Night time chicken raid lands sunny-side up

Night time chicken raid lands sunny-side up By Bob Karolevitz We were like thieves in the night.

If we'd have had gunny sacks, worn black stocking caps, walked tippy-toe and spoken in guarded whispers, we would have been classic coop-robbers.

However, it wasn't quite like that ��but close!

Our mission was one even I could understand. Daughter Jan had 13 chickens which had been part of the Garritys' Prairie Gardens petting zoo during the summer; but when winter came, they were more trouble than they were worth.

They had to be fed daily, and their drinking water kept freezing up. Son-in-law Pat was too busy filling apple cider orders and doing other chores about the place, so he was unable to give them the attention they demanded.

"They've got to go," is the way I think Jan put it!

Well, tender-hearted Phyllis couldn't see those poor hens ��and one rooster ��being put out into the cold or into a noodle soup pot, so she said: "Oh, we'll take care of them."

And that's how I got into the act!

After a raccoon had decimated our small geriatric flock a while back, I thought I had gotten out of the chicken business once and for all. The left-over feed I had consigned to the mice, and the coop went on my schedule to be torn down "some day."

Well, thank goodness the mice hadn't finished all the ground corn, and I hadn't gotten around to demolishing the building. As it turned out, Phyllis would need both of them for her charitable chicken deed. And it would be easy, she said, for me to string an electric wire from the warehouse outlet to the waterwarmer (which I hadn't thrown out yet).

Anyway, that's how our night-time raid came about.

When it got dark enough and the chickens had gone to beddy-bye, Phyllis gave the command to move out. It was like a military maneuver.

She couldn't find any burlap bags in the barn, so she said that apple boxes ��the kind with slip-on lids ��would have to do. With them in hand, we crunched our way through the snow to the Garrity coop, grandson Sam showing the way.

Chickens, when they are asleep on the roost, are easy to nab (as our raccoon friend had obviously known). My job was very simple. All I had to do was grab each one, pop it into a box; and when the carton was full, Phyllis would pull the lid down.

Unfortunately, the birds were so big we could only get about three in a box. They squawked a lot when I disturbed their deep slumber, but somehow I managed to catch them all. Our only problem came when Phyllis almost decapitated one when it tried to get out just as she was slamming the lid shut. All we did was ruffle a few feathers though.

I carried the four boxes full of chickens to our Explorer for the mile or so ride to our farm. Jan's ordeal was over; ours had just begun. When we got home, I toted the birds again, this time to our own coop.

With Phyllis holding the flashlight so the chickens wouldn't see the beam and wake up from their trance, I gently placed each one on the roost in their new lodgings. Then we closed the door and congratulated ourselves that our chicken thievery had gone so well.

The next morning ��even before I got out of bed ��I heard a tap, tap, tap of a hammer hitting nails and an occasional thump. Phyllis, it seems, was covering all the holes in the coop which she thought a raccoon could squeeze through. If the ladies in town could see her now, I thought, as I rolled over for a few more minutes of shut-eye.

I realize, of course, that chickens will never replace sheep for her, but at least they fill a void. I'm glad now that we made our dark-of-night foray at the Garritys. because you should have seen the happy smile on Phyllis's face when she emerged from the coop and said:

"Look, I've already got two eggs!"

© 2000 Robert F. Karolevitz

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