We are now proud (if nervous) owners of four Warren hens, which apparently were bred for battery farming as they are ‘egg laying machines’ – Marge, Lisa, Patty and Selma. I asked Jake what we should call them, and even though, as you know, I was pressing for Maria Callas, Lady Di, Jackie O and Margot Fonteyn, Jake had already thought of some names. Bart was the first one. I explained, dutifully, that only girls lay eggs. Not quite time to go into my ‘all roosters are rapists’ speech, I feel.
Jake and Steve had cleaned out the hen house in preparation – whilst it might be a little aged, it’s very functional. It has lovely nesting boxes and a couple of ladders to help them get to their perches. Then we’d bought some bedding – flax seemed to be our choice, since it’s more absorbent than straw and I couldn’t find any ‘copeaux de bois’ (wood shavings) at such short notice, which apparently are the best bedding. We’d chosen food for layers and sorted out the fly situation with the hens’ own ‘catch’. Then it was off to Rouillac market. Yes, the market of golden cheese.
I walked past the cheese lady today with an air of severity and seriousness. I’m not the tourist who would be buying cheese for 20 euros (although I had to hide a dried saucisse in the fridge at L’Eclerc today. I need not to sample wares!) and headed for the chickens. I was beginning to wonder where the chickens were. We’d gone past stalls of knives (which, each time, I have to peel Jake and Steve away from…) and stalls of cheese, vegetables, garlic (there must be four garlic stalls, at the very least) and old french-lady-nighties (think winceyette and neck-high) as well as pinafores and slacks. Contrary to popular belief, fashion is not really a French or Italian thing, since a good 80% of the female population expand without reason after 30 (my uncle Paul calls them popcorn women – they are small and skinny until the heat warms them up and then they pop!) and the French ladies have a penchant for pop socks, slippers, winceyette nighties, overall aprons and nylon.
Anyway, past the final stalls of vegetables, there was a general squawking and squealing. There were a few rows of pretty caged birds (how sad!) to get you excited and make you think a little that there are no chickens to be bought, and then there are about 10 stalls of birds. They include all manner of sad-looking poultry – geese, ducks, goslings, ducklings and chickens. There are plenty of chickens for ‘chair’ (flesh) – and a lot of hen-pecked creatures missing feathers and looking a bit worse for wear.
We went to a quieter stall where the chickens looked a lot less sad, although very cramped, and I liberated our four ladies, if only for a short while, since they were then put into very small boxes which we carried back to the car.
Once back, we unpacked our presents. I should add at this point that I’d woken up at 5:30 and Jake at 6:30, which is as rare as hen’s teeth. Jake is lucky if he sees the morning-side of noon. Two of the girls went into the chicken house; the other two wandered about a bit. Molly had come in with us, and we’d managed to contain her a little – although she was excited enough to piddle, I could just tell – although when one flapped near her, she went bananas. After that, we left them to settle in.