Yesterday I brought their new home down from the loft: it’s the cage Chloe lived in after her operation and set up the ‘Electric Chicken’ to make sure it worked. However, I didn’t put in any litter and that was fortunate because this morningI discovered that a cat had peed through the bars. Good start: all the cats were then barred from the conservatory once the cage was washed and ready for its new occupants.
Bear was insistent that HE would drive me to Fismes to collect them but as he’s reluctant to take the motorway nowadays we had to take the scenic route with him refusing to follow my directions despite the fact that he had entrusted me with the map.
We only got lost twice on the way there and once on the way back but it was a long drive. He coped pretty well but showed signs of tiring and would not let me take over. At one stage I did get a bit irritable when I desperately needed a wee but there wasn’t an open cafe to be found. (Whether this was because it was Monday or whether lots of French villagers were having a belated Jour de Ferie I don’t know. French shops often stay closed on Monday mornings but not all day and it isn’t usual for them to take a Bank Holiday later if one falls at the weekend like May !st did this year.)
Anyway, I had to cross my legs while we went through flat open countryside but as soon as we came to a clump of trees Bear stopped and I emerged from the undergrowth feeling much relieved and better tempered.
We found the chicken people more by accident than accurate map reading and the chap led us into his cellar where he kept the chicks in a cobbled together container with a dangerous looking lamp and a cover made from an old window and a piece of door.
However, the chicks looked pretty healthy and active and were quite obviously of different ages. The ‘size ones’ looked incredibly small compared to the ‘size twos’ and I thought they would be a better bet for a beginner like me. Taking responsibility for such tiny creatures suddenly seemed a very big undertaking. The bigger ones might stand a better chance of surviving mybeginner’s chicken rearing skills I thought.
“Could I have the big ones?” I asked.
“Well, they’re not the same.” he said.
“You mean they’re not Sussex?”
“Yes, they are but they’re not the same price.”
“How much are they then?”
So, they only cost a euro more than the little ones. Fine: I opened the animal carrier we had bought at the Brocante and he opened the lid of the container by lifting up the window and piece of door and balanced my box on the corner. As he leaned forward to catch a chicken there was a crash and the window fell on his head. Not only that but the door squashed my box and broke the lid.
With barely an apology (or maybe his head was still spinning) he put eight chicks in the lidless container and tied a newspaper over the top. We paid him 28euros and set off home.
Our little passengers were by turns chirpy and silent as I held the box on my lap, keeping it as warm as I could by wrapping my coat round it.
I had left the heater on to warm up before we left but it was adjusted for ‘size one’ chicks so Bear lengthened the legs as I carefully placed the chicks in their new home. They didn’t take long to discover the feeder and waterer but tended to fall over each other in their efforts to eat and drink and they also showed a worrying tendency to peck at the litter of wood shavings. Not content with that, they quickly mixed bits of wood shavings in their food and water.
A quick check on the internet came up with the advice that wood shavings are not good litter material until the chickens have learned what is good to eat. It could kill them if they ate the wood!
I called CC and we got all the chicks out, replaced the litter with an old, soft towel, put in clean food and water and then put them back in. They were less stressed this time but it’s clear that some are more feisty than others and I’m tempted to think that four could be older than the others despite the fact that the man said they were all two weeks old. He had also said that wood shavings would be fine!
Anyway, they are now all cuddled down under their heater – fast asleep. I wouldn’t dream of disturbing them with a flash photo but here’s one I took earlier.
All together now – ahhhhhh, aren’t they sweet.
But what am I going to do about naming them? I don’t know which are girls and which are boys yet.