Can hen houses explode…?

Happy French hen

Can henhouses blow up?

Yes, they can and in fact they do (sometimes). Ask my aunt Marie. She can confirm it.

I can hear you thinking: “Who is this fool? Hen houses do not explode. It would make the news or something.”

I think I’d better explain my statement about exploding hen houses.

A crate of grenades under the bed

It all started when I was a kid and living with my younger sister and my parents, many miles away where there was a war on. My father was a French air force pilot. I did not know it at the time but he always slept with a loaded gun under his pillow and a crate of grenades under the bed. I am not sure my mother was aware of this…

Anyway, we returned to France when the war ended. After my father died, among the “objects” brought back from the war zone, my mother found the famous crate of grenades. I have no idea how my father managed to smuggle these ordnances to France. For some reason, my mother decided she did not want the grenades in our house. But how do you get rid of grenades? Not with the usual rubbish!

My father had two older brothers. She asked them to get rid of the grenades. They were also probably baffled. How do you get rid of live grenades?

How to get rid of live grenades

Anyway, they found a solution. Nobody apart from them knew where the grenades ended up. This is until, quite a few years later. My uncle Georges and his wife, aunt Marie, lived in my granny’s house. It was a big family villa in the town I was born in, on the French Riviera. A house with a big garden, and, in this garden, a hen house with a dozen or so hens.

I think you now know where this is going!! One day, my aunt Marie was in the hen house to feed the fowl and collect the eggs, as she had been doing for the last few years. But this day was different… There was a big explosion as some of the hens were pecking some of the corn grains. There was dirt and feathers everywhere.

Aunt Marie was spitting feathers

My aunt Marie was spitting feathers (literally). Luckily, she was not injured apart from being covered in dirt and feathers. However, two of the hens were missing (in action). Nothing remained of them apart from a big pile of feathers. There was also a big crater in the hen house. To say that my aunt Marie was furious is well below what she really felt. I do not think there is a word, in English or in French, or in any other language, that can rightly describe her emotional state at the time. If we could only find a word encompassing angry, furious, incensed!!

Why tractors have armoured bottoms

My uncle Georges had to explain the whole story. His brother and himself could not think of a safe place to get rid of the grenades, without attracting the police or endangering other people, or so they thought. So they buried the grenades in the hen house and forgot all about it. However, in time, grenades become unstable. This is why there is always a big fuss when a bomb from the second World war is discovered and why farmers near WWI battlefields have got ploughing tractors fitted with armoured bottoms…

Come to think of it, what happened to the gun kept by my father under his pillow???