Monday, December 08, 2008
Night of the Living Hens
This is a true story, based on facts, more or less, as I remember them. The only witnesses aren't going to correct me because they all have something to hide. I went looking for some tools in the garage, which is where I usually start looking for things. In spite of the fact that the garage is filled to the rafters with tools of all kinds I couldn't find the precise tools I wanted, but as I poked around I noticed a couple of old windows had fallen over in the attached potting shed from where they were blocking the door to the garden. The door and the surrounding door frame were mostly not finished and anything smaller than a pony could get through, but we aren't zoned for ponies and it's never been an issue.
So I had stacked some old windows, glass doors and boxes against the hole and then leaned another door against the whole thing. In spite of all my efforts the wind constantly blew through and knocked things around. Unless, of course, tiny ponies had wandered in during their migration to the south, but that is, I think we can all agree, unlikely. I straightened things out and was turning to go when I heard a faint "cluck". I looked around for the source and discovered Biddie in the corner, trapped by a pile of wire shelving. She was very contrite and concerned but I reassured her and got her out of the mess and tossed her out of the near-pony sized hole in my door barricade. She wasn't happy about this and paced around, swearing the way chickens do. I'm used to this. I get this a lot while gathering eggs so I just went on straightening pots and piles of pots. Suddenly, where the fiberglass roof meets the plywood floor a hen head popped up through what had at first seems to be a patch of rain darkened plywood. Seems it was more than dark, it was decayed. I yelled at her about coming into the shed but she was determined. She squeezed herself through the hole, widening it as she went. Then she hopped to the top of a stack of window frames, swearing and shaking her fist at me. She insisted that "free range" meant she could go any damn where she wanted on the property. Well, that was not the agreement and "free range" simply means they aren't charged for rent. I explained this to her as I escorted her through the hole I had tossed her before. I heard a noise behind me and there was another hen head popping through the hole in the floor. The hens liked to go under the shed to escape the summer sun and to dirt bathe in the unfrozen sand in the winter. I quickly popped a pot into the hole, driving the hen backwards. She began to say the most outrageous things about my parents and relationships while she struggled to get past the pot!
In the end I won and she was expelled, but immediately went to another rain rotted spot in the floor and forced herself through the tattered wood. I used a large pot this time but it went through all the way, making a hole big enough for a couple of chickens or one tiny pony. I found a big basket with tools in it and shoved it over the hole. Then I poked around with my fingers and found several other places where the floor had rotted out. I'm not a very good carpenter. When I made this shed I had a pretty good idea but somehow when it was done the fiberglass panels were not exactly overhanging the floor. They more or less pointed at the floor and when it rained the floor got wet. I had thought the plywood was pressure treated but after nearly 15 years I suppose it was too much even for pressure treated. Well, by now I had a bad case of "Bop-a-Hen" going with heads popping up all over the place. It took me several minutes of shoving baskets and bits of plywood before I felt the floor was fairly secure.
Another task for me to take up in the spring: rebuild the potting shed to be hen and rain proof. As I turned I noticed that the window on the east wall was only mostly done and there was a 4" gap along one side. It's one of those "measure twice, cut once" things I've read about. I'm more of a "slap it together and see what doesn't fall down" kind of builder. I took up a long thin piece of wood and looked around for a hammer and a nail. I'm not sure why I kept hammers and nails in a potting shed but there they were. So I tapped the nail into a random spot on the stick and started to nail it against the slot. Abruptly and rather like Night of the Living Hens Biddie leaped up and attached herself to the frame of the window while she tried to stick her head through the slot next to the window. I beat her back with the stick and was able to hammer it down to block the opening. Now all the hens were hammering with their wings against the blocked doorway and from under the floor. It was a feathered, clucking nightmare with me in the middle.
The blockages seem to be holding and I haven't spotted a hen in the potting shed or the garage lately, except... this morning I noticed a feather on the floor between the garage and the potting shed. It might have blown in, I suppose. It might be left over from my battle with the hens. It might have fallen out of my hat, which sports several nice feathers in the sweat band. But the hens are curiously quiet these days and they pace around the hen yard looking uninterested. So I think they're up to something. There seems to be more sand around the potting shed and the hens are looking dustier than normal. They also put a sign up over the big hen house that says "Stalag 13" and another one outside the potting shed that says "Free range means freedom!". I never should have shown them "Chicken Run" last summer.