A losing preposition

There’s a Sesame Street piece, dating back some forty years, about prepositions. It features a large cardboard box and Grover. An offscreen Voice exhorts Grover to get in the box. Grover walks over to the box and stands beside it. “No, Grover,” says the Voice. “You’re next to the box. Get in the box.” Grover looks apprehensive for a moment, and then climbs up and stands on top of the box. “No, Grover,” says the Voice again, with just a touch of irritation, “Now you’re on the box. Get in the box.” Grover, again looking nervous, first tries standing in front of it, and then behind it. The Voice corrects him each time, and then finally gets completely exasperated. “Grover! Why won’t you get in the box?”

Then the box opens and a giant hairy monster pops its head out and says, “Because I’m in the box.”

I’m reenacting a version of this skit, with me as the Voice, and the chickens as Grover.

When we built them their incredibly luxurious, beautifully fitted-out coop, we included a row of four snug, straw-filled nest boxes. The chickens lay their eggs everywhere else.

First, they laid them in the run, in a sheltered corner beneath the coop.

“No, that’s under the nest boxes,” I said. “Lay your eggs in the nest boxes.”

I drove my point home by making sure there weren’t enticing piles of straw in the corners of the run. That seemed to discourage them from laying there, but they came up with a new gambit. They scratched all the straw out of the nest boxes and onto the floor of the coop, and then made their nests there.

“No,” I said, with just a touch of irritation, “That’s in front of the nest boxes. Lay your eggs in the nest boxes.”

Then I found an egg in the middle of the coop floor.  “Come on,” I said.  “That’s nowhere near the nest boxes.  You need to lay your eggs in the nest boxes.”

Far from showing apprehension or nervousness, the chickens pulled rank. “Hey,” their ringleader, Chicken Little, told me. “We’re chickens. We’re professional egg-layers and we know how to pick an appropriate spot. Lemme ask you. You ever laid an egg?”

She had me there.

I tried to reason with her. “You won’t know how nice your nest boxes are until you at least try them.”

“Bruuuuk,” she snorted. “You just want us to lay there to make it easier for you to take our eggs away.”

Chicken, 2: Me, nothing.

My next plan is to put a little ramp from the coop floor up to the nest boxes, in the hopes that they don’t want to lay on a slanted surface. If that doesn’t work, I’ll check for giant hairy monsters.

11 people are having a conversation about “A losing preposition

  1. beachnitpicker says:

    To keep the straw in the nests and make them feel cozier and more enclosed, try nailing a board across the front. As I recall from my childhood egg-gathering days, I had to reach in and (considerably) down and under to retrieve the eggs.

  2. It might pay to place a few eggs in the egg boxes yourself (just for a day or two), so they think somebody else has laid some there. That can often trick them into having a go themselves.

    Chickens are either really dumb or really smart. I haven’t yet figured out which :-).

  3. Awww cute chickens.
    I would suggest putting a few golf balls in their nest boxes.
    Are the nest boxes higher than their roosts?
    That can discourage them from laying in their nest boxes.
    Or try what I did with one of my picky hens.
    I ended up giving her what she wanted: a nice covered cat litter box on the floor.
    Chickens win every time!

  4. We use the ‘dummy’ egg – a china egg or an old egg marked with an ‘X’ so I can tell it from the fresh ones. Not a mistake you want to make twice.

    But the dummy egg only works part of the time. I have yet to discover why chickens lay where they do. They even change their minds and move their laying spots on a semi-regular basis, just to keep me guessing perhaps?
    The dogs find it before I do, so I’ve started following the dogs…

    Your nest boxes look perfectly sound. When you’ve given up and don’t care where they lay anymore, that’s when they will start using them. It’s all part of their master plan to infect you with “chicken madness”.

  5. That’s four votes for dummy eggs, and I’m going to give it a try. We already know they like golf balls — we have a pile in the garage and they go in and sit on them whenever we leave the garage door open.

    If that fails, I’ll go with the board accross the front to keep the straw in.

    I’m very glad to know that other people with chickens also lose to them.

  6. beachnitpicker says:

    Don’t those chickens look just like skeptical potential home-buyers? (Is the roof sound? How’s the wiring? Not much of a view!)I’ll bet a realtor could really relate to that picture.

  7. You tell the best bedtime stories for adults (& chickens!)
    Have you read Where the Wild Things Were by William Stolzenburg? Subtitle: Life, Death & Ecological Wreckage in a Land of Vanishing Predators. It’s a great look at the food chain & why the world needs predators. Also, exciting & compelling story telling. (Available through CLAMS)

  8. Welcome Back from New Mexico!!!!

    I think you should try your hand at childrens’ books, too !! You have a knack!!

    Love your stories.

    Don and I are off to Arizona this week…will look for prickly pears!!!

    Enjoy the crabs!!!

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