It was the early 1980s, and I was a very small person. With gumboots up to my knees and a plastic bucket gripped tightly in my hand, I walked the dirt path down the hill towards a shed with a fenced-in yard.
The only sounds were birds chirping and a faint rustling of the wind. I was anxious. Steeling myself throughout my approach, whispering words of encouragement, I finally met the door, and reached wayyyy up to unlatch it.
I knew what was behind that door. And they knew I was coming.
Only if you have been a 5 year old up against an army of hens who quite clearly do not want you to take their eggs will you know my frustration. My answer at the time was to kick them, and hit them with my bucket. After a while, those smart little peckers figured out that they could best me by coming at me in waves. That’s when I started bringing the hose. After all, no chicken was going to best me.
But with my plan came collateral damage. That’s right: broken eggs. Eventually, my father got tired of receiving half a pail of broken eggs from his soaking wet little girl, and created a solution.
Every hen had a nest against the wall. They faced away from the wall, looking out the door to the yard. Even to a chicken, staring at the wall can be boring. My father cut a door behind every single nest, and fixed each one with a latch.
From then on, I could gather eggs in peace, unlatching each door one by one, scooping still-warm (and frankly, quite gross) eggs from underneath the hen. They never noticed.
Chickens aren’t bright.
Every chicken farmer I’ve ever met – and strangely, yes, I have met quite a few - has had the same problem. Most people just kick chickens, dealing with the same daily frustration, assuming that there’s only one way to get those eggs.
My father knew – and now you know – that there’s always a back door.
Whether you’re gathering eggs, building a reputation, gathering customers, or just making enough money to pay the bills, you can choose to kick chickens like everyone else, or you can stop and think of a better way.
If you’re Richard Branson, that means creating an airline because your flight got cancelled.
If you’re Sara Blakely, that means creating Spanx out of pantyhose because you really don’t like “grid butt”.
If you’re Fred Smith, it means taking FedEx’s last $5,000 to Las Vegas and turning it into $32,000 on Black Jack.
And if you’re my dad, it’s cutting doors behind nests so your daughter can stop whining and just collect the damn eggs.
If either of the following sounds familiar:
“That’s the way we’ve always done it!”
“You can’t do that!”
You know that you’re on to something great.
If critical thought hasn’t been your bailiwick, here’s a cheat sheet to get solutionizing (that’s a word now) – fast:
Understand what you’re up against. What’s the core issue? What are the problems? Take down some notes:
- Issue: Wet Little Girl with Broken Eggs
- Cause: Angry Chickens
- Goal: Dry Little Girl, Whole Eggs
Get to the “why” of the problem.
- Chickens don’t like having their eggs taken
- In combat, Little Girl is roughly equivalent to 5 chickens
Consider your most valuable resources:
- Humans are smarter than chickens; if we can’t beat ‘em with brawn, we can beat ‘em with brains.
Review the facts:
- Chickens are dumb
- Chickens live in a hen house controlled by humans
- Goal is the nest and the eggs within it
- Nests are lined up against the back wall
- Is there a way to get to what chickens produce with their back end while avoiding the sharp edge of their front end?
Toss ideas around and look for the ones that makes the most sense:
- Wrap Little Girl in armor (time consuming and increases whining)
- Wrap chicken beaks with wire (time consuming, and eventually chickens die)
- Chloroform chickens (may kill chickens, reducing egg count)
- Leave egg collecting to the adults (negates the value of having children in the first place)
- Sneak behind the chickens without them noticing (path of least resistance)
Step 6: Build back door to nests. Get a stool for Little Girl. Success!
Dry Little Girl, Whole Eggs, Live Chickens.
And, yes, we have lived happily ever after.