There are some of you who will probably think I’m nuts. To be honest, I sometimes wonder if I’m a little bit crazy myself when it comes to Gimpy the injured chicken.
My chickens are pets. Although I bought them with a view to living a more self-sufficient lifestyle in France I found that when it actually came to doing the job, eg disposing of chickens and preparing them for the oven – I just couldn’t do it.
By the time I’d raised the chicks to the stage where they were ready for the pot, they all had names and I’d become accustomed to sitting in the chicken pen talking to them (I clearly spend too much time on my own). The chicks were all bought up in the house – I am a complete novice at poultry rearing and was afraid they’d be too cold outside even with a heat lamp on. At that time the house was undergoing major renovation and was so awful that it didn’t really matter about a few smelly chicks.
The trouble is, when you’ve shared living accommodation with an animal, named it and talked to it – it doesn’t seem appropriate to ring its neck, pluck it and shove it in the oven (you can read more about my realisation that I am a city girl here!)
So – my birds are pets, which includes the 9 ducks and 4 geese I have in addition to the 23 chickens.
Yes, if you are wondering, I am absolutely inundated with eggs. Fortunately everyone likes to be given fresh, organic eggs whether it’s the post lady, the man who comes to inspect the septic tank, visitors or the eggs go to the UK to give out to friends and family.
Now, to get back to Gimpy. She is a lovely russet brown chicken, very affectionate – she loves to be petted and follows me around. Unfortunately she has hurt her leg. She can lift it, she can limp about but she is very slow and unsteady. For a while she managed being in with the others but then it became clear she wasn’t at all happy.
There is one thing about chickens that you don’t read about much and that is that they are terrible bullies. If one of them is injured or weak – the others will pick on it. It’s just the way it is, there is a pecking order and someone has to be on the bottom rung.
Gimpy therefore, cannot go in with the rest of the birds. She is in the chicken infirmary (an old dog cage) which is likely to be her home for some time to come. My French neighbour Claude says that I am “fou” (crazy) and should just put her down. But she manages to hop out of the infirmary and ambles slowly round the garden in the morning with her friend Doris the duck who refuses to go in the duck pen with the rest. I let her have a bit of exercise while I sort out the rest of the birds and then put her in a mini pen on the lawn on her own, having dug a bit of earth over so she has something to amuse herself with trying to get worms out.
At the end of the day I carry her back to the infirmary where she passes the night.
She seems to have become quite used to this routine and squats down when she sees me coming, ready to be picked up. She sits calmly in my arms and coos softly when I stroke her. She scoffs bread and pasta greedily rewarding me with a lovely brown egg and doesn’t seem to miss her old friends.
This has been going on for a month now and she doesn’t show any major signs of getting full use of her leg back though she holds it up high and looks at it with her beady eyes before putting it down on the ground and limping off. Gimpy’s daily regimen means that the rest of my family and friends who help out when I’m away, also have to pander to my whims and carry Gimpy about. I’m not sure how long this will be allowed to go on for.
I hope she re-cooperates (oh I can hear you groaning from here!) but I think this might be how it is for the rest of her life…