All About Animals: STORY 5. “Gerty and the Great Escape”, by Rob Bullock

My family and I used to live in the southwest of France in an area called Poitou Charentes. It’s known as the “Garden of France” because farmers can grow all the crops that people need for food – wheat, barley, corn, sunflowers, fruit and vegetables. They grow just about everything there!

We had a small farmhouse and kept chickens, ducks and turkeys whom we saved from local markets where they were going to be sold for meat. They all repaid us with excellent eggs.

Every day, we used to walk our four dogs around the village and out onto the lanes that stretched for miles. Just on the edge of our village was an old, rickety barn where four old hunting dogs lived. We always used to stop and say hello and make sure they were all right – we checked to make sure that they had food and fresh water.

One day when my wife was tickling the chin of the fattest hunting dog (they were all fat – maybe they were retired hunting dogs), she happened to peer into the barn, and out of the corner of her eye she saw a small fluffy brown creature sitting quietly all alone in a huge cage. My wife couldn’t quite make out what it was, but then finally she realised it was a chicken, and the little bird was moving her head a little. We had to do something! She looked so lonely and sad with no companions and no grass to peck at. She needed to be rescued.

We ran home and hatched a plot – it would be a great escape! This would be our first chicken raid. The plan was quickly completed, and we got a pet box ready. But then we thought about it some more and we realised that stealing is wrong, just as mistreating animals is wrong. We thought the best thing to do would be to ring the village mayor and find out if it would be OK to rescue the chicken. He said we could have her if we wanted. We offered to pay 6 euros for her, which is more than she would have fetched at a market. He said this was fine.

We took the box and carefully drove around to the barn. It still felt like an important military mission! We both ran into the barn, scooped the bird up gently, put her in the box, left the money, then got out of there as quickly as we could!

We named the chicken Gerty. She got a few pecks from our other birds at the beginning, but the first thing she did when she got into our barn was to lay a big white egg as thanks. Gerty settled in quickly, but because she had been living on stone floors all her life, she had badly deformed feet. Now she lives with us in our new home in England. Her feet are still twisted, but she is happy and doing really well.

Gerty the Chicken

For more information about Rob Bullock and his stories, please visit