A Shep Hangs in the Feed-Room

Di shep is the scoop.  This is not about a new news story, but the piece of equipment we used to dig into the feed bin or barrel to get the powdery mash or scratch (a mixture of whole grain, usually corn, wheat, and oats) to feed the chickens.

We boys had smaller scoops because the strength in our wrists wasn’t like Mama’s.  The scoop was used to fill up the pails from which the mash feed was placed into troughs called hoppers and the scratch grain was scattered in the litter, from which the word “scratch” was derived.

The smaller scoops were purchased from Paul Kuhl who ran a hatchery in Copper Hill, NJ and sold poultry equipment.  He also was the one to whom we sold hatching eggs and who supplied us each year with the baby chicks.

Mama’s scoop was made entirely of wood.  It was twice the size of our manufactured metal scoop made of tin.  When we tried to use Mama’s scoop, our wrists began to hurt.  It was only after several years of milking our few cows that my wrist developed the strength to use Mama’s shep.

At first the feed was kept in large wooden barrels and we scooped as much feed into the pails as possible and then used the scoop to fill them up.  Later Papa built bins in the feed-room, which actually was a small section of the chicken coop prior to entering the large room or rooms where the chicks or hens were kept.

These bins were large.  The bottom of the bin was actually the concrete floor and the back and sides were part of the walls of the feed-room.  With the large bins we could scoop out the different sized pails and not need the scoop. 

Later, we became mechanized and had automatic feeders that moved the feed from the feed-room through the coops with a chain that was pulled through the long trough.

To the very last day we were on the farm, Mama’s shep hung in the feed-room as a reminder of how it used to be.

Later when we boys went on to college, married, and had children of our own, I remember mama saying “lkh shep nakhes fun mayne kinder un kindskinder” (I get pleasure from my children and grandchildren.)

The Yiddish word for sheep both singular and plural is sheps.