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ANOTHER DAY IN THE COUNTRY: Horror in the hen house

© Another Day in the Country

What better time than Halloween to tell a horror story! As stories often begin, “It was a calm, quiet evening.” My cousins were sitting at the table after supper when Vicki said, “I heard a noise outside. Is that your chickens, Pat?”  I hadn’t heard anything.

Not only is my hearing not as acute as it used to be, but there are certain sounds I just get used to hearing. The trains come through Ramona, within a block or two of my house, and I pay no attention — unless it’s the middle of the night and there’s a particularly playful engineer playing show tunes.  The rooster crows, or shrieks, sometimes it’s hard to tell the difference, and I pay no attention.

“I heard something too,” Keith said. “Where’s your flashlight? I’ll go check.” I gave him the flashlight; he ran out the back door and was back inside in a flash.

“One of your chickens is out in the pen,” he said. “Aren’t they supposed to roost at night?”

Immediately, I knew something was wrong. If a rooster is raising a ruckus after dark out in the yard, there is certainly something alarming in the hen house.

“Let’s go check,” I said to Keith.

Sure enough, Duke, the rooster was outside pacing up and down in frustration.

“Give me the flashlight,” I said, as I opened the door and right there, bigger than life, eyes wide in the flashlight beam was one of the biggest, fluffiest raccoons I’d ever seen sitting in a nest box.  No wonder the Duke was pacing.

But where were the other hens?  I shifted the beam around the little hen house and up in the tippy top near the roof, on a brace beam that was only big enough for one hen, sat two wide-eyed and wary hens. Where was the third hen?

You must remember that this is a small flock, we could probably call them a committee, since they were busy trying to survive!

I walked around to the back of the hen house and opened the door to the nest boxes, hoping the raccoon would make his exit.  He didn’t. 

“Open the front door,” I said to Keith, who was standing there in the dark and rather worried about the escape route the raccoon would take, and hoping he wasn’t mistaken for a tree.

Quick as a flash, the raccoon was out the little chicken door and through a hole in the fence made by one of the wild elms I’d let grow inside the chicken fencing for shade.

I coaxed the rooster back inside, shut the doors and said to Keith, “I guess we’ve lost another hen.”

This poor bunch of chickens were attacked by a raccoon last summer while I was in California which reduced the hen count to THREE — which is exactly the number of spaces high in the rafters of the Hen House.

The next night, I came home after dark and immediately went out to close the little chicken door. To my amazement, one remaining hen and the rooster were on the OUTSIDE of the already-closed-chicken door.

“What the heck?” I muttered while opening the door, when a dog started barking.

Training my flashlight inside, there stood a strange pit bull. 

You could tell there had been quite a ruckus — food and water overturned, feathers galore, heat lamp busted, and chicken door slammed down, trapping the dog inside.

One hen, high on a rafter, craned her neck down, looking at me.  I had one chicken inside, two on the outside huddled against the door, and it was going to be a cold, cold night.  I opened the big door and let the dog free, and had to stuff the other two reluctant chickens through the little door when I opened it.  They weren’t so sure they wanted to go back in there.  

“It’s a Horror House,” they said to me.

Come daylight, we repaired the fence where the dog had torn the wire, closed all the gaps and vowed to shut that chicken door before dark.  That evening when I went out, all three remaining chickens refused to go inside. Duke, whose one eye was swollen shut and missing most of his tail feathers, was having a fit. 

“Now what,” I said, opening the door.

This time one of the feral cats in town who somehow found an opening by that pesky tree and was inside, reduced to eating chicken feed.

“Out,” I commanded, braver with the cat than I’d been with the two previous horrors. “In,” I said to the chickens, sympathetically. 

It took awhile.

The next morning I came out to let the chickens into their yard, and who should come running across the lawn toward me but our missing hen. I couldn’t believe she’d lasted three nights out on her own.

She’s one of my Polish Topknots, so exceptionally cute, and like the others, she’s talking a blue streak as she almost runs into my arms. “You are not going to believe what happened on another night in the country. It was horrifying!” she said.

Last modified Oct. 23, 2019

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