It’s Hitchcock round my place.
The chickens are taking over.
They seem to be exerting some sort of mind-control on other members of the family. Feeding and fussing over chickens has become their primary focus.
Middle, who has spent most of his life rescuing insects, caught a lizard a couple of days ago, trapped it under a rock and watched it flick pathetically from side to side while a chicken ate it alive.
“Why would you do that?” I said. “It’s cruel,”
He regarded me coolly and said: “Not for the chicken.”
His chicken is called Caramel. I used to think it was the most tame but perhaps it’s the most dangerous because it has given up walking at all and instead compels Medium to carry it around to new food sources far afield.
The other two chickens, far more nervy, can see the advantage and are taming their human mules.
One of them pecked at Small’s eye last week but even through his tears he passed it all off as a misunderstanding, eyes so much resembling bright shiny beetles.
They’ve got to Large, who initially shared my suspicions. He has taken to picking them up and crooning quietly to them while he transports them to another killing ground.
“Where is a fox when you need one?” I accidentally wondered out loud to an Aunt, who was visiting. “I’m going to have to start letting the chickens out at night.”
“You don’t mean that,” she said in her best calm voice, but I detected a note of fright.
The Aunt is good at empathy, being a psychologist and everything. Unfortunately, her specialty is post-traumatic stress, which means she is too worried for my children to give adequate weight to my chicken problems.
“Ha, ha,” I said. “Just a little joke there.”
Meanwhile I was up in the dead of night visiting www.foxforest.com and learning that if you want foxes in your garden you have to leave bait: potato and chicken, preferably.
This is something foxes and I have in common: the love of a good feed of chicken and potatoes.
It’s problematic, though, in terms of fox bait because Sabbatical Man won’t let me leave either chicken scraps or potatoes lying about. His extensive research into chicken husbandry has revealed that his feathery little wives find chicken offensive and potatoes poisonous.
A distaste for cannibalism I can understand but I’m not buying the poison thing. My theory is that chickens are just squeamish about eating the food they’re most likely to be served with – by both foxes and humans as it turns out.
How such brainless creatures managed to convey this PR message to Humanland is beyond me although I will admit that collectively they do seem to have an almost Dalek-like robotic intelligence about them.
You should see the way they surround the house in the morning flapping up to the windows, peering sideways in all the glass doors, depositing their crappy little message of disgruntlement at every single entrance to the house.
And if you do leave a door open, which is the sort of thing you might be forgiven for doing on a sunny day in the south of France, well that’s when you turn around and there is a chicken or three standing beside the couch obviously doing reconnaissance but acting innocent with their jerky little dinosaur heads saying: “What? Where am I? How did I get here? What? What?”
When I moved to France I imagined a life more pleasant than peasant. I thought perhaps just a little bit of French chic might rub off on me. Perhaps I might finally learn to wear a scarf in a certain way or put together an outfit with a little more style or just read a French novel cleverly in a café.
And what am I doing? Dodging chicken shit while running around the patio chasing chickens with a broom.
Free range, I think.
This is what happens when you give chickens free range.
All those SPCA-friendly, free-range, organic bloody eggs and drumsticks I bought without a thought for what it meant for the farmers. Can you imagine what it is like for them?
Are battery farms really so bad? Or are they simply detention camps to contain the most dangerous chickens?
Think about it.
If chickens are capable of getting a PR message out about the potatoes, who’s to say they haven’t done a number on us with the whole free range business? Is it really about the cruelty of battery farms or simply a plot to allow thousands of chicken terror cells to set up in the gardens of guilty first-worlders trying to reduce their carbon footprint?
Everyone’s slack-jawed about Planet of the Apes and taking their eyes off the chooks. The chickens probably bankrolled the movie to take the heat off!
Of course no one will believe me that chickens are taking over.
Foxes seem like my only hope; my furry little French assassins – whiskery, troubled souls, living rough, drowning themselves in pastis, licking leftover McDonalds packets but ultimately unable to resist the instinct to come to my rescue with their sharp teeth and diggy claws and perhaps a sniper rifle for backup.
I like to think there is a fox and a sidekick out there right now in the dark, preparing their attack.
They’ll need to hurry.