The house we rented near Le Puy-en-Velay is called un gîte rural — rural accommodation, a vacation rental out in the country. The first definition of gîte in one standard French dictionary is « Endroit où l'on couche, réside, temporairement ou habituellement. » — "Place where one sleeps, resides, either temporarily or habitually." The word gîte derives from the verb gésir, which means "to lie" in the since of "lie down, sleep."
The Le Puy gîte, although just a mile or so from a huge shopping center and a couple of miles from the center of the town, which probably qualifies as a small city, was certainly in a rural environment. The people who own it and rent it out to tourists and vacationers keep chickens. They were fenced in on a big plot of land right outside the gîte.
When I read about the gîte on the internet, I assumed that the owners were a couple and that they lived on the property. They had different last names on the rental contract, but that's not unusual nowadays. They also had four phone numbers — each one listed a land line and a cell phone. That wouldn't be unusual these days either. If both are professionals, it would be easy to explain so many phone numbers.
The thing I read right over in the description of the gîte on the internet was a quick mention that the house being rented was the owners' maison natale. That should have been a big clue, but it didn't dawn on me what it meant right away. On arrival, we learned that the man and woman who greeted us and showed us around the place didn't live on the property at all. They turned out to be brother and sister, each married. The brother lived across the way from the gîte, and not all that close. The sister lived in a different town, several miles away.
Very often, gîte owners do live close by their rental property, either in the same house or building, or in a separate building or house on their land. That was the case when we rented a little house on the coast, in the Vendée, last March. It wasn't a big deal, but you do feel you have less privacy when you see the owner every day, often several times a day. You don't have the impression that you really are chez vous in the gîte.
In Le Puy, the fact that there was a flock of chickens nearby certainly added to the rural atmosphere. Each time we went out the front door, the chickens would come running, clucking wildy because, I imagine, they thought we might intend give them something to eat. We never did. But they gave us something to eat. Freshly laid eggs. The owners set a basket of them on the kitchen table for us. They were delicious.
P.S. You can enlarge the pictures and stare into the chickens' beady little eyes by clicking on the images or "unpinching" them (on a tablet).