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Goblinproofing One's Chicken Coop

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“Goblinproofing One’s Chicken Coop” is now part of the Little Wonder Series. Learn more at the Little Wonder page.

Surely there is no pursuit more rewarding than the gentlemanly art of chickenry. For a minor initial investment an individual can provide boundless meat and eggs for himself and his family, as well as a natural alarm clock in the form of the rooster's crow at dawn. The forces of the dark fey never truly let man rest, however, and the threat of a goblin intrusion into the hencottage is a danger that can destroy a fine coop, its residents, and the very will of the farmer. A few simple checks and alterations to your existing coop can keep your hencottage secure against this unbearable prospect.

Goblins are known to lodge in chicken coops in two ways: as willing tenants and as changelings. The former either wander into the hencottage and decide to stay or are trapped. (See the paragraphs below on ley lines.) The latter are exchanged during infancy for a hen of your own. (Goblins love eggs for food and pranks.) Both types are hazardous, as they will grow into warped versions of our own hens if left in the coop. Aside from the peril presented by their eggs, goblin hens are dangerous enough on their own, having tempers nearly as quick as their razor-sharp beaks.

To keep goblins from approaching your coop voluntarily, it is advised to keep the place as spic and span as possible. A thorough cleaning every two weeks will keep your chickens happy and healthy and repel potential miscreants from calling the little house their own, as they prefer dwellings similar to their kingdom's murky, subterranean haunts.

Nothing spoils a carefully prepared breakfast like the cracking of a changeling egg. While so many of these horrifying eggs look and feel perfectly normal, they have repulsive qualities that are seldom noticed until it is time to eat. Some are filled with maggots, others with blood. There are reports of changeling eggs as hard as concrete, and some that explode when cracked. A few have beautiful shells that hatch tuberculosis and pneumonia.

The Ungerslud family of Cornwall was the unlucky recipient of a goblin curse via changeling eggs, for the morning after the eggs were cracked and eaten, the entire clan woke up with their legs on backward, as they remain today. Young Ettie Ungerslud went on to become Cornwall's hero at the National Backward Hopscotch Championship later that year, but surely you can imagine that all is not fun and games in a family with a curse like this.

In all honesty, it's not always the goblin's fault that he becomes trapped in a henhouse. Often when traveling from place to place via ley lines, the unseelie fairies enter into structures from which there is no escape. A small crack or niche between the planks of the western wall of the coop will trap any goblin coming from that direction unless there is a corresponding gap on the wall opposite. Being a rather stupid lot, goblins are not able to change their course unless advised. An example is seen in the story presented here.

A chicken farmer in Niton once discovered a goblin in his coop. When the surprised rustic asked the goblin from whence he came the creature responded, "From the northern coast." To the question of "And where are you going?" the inmate replied, "To the far, far south." Indeed, upon later inspection, the farmer found a minor crevice in the northern wall of the coop and none in the south. The kind farmer offered to set the goblin free, but warned him that there was nothing to the south but the cold, dark sea. The grateful intruder had no idea he would have leapt into the ocean with his next steps, and asked the farmer if there was anything he could do to repay the favor.

The simple-minded rustic thought for a long while, and finally decided that the goblin should marry his daughter, who was very ugly and more trouble than she was worth. The goblin agreed happily, and took the horrified, screaming girl with him on his way back to the northern coast. The farmer breathed a sigh of relief, knowing that life would be good from now on, his breakfasts safe from repulsive changeling eggs.

Ley lines are channels of energy that run along the surface of the earth. They are marked by stone circles, mounds, and other geographical features, as well as manmade Structures of Ancient and Mysterious Origin. Since the dawn of the Fairy Kingdom, the Seelie and Unseelie Courts have used ley lines as a system of highways, and if your chicken coop happens to rest upon one of these channels, then brother, it's only a matter of time before you gain your first changeling hen. Every chickener should check their hencottage's location and ensure it is not built on a ley line. On a clear day, climb to the roof of the chickenhouse and point the tail end of the weathervane in the precise direction of the nearest site of Ancient and Mysterious Origin. If there is no such place within sight as you stand on the roof, consult the findings prepared by Geoffrey Ashe in his Mythology of the British Isles, and find an example of the highest importance on his list:

Ashe's List of Ley Markers, Ranked in Descending Importance
Mounds (meaning chiefly burial mounds),
Stones (covering various kinds of megalith),
Circular Moats,
Castles (as "evolved sites"),
Traditional Wells,
Pre-Reformation Churches,
Road Alignments (stretches of road that coincide with a ley),
Tree Groups,
Single Trees (if ancient and named),
Notches (dips in a hill profile),
Track Junctions,
Camps (i.e. hill-forts),
Square Moats, and
Hillside Figures (a recent addition).

Once the weathervane is positioned with tail feathers pointing toward the ley marker, squat down and shoot your gaze along the arrow's path. If you see along its line anything listed above, be it well or moat, notch or mound, then you may as well fashion your coop a doormat that reads, "Welcome, Sprites!" for you will soon be entertaining such guests. Ashe also advises us that ley lines can at times be wider, stretching miles across, and dowsers have determined ley lines sometimes curve slightly. Allowing an extra ten degrees to either side of the arrow's path may give you a better idea of your coop's susceptibility to changelings.

Apart from leaving the door to your coop open at night (which would clear out chickens both changeling and standard), or the costly solution of constructing a coop entirely of iron (which acts as poison to goblins), there isn't much one can do to the structure itself to keep changelings from setting up camp. The farmer must either move to a new farm in disgrace, or-and this option is less outlandish than it sounds-divert the ley.

Some readers might think that going to the bother of constructing a new ley marker is a rash step in thwarting goblins. These readers obviously don't have much insight. Think of a new ley marker as you do your chicken coop. It is a structure that costs something to build, not much to maintain, and benefits future generations. Foremost, it diverts the ley, curving it around your farm and leaving you guarded against goblins. Furthermore, a new site will bring more commerce to your town in the form of (we must hope) bearable tourists. To maximize the benefits, set up an egg stand once the holiday seekers arrive.

In many towns the local Freemason chapter is more than capable of building a lasting ley marker. Because the fraternity's studies focus on construction and the Mysteries, and due to their precepts of charity and brotherhood, such a task is well in keeping with Freemasonry's ideals. All that is required of the individual is an idea of which kind of site he wishes constructed and a set amount of cash. Brotherhood or not, stone circles and the like are not built on the cheap. The secretary of your local lodge can provide you with a list of site types and prices. Choose one of higher importance on Ashe's list than the site neighbouring your farm. Building a site of lesser importance will not bend the ley. No ley line worth its salt is going out of its way for any old (or in this case, "new,") hillside figure. Make it grand. The cost varies depending on guild and season, but most constructions fall below the £40.000 mark, and can be completed inside a few months. An occasional delivery of eggs from your henhouse to the lodge will secure relations.

If the ley marker you've built is a geographical one (such as a notch), then you needn't worry about de-sanctification. All constructions (churches, hill-forts, wells, etc.) require this essential step to begin the flow of unnatural energy that will attract the goblins away from your farm. This is where the real money comes in. Petition the bishop of your diocese for an official de-sanctification certificate. Bribery is usually not out of the question in these cases, and bishops aren't going to settle for a bucket of eggs every now and then, either. To keep costs down, it is best to remind the bishop of the increased economy your site will bring. As a general rule, de-sanctification of a ley marker costs roughly twice as much as construction.

Once the bishop has held the ceremony and issued your certificate, the last body to hire will be that of a dowser, who can verify the ley line has in fact curved around your plot. Go to bed early that night and rise at dawn to gather eggs from your freshly goblinproofed chicken coop.

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