The chicken coop was here when Harry Truman lived here. The outhouse and the shed to the right of the chicken coop were brought in later, but the chicken coop is original. Farming has never been easy work, especially when one has to deal with animals. One time Harry wrote to Bess in Independence that he’d been trying to get 29 pigs into the barn. He got 15 of them in and then decided to put corn in the barn to entice in the rest of them. All of them went in except what he called “the extra smart one,” who ran in, grabbed an ear of corn, and ran out right between Harry legs. He fell down in the mud, the barn door came open, and all the pigs got back out. Harry said that whenever the barn door was open and he didn’t want the pigs in there, of course, every one of them would go right in.
Chickens, however, when it came to farm animals, seemed the least offensive. They’re mainly just dumb, but they don’t get into that much trouble. Truman’s chickens did however, get lice, and Harry wrote Bess about his mother’s special recipe for chicken dip. And it doesn’t sound like something the lice would enjoy. He said his mother would get some chewing tobacco and steep it in hot water as if she was making tea. He said she would use four twists per bucket.
Then she would put in enough cold water to cover up the chicken and cool down the water so the chicken didn’t get burned. Next, she would put in a tablespoonful of melted grease.
Lastly, she would put her hand over the chicken’s eyes and bill (hold his nose, so to speak), and, as Harry wrote, “souse him good.” “Young and old alike can go through the process without harm,” he told Bess. He said it was a good idea to pick a warm day if you’re going to be dipping chickens. For a young man who had grown up in town, life of this farm—chickens, chicken lice, extra smart hogs—it all must have taken some getting used to.
The Truman Farm Chicken Coop was rehabilitated in 2018, with the help of fees collected at Harry S Truman National Historic Site.
Park staff thanks visitors for their support of the park as we preserve these structures for future generations. THANK YOU!!