Jen Dodds: My real-life limping chicken, and why I’m embracing the quiet life

Posted on June 6, 2013

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When “the limping chicken programme” was on last year, like everyone else, I was stunned when the notetaker had to leave early to attend to her ill chicken.

Then, like everyone else, I actually found it hilarious, laughed at chicken jokes in the hastily set up Facebook group, and then got a bit bored with the whole thing.

Until, of course, Limping Chicken was set up, and I was impressed that somehow Mr Swinbourne has managed to bring all kinds of deaf people together via one website; something I can’t remember happening before, probably because different kinds of deaf people tend to argue with each other far too much (more on that later).

But anyway, over a year later, here I am writing about my own limping chicken.

Oh, yes. OK, it isn’t really mine – my wife and I share 15 chickens with 7 other families, as part of a local chicken co-operative scheme.

This works out really nicely, because we’ve wanted to have chickens for a while, but don’t have the right kind of garden and, well, chickens are kind of hard work.


We let them out of their coop, feed them and then put them to bed one day a week, but can visit them any time we like (which is handy with two small children, because chickens are SUPER EXCITING and the lovely, muddy allotments where they live is just the kind of place to recreate our idyllic/free/dangerous 70s childhoods, before iPads and stuff existed).

So, it’s kind of like Chicken Keeping Lite. Suits us.

Then, this morning, it all went a bit wrong because one of our lovely chickens might have something called bumble foot, which they can actually die from, so my wife has had to go and do scary vet-type things. She’s quite masterful like that, you see (unlike me; I’m not even really OK with picking them up yet. I know, I’m a wimp). And of course, it’s our chicken day today.

Obviously, when I mentioned this on Twitter, someone had to laugh and point out that we had very our own limping chicken, and I thought I’d write a post about it because I’ve been meaning to write something for Limping Chicken for a while but I couldn’t decide what, because there are TOO MANY THINGS TO WRITE ABOUT and never enough hours in the day.

(Plus: I feel a bit extra sorry for that notetaker now, because what if her chicken had bumble foot? I know that’s a silly name for a disease, but what if it died?! They’re quite lovely, chickens AND notetakers, and we shouldn’t laugh at them.)

But anyway. What the hell am I doing, living in the countryside and helping to look after 15 chickens?

Shouldn’t I be out there where I used to be, probably being bossy and organising demos for a BSL Act and stuff like that? Er, no. I like the quiet life, thanks, and the chickens just kind of became part of that. Like the cat who moved in of his own accord (we are “dog people”, sadly without a dog), and like the partially-successful vegetable garden, and of course, like the kids, although no one could ever accuse them of being quiet, least of all me.

One thing about living in the countryside is the lack of deaf people, though. Someone wondered recently if most deaf people live in cities. She may have a point. Quite a few hearing people around here – including my family – can sign with varying degrees of fluency, but I haven’t met any other Deaf BSL users who live nearby – the nearest ones I know are about 30 minutes away.

I’ve got used to it now, and do see other Deafies quite often. I even set up a Signing Families Facebook Group with my friend Michelle, which is a great way for us northern signing families to meet up and have a laugh.

However, being the only Deafie in the village does mean that most of my interaction with other Deaf people is online. That is also OK, because webcams are brilliant, email is quick and I LOVE Twitter. The thing with Twitter, though, is that you can choose to only follow the people you want to, so they don’t tend to annoy you as much.

Facebook is a different story. Just like Deaf-UK (is it still going? I stopped getting the emails years ago), many of the deaf-related Facebook groups with “mixed communication” deaf people in them tend to be giant pits of Argument.

I’m not joking. Someone will say they use BSL, then someone will argue that they use SSE and they speak too, because it’s better, then someone else will chip in that they have a CI but they use BSL and they have a friend with a CI who can speak and sign and do all sorts of things… and then everyone ends up arguing with each other. It’s so depressing.

Why do we do it? I’m not innocent of it either, by any means. But it is interesting how it does seem to be a “deaf thing” (by deaf, I mean anyone who can’t hear, regardless of whether they sign or not, yadda yadda) to fall out over stuff with other deaf people who don’t communicate in the same way as they do.

It’s really quite weird, if you think about it. My wife thinks it’s a bit like how chickens have a “pecking order” – very clever – and hell, our chickens do like a fight.

But for now, I’m sure we can all agree to send positive get well wishes to my poor limping chicken, and hope her foot gets better soon.

When she’s not looking after chickens or children, Jen can be found translating, proofreading and editing stuff over at Team HaDo Ltd (

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