Free Range Chickens

The French for free range chicken is poulet élevé en plein air. We have some on our Arçais campsite.

When we last stayed here eight years ago, the gardien was a chap called Francois. He, we are told, is now en retraite [in retirement] in Portugal. The new gardien is a very pleasant man called Dom, which I assume is short for Dominic. All the signs posted around the campsite are signed “Dom”.

Dom works hard to keep the campsite well kempt and tidy, mowing the pitches and using something like a gas powered flame-thrower to incinerate unwanted weeds. At least this avoids using nasty chemicals on them, which could well leach into the surrounding canal system. There’s a large, dead tree in the middle of our field whose surrounding grass got the something like a flame-thrower treatment. It appeared that the lower trunk of the tree also got a bit too much something like a flame-thrower treatment and kept smouldering. Dom went of to fetch water to dowse it down.

Free Range ChickesDom has a modest collection of chickens on site. At night they are kept in a pen but during the day he lets some of them out to range freely around the campsite. There are three hens out regularly: one grey, one white and one looking particularly attractive in black with bronze highlights. The latter was decidedly my favourite. The hens range about the campsite pitches pecking what they can find and more or less completely ignoring the campers, unless food might be on offer, though Dom dissuades people from feeding them. They made themselves completely at home in our pitch beside Frodo to perform their ablutions. We don’t want untidy looking hens, after all.

Handsome CockerelWe were relaxing under our awning when Dom wandered into the field with something like a landing net slung across his shoulder. The something like a landing net contained a bundle of something white which we couldn’t quite make out. Dom set the bundle of something white down on the ground and it unwound itself into something like a white chicken, but “not as we know it, Jim”. The feathers on this chicken went all the way down its legs and covered its feet, too. There was a curious knobbly purple boss perched on the front of its head above the beak. It had spurs on its legs; this was a cockerel, ever so slightly smaller than the more conventional looking hens. Tagged variously as Fancy Pants or Flouncy Trousers, once he recovered his composure having been transported in something like a landing net, he look quite amusing  as he raced on his knock-kneed legs to join the ladies. Being a cockerel, he soon started crowing to make his presence known.

There’s a wonderful phrase used to describe trying to control the uncontrollable: “it’s like herding cats”. Watching someone trying to round up the chickens to get them back in the safety of their pen having spent a day free ranging on the campsite made me think one could easily swap cats for chickens.

Posted in 2023-06 France

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