There has been great drama here at La Godefrere over the past week. After last week’s bid for freedom, it looked to me that the chickens were up to something as they had been huddled together in corners of the garden for a few days. I reckoned they were plotting something. We probably made a mistake in naming the chickens after the suffragettes as this has made them more bolshie and I think given them ideas.

On Wednesday we discovered what they were up to when we realised that there were no chickens in the garden. We frantically searched everywhere but no chickens. Eventually we spotted that all three chickens had escaped not this time beside the gate because we had blocked that route. This time they had walked under the barbed wire fence behind the gite and had wandered down to Xavier’s wheat field and were happily munching away where the wheat had been cut. If they had gone a bit further they would have been out of sight and we would have had real trouble finding them. 

So we managed to escort them up the lane. It was like herding cats. Mrs. Parish was up front shaking a scoop with some corn in it and I was the sheep dog coming up the rear and trying to keep the chickens in line. Of course moving to one side to encourage one of the chickens allowed one of the others to do a side step and suddenly appear behind me. So I had to go back and get that one while the other two tried to hide in some bushes at the side of the lane. With heavy cursing, threats of the pot and much hysterical laughing we managed to get them back into the garden and they were then locked the cooler (AKA chicken house) as a punishment while we considered what measure were needed. I thought I could hear whistling and the sound of a baseball being thrown at the chicken house wall!

So Kamp Commandant, Capitan Mrs. Parish decides that we need to reinforce the fences down the side of the garden next to Xavier’s field and goes off to our local farmer’s shop to buy some fencing wire. I begin to plan building guard towers with searchlights and machine gun posts. So we spend Wednesday afternoon putting a fence all along the side of the garden. Typically there was not quite enough wire and so Mrs. Parish had to go back and get more prompting a strange look from the cashier. A sort of déjà vu look! Eventually we are satisfied that this is chicken proof and so we let the chickens out and sit down for a well earned drink.

Kamp Commandant Mrs Parish on fencing duty

All seems well until I turn around and say to Mrs. Parish that there seems to be a chicken on the wrong side of the fence! We had left a small gap at the bottom of the fence to allow for strimming the grass without getting entangled with the wire. You will not believe the limbo dancing skills of the average French chicken and one had managed to squeeze under the wire. Of course this made it very difficult to encourage the chicken back under the fence as at first it could not, despite me pointing and shouting, find the right bit of fence to get under. After more shouting, pointing and a good deal of swearing the chicken was back inside. We managed to finish our drinks with no more drama that night.

Chicken on the wrong side of the fence

The next morning we let the chickens out confident that they were safely inside the now maximum security Stalag La Godefrere. Apparently the chickens have other ideas as they now managed to bypass the fence and get into the field by climbing over a number of rocks behind the gite. We had decided that this route would prove too difficult for chickens. Never underestimate a chicken is one thing we are rapidly learning. After getting them back, more fencing was put up and we now think we have this sorted.

Today I am a bit worried as the chickens are spending a lot of time in their dust baths. I think that they are now attempting to tunnel under the fence. I have seen the chickens come away from the dust baths and shake all the dirt from their feathers out on the grass. Like a scene from the Great Escape where the prisoners shake dirt from tunnels out of their trousers. As French chickens I suspect they have been influenced by the classic French film by Jean Renoir – La Grande Illusion about French Officers in a prison of war camp in the First World War who are determined to escape.

Sylvia hiding the newly started escape tunnel

Anyway I am keeping a careful watch on the chickens and when I go to fetch the eggs I check to make sure there are no signs of them building a glider. I also make sure that there are no motor bikes available!

So far for the past three days all the chickens have been present at roll call and there is no chance for them to substitute a dummy chicken to fool me. Hopefully the chickens will stay within the camp boundaries!
There was still more drama this week as Minou our little grey cat disappeared on Friday afternoon when she did not turn up for her tea at 4pm. We looked around and called her name but she was nowhere to be seen. Now we know that Minou was unlikely to follow the chickens and look to escape. In fact she is the most timid of our cats and does not go far away from the house. The most likely explanation was that she had got locked in somewhere so we checked all our outhouses and barns but no Minou.

The next day Saturday and she did not arrive for breakfast and so we started to worry and looked in the lane and the immediate fields without luck. Our neighbours in the house down the lane came back in the afternoon so we asked them to check their garage. Unfortunately Daniel and Giselle were away during the day and tea time arrived again with no Minou and we began to think of all possible scenarios. At around 7pm someone arrived at Giselle’s to put her chickens away as they were obviously out for the evening. About 5 minutes later Minou appeared on the window sill looking very sorry for herself and very hungry! She had obviously managed to get herself shut in at Giselle’s. For the past 24 hours Minou has kept very close to our house and been first in the queue at meal times.

We said goodbye this week to our friends Candy and Brod who went back to Cornwall on Wednesday. They had been with us for a week and so naturally we had to smuggle our recycling to the tip under cover of darkness due to all the empty wine and beer bottles. We had to take great care with one bottle as this had been brought over by Candy from Cornwall and could not be allowed to be seen by the French. As Mrs. Parish and I celebrated our 44th wedding anniversary Candy and Brod had brought a bottle of champagne for us. It was however “Cornish Champagne” from the Camel Valley. The French are not keen on wine from any other country and would disapprove of Cornish Champagne. A bit like taking Japanese whisky to Scotland. It was actually very nice although of course I am compelled to say that it was not as good as French Champagne.

Candy and Brod had a little border incident at the ferry port. When they arrived at the check in they discovered that they had mistakenly booked their return crossing for the 31st August 2017 a full year away!!  After some discussion and delay they were lucky that there was space for them on the boat but they had to pay £100 to be issued with new tickets. So if you book on line always check the printout!!

So now it is Sunday afternoon and at last I can relax. We have done our regular roll call of the chickens and all is safe and sound. All three cats are sat outside waiting for their tea. We have even had a little bit of rain to freshen up the garden after six weeks of no rain at all. The sun is due back tomorrow. The only blight on my weekend is that bloody mouse in the woodshed who has now gnawed another great big hole in the dustbin lid so he can get at the bird feed. I have directed the cats in his general direction.

Bon courage