By Lisa Boonstoppel-Pot
The expression “don't put off until tomorrow what you can do today” proved itself very wise when I locked myself in the chicken tractor (chicken coop on wheels) with an angry rooster behind me and a solid cage around me.
It was time for morning chores and when I can, I like to take my time because this is such a good part of my day. On this day, however, I had so much to do: interviews, cottage renovations and driving daughters to their jobs after school. It’s fair to say my head was too full and I was rushing through tasks I normally relish. The cats got a hurried scoop of cat food, the horse pen was mucked out in record time and the hens in the big pen didn’t appreciate my cold hand grabbing for eggs.
The final task during chores is to check the banties and brown hens in the chicken tractor outside. These lucky hens get moved to new grass every day but the night before had been cold and snowy so I’d rolled them into the shed. When I looked inside the cage that morning, I noticed a dead hen in the corner. She was old and didn’t lay eggs anymore (though she ate like she did) so it wasn’t a production loss. Still, it’s sad to see an animal die of natural causes. To get her out, I opened the latch and walked in the built-like-a brick-house cage to remove the old hen. I heard the door “click” behind me.
Dead hen in hand with a rooster getting fussy behind me, I realized I was locked in. The designer of the chicken tractor had sold it with a string inside the cage to pull the latch and open the door from the inside. That string rotted off a few months ago and I kept meaning to replace it.
When I heard that click, I thought, “no worries, I’ll call my partner Jason and he can drive over and get me out.” I reached into my pocket. NO PHONE.
That’s when I started to get a little worried. The girls had already left for school and there was no one at home. The first daughter wouldn’t return home until 4 p.m. and who’s to say she’d go straight to the barn? She often did to check the horses but not always. It was just after eight a.m ... I might be in that coop for 12 hours if I didn’t figure something out. Indeed, I was starting to feel quite desperate. I had interviews for the magazine booked! And that rooster has spurs at least three inches long ... how long before he tried to rule the roost? Would I have to flog him with the dead hen in order to survive?
I checked for options. Could I lift the coop and crawl underneath? I tried but this coop takes effort to roll on wheels. I have some muscle but even if I could lift it, how would I shimmy out underneath? Could I kick through the wire? Nope, this coop wasn’t built with flimsy chicken wire. It was thick, metal wire, embedded between the wood structure. Could I crawl out the back hatch where I collect eggs? Not with this ass. Was there a stick in the coop I could press through the wire and toggle the latch? Only straw.
There was only one thing to do – bust that door down and hope I could fix it later. Thankfully I have a pair of powerful legs thanks to my triathlon years and with hens flying in the air, the rooster crowing and the dog running around barking from all the drama, I sat on my bum and kicked with all the force I could muster. It took five solid kicks and the force found its weak point – the latch. The metal latch and bolt twisted and bent until they separated from each other and the door flew open! I was free!
The latch will need to be replaced but I was able to hammer it back into shape just enough to shut the door once I got out.
Then, before I put it off for even another second, I got a piece of fence wire that WON’T rot. I measured and cut the right length to replace the trip rope inside the cage. Then I carefully made sure when pulled, it lifted that banged-up latch to open the door of the cage from the inside. Never again will I end up with feathers in my hair, a red-eyed rooster ready to draw blood and hens that wouldn’t lay eggs for a week after the fright I gave them. ◊