More news from the henhouse

Princess the duck is still sitting on her eggs. Meanwhile, I have just been completely outsmarted and humiliated… by a pigeon.

Allow me to explain: a while back, some very nice hippie artist ladies persuaded me to adopt six beautiful king pigeons that needed a place to call home. Now normally, I hear the word “pigeon” and I think “flying rat” (the regular kind of pigeon) or “squab” (the king pigeon). But we have this lovely henhouse at the back of our property. It’s tall enough for a 6-foot man (me) to comfortably stand and walk in, though the primary occupants (hens and ducks) spend most of their time on the ground. So when the very nice hippie artist ladies said they needed a home for some pigeons, I could not think of a good reason to say no. My contractor, Jeff, installed nesting boxes up high and I installed the pigeons. I looked forward to their friendly greetings each morning as they would gently flutter to my outstretched hands, greeting me with soft sounds of welcome.

The pigeons soon set me straight on this score: if I was expecting a scene out of Snow White, what I got was more like Angry Birds. I do not wish to denigrate an entire species, but I can say with conviction that these pigeons are surly, panicky, and in fact will aggressively bite and scratch any outstretched hand, no matter how loving and kindly the intent. Their microscopic, twisted little brains seem to have room for only two emotional states: calm (when I am far away) and rage. Barbecue, you say? Why yes, I have considered it. But just as Horton could not leave his egg after giving his word, I will not dishonor my commitment to the very nice hippie artist ladies.

Fortunately the henhouse is big enough that the pigeons and I can leave each other alone, and most days this is what we do. I carefully enter, lay out food, gather the hens’ eggs, etc. while the pigeons warily watch from their nesting boxes and vocally warn me to stay away. But there is an added complication: three of these king pigeons are actually queens, which is to say we have three mated pairs of them. We do not, emphatically do not, want these birds to breed.

The very nice hippie artist ladies gave me some fake eggs to put in their nests, the idea being that when a queen gets the urge to lay eggs she goes to her nesting box and says, “Hey! My eggs are already here,” so she sits on them and doesn’t lay any actual eggs. This usually works and I confess I sometimes laugh at the birds for being so credulous, but still I have to check the boxes each week. Occasionally there is a third egg, a real one, in the nest and it needs to be removed. This is where the biting and scratching come in.

Now recently– I’m not sure exactly when– one of the queens apparently got wise to the scam. She rolled the fake eggs to one side of her nesting box and buried them before laying two actual eggs in the middle of her nest. When next I pried her, biting and scratching, out of her box, I confirmed that there were exactly two eggs in the nest, just as there should be. Ha! Silly pigeon.

Joe is delighted and intends to hand raise them, so hopefully they will not be as evil and treacherous as their parents. Still, I cannot shake the realization (as if Shannon would ever let me) that I have been duped by a pigeon.

Oh, and I just got invited to be the Toastmaster at next year’s Conjecture/Conchord convention. Yay! I shall have to get a haircut and wear fancy clothes. There are also two other events that have actually proposed to fly me and put me up in posh hotels just so I can perform for them, though I’m not supposed to share details until they have been officially announced. Each of these is a huge honor for me and I am very proud, but still… like the man who rides in the chariot with you during your triumph to remind you that you aren’t really that great, there is a persistent cooing sound in my inner ear that sounds a little like avian laughter and keeps me humble. I have been duped. By a pigeon.