Winter Cleaning

Everyone’s heard of your home going through Spring cleaning, sometimes you even have a Fall cleaning… If you’re one of Polyface’s chickens, your home goes through a Winter cleaning, too. That’s right, I’m talking about our brooder. Between our broiler chicks and our last batch of layer chicks this past year we used a pressure washer to actually clean the inside of the big brooder. However, by the time winter rolled around and we had no more chicks to put in the brooder, we had about two feet of sawdust bedding that had been compiled throughout the year. Since it has been under roof all year and chicks haven’t been on it in a while, all of this sawdust can be and is re-used. Now the real fun begins…Cleaning out the brooder.
Here’s how you can clean out a brooder like ours in 5 easy steps. 🙂

1. Hurry up and wait… Wait for a day that’s not windy. A day that is damp works best for shoveling sawdust. Otherwise you’ll remove as much sawdust from the brooder using your nose, ears, mouth, and eyes as you remove using a shovel.

  1. Park it. (No, “it” does not refer to you. You’ll get nowhere fast if you begin by parking yourself.) Park something outside the door into which you plan to shovel the sawdust. We used a manure spreader. This allowed us to stand inside the door of the brooder and shovel right into the spreader.


3. Shovel like it’s going out of style! We used scoop shovels so we could get a lot of sawdust with each scoop (ie, maximize each swing). We also found that a pitchfork came in handy when just getting started, because some of the sawdust was pretty well compacted. Remember the concrete cake pan I mentioned earlier? This is where that comes in handy. We can dig all the way down through the sawdust with no fear of digging too deep, because the concrete holds all of the bedding so that it will get deep and provides a floor so that we can completely clean each brooder section. Each section of our Big Brooder made 2-3 spreader loads of re-purposed bedding.


4. HOLD EVERYTHING! Ok, don’t get too carried away here. You don’t actually want to take all of the sawdust out of the brooder. You want to leave about 18 inches in the back that you will spread later (I’ll explain that later.)

5.  Now spread! But first, look over what you’ve just accomplished. Your spreader is full, your brooder is empty, you’ve worked up a good healthy sweat in the middle of winter, and you feel great about yourself! (I did, anyway.) Now take your soon-to-be-repurposed bedding to wherever you need carbon most and spread like crazy. We used our sawdust to create another carbon layer in our cow barn; another layer in our “deep bedding” cycle.


Now our brooder is almost ready for chicks, and we’ve got a bunch of happy cows!


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About Hannah Hale

Hannah hails from McComb, Mississippi, where she farmed with her parents and three sisters. Home-schooled all her life, she grew up helping her grandfather on his Black Angus farm and working with her family to raise dairy goats, laying hens, and bees. Her love for animals blossomed through her involvement in 4-H and cattle showing. Hannah discovered Polyface through a lecture by Joel, and while reading his book You Can Farm, she realized that her life-long dream of farming could become a reality. The summer of 2013 saw Hannah a Polyface intern, and she was subsequently chosen to become an apprentice. Now married, Hannah helps her husband as they work as Polyface rental-farm managers. She is thrilled to have the opportunity to be part of the Polyface team and learn from the best. In the future, Hannah wants to farm full-time and keep Jesus central in her life.

2 Responses to Winter Cleaning

  1. Rick Webb says:

    Love all of your post. I have been greatly influenced by the Polyface model. I am located in Central Michigan and have been researching, reading, and listening to everything I can get my hands on about Polyface. We are now at 35 head of cattle, will do around 1000 broilers this summer, and are introducing the egg mobile this year. I am a Pastor, have six children, and absolutely love the learning curve that the Kids, my wife, and I are going through. I would LOVE to hear more about how you manage the cattle in the winter and see some of the structures that you use to raise the manger and if you feed predominately small square bales of hay or round bales. Our family have been talking of coming to visit some day. Be blessed and thanks!!!
    Rick Webb

  2. Kristin says:

    Nothing like good hard work! At our farm, we like to reuse the “wasted” hay that the cows dont eat, or that is used for their bedding, and do the same thing–put it in a manure spreader. But we spread it out on the fields for fertilizer.