One of the things that we love about life in France is being able to keep chickens and pursue a dream of self-sufficiency. On Sunday we visited the poultry fair at a brocante in Fruges in the Seven Valleys and fell in love with some black ducks called canard indien and we’re going to the farm to get some next week and the OH was taken with a very flash cockerel called an Italliene who we’ve named Cocky Rocky – the Italian Stallion!
Those of you who’ve been reading my blog for a while will know that we have a cockerel already called Eaglet on account of the fact that when he was young he looked like a baby eagle. When we bought Eaglet we believed it was a girl and so did the seller. She/he was in with the chickens and did chicken things like all the others.
She went up the coop ramp every day with the rest, sat in the nest box, then emerged making triumphant crowing noises like they do when they lay eggs. We sometimes wondered why there were only ever 9 eggs when we had ten chickens but just accepted it for what it was. Eaglet was always a big girl, twice the size of all the rest but we are novices and just thought we were doing a wonderful job bringing up such a fine big chicken.
Then one day I was pegging out the washing and Eaglet who’s fond of me and follows me round the garden made a weird noise like a cockerel crowing. I looked down, she looked me right in the eye and did it again – I was astonished that a chicken would make a cockerel noise. I looked up on the internet how to tell if a chicken is a boy and there in black and white was evidence – the little spurs on the back of Eaglet’s legs – they mean she is actually a he, a transcockerel we call him.
The problem is that Eaglet still thinks that he’s a girl. He has carried on pretending to lay eggs, he is bullied by the females, he hardly ever crows and he certainly isn’t doing what he ought and making little chicken babies for us to grow our stock.
So we made one of those spontaneous decisions that always come back and bite us and bought Cocky Rocky on the spot.
We introduced him to the girls yesterday – after a few minutes of posturing and jumping up and down at him they were smitten and cooed and curtsied, batted their eyelids and followed him about. The only thing that seemed to surprise them was when I took a treat up and they all came flocking over and he ran away and they watched in utter amazement that such a fine specimen would be scared of the human with the treats!
It’s gone really well apart from the fact that last night when we went up to put the birds to bed, Cocky Rocky managed to get out of the pen. We were up there at 11.30 in the pitch black with a torch trying to find the little bugger – no such luck. This morning he was at the gate trying to get back in – clearly the girls are more of a temptation than freedom.
Eaglet meantime was put in with the younger chickens to see if it boosts his self-esteem and brings out the man him. Unfortunately in the course of catching him he hurt his leg and this morning he’s clearly in distress. I have to make a decision, we can’t leave an animal to suffer but I’m really fond of him and am giving him today to see if there’s an improvement and he’s just being a prima donna and putting it on for a bit for sympathy. I really don’t want to have to allocate him to the pot but if he doesn’t improve by tonight I may have to hand him over to the OH to do his thing. This will be a turning point for us – although we want to be more self-sufficient and have bought birds to bring on for the pot we haven’t yet got round to actually doing it.