Thursday, April 19, 2007

I’ve loads of things to blog about and I was either going to write further about disappointments or pests or update you on our ever expanding menagerie but all that will have to wait as I bring you a Sporting News Flash on an English / French rugby match. (For our US readers, rugby is a bit like American Football but without the protective clothing).

Celine, daughter of our pig-farming neighbours Paul and Christiane, lives and works in Paris and is currently here visiting her parents. She came round for a chat the other day, with her dog, Vladimir (see photo). We showed her the permaculture garden we’ve created for our holiday cottage—complete with camomile lawn and living willow arbour and fence—and were engrossed in conversation when we saw our white hen race past very closely followed by Vladimir, all accompanied with dog growling and terrified chickeny shrieks. Our chickens are completely free to range where they will, including roaming beyond our boundaries. They’ve always been like that and it didn’t occur to us for a moment that Vladimir might cause a problem. Maybe, coming from the banlieues (suburbs) of Paris, he had a hard-man reputation to live up to or maybe he was thinking of his namesake, Vlad the Impaler or, of course, perhaps he was just doing what comes naturally to a lot of dogs.

Celine (representing the French rugby team, Les Bleus) and I set off in hot pursuit but with different “balls” to chase, me hoping to get a protective hand around our hen and Celine to tackle Vlad. Like nimble wingers, the two animals jinked aside to avoid our efforts and their rapid changes of directions had me flat on the floor more than once. Quite against the rules of rugby, whilst aiming to grab the hen, I did stick out a foot and managed to trip Vlad more than once, before Celine got a firm hand on him and I was simultaneously able to grab the hen.Vlad had removed a mouthful of feathers from her rump and although she was left rather breathless and a bit out of sorts the skin wasn’t broken . By the following morning she showed no signs of suffering post-traumatic stress syndrome, and is happily free-ranging with the rest of the flock. All of this provided exciting entertainment to our watching neighbours.

In all the time we’ve been here (a year, this coming Saturday) and been keeping chickens, we’ve only lost two out of a flock of around eight or ten birds. I’ve never found remains or signs of a fight and our Somerset smallholding friend Val says that it is therefore likely to have been a fox. We have seen foxes around but hopefully they are a little less habituated to human contact than the many urban foxes in the UK and so more fearful of approaching the houses in our hamlet. The chickens get put away in the late afternoon and not let out until it’s properly light in the morning. We’ll keep monitoring the situation, as we like to see our characterful chickens roaming where they please. We’ll also be a bit more away of people visiting with dogs, asking for them to put a lead on.