Tuesday, May 13, 2008

A chicken success story....

Today was market day and I'm pleased to report that I'm now the owner of possibly (or maybe even probably) the ugliest chickens in Christendom (no, hang on, France is a secular country so we can't use any religious allusions) erm... in the Northern Hemisphere.

I set off for the market with high hopes only to find the hall empty except for two old farmers and 4 chickens. Still, I only want two so I wasn't put off.

I approached the first farmer who had a couple of fine birds tied up at his feet and in my best French asked "are these laying hens or meat hens" - it's important to make the distinction, you know. He looked at me wearily, rolled his eyes ever so slightly and replied "Madame, these are cockerels". Oh well, what do I know about chickens, I joked. "Evidently not much, Madame" he answered politely.

The next farmer is one I know well from our village market. He sells the best onions you'll ever taste and he's was, until we got our own birds, the main supplier of delicious eggs to our household. He also sells some seriously ugly chickens. This poor pair were tied together with an old pair of Madame's support hose and looked thoroughly miserable. I asked if they were layers and were told (I think) that they were point of lay chickens and eggs would abound in the very near future. To be quite honest, with his strong accent, he could have told me that I was looking at the original goose that laid the Golden Egg and I'd have been none the wiser.

Madame insisted I held them by their feet to be assured that they were indeed, fine birds. It was then that I noticed their featherless necks. They are 'Cou Nu', literally Naked Necks, a breed that originated in Hungary and has a dominant gene that means they have half the feathers of a normal chicken. (God, I can't believe I'm writing this. I used to have a career, you know! Note to self.. you must get out more).

They are possibly the only type of chicken I can't stand but I felt so sorry for the poor things tied and trussed and probably with only the pot to look forward to so 20 euros poorer, I left with my hens in a cardboard pet carrier that I'd got from my local vet. M. Le Vieux Fermier must have thought Christmas had come early when he pocketed my money - more than I'd paid for my pair of purebred Peking Bantams but he wasn't prepared to haggle.

Time for a coffee. In France you can take dogs into most restaurants but I'm not sure about the rules for chickens. My mother, a farmer's daughter herself, but who escaped the muck and wellies at 17, wryly commented that this was the first time she'd been out to coffee with a couple of chickens!

I smuggled them onto the terrasse and pushed them under the table in their box. It was a lovely sunny day and it was very pleasant to sit watching the world go by with a (shock, horror) half decent cup of coffee in front of me but after a while I thought the chickens might be feeling the heat so it was time to go. I reached under the table and surreptitiously took out my box of birds. As I walked to the door there was a sudden thud and the box felt suspiciously light. Sure enough, the bottom had dropped out, depositing my two very ugly, very bewildered chickens and a pile of straw on the pristine terrasse of the cafe.

M. Le Patron was far from pleased and blustered around telling me that I couldn't bring chickens into the cafe. Me? I was standing with my legs crossed laughing so hard I thought I'd wet myself, looking at these poor, mangy looking birds who'd be so unceremoniously dumped on the ground. A bit of borrowed parcel tape later and we were safely on our way again.

The chickens have now been named Deirdre (after her of the famous acting neck on Coronation Street. If you saw a photo of her you'd see a definite likeness) and Agnes, just because it's a stupid name for a daft looking bird! I think M. Le Vieux Fermier was a little bit economical with the truth as, once we'd untied Madame's support tights it became clear that apart from being ugly, Deirdre and Agnes were also very fat. So fat in fact, that they kept falling over. A sure sign of a bird that's been bred for the table but hey, I couldn't eat anything that ugly so they are safe for the moment.

But now of course, I have questions like, do they need sunscreen in the summer? Will they need scarves in the winter? Would it be feasible to make them feather boas to hide their naked necks? Will I escape from rural France before I lose my mind...........?

It wasn't so long ago that I'd look forward to my subscriptions copies of 'Ideal Home' and 'Vanity Fair' dropping on the doormat. Now it's the latest issue of 'Poultry' that has me listening out excitedly for the arrival of the postman. How did this metamorphosis happen? How did the townie become a 'nouveau paysan' and will it be housecoats and wellies for me this time next year? You'll have to keep reading to find out.


Debra in France said...

Hi there, thank you for visiting my blog. I definately think that little scarves are a must for the new chooks! It could be a new fashion that catches on all over France! I would put some on mine. Looking forward to reading the rest of your blog Debra :-)

(Very) Lost in France said...

Hi Debra

Thanks for visiting my blog. Shall look in on yours. If only my knitting skills were better but then maybe chickens aren't that fussy! x

MarmiteToasty said...

Hey, fanks for popping over to Twaddle, as you can see I aint up to much blogging of late cos me op didnt go according to plan, oh well........

If you scroll back on Twaddle you will find many posts about Janet and Mabel our pet chickens both of which we never bought, one we found outside the village school and one was just in our back garden one sunday when we got up lol..... and this week we someone asked us to have Cedric a cockeral that they could no longer have cos of shitty neighbours.....

Im gonna scroll back a ways and have a right proper read of ya blob :)

From what Ive read so far, I think Im gonna enjoy it :)


(Very) Lost in France said...

Marmitetoasty, thanks for reading my blob! I realised my typo just as I pressed the send button!! I lurve Marmite on toast. Shitty neighbours, hmm, I got them in spades. I'll have to post about them sometime.