The first summer we kept chickens, I never thought about chicken gear. The girls were kept outside in our A-Frame tractor. I visited several times a day, moved the coop, fed and watered them, and thought almost nothing about what I was wearing as a chicken keeper. Well, summer is great for that, but winter care of chickens (and livestock, in general), takes a bit more preparation, and one thing that I haven’t seen discussed anywhere is what folks wear when they are caring for their livestock.
Now, admittedly, I have two separate approaches to chicken care. On weekdays, you can regularly find me in my coop doing weekday chores in my school clothes (after my shower but before I’ve done my hair and packed our lunches). On these mornings, I’m only throwing down food and compost material (dry shavings), picking up any droppings under the roosts and checking our nesting boxes; on the weekends, however, I tend to do larger chores (putting down diatomaceous earth, hauling out soiled litter, scraping off the perches, sanitizing the waterer, etc…). Different chores call for different equipment and different clothing, and for winter chicken care, I have a few stand-bys that keep me warm, dry and safe in our cold climate. I will note that while I’m sharing a few of my favorites with you, I am not in any way affiliated with these companies; these items are my preference only and have made my life as a chicken-keeper much, much easier. I tend to be very frugal, so if I have invested in something, I’ve tried to do my research and ensure that I’ll at least get a few years out of a given product.
Footwear, for me is the most important piece of chicken keeping equipment. Halfway through last year’s wettest summer on record, I sucked it up and bought a new pair of rain boots specifically for the chicken coop. Why? Because the mixture of manure and regular wear and tear had corroded the rubber of my cheap, five-year-old pair rain boots until they split and one day, while up to my ankles in garden mud, my foot was swamped by cold muddy water. I did a ton of research before purchasing my new boots, as I wanted something I could wear year round, both in the coop and in town (if necessary). I finally settled on a pair of Bogs, and I chose to go with their Women’s Rider Emboss Boot. While these are currently hard to find, I couldn’t recommend Bogs enough, and they still make a wide variety of other colors and styles.
These have been a phenomenal winter and summer boot, keeping my feet warm even when it’s below zero, while also providing my feet with maximum protection in the garden, coop, and snow. And while they were a bit expensive, given that I wear them twice a day, every day, I feel like I’m getting my money’s worth.
In the summer, I don’t regularly wear gloves out to the chicken coop, unless I’m throwing down new bedding or working with tools to build or improve one of our existing structures. Last year, when we started building the new coop, I picked up a pair of Mechanix Women’s Gloves, which not only kept my hands safe in several dicey situations but kept me warm until just about November, when I had to trade up for something a bit more winter appropriate. I will definitely be purchasing a new pair this spring for our next building project!
In the winter, gloves become and important piece of protection from the elements. I was disappointed early on by the quality of the work gloves available for women at our local hardware stores and the lack of men’s sizes small enough to fit my hands. In the end, I just started wearing a pair of old Thinsulate gloves that my grandparents had gifted to Jason for Christmas last year, and – honestly – they’ve been everything I’ve needed. Warm enough to wear for extended periods of time, small enough to allow for the dexterity required to accomplish the tasks I need to, and waterproof enough to allow me to operate the feeders and waterers. These gloves have not stood up as well as the Mechanix, but they are a cheaper glove and can easily be replaced next year.
While I’ve spent money on both gloves and boots for the chicken coop, clothing is largely the area where I’m most frugal. As I said earlier, during the week, I usually just wear my work clothes outside, and – for better or worse – my neighbors have definitely seen me chasing roosters across the yard in a skirt and blazer on more than one occasion. But on the weekends, I tend to go with an old pair of jeans, thermal underwear and whatever sweatshirt I grab first in the closet.
In the winter, I do tend to wear my good ski parka out to the coop when I’m doing work, not only because it’s easy as can be to clean up, but it also has a great deal of pocket space for eggs (I just need to remember to unload them when I get back to the house). I also have a pair of Carhaarts for those super-messy tasks (white washing, sanitizing, etc.), but they tend to get more use in the summer.
So, in summary, I tend to pay the most attention to my hands and feet in the coop. They come into contact with the most potentially sharp and hazardous substances , and by ensuring my own safety, I also ensure the health and safety of our girls and their roos.
Do you have any special gear you wear for chores?