French Hens

Your Chickens - - Contents - By Ja­nine Marsh

I WASN’T go­ing to get any more chick­ens last year. I had a dozen or so. They were happy, set­tled and used to each other. But my neigh­bour An­nette had more than 60 chicks hatch in the sum­mer and when she asked me to take eight of them, all around a week old and whose mums didn’t want to care for them, I couldn’t re­sist.

I kept them in a cage on the ter­race, warm and comfy un­der a heat lamp and they proved easy to keep an eye on. I watched The Lucky Eight, as we call them, on ac­count of the fact that they will only ever be pets, de­velop be­fore mov­ing into a baby pen in the garden where they could run about, but be safe from preda­tors and my other birds — ducks and geese as well as chick­ens.

When this batch of new­bies were big enough, I let them go into a tem­po­rary in­ter­me­di­ate pen where they could get through the fence holes which the big­ger birds couldn’t. This meant that they could es­cape to their safe place if the peck­ing got too much.

This lot, though, were pretty feisty and they stuck to­gether. Well, they did at first. It turned out that two of the eight are boys. Best mates at first, they have now be­come ri­vals for love.

Brad Pitt is a gor­geous look­ing boy with golden feath­ers run­ning down his back. Ge­orge Clooney isn’t quite as pretty, but he’s very hand­some and has a twin­kle in his eye. The boss of the pen is Gre­gory Peck, an old hand at run­ning the team and he has his girls sorted. He is not in­ter­ested in the new girls at all. But Brad Pitt and Ge­orge Clooney are at log­ger­heads over which of them will be the favourite. So far Ge­orge Clooney is win­ning. When he crows, they come run­ning over to him. How­ever, when he’s busy for­ag­ing in the garden or un­der the hedges, Brad Pitt sneak­ily calls to them and the fickle fe­males run after him.

As a re­sult, Ge­orge Clooney will not let Brad Pitt eat at feed­ing time. This has led to an un­usual episode of en­tente-cor­diale in the goose pen. My four geese are not friendly to any­one. They honk and run away as soon as they see me come out of the kitchen door into the garden. I’ve had them for sev­eral years, nurse them when they’re sick, feed and wa­ter them daily, but it doesn’t mat­ter what I do — they are never happy. I wish they were like

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