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.