Monday, 10 December 2012

The Good Life

One of the things that Brits commonly  do on arriving in France is buy chickens.  Like Tom and Barbara in The Good Life, self sufficiency means your own eggs and as previously mentioned space in the garden is normally not an issue.
        Friends of ours in the village wanted to own chickens but also return fairly frequently to the UK. Whilst they have a pet passport for their dog ( and a facebook page, would you believe)  it was not felt it was viable to take 6 hens on holiday.  (Ken did say he would happily go on holiday with 6 chicks but was firmly overridden)
Their answer was to ask the owners of the local bar if they would be stand in keepers when they were away. This would mean opening the hen house at night, feeding them, watering them, locking them in at night and the occasional shovelling of  shite, in exchange for all the eggs during the time of surrogacy and surplus eggs for the rest of the year

So with their owners back in the UK for Christmas, we are currently on Chicken Duty.  The house is a couple of kilometers from the bar and J and I each take a turn. I do the morning opening ( for those of you that know us this is easily explained) and J does the locking up at nightfall.  The last couple of days have been cold but dry so I have walked  up to the house.  Their food is there in the barn but I have to carry a large bottle of water with me as the water is turned off at the house.
I arrive with one very cold hand from carrying the bottle, get their food and go to the pen which contains their locked hen house. You have to let them out of the house first, having made sure the pen is secure, extract the water container and food tray from the "aromatic" house, take them outside and fill them with the jug of food and the bottle of water.  Simple you say but the chickens want to get in on the act.

The first day I managed to lose half of the water as the container lid wasn't tight enough ( think tupperware, filled upside down, lid clipped on and then turned back the right way and the water drips down into a tray).
I realised this was my fault and so the next day I went through the same procedure, on the way collecting a couple of warm fresh laid eggs, which I put in my jacket pocket, but this time rested the water container in the wooden bedding area so that it was supported whilst I filled it and I could use two hands to ensure the top was securely clipped.
All was going well until the chickens decided they wanted a drink, all 6 came back into the house and 4 jumped onto the water container knocking it over and spilling the lot. Bloody things I thought, don't they know there is no other water!!.   Cursing I thought I would have to go home and get more water for the ungrateful buggers  but as I walked away I saw a water butt. That will do nicely, so I returned to the pen,got the water container, filled it from the butt soaking myself as I did so but saved having to return.
I triumphantly returned to the pen and as I went to put the water container down, the hens all jumped me again as they must have been thirsty. I overbalanced and whilst putting my arm down to stop me falling, smashed the eggs in my pocket!!

By this time I was cold from the walk, wet from the butt, my fleece was dripping yolk and my ipod, sharing the pocket was a sticky mess.

So chickens take this as a warning. Do not jump me again or I will change my menu. Instead of omelette it will say free range chicken!!

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