Ach, Die Huehnerleiter!
Ah-ch, dee hiu nyah lai ta
Oh! The chicken ladder!
During his residence in Germany, the informant heard this phrase many times from his host mother in Hanover. She claimed that its an old German phrase she learned from her mother. It is often used in situations where we would use a slightly more inappropriate phrase along the lines of oh shoot!
The informant thinks that the metaphor might have originated from the construction of old barns where chickens were stacked in various compartments up against a wall. The chicken ladder refers to the ladder used to climb up to get to the chickens in the top shelves. It is an annoying task because as one makes ones way up the ladder, one would have to overcome the formidable task of avoiding chicken droppings. Literally, the metaphor refers to the unfortunate disposition of being in a poopy situation.
This metaphor is very similar to one that we often use. Again, slightly inappropriate, we often hear people say, oh youre in deep sh*t now. Except, the German version of Oh chicken ladder! provides much more physical imagery making the phrase more comical than the crude one we hear.