I was against having chickens for obvious reasons.
Unfortunately no one else in the house understood any of them.
So I sought the independent advice of people I knew would agree with me.
“Hey!” I said to our Swiss friend, who is a free spirit. “Chickens – bad idea, right?”
“What are you talking about?” he roared. “Chickens are adorable. You have to get chickens. The kids will love it. Just do it!”
“But this is our year of being free spirits, walking lightly on the earth, minimal responsibility, one day at a time. We don’t need any more dependents!”
He did not agree.
“Chickens are easy! You can leave them alone for days. Anyway, when can we drop the chickens to you?”
“Didn’t you know you’re babysitting our baby chickens this weekend?”
“What? No! We have plans!”
“Yes, you have plans to babysit our chickens.”
“No, no, no, no, no.”
“It’s all arranged. We have a contract.”
A brief discussion of international contractual law followed, after which threats became necessary.
“Look, you need to know that small animals have a very high death rate under my care. Ask my parents about the guinea pigs.”
“It’s all in the contract.”
Round One to Sabbatical Man.
I tried the fruit and vegetable guy across the road. He’s a sensible man.
“Listen, my husband wants to get chickens but we are only in France for a year. Bad idea, n’est pas?”
“Mais non!” he cried. “I’ll take your chickens when you leave – just come and see me. Chickens will eat your leftovers and you won’t have to buy eggs from me. It’s a sensible idea. You want me to get you some chickens?”
I gave him a hard look and put a couple of peaches back.
“He’s got to you,” I said.
“Sorry, no English,” he said. “Un petit cadeau [Have some raspberries].”
Round Two ditto.
I tried Madame E, our house manager. She’s an agreeable person.
“Sabbatical Man wants chickens! Can you imagine? The mess, the work, the responsibility, the stink – imagine what the landlord will say! Bad idea, right?”
“Mais non! I agree with him! You must get chickens. I can look after them when you go away. They are so mignon [cute] and trop facile [too easy]. They can eat all your scraps, the children can find the eggs. It’s better! For you, for the planet, for the children. I agree completely!”
I narrowed my eyes at her and she smiled agreeably right back at me.
We babysat the damned baby chickens, devilishly named K, F and C by our friend’s girlfriend who is also a free spirit and perfect in every way except she’s weird about chickens.
The feathery little feckers survived the weekend* and all the males in my household clucked and fussed.
I was unmoved. Chicken shit everywhere.
Before the week was out a construction project was emerging in the nut orchard. I suspected it had something to do with chickens.
* K (or possibly F ) was later chewed by a dog, but not on my watch.