By Scott Paulsen, FOR THE PITTSBURGH TRIBUNE-REVIEW
Although our hens are housed in a cement-block chicken coop, surrounded by a 48-inch fence, a renegade bird will, on occasion, make her way to the free world through use of deceit and subterfuge.
She’ll run around the yard, squawking, thrilled at the possibilities a new world presents, not realizing her freedom is short-lived.
I have experience.
I always get my hen.
For her own safety, and that of others, she must be recaptured quickly and without damage before she is indoctrinated into a cult or, worse yet, discovers cigarettes and gambling. In 10 years of trial and, mostly, error, I’ve developed a method of hen retrieval that works every time.
Here’s how to recapture an escaped chicken:
It is helpful to determine which hen has flown the coop. Like parole officers, each bird has a separate personality. Some listen to reasoning. Others, like an obnoxious drunk at a Pirates game, require something a bit more excessive.
After you’ve identified the suspect, it’s time to move to Step One: Go to the refrigerator, and grab a cold beer. Hen wrangling is a nerve-wracking and exhaustive procedure. You’ll need to stay relaxed and hydrated.
Step Two: Using a folding chair, take a seat somewhere in sight of the wayward bird. Pay her little or no attention. Merely sit in the sun, relaxing, enjoying the day, acting as if the last thing in the world you’d like to do is wring her little neck. When she wanders by (and she will — they’re nebby), engage her in casual conversation. “Nice weather we’re having. I don’t see you on this side of the fence very often.” At the appropriate moment, pounce and grab, being careful to cause no damage (to the beer, not the hen).
If sitting still and uncaring does not work, it’s time to move on to Step Three: Attraction.
As the wandering hen walks about the grounds, organize a party for the remaining chickens. Dress them in hats. Hand out gifts. Perhaps rent a band or a deejay. Make sure the escaped chicken sees that there is no better place to be than inside that fenced yard.
It’s the happening place.
The best birds are here.
Casually mention that Scarlett Johansson is dropping by later.
Gather the flock, and talk about the missing bird. If there’s one thing that attracts hens, it’s gossip. Soon enough, she will come back on her own, if only to nosh on the deli tray.
Step Four: Admonition. It’s important that after your hen is back in her rightful place, you explain that her actions were wrong, but you empathize. “I know it looks like fun out here,” you might say. “But trust me. It’s not as cool as being here, with your friends, sitting in your own feces, eating stale bread. Besides, I heard Scarlett Johansson’s bringing Sean Penn.”
If you feel as though your talk is not sinking in, try explaining Step Five in the escape retrieval method.