Empty Nest – By Curt Swarm


Mad as a Wet Hen

I’m a little confused with the term, “mad as a wet hen.” Our hens don’t get mad when they get wet. As a matter of fact, they seem to enjoy a rainy day. They busy themselves scratching in the wet grass and generally run around and act as if they’re on holiday. On a rainy day, I leave the door open to their hen house and they have the option of staying indoors where it’s dry, or going out in the rain. They always go out. “Mad as a wet hen” is a misnomer, like “quantum leap.” We usually think of a quantum leap as something large, but in physics, it’s the smallest possible change.
Are these hens friendly or what? Our hens let us pick them up. I’ve made the mistake of picking up a hen on a rainy day. They can be quite soggy, which is not a pleasant feeling. But they don’t seem to mind wet feathers. Their feathers are so dense, I believe, that their body stays warm and dry, like corn in shucks.
We let our hens have the run of our two-and-a-half-acre Empty Nest Farm, and the boogers take advantage of it. We occasionally see them out on the shoulder of the highway eating gravel, and it makes passing motorists (as well as us) nervous. We had to do something to contain them. Considering the bad experience we had with a mink, and our desire to keep the hens out of the garden this spring, I opted for an electrified mesh fence, which would keep the hens in and predators out (hopefully).
Electric fences have come a long way from the single-strand electric wire and white porcelain insulators of days gone by. Now, the entire mesh is electrified, except for the bottom strand, and is solar powered. Sexy! The wire mesh comes embedded with stakes, so you just string it up wherever you want, attach the energizer, and you have a portable enclosure that you can move at will.
You’ve got to really love chickens, or whatever you’re penning up (sheep, goats, etc.), because this electric mesh is not cheap. If you look at the price of eggs in the supermarket, compared to what it costs to feed and house chickens, it’s not worth it. But when you go out to the hen house in the morning and collect a basket of nice, brown, free-range eggs, and talk to the hens and they talk back to you, well there are just some things that are priceless. And giving away farm-fresh eggs to friends and family is a gift of love as well as nurture.
Our hens seemed to be affronted the first day we had them penned up. They eyed the wire mesh as if to say, “What’s this? Why is this wire here?” One hen paced the fence looking for a place to get through. I saw her stick her head through the wire mesh, then pull it back real fast. That ended that. We feel better knowing that we’re doing all we can to keep the chickens in and predators out. At least the four legged kind. Hawks have not been a problem as of yet. Knock on eggs.
For our bucket calf that we should be getting soon, I had a three-sided shelter erected, and am building a little corral with gates and posts. We may get two bucket calves, if a second one is available, because two calves do better than one. We will then butcher one and sell the other (that is, if Ginnie doesn’t get too attached). In a year or so, there may be a package of hamburger or steaks to go along with that dozen eggs. Lord-o-mercy! Farm fresh eggs, and hand raised beef—it doesn’t get any better’n that!
For the naysayers, what do we do when we want go away? We have Brody and Boden, our neighbor boys, take care of things. Life is good on the Empty Nest Farm. We’re happy as pigs in mud! And that, my dear friends, is an old saying you can take to the bank.

Have a good story? Call or text Curt Swarm in Mt. Pleasant at 319-217-0526, email him at curtswarm@yahoo.com or find him on Facebook. Curt’s stories are also read at 106.3 FM in Farmington.

About Chuck Vandenberg 4568 Articles
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