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Mrs. Henkeeper

My wife eyes the new chicken house suspiciously.

Julie: Is that supposed to be me?
Me: Oh, no. That is Mrs. Henkeeper.

This newest henhouse with its cedar siding and custom-cut windows has considerably inflated the price of home-grown eggs. Mr. and Mrs. Henkeeper raise and lower special doors in the north and south egg rooms when you move their arms. Forrest will sometimes lay her eggs in Mrs. Henkeeper’s room when she can remember how to get into the house. Which is seldom.

Our first chicken house, an A-frame with dormer, shelters the youngest chicks, Mildred and Alice. Every evening the older chickens try to sneak inside, and Forrest still lays eggs in it when she forgets how to climb the ladder into the new house. It is somewhat insulting that all the chickens prefer the first house, which I made in a rush.

Tom: Is that Mom?
Me: Of course.
William: It doesn’t even look like a woman. I thought it was supposed to be Beethoven.

SylviaThe second chicken house, shaped like a barn, was built to shelter Juanita, Red, and Sylvia while they were still chicks. But the architect, whoever he was, spent so much time mulling over the design that the builder, whoever he was, did not finish until the chicks were no longer chicks. They crowded in anyway, until Forrest decided to leave her A-frame and join the barn chickens. She pushed her way in and went to sleep, awaking to find that the other chickens had fled to the A-frame. For weeks, Forrest the outcast waited vainly in the barn for the others to return. And then at last the third and biggest house was ready.

Julie: That had better not be me. She looks mean.
Me: Oh, no. That is Mrs. Henkeeper. And she’s not mean. She’s just very serious about keeping things in order.

The third chicken house was sketched out on paper more than a month ago. During the time it took me to turn the rough sketch into an 8’x3′ henhouse, an entire 4000-square foot home on the lake below us caught fire, was razed and reconstructed.

The barn now sits unused in the garden. Alice and Mildred sleep in the A-frame at night while the older chickens fall asleep outside its entrance, or on the roof of the third house. When they are asleep, we move the older hens into the new house, where they belong.

At dawn, Sylvia and Red and Juanita run down the ladder. Forrest, who is blind in one eye, steps forward and tumbles off the side of the ladder, squawking as she hits the ground. The youngest chicks in their A-frame sleep in late.  Like teenagers.

Nick: Why doesn’t Mrs. Henkeeper have any pupils?
Me: Go look into Mom’s eyes and then choose a color from the acrylic paints.

One day soon all the chickens will know how to climb into their new henhouse at bedtime, and Mr. and Mrs. Henkeeper will move their arms every day to reveal 5-6 new eggs in various shades of brown and blue.

And if Julie ever reads this blog, which she won’t, she should know that she is definitely not Mrs. Henkeeper. And also that Mrs. Henkeeper, although appearing to be a little stern, is greatly loved for her ability to keep order in a chaotic world. Mr. Henkeeper, on the other hand,  mostly just moves his arms up and down.

Forrest explores third house in transit. Henkeepers with their egg doors shut.

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