Crunch. Crunch. Crunch. I walked through the icy snow, my feet slipping in the rutted frozen ridges. The sun had set long ago and the only light out back was a yellow block of light spilling from the window in the first chicken coop onto the glittery snow. I’d just gotten home from work and was headed to the coops on chick duty. I would much rather have been headed toward the couch with a glass of wine in hand, but we’d just installed a heater for the water container, and I needed to ensure that it actually worked. I also had to check for eggs. With temperatures in the negatives at night and lingering in the teens during the day, it’s easy enough for both water and eggs to freeze.
After making my way through the snow, I peered through the window into the first coop, the one with the light. “Hi, girls!” I called out. The chicks ruffled their feathers and cooed as I opened the door and checked things out. No problems! The new heater seemed to be working fine and water pooled in the bottom of the dispenser. Now it was time to go around the back of this coop to the other one, where they tend to lay eggs.
Darn it! I’d forgotten the flashlight. I paused. There is no light back here. None. Not feeling like making the trek back to the house and back again, I decided to work in darkness. Carefully I walked back to the second coop and felt around until I found the metal latch. Pushing it upward, I began to tug the wooden door open and then stopped, as a sudden vision from this past autumn intruded–a vision of the body of a small rat, pecked to death lying in the chickens’ nest. Oh, I’m really not sure I want to do this without a flashlight. I stood in the cold night air debating what to do. Hmmmm… should I go back and get the flashlight? I vacillated a bit and finally decided to go for it. The odds had to be in my favor, right? I’m still not sure if this was optimism or laziness at work.
At any rate, I opened the door and carefully reached into the nest area, feeling something soft brush against my fingers. A loud hissing sort of “GRAWKKKKKKK” filled the air. I jumped backward and shut the door. What the h#$L was that? For some reason the whole thing suddenly struck me as hilarious. I started laughing. I leaned against the coop and laughed and laughed. Pulling myself upright, I laughed the whole way back to the house, crunching through the snow.
At the house I grabbed my flashlight and trudged back out to coop. With my light held high, I slowly opened the door. Sitting on the nest regarding me with a baleful eye was one Rhode Island Red. She wasn’t budging and I ceded: There was no need to push this issue. Still smiling, but with no eggs in hand, I stomped back through the slippery snow to the house.