Samantha David is a freelance journalist and writes for various publications including BBC Online, the Sunday Times, the FT, Living France, everything France, and France Magazine

Samantha David, writer

The Secret Cevennes - articles by Samantha David



March 1st - time for a rant



      You’ll have to excuse me, but I’ve just got to get this off my chest.  Trawling through the Writers’ and Artists’ Yearbook, ringing magazine editors and hassling them for work last week, I came across the stupidest woman I’ve met for a long time.

      “Oh no,” she said.  “We don’t approve of dogs on this magazine.”

      Well, that’s grounds for being Tippexed in the first place.  I mean, what rational, sensible, proper, decent, worthwhile person doesn’t like dogs?  Blimey.  But that wasn’t all.  Oh no... what did this moron say next?

      “We advise all our readers to buy chickens as pets for their children,” she said.

      Chickens?  Chickens?  CHICKENS?

      Give me a break.  A chicken is a farmyard fowl, not a ruddy domestic pet.

      Yes, yes, I know chickens are fashionable back in Blighty.  I’ve seen all those silly articles in the Sunday colour sups.  But surely not even the most air-headed Soho fashionista could seriously take this chicken-keeping nonsense seriously.  And as for giving a chicken to a child as a pet - well the idea is utterly mind-boggling.

      It is a bad idea.  A very bad idea.  CHICKENS ARE BAD NEWS.

      First off, children get head lice from chickens.  All chickens have head lice.  All of them.  Without exception.  Even chickens wearing foot-shaped shoes, organically raised and Montessori-trained in Camden have headlice.  They can’t help it.

      Second, keeping a single chicken is cruel.  They live in flocks.  If you keep a single chicken, it will run away.  Free-range chickens only stay put if they have a cockerel with them.  You cannot keep a cockerel in a suburban back garden.  They are aggressive, noisy and poo everywhere.

      To keep your chickens in your garden, you will need chicken wire up to a height of 10 feet, and you have to dig the wire down at least 2 feet because chickens dig too.

      Chicken-keeping always involves chicken wire, unless you propose to clip through the wing ligaments with a pair of cutters to stop your chickens flying.

      Chickens attract rats.  Rats love chicken food, fresh free-range eggs, and the warmth of a chicken shed at night.  Poison the rats, and you poison the chickens.  Have you got a rat-killing terrier in your house?  Are you ready to shoot rats?  Have you got a farmyard cat to keep the rats down?  If you don’t keep the rats down, eventually they will kill and eat the chickens.

      Chickens have to be shut in at dusk.  Every day.  Without fail.  If you don’t shut them in, they’ll roost in the trees at dusk and you won’t get them down until the next morning.  If they are not shut in, they will be killed by foxes, who kill chickens for food, but also for the fun of it, leaving bits of decapitated hen all over your garden.  Your children will not like this.  Are you ready to shoot an urban fox?  (Fox populations in urban areas are burgeoning.)  Are you home at dusk?  Every day?  365 days a year?

      Chickens have to be let out at daybreak.  Every day.  Without fail.  They also have to be fed, and given fresh water.  Are your children ready to do this every day before school?  In the dark?  In the rain?

      Chickens go broody.  Even if you don’t have a cockerel.  A broody hen doesn’t lay, and doesn’t eat.  She sits with her chin tucked in and makes depressing squeaky noises.  She expects the cockerel to look after her.  Are you ready to thrust a broody hen into a bucket of water?  (The only way I know to stop a hen being broody.)

      Even just one chicken will trash a back garden.  Even a large back garden.  A single chicken will turn a back garden into a dust bowl (summer) and a mud bath (winter).  That’s promise.

      Children do not like chickens.  Give one to a child and just watch her little face fall.  A boy doesn’t want a ruddy chicken.  Get real.  A boy wants a dog.  If you’re going to buy your kid a pet, do it properly or don’t do it at all.  Even a hamster is better than a stoopid chicken.  (Cheaper too, and easy to look after.)

         Chickens do not like kids.  Chickens run away from kids.  Chickens are frightened of kids.  Chickens do not fetch balls, they do not purr, they do not like to be handled; they are not cuddly.  Chickens have head lice.

      And don’t tell me you’re going to keep the poor thing in a small wire cage.  Or locked up all alone in a little structure that you can move every day.  Chicken batteries are being phased out across the EU.

      I should have said all this to the editor, I should have said “Listen sister, stop duping your readers, grow up, lift your eyes from your desk and see life as it really is.  Buy my article about dogs.  Dogs are cute and adorable.  And besides, I write luverly stuff about dogs and I could do with the cash.”

      Instead, I tried to interest her in an idea about amusing your kids while you lie on the sofa.  I thought the concept might appeal to her silly, city-slicker, self-absorbed, Soho soul.  But she didn’t want that article either.

      Stoopid woman.

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