Hijinks on the Farm

Here is something I learned this morning: chickens do not like it when you take their eggs. I don’t know why I ever thought otherwise – we’re essentially snatching their unborn babies and using them for a frittata. But reality had never hit home until this morning when, after we finished milking, Peter and I noticed a chicken who had made a nest in the goat shed.

I’d heard mention of this chicken before – Isabelle had spoken of how there were certain poules who had separated themselves from the flock near the pigpen and had made homes for themselves around the farm. Still, it was an odd choice for a location, directly beneath the goats’ water basin. Whatever bird it was, I decided, must be one tough chicken.

And indeed she was, a fact that should have been obvious by the look she gave us when we leaned down to see if she were sitting on anything. I believe it was chicken-eye for “Watch your fucking step.” But I’ve been brainwashed by the illustrations on cartons of organic  eggs, and figured that she’d be all too happy to share.  After all, aren’t we all just one big happy farm?

No, the chicken said, no we are not. I reached toward her to nudge her aside, but before my hand had made it halfway to her nest, she lunged toward me and snatched the skin on the back of my hand in her beak. It was an impressive attack, made more so when she refused to let go. “Peter!” I said, as she glared at me, the look in her eyes saying that she had no intention of releasing me.

I dare you.

But luckily she did, distracted by the end of a broom that Peter used to gently push her off the nest, holding her away until I could take the four (four!) eggs she’d been sitting on. I felt a little bad when we hard-boiled them for breakfast, but later on, the joke was on us: when we went to gather eggs from the main chicken coop, we picked up two fake ones, put there by Isabelle to encourage the chickens to tend their nests (and, apparently, to fool ignorant WWOOFers).

Speaking of jokes, this afternoon, Peter and I were standing by the buque (sp?) – the male goat whose job it is to impregnate the entire flock, including his daughters, each August.

“Why don’t you rub him on the head?” Peter said as we stood there. I noticed a naughty look in his eye, but I couldn’t figure out why. The buque , whose name is Titus, seemed friendly enough, and he’d come up to us as if inviting us to pet him. I squinted my eyes at Peter.

“Why?” I asked. “Does he get mad?”

“Just rub his head between his horns.”

I scanned my memory once more for any counterindication, but came up with a blank – so I reached out and rubbed Titus on the head. The goat seemed to enjoy it; Peter, on the other hand, was doubled over in laughter.


“You don’t remember what Laure told us?” he asked. “About the gland?”

A memory came rushing back: when she’d given us the tour of the farm, Laure had warned that male goats have a gland on the top of their heads, right between their horns, that produces a very strong goat odor – goat essence, if you will. If you get it on your hands, she said, it could last for days.

I couldn’t believe I’d forgotten this, especially since Laure had told it to me in French and I had personally translated it for Peter. But it was too late: my first two fingers on my left hand were covered in eau de buque.

C'mon. Rub my head.

But Peter got his comeuppance: not only is he still recovering from a 12-inch-diameter bruise he got the first night we were here when he fell off a log he was using to get a better look at the pigs, but the other night he got the rope we use to move the goats inside caught between his toe and his sandals. The problem? It was raining, and the rope – which contains metal – is connected to the electric fence. By the time he got his foot free, he said he could feel the electricity in his armpits.

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