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Posts Tagged ‘Bertha’

On 1st February 2011, four special little chickens arrived to help us celebrate Imbolc, marking the beginnings of spring and to start their new free range lives with us. Two beautiful Amberlinks, Bertha and Brigit (named after Imbolc or St Brigit’s Day) and two lovely ginger girls, Bella and Bunty.

Sadly my two blonde bombshells passed away last spring after celebrating a year’s free ranging but Bella and Bunty have both reached this marvellous milestone.

Miss Bella Chicken enjoying her birthday cake!

Miss Bella Chicken enjoying her birthday cake!

When Bella arrived she was a frightened and aggressive little hen and attacked everyone and everything. However, after a night tucked up in the coop with her new sisters she established herself as top hen and the attacks stopped and after a few days of plenty of food and tlc she learnt that us humans were OK as well. Her transformation from psychochicken to Top Girl was also aided by the insistence of my friend Sarah that she be given a beautiful name to make her feel like a special lady. So Bella she became. She has always remained top chicken, usually just a look is sufficient to remind the other girls of this should they be foolish enough to forget it and she hasn’t had a day sick in the two years she has been here. She sailed through her moult at the end of last year and is now resplendent in her new feathers complete with showgirl tail feathers!

Miss Bunty Goodchicken enjoying her birthday cake!

Miss Bunty Goodchicken enjoying her birthday cake!

When Bunty arrived, she was quiet and timid, but cleverly she was also best friends with Bella and so has never had any need to become involved with the pecking order or squabbles. She has sat at Bella’s shoulder, a calming influence and rather splendid right hand hen. Because of her gentle nature, never throwing a peck in anger, she was bestowed the much coveted Goodchicken name, a title only ever given to those chickens whose gentle spirit and forgiving soul is a shining example to her sisters. Whereas Bella has been a picture of health Bunty Goodchicken has had to be a very brave girl – enduring illness – a prolapse and subsequent operation, suprelorin implant and now she is battling (successfully I am thrilled to say) the dreaded egg peritonitis. The vet recognised her extreme bravery by awarding her a Braveheart Award (medal and certificate) for being “a very brave chicken.” She has also been a magazine covergirl as well as having her story appear in Sophie Mccoy’s wonderful book, Tales from the Coop.

The party in full swing!

The party in full swing!

Our Henniversary celebrations started with a warm porridgey breakfast and a quick game of fatball football and then at lunch time we had the cakes and photoshoot. We lit a candle each for Bertha and Brigit and laid flowers at their gravestones. We finished off the day with a rousing chorus of Happy Henniversary to You…complete with ropey singing, and bwarking harmonies.

The cakes!

The cakes!

Miss Bella Chicken and Miss Bunty Goodchicken have approved a photo each to become their Official Henniversary Shot and they would like to thank their public for all their good wishes and presents.

They are also very proud to announce that their Henniversary celebrations appear in the March edition of Your Chickens magazine.Their human has been given a regular column and they are very excited to grace the first one!

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Recently this blog has been about such sad events, that to lift our spirits and coincide with spring introducing new life I am celebrating some wonderful and positive news about my girls! Health, friendship, a new coop and a Smallholder magazine covergirl!

My ten girls are all healthy and happy and enjoying the spring sunshine. Seeing them stretching out those newly feathered wings in glorious delight to catch the sun’s springtime warmth makes you truly appreciate that every day free ranging is a blessing and we must cherish every moment, just as our girls do.

Eliza

Flavia and Eliza are now pretty much fully integrated with the Big Girls – Bunty Goodchicken was even cleaning Flavia’s beak tonight, bless her gentle soul. All eight girls are spending their first night together in Henderlay this evening and are currently tucked up together in perfect harmony! An early start in the morning to check on them though!

Flavia

Effie and Eleanor are having a new deluxe, ex-batt-specific prototype coop delivered next week. We are all terribly excited. The lovely people at Oakdene Coops have developed a recycled plastic coop especially for ex-batts and have asked us to give them our thoughts on it. Effie and Eleanor are looking forward to trying it out and giving me their opinions! Personally I think if anyone cares enough to develop a coop especially for these precious girls then it is going to be a stunner. Watch this space…

Effie and Eleanor freeranging

People who have chickens are truly amazing and by the power of the internet and social media we are able to ‘speak’ to and connect with fellow chicken lovers across the globe. These people become friends and confidantes as they are privy to our thoughts and feelings, often much more so than people we interact with daily in the real world. Sometimes we are lucky enough to encounter our online friends in the flesh so it was wonderful to meet the lovely Jan and her family today. Meeting people you have talked to online is always like catching up with old friends – you have already shared so much – and like any proud parent I am always delighted to show off my girls. Jan was kind enough to bring me two beautiful cards with chickens on – as a fellow chicken lover she knew how much I would appreciate them! Next week, another online chicken chum, Paula, is heading down to Cornwall and I am looking forward to more chicken chat and yes…showing off my girls again!!

And finally but most certainly not least, Bunty Goodchicken’s fame is spreading far and wide. Never was there a more deserving chicken – the kindest, sweetest, bravest girl I have ever encountered. She is the May covergirl for Smallholder magazine, an exciting event for us both. Her picture graces the front cover and my article – on how amazing ex-batts are and why everyone should have them – is featured. It is almost impossible to explain how important this is to us all. Promoting ex-batts has become a life mission for me; helping these victims of the intensive farming system is the most important thing I have ever done. Writing has also been a lifelong passion of mine and to have an article published in Smallholder magazine is totally thrilling. Smallholder is my favourite magazine, it has a fabulous poultry section and I read it from cover to cover each month; it is chock full of useful and informative articles and I am honoured to have written something for them. The article is also illustrated with many photos of my girls, including the adorable Effie, as well as Bunty’s covergirl shot:

Bunty Goodchicken in her covergirl shot

So just as day follows night and spring follows winter, from the ashes of sadness and loss, new, tender joyful beginnings emerge. We are celebrating all that is new, alive and exciting whilst still holding those dear departed close to our hearts.

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I think it would be fair to say we have had an unusually large amount of illness in our little flock recently. I know spring is a bad time for hens with all the demands of the new season on their little bodies but even so I think we have been particularly unlucky.

We lost Bertha, have had Bunty’s prolapse, soft shelled egg issues from Daisy and Effie, Constance’s bleeding vent, Evie’s water belly…the list goes on.

When I had my first hens – I had to have ‘hen holding practice’ beforehand – I knew next to nothing about them, least of all how to diagnose and treat a sick girl. Had I known what I know now, I think I could have maybe saved Aurora and Agatha. I don’t know, it is too upsetting to think about but I think every sick girl you have teaches you something new that you can use to help one of their sisters at a later date. Personally I can never know enough and am still learning so much from both my girls and some real chicken experts.

Clara moulting in January 2012

I think the most important thing is to find a good chicken vet. Vets are quickly cottoning onto the fact that more and more people are keeping hens as pets and organisations such as Chicken Vet run courses and support for vets interested in supporting this new, rapidly developing area. There is a list of accredited vets here.

My local vets have been amazing – especially recently – I have gone in with numerous requests and demands and they have done their very best to accommodate me and my girls. Anything they have not known about, they have researched and then undertaken. From learning about Superlorin implants to scouring Cornwall for Nystatin or performing purse string sutures on Bunty’s prolapsed vent.

I think in these early days of ‘hens as pets’ it is good to go to the vets with an idea of what is wrong and what the best treatment is. Wanting to avoid the ‘hypochondriac with mild symptoms and a medical dictionary’ syndrome I try not to just wildly google my girls symptoms but instead refer to a good, reliable website. By far the best I have found is poultrykeeper with their interactive and really helpful Diseases and Disorders section. It gives you an informed and useful starting point to diagnose your girl’s ailment and also has a forum for more obscure questions. I find it much easier to go to the vets with an ‘I think my hen has XYZ and needs ABC’ than to go in cold.

Another valuable source of information is Twitter. By following chicken experts such as @avianvets, @chickensaspets (both of whom have been invaluable in my battle to beat Brigit’s sour crop Avian Vets ), @chickenvet @chickenstreet and @poultrykeeper you will learn a vast amount about chicken health.

Here I must declare my ‘interest.’ Poultrykeeper have an ex-batt section with a writer you may recognise! Quite frankly I am honoured to be allowed to write for them – there are some real chicken experts writing for the site, I am in esteemed company!

Talking of writing…if anyone reads Smallholder magazine, then reserve your May copy now!!! Not only is the cover girl a stunner but it also features my article!!

I am beyond excited!

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This evening we said a tearful goodbye to Miss Bertha Chicken, the first of our B girls to leave us. Just a month after celebrating her one year henniversay, our darling Bertha has gone to join Audrey, Agatha and Aurora hunting worms in henven.

Bertha, along with her sisters Bella, Brigit and Bunty Goodchicken, was rescued on 1st February last year – our special Imbolc girls. Bertha and Brigit were Amberlinks – white chickens supposedly more placid than the ginger girls and therefore more suited to life in a cage. As if any animal is suited to life in a cage…

Beautiful Bertha

Bertha was always a beautiful girl, her bald patches soon replaced with creamy white feathers and she was a splendid egg layer – an egg a day as regular as clockwork. Bertha’s best friend was fellow blonde girl Brigit and the two very quickly became like a pair of endearingly cantankerous old aunts. They did not take kindly to the introduction of the C girls – taking it upon themselves to terrorise Clara, consequently alternating it between time out thinking about their actions in the Naughty Coop. Once the D girls arrived Bertha was so put out that she took it upon herself to sleep alone (very Great Garbo) each night in the Hermitage – named especially for her. She tolerated the new girls during the day (just) but refused to give up her comfortable sleeping quarters for them. This continued for some time – each evening watching as the others went to bed in Henderlay before tootling off to her own little Hermitage, happy in her splendid isolation.

Only when the E girls arrived at Christmas and Bertha’s coop was requisitioned for Effie and Eleanor did Bertha finally deign to rejoin her sisters in Henderlay. She pretended not to but I think she quite enjoyed it. Turfing the younger hens out of the prized bedtime nestboxes – only for them to pile back in on top of her. Such indignity.

Curious and clever Bertha

Last Wednesday, Bertha started to look a little off colour. Brigit was suffering from one of her episodes and the pair of them stood in the corner of the garden looking a bit grumpy. By Thursday though Bertha was really quite unwell and after checking for anything obvious – bum, tum and crop – we resorted to some of the vast quantities of hen medicines we have accumulated. We tried to tempt her dwindling appetite with treats of egg and cat food, even syringing a little egg in at times. We put sugar in her water to give her a little energy, kept her dosed up and kept our fingers crossed. Gary spent Sunday afternoon digging worms for her. She only managed two. Each morning we feared finding her gone but each morning she was still with us. Fighting to the last. Knowing she would much rather be outside than in, each day we carried her outside in a nestbox and tucked her up under the Rainy Days shelter with little bowls of water and treats. Bunty Goodchicken, Brigit and Bella all stayed in the shelter with her each day, in shifts of two at a time, so she was never left alone. Anyone who doubts that chickens do not form friendships or feel empathy for each other, should have seen these girls. They knew their sister was ill and they kept a vigil by her bedside.

She started to show small signs of improvement. On Sunday night I thought we had cracked it, she wolfed down a bowl of egg for supper. I was however putting off the inevitable – no matter how hard we wanted to see her getting better, she wasn’t. At some point we would have had to make The Decision. But she spared us that, bless her.

RIP beautiful girl xx

This evening, Bertha had taken herself from her daytime shelter, up the Henderlay ramp and inside. She already knew what we didn’t. We gave her some medicine and Gary tempted her with a little egg, before placing her back in the coop. Bunty was in there looking after her but seconds later came running out to tell us the bad news. Bertha had had a heart attack and died.
What little consolation we had was that she died quickly, where she wanted to be and she wasn’t alone. Our poor, beautiful girl – we tried so hard to save you.

She was wrapped up in a pink blanket to keep her warm with a daffodil just because all ladies need flowers, before being cremated. We watched as her spirit soared to henven amongst the orange flames. A very sad moment.

But we shall remember our darling Bertha with love and a smile – dustbathing, foraging, sunbathing, her fabulous egg laying and her free range happiness.

Fly high, little hen. Feel the sun’s warmth forever on your wings.

xxxxxxxxxx

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