Hens almost left out in the cold – Empty Nest by Curt Swarm


Like to write? I’m teaching a creative writing class starting on Saturday, January 20th, at 1:00 p.m., at our Empty Nest Farm in rural Mt. Pleasant. We will meet for six Saturdays in a row to discuss your novel, short stories, life story, poetry, essays, etc. If interested, my contact information is at the end of this column. Ginnie has promised chocolate chip cookies.
Catastrophe nearly struck the Empty Nest Farm. One night, before all this cold weather hit, I stumbled out after dark to shut the hens up for the night. As I approached, my spot light picked up the startling revelation that the hen house door was closed. That was strange. Why would the door be closed to the hen house?
Buddy stands guard against marauding hens Then the light picked up the next bit of news. There, on the ramp to the hen house, huddled against the door, was a brown mass of shivering hens. The poor things were trying to get in for the night. What a homing instinct! I opened the door to let them in and did a quick, confused, count. Only 11. We have 13 hens. I counted again. Still only 11. Uh, oh. Where were the other two? It was getting cold and there was a nasty bite to the wind. The rescued 11 went right to work drinking and eating. They must have been shut out for quite a spell.
I walked around the hen house, searching the ground and various nooks and crannies for the other two hens. There, up against the back door, huddled our lone red hen, named, Red. She let me pick her up and carry her around to join the others. It was pretty dark by then, so I had to hold the spot light in the hen house (there is no electricity) so she could find water, feed, and a roosting spot. Chickens can’t see in the dark, you know. But I was still missing one.
I flashed the light down around the foundation of the hen house. Nothing. I made another trip around the hen house, looking for the lost hen. I was getting worried. Left out at night, the hen could fall victim to a predator. She was nowhere to be seen.
In desperation, I got down on my hands and knees and flashed the light under the hen house. Holy moly, guacamole, did I spy a passel of eggs! Those buggers had been laying eggs in the dirt under the hen house!
Then my light picked up one little brown ball of feathers huddled tight against a bale of straw. (I had placed bales of straw around the foundation for insulation.) I carefully, removed the bale, trying not to startle the hen back under the hen house where I couldn’t reach her. I was able to pick her up and return her to the safety of the hen house.
How that door got closed, I have no idea. There was a fierce wind that day out of the south, and that could have had something to do with it. But the door is one of those overhead doors that roll up and down. For the wind to suck it closed would be pretty amazing. Could I have absentmindedly pulled it closed? My mind does wander considerably. I guess we’ll never know. The good news is that all 13 hens were safe and accounted for. Whew!
The next morning the hens seemed to have no recollection of their near rendezvous with disaster. When I let them out, they ran for the big house and peered through the open door as if wanting to join Ginnie and I for breakfast (scrambled eggs).
Guard dog, Buddy, was on duty.

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