ROY­ALS The at Cluck­ing­ham Palace

De­spite a self-prom­ise to keep num­bers static, Ja­nine Marsh takes on nearly a dozen new chicks on the day that Harry and Meghan tie the knot

Your Chickens - - Chicken Crazy -

Af­ter last year’s baby boom in the bird pens, I made up my mind to have no more this year. From my eight ducks came an as­ton­ish­ing 52 duck­lings over a pe­riod of three months last sum­mer. It took me ages to re­home them all when they were grown up. Find­ing new par­ents who would care for them in ru­ral France rather than put them in the pot took a fair bit of ef­fort. Some went to a chateau with a big lake, which they loved — in fact, they took to it like ducks to wa­ter. Oth­ers went to a lovely French lady who be­lieves birds are the souls of de­cent hu­mans come back to life. They are be­ing very spoiled there. The rest went to my friends and neigh­bours — I still see some of them and I’m pretty sure they recog­nise me.

But… you knew this was com­ing, didn’t you. It’s ad­dic­tive this bird keep­ing malarkey.

When my friend An­nette had loads of baby chick­ens ar­rive all at once and begged me to take some off her hands, I gave in and took three chicks with pom­pom hair styles — I think they are Silkies — and eight minia­ture Marans.

The birds came to live with me on the day of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s wed­ding — a lovely sunny day. My neigh­bour, 88-year-old Marie-Therese, was glued to the telly — she does love a royal wed­ding — but she came out when she heard me chat­ting away to the newbies. She is a very ex­pe­ri­enced poul­try keeper and she cast a keen eye over the tiny birds.

“That’s a boy and that’s a boy,” she said. “The rest are girls.” And then she went back to watch­ing Meghan and Harry tie the knot. She had her lit­tle black and white set on full vol­ume, so I could hear mu­sic, cheer­ing and ser­mon­is­ing echo­ing around the val­ley in our tiny ham­let in the mid­dle of nowhere in ru­ral France.

“What are you go­ing to call them?” asked my hus­band, Mark. De­spite Jean-Claude, my neigh­bour and men­tor, a chicken keeper for 50 years, telling me that I mustn’t do it — “You’re just mak­ing it hard on your­self when it comes to coq au vin” — all my birds have names. In­spi­ra­tion was in­stant. “Meghan, Kate, Liz, Anne, Zara, Vic­to­ria, Diana, Beatrice, Eu­ge­nie, Harry and Wil­liam,” I beamed.

A few months on and these baby birds are cheeky, healthy and very used to hav­ing the maid come ev­ery day to feed and wa­ter them and clean their house. They’re a small breed that can eas­ily squeeze through the wire fence and they go wher­ever they want to, run­ning cir­cles around the ter­ri­to­rial geese in their pen, pinch­ing food from the old girls and an­noy­ing Gre­gory Peck, the cock­erel. Even Bossy Betty, queen of the coop, can’t keep up with them.

We’re go­ing to build a new coop for this royal chicken fam­ily at the bot­tom of the gar­den so that the other birds can get some peace and quiet. It will be called Cluck­ing­ham Palace.

Ja­nine Marsh is the au­thor of My Good Life in France: In Pur­suit of the Ru­ral Dream, and ed­i­tor of www.the­goodlife­

ABOVE: The new birds were in­evitably chris­tened Meghan, Kate, Liz, Anne, Zara, Vic­to­ria, Diana, Beatrice, Eu­ge­nie, Harry and Wil­liam

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