the Frog. At that moment, that was my cue to turn off the radio.

After about two hours, we finally finished cleaning out the coop. And it was just in time too since my hens were getting a little cold. There is no mistaking a cold hen since she has her head hidden under her wing. It is definitely unnerving to see a bunch of headless chickens standing around in a chicken coop.

As my dad and I spread the last of the clean bedding around the coop, we bid the girls goodnight. As we headed for warmer surroundings, I couldn’t help but wonder how many more days there were until spring.

Angie Bicker has been employed with the Clinton Herald since 2001. She can be reached at

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