The Escape Artist

Houdini’s first escape

You get used to sounds when you live in the country. Some no matter how many times you hear them remain jarring like the call of a screech owl. Some become part of the scenery and are soon ignored like the sound of peepers in the spring. Others lie somewhere in between the two and only draw your attention when they come at unexpected times or from unexpected locations.

Yesterday I was lying in bed- half awake, and half asleep when I was jolted from my slumber by the squawk of a chicken. We are used to our chickens, their coop is no more than a few paces to the southeast of my bedroom window. What alarmed me was their location. They were coming from the northern corner of the house. It was 5:30 am, and based on the fact that she was lying sound asleep next to me, I was fairly certain that my wife had not let the chickens out yet. I sat up. Did we forget to shut the coop last night? I looked out at the door of the coop. It was shut.

Maybe I dreamt it? I am known to have random weird dreams, the other day I had a dream that Abraham Lincoln was chasing pigs in our barnyard. This is odd for several reasons, first- we don’t have pigs, a barnyard, and to the extent of my knowledge Abraham Lincoln has never been here and is unlikely to come anytime soon. The chicken squawked again.

I threw on a pair of athletic shorts, pulled a t-shirt out of the dirty laundry and went down stairs with as much haste as I could muster. I couldn’t find my work boots (I have a tendency to leave all manner of things lying about in weird locations- once I couldn’t find my cell phone and was certain it was lost forever, I went to have some ice cream to assuage my depression and found it right next to a freezer burnt quart of Giffords). I put on my black leather oxfords. I could sense how utterly ridiculous I looked at this point.

I got outside and saw her. She was coming down from the branch of a pine tree. It was Houdini; of course, it was.

We got our layers on May 4th: a dozen black downed barred rock chicks. They grew quickly, some more quickly than others. They soon outgrew their initial home and we moved them to a dog crate with a heat lamp- which we kept in the living room. For the first few weeks, we placed a cardboard fence around the lower section of the crate to keep the chicks from squeezing through the grates. The chicks would eventually work their way to the top of the cardboard flapping their wings, which at the time were still downy nubs. We would watch as they tried to squeeze through the grates. None made it out, no matter how hard they tried. One day, Anna and I were watching TV, when I looked over and saw her. The crate was closed fast, standing next to the dog was a chick just starting to feather out. I couldn’t understand how she got out, it didn’t seem at all physically possible. We named her Houdini that night.

Houdini has lived up to her name on several occasions. When the chickens had fully feathered out we moved them to their outdoor coop. Everything we had read suggested that we keep them locked up for the first week. The morning after the second night she was standing outside the coop.

Houdini kept escaping for the next several weeks, but eventually, she stopped. I think she grew too large for whatever avenue of escape she had figured out. We hadn’t had any escape attempts for a couple of months. I thought we were past this.

Initially, I thought that my wife had simply shut the coop too early in the evening and Houdini had simply been left out. It happens. We don’t count our chickens at night, we just kind of assume they are all there.

Last night, I put the chickens away late at night. It was around 9 O’clock when I finally closed the coop. I was certain all of the chickens were in. I counted them. 12. There were twelve chickens- I know there were. I went to bed knowing that my chickens were safe and in their coop.

This morning when I woke up, I looked outside. The coop door was still shut. I came downstairs, had a cup of coffee and got ready for work. I went outside to check on the chickens and go to work. I was greeted at the front door by Houdini.

Houdini this morning

Lucas Rumler

About Lucas Rumler

I’m originally from the land of Soybeans and Corn- growing up the tallest thing in our town was the grain elevator. I moved to Maine in 2008 as part of Americorps. I fell in love with the state, and then the Saint who would eventually become my wife (much to her dismay on most days). We settled in her hometown- Mount Vernon which had been our plan since we started dating. We are active and involved in our community, we homestead, and we both work full time. We are trying to balance the stresses of living and working in this state while at the same time trying to strengthen our little corner of the world. My ambitions for our homestead do not necessarily line up with my competency, capacity, or free time. I am an apple nerd with no knowledge, a beekeeper who keeps hope alive- but maybe not my bees, a gardener who is trying desperately to figure out a niche market for the only things I can successfully grow (ragweed and crabgrass), and a backyard carpenter who has never made a straight cut or a level table- and doesn’t see any real reason to start now. I hope that this blog can help document my continuing failures and occasional successes as we continue to build our lives in our Village. I am active and involved in our local community, and I have been recently nominated by the Cat as the best male blogger. You can contact me at, on Facebook at, or by mail at 46 Weston Road, Mount Vernon, ME 04352.