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Saturday 13th of August dawned bright and sunny for the Grand Arrival of our new, bespoke, plastic coop and run. The girls had excitedly packed their bags, taken down their posters in Henderlay and were busy squabbling over bunks in their new home when the eagerly anticipated new coop arrived.

We were all like children on Christmas morning, jumping around in excitement and generally getting in the way as Chris the Coop Man tried to put the coop up with much hen ‘help’!

An hour later and the coop was up and in place and the girls waved their new friend Chris the Coop Man off before beginning exacting inspections of their new palatial home. Iris T Frizzle was the first hen in the coop as, being broody, we transferred her directly from Henderlay, followed by fellow broodies little Lemony and Iona.

I must confess, the coop is magnificent. The company that Chris the Coop Man runs, Arkus Coops is based just outside of Penzance and uses recycled plastic; so at least two boxes ticked there. He adapted the coop to the girls’ and my specific requirements and even made the run to be a tad taller than I am. It is on a special high stand to avoid my bending and has reinforced metal on the run, skirts and around the back of the coop as well very secure locks all over the place. Being plastic means the girls will not have to endure red mite and the coop has plenty of space for everyone and nice low perches for special exbatt physiques.

If initial reactions are anything to go by, the girls are very impressed and have enjoyed their very first night all tucked up together. Special times and special memories. I was very impressed with the magic door opener – although I was up early just to check it!

This coop and run were crowdfunded by many, many wonderful, kind and generous people. Without them, a new coop would not have been possible and we would have had to patch Henderlay up to try and battle through another winter. Their big and generous hearts have meant a greatly improved quality of life for my girls and a comfy night’s sleep snuggled up together. Exbatts deserve the very best and now my girls can have that. We are indebted to everyone who has helped us and thank you all from the bottom of our hearts.

 

The girls, Gary and I have all given great thought to how we can thank everyone and, even though the girls thought people would each like one of their special eggs (I had to explain the failings of the postal service and the vulnerability of eggs in envelopes), it was eventually agreed on that we will have a memorial page on this blog so everyone who has supported us can have a dedication and photo of the hen/hens/pet/pets in whose name the donation was given. It is a small thing but one that I hope will be appreciated and received with the love with which it is offered. I will be contacting everyone directly over the next few days, although there were three anonymous donations so if they were you, please contact me!

Thank you all again, please enjoy the first few pictures of the coop and I look forward to posting many more.

Jo xx

 

 

Earlier this week I tentatively launched a crowdfunding campaign to raise money for a new plastic coop and run for the girls of Effie’s Garden. I wasn’t sure at all about doing it, but I am so very glad that I did!!

To say that I am overwhelmed by the love and support I have received is something of an understatement. In fact, I am quite humbled and rather emotional. To all of those who have helped us, thank you from the bottom of my heart.

I have wanted to replace the Big Girls’ old wooden coop for a while but any attempt at saving was thwarted by vet bills, food bills etc. Henderlay is too small for all the girls to sleep together, and I currently have a chickenopolis of coops donated by lovely people, but I wanted all of my girls to sleep together and in safety, first and foremost, but also in the comfort they deserved and for me not to have to worry about red mite. I had heard about crowdfunding but, as my father said, it is just begging online, so was very concerned about asking people for money.

Well shame on me, because in only a few days, we have raised over 80% of the total target with many, many wonderful messages of love and support about how people had been inspired by Effie and her story.

And that, you see, is what has touched me the most. Effie died almost a year ago and her loss is still not any easier to bear. When she died, I found great comfort in the fact that her story had inspired so many wonderful people to rehome ex-battery hens. So many hens are alive today because of Effie – it is a big legacy for the little hen with a broken neck. Effie’s Garden, our microsanctuary, was started because I needed to celebrate and commemorate the life of this very special hen. Because she wasn’t just a hen, she was a survivor of a system that is so cruel and so inhumane that it breaks my heart every day thinking of what all those potential ‘Effies’ are going through. She symbolised all the suffering and abuse that is inflicted on these poor girls, but more importantly she symbolised all the strength of spirit and will to live these girls have; the same strength that made her overcome her emotional and physical demons and enjoy life as a free girl for over three years.

Quite simply, she was everything. She changed the lives of so many hens and she changed our lives too. There will never be another Effie, but her spirit and her story will always live on.

So to those that have helped us I am forever grateful to you and am currently thinking of ways in which we can thank you all properly.

“Saving one hen will not change the world, but it will change the world for that hen.”

Effie would send you all kisses if she could xx

Effie would send you all kisses if she could xx

I cannot believe my last blog post was in January! I am tardy at best, downright lazy at worst but, just like buses, I have so much to tell you, that you may get a second blog post within the next day or so!

Our big news is that, as of March (yes March, sorry) we have four beautiful new babies helping the Big Girls to trash Effie’s Garden. I decided I didn’t have enough ex-batts in our mixed flock of ex-batt and rescue hens, so to balance things up, I planned to pick up three more little ex-batts. They were to be my M girls and I had their names all picked out. However, on arrival, another little hen told me her name was MillyMollyMandy so she simply HAD to come home with me! Actually I had intended to take four, as even though it is a bit of a squish in the Baby Coop, it is one more life saved and that is what matters. So Margot Eggbetter, Martha Tilst-hen, Miffy and Milly came home to Effie’s Garden.

Initially very timid, they stayed in their coop for the first day, anxiously peering out at the sky, but by Day 2, had ventured into their little garden that was securely fenced off from the prying, inquisitive eyes of the Big Girls. Margot, just like her namesake, tried to scratch and fell over but Miffy and Martha quickly got the hang of it. Only little Milly hung back, scared of this big world, but soon joined her sisters in their new adventures and discoveries.

Lavender is not one to let a small thing like a fence get in the way of meeting new hens and very quickly hopped over to say hello. She was a great ambassador for the Big Girls and merely scratched and pecked the ground alongside the M Girls without any fuss. Iona too, self-appointed head bantie, flew over to see what was going on, and all six just mooched around contentedly together.

So placid and uninterested in the pecking order were the M Girls that within days their coop had been moved into the Big Girls’ Garden and everyone was getting along just swimmingly. Even bossy boots Inca managed to leave the new girls alone!

Each little M girl has her own distinct and special personality: Margot is intelligent and inquisitive, confident and funny, walking into the Human Coop as if she has been doing for years and will even happily have a cuddle.

Margot EggbetterMiffy is the adventurous tomboy with the Pocahontas tail, a clever girl she is always first to figure things out but always last to bed – only recently after four months free did she finally put herself to bed – each day is just too much fun to end.

Miffy

Martha is top hen of the M girls, a folky sort of girl just like her namesake, and quiet yet firm in her manner, but recently I have seen a cheekier side to her character, following Chief Mischief Maker Margot over the fence and into the forbidden wonderland of the Humans’ Garden.

Martha Tilst-hen

And finally little Milly, still timid but always beautiful, she loves me very much as she has discovered she can eat food out of my hand and no one will chase her away. She is growing in confidence though and is a real sweetheart, I always have a soft spot for the bottom hen.

MillyMollyMandy

The M Girls are a delight – young, healthy and happy girls; watching them enjoy their new life brings that much needed spark back into my own. Every day brings a new adventure for them and a reason to smile for me!

We do have other exciting news but I don’t want to steal the M Girls’ thunder so will post about it tomorrow. Suffice to say people are amazing!!

Effie’s Garden

I knew getting over Effie would be difficult and I had hoped that time would start to ease the heartache but, in all honesty, it hasn’t. Admittedly I am not crying as much as I was and I can recall some of Eff’s quirky little habits and sometimes even smile at things as I remember them. Which is good I suppose. But I also felt I needed to do something. Hers was a great big, fabulous life, lived by a funny, clever and darling little girl who triumphed over all her demons. She changed lives as well as saved them and she needed to be remembered properly, as befits a lady of her great stature.

Hello gorgeous girl xx

Hello gorgeous girl xx

And so Effie’s Garden was born. Effie’s garden, has always been the little plot of humans’ garden between the house and the Big Girls’ garden where Effie lived. With the arrival of the frizzles in the summer (when Effie was a house hen in her final days), it became a ‘nursery’ garden for the new girls before they were integrated. And come the spring it will be the new home of more ex-batts, before they too head off to live with the Big Girls. I have always wanted an animal sanctuary, but funds and space are limited so I became intrigued by the idea of a microsanctuary. The microsanctuary movement seems to have started in the US (correct me if I am wrong) in North Carolina by Justin and Rosemary who decided that instead of dreaming of a large sanctuary ‘one day’, the fact they had two rescued ex-batts meant that they already had a sanctuary, just a small one! And so Triangle Chance for All and the microsanctuary concept was born. A microsanctuary is probably what many ex-batt keepers are doing already – caring for ex-batts (or any ex-commercial farm animal) in their garden or on their smallholding and promoting the plight of these beautiful creatures. They are more informal than not-for-profit organisations and are usually funded by the owners themselves. But a microsanctuary can be anything – from one rescue hen in the backyard to a full-sized sanctuary! It is the concept that is more important than the size.

Mummy Effie and her bantam babies

Mummy Effie and her bantam babies

When I spoke to Justin, he said Gary and I were already running a microsanctuary, and indeed we pretty much were. But for me, I wanted something more tangible, something that was in Effie’s name and a tribute to her wonderful life. So Effie’s Garden was born. My inspiration in caring for my girls has always been Edgar’s Mission Farm Sanctuary in Australia and so the similarity in names seemed appropriate.

And almost as a sign, at the same time as Effie’s Garden was forming in my mind, an email arrived from Edgar’s Mission, telling me that there is now a coop at Edgar’s Mission dedicated to Effie, that will care for and keep safe some little ex-batts on the other side of the world. Four very wonderful and caring ladies had sponsored a coop for me in honour of Effie – even now just writing about it makes me cry, it means so much. It is a truly wonderful gift, given with such love and understanding of how much Effie meant to me; Liz, Jan, Quolanta and Helen I love you all.

Beautiful wording on Effie's Coop

Beautiful wording on Effie’s Coop

Effie's Coop at Edgar's Mission

Effie’s Coop at Edgar’s Mission

So as the sun sets on Effie’s Coop in Australia each day, so it rises on the coops in Effie’s Garden here in Cornwall. On the surface, Effie’s Garden is very much as it has always been, my little flock of ex-batts and rescued hens flourishes and we excitedly await the arrival of our new girls in the spring. But now I have something a little more structured, in my head and my heart at least, that means I can grow and develop Effie’s Garden, creating something positive out of the sadness. And, most importantly, it means that my girl’s beautiful name and indomitable spirit live on.

Jo x

We have a twitter account! Please follow us on @effiesgarden

Read more about Justin and Rosemary and Triangle Chance for All Microsanctuary here: http://www.microsanctuarymovement.org/

My apologies for being so slow in updating the blog. Effie’s passing has left us totally devastated, with a huge Effie-shaped hole in our lives that we are struggling to come to terms with. And if I am honest it has left my chicken keeping life without its sparkle. My girl has gone and everything seems muted and grey. I still talk to her every morning, well to her little ‘Effie’ stone anyway, which is now nestling next to Miss Basket’s on our little chicken graveyard – a sight which provides a little comfort and reassurance.

But there are still nine little hens running around the garden who depend on us and are trying everything in their magical chickeny power to lift our spirits and show us how to face life without Effie.

Mathematicians out there will be thinking; “I thought they had eight hens, with no Effie, that would make seven.” Well yes … therein lies a tale!

When Eff was ill and inside the Human Coop, I had an email asking me if I would take on a little frizzle who was being picked on. I had no real intention of any more hens with such a poorlie girl to care for but as usual I couldn’t say no! When I turned up to collect the frizzle, spookily there was a second frizzle who also needed a loving home. So two new babies came home to live with us. They looked quite a sight, bald and scraggly, so I decided they needed glamorous names. As they were from the same batch of eggs as my I girls, I decided on two I names (especially as I have many fabulous M names ready for the next batch of ex-batts whenever that will be!). So Ingrid Bergman and Iris Frizzle they became. Still flighty and scared of their own shadows they are now happily settled down in Effie’s Garden and will one day be integrated with the Big Girls.

Ingrid Bergman and Iris Frizzle

Ingrid Bergman and Iris Frizzle

So much for our Humans’ Garden!

But what about Lemony I hear you cry! Last time we looked, she was in Effie’s Garden waiting for her MummyEffie to get better. Well, hens seem to have an uncanny sixth sense – clever little things – and Iona knew something was wrong, so visited her sister Lemony in Effie’s Garden on a regular basis by scrooching under the fence. When I turned up with Ingrid and Iris, I took the plunge and popped Lemony in the Big Girls’ garden. Reunited with her bantie sisters, she was far too busy and happy to notice where she was and has settled in remarkably easily. The banties sleep in their own coop still, and there is the occasional silliness, but I am amazed at how well she has settled in. So well in fact that I now feel guilty for separating the banties and leaving Lemony with Effie. But Lemony, bless her beautiful little yellow feathers, loved Effie above all else and knew that she had an important job to do in caring for her elderly friend. But now she can go back to the task of being a naughty bantie with her sisters. And strangely, or not I suppose, ever since Lemony moved in with the Big Girls, Iona has never once gone back into Effie’s Garden. She knew, bless her.

Little Lemony - officially a Big Girl now!

Little Lemony – officially a Big Girl now!

But someone else has taken it upon themselves to pop over the fence into Effie’s Garden. Miss Lavender Goodchicken has discovered she can fly onto the fence and hop into the other garden, hoover up the food, lay her egg, bang on the patio doors and then hop back again. Little madam. Actually, it is working rather well. Firstly I like seeing a little brown hen outside the patio doors (if I am not concentrating I can let myself believe it is Effie for a split second) but most importantly she has got on very well with the frizzles and it will help with their integration later in the year. Lavender is also terribly pleased with herself for performing this miraculous flying trick and you can’t help but laugh with her.

Miss Lavender Goodchicken is very proud of herself!

Miss Lavender Goodchicken is very proud of herself!

Which brings us finally, to our Henniversary Girl. On 6th October Miss Greta Garbo Goodchicken celebrated three years as a free girl. An amazing achievement for a girl who came out with such a sore, red and swollen abdomen I thought the prognosis could only be bad. But Greta is living proof how resilient and hardy exbatts really can be. After almost two years of a bare swollen bottom, miraculously the swelling subsided and her feathers grew back. Now she is sporting a magnificent pair of knickers and a black tail that shows her Colombian Black Tail heritage. She is the happiest, sweetest and kindest girl and we are so very proud of her for being the wonderful little hen that she is.

Gorgeous Henniversary Girl Greta Garbo Goodchicken

Gorgeous Henniversary Girl Greta Garbo Goodchicken

So life does go on; the girls are using their magical henny healing power and are all trying their very best to mend our broken hearts and show us there is so much more for us to do. More hens to cuddle, more hens to love and ultimately more hens to rescue.

I just wish my Effie was here to help us.

My little girl is gone and still I cannot believe it. From the day I brought her home, a terrified little bundle of feathers, Effie’s death was something I feared every day. Now that she has left me, I simply cannot comprehend it but must somehow learn to face life without her.

Effie’s tale is much documented – in this blog, in magazines and books and in exhibitions across the world, she became something of a legend. The little hen with the twisted neck (that gave her beautiful body her unique shape) who overcame physical and emotional traumas to find love and happiness in the Cornish sunshine with her beloved Miss Basket and then, with the tragic passing of Miss Basket, she learnt the wonders of motherhood with her three bantam babies. I have many, many wonderful memories of Effie in my head, my favourite is possibly the image of her, a new ‘mother’ standing in the coop at bedtime, her leg cocked in a most unladylike fashion, awaiting the three little feathery bundles who loved to tuck themselves underneath their new mum each night. Effie had a big, brave, beautiful and loving heart.

Effie sunbathes whilst her beloved Miss Basket watches over her

Effie sunbathes whilst her beloved Miss Basket watches over her

Mummy Effie and her bantam babies

Mummy Effie and her bantam babies

However, whilst my girl was enjoying every moment of her free range life, her precious body was slowly succumbing to the scars of her caged life.

She had been suffering from a suspected brain tumour for a while – the weeping ear a sign something sinister was lurking inside her beautiful head. In recent months she had increasingly been suffering from panic attacks and was generally slowing down. But about two weeks before she died, she suddenly went blind, or at least lost much of her vision. She was unable to judge distances and walked into objects. Knowing now, that the much dreaded end was in sight, we brought her inside the Human Coop – where she had been spending more and more time anyway with Lemony being broody. We adapted the Human Coop to her needs and she seemed to be coping well. The specialist vets assured me as long as her quality of life was good, then she would be fine. And Effie was happy in the Human Coop, she considered herself human anyway, and had come full circle. She started her life with us in the Human Coop almost four years ago, it seemed fitting it should be where she ended it.

Effie enjoying the comforts of the Human Coop

Effie enjoying the comforts of the Human Coop

For about ten days all was well, she ate, slept and pootled about the house, but then signs started to indicate that things were going downhill all too quickly. Always a girl who loved her food, suddenly her appetite wasted away to almost nothing and she started to be a little unsteady on her feet. You try and ignore these things, as they are indications of something too painful too comprehend, but then on the Tuesday evening she lost the ability to walk, she fell onto her face repeatedly, panicking and screaming. That all important quality of life was deteriorating rapidly. Knowing what awaited us on Wednesday I spent the night cuddled up with her on the sofa, calming her by talking to her, stroking her feathers and keeping her safe. It was the longest night, but also the shortest night. I tried to tell her how much she meant to me, to so many of us, and she heard me and replied with her gentle bwarks, but there would never be enough time to tell her how truly amazing she was. Our bond went beyond human and pet but was a meeting of spirits. She had been waiting for me and I for her. And now it was time for me to do the hardest but also the kindest thing.

An Effie cuddle was always an honour and a privilege but none more so than when I held her in my arms, as she passed away, slipping peacefully from this world. She died being told how much she was loved and that Miss Basket was waiting for her. And I find a little consolation knowing that Effie is now forever reunited with her beloved Miss Basket.

Effie and Miss Basket, flying forever free together

Effie and Miss Basket, flying forever free together

She was cremated the following evening, a garland of sweetpeas over her body and under her wings and a bouquet of sweetpeas on top of her pink shroud as her spirit soared skywards. In what was the darkest of days for us, a little ray of hope and love flickered in all the beautiful candle tributes people lit for her – not just in the UK but across Europe. We were unbelievably touched by such kindness.

Our candle tribute to Effie. Her candle is the one in the middle at the front and is in a holder with Effie's name linked to Miss Basket's with a heart

Our candle tribute to Effie. Her candle is the one in the middle at the front and is in a holder with Effie’s name linked to Miss Basket’s with a heart

No words I can write will ever do my Effie justice so I need to make her name and spirit live on to help other hens. Effie’s Garden (as it will forever be known) is already the garden for special hens that Effie had always planned it should be. People contacted me during her lifetime and more so since her death to say that she had made them view hens differently and that Effie’s story had inspired them to get their own hens. To think there are ex-battery hens enjoying a life of freedom today because of Effie, means my girl has left an amazing legacy. For myself I need to do something else for Effie’s memory, as yet I do not know exactly what, but it will come to me and she will guide me. The love and energy that was my little Effie will find a way to truly live on.

Hello gorgeous girl xx

Hello gorgeous girl xx

For anyone who has ever had, and lost, ex-batts they will understand just how much these girls mean to you. There is something undefinably vulnerable and yet invincible about them. After the abuse they have suffered, still they have the heart to forgive humans, to love us and trust us. I never fail to be humbled by their humanity. And to me, Effie was the epitome of all of those emotions and characteristics. She was more than just a special chicken, she was a symbol of hope for every commercial hen across the world, every animal who suffers abuse at the hands of humans.

And she was my world.

But still, I cannot believe she has gone. Losing her has broken my heart. But the blessing of having known her and to have been the recipient of all the love a little chicken could give to a human will somehow hold my heart together and make me strong enough to face a world without her.

Your work here is done my darling, sleep well old friend xxxx

Beautiful Effie

Beautiful Effie

Many of you will remember that last year Effie was treated for her Earfection, the upshot of which was she had a suspected tumour or blockage causing the problem but with her being otherwise healthy (and elderly) we decided not to investigate further.

Sadly, in the past week or so Eff has been losing her sight. I think it is just in one eye but it is hard to gauge the extent. I first noticed it one morning when she was standing still and seemingly unable to move (this disorientation is something I had noticed a couple of times before). When she did start to walk, she walked into walls and the door and was totally unable to jump up the small step into the Human Coop. When I tried to tempt her with an eggy treat she was unable to peck at it, missing the mark by quite a way.

I remember a couple of years ago, beautiful Clara losing her sight, and she died very suddenly overnight. The Avian Vets thought she may have had an infection that caused the loss of sight, so I dosed Effie up with baytril and metacam just in case, although in my heart of hearts I knew it was the tumour pressing on her optical nerve. When I spoke to the Avian Vets they agreed it was the most likely scenario but as long as her quality of life was good then she would be OK.

As she was so very vulnerable outside and understandably prone to panicking, we have moved her inside permanently so she is in a familiar and safe environment. She is now sleeping in the lounge at night and can potter about the downstairs during the day. Her little Lemony bantam is still broody but as soon as she starts to come out of it I will reintegrate her with her bantie sisters before putting them all into the main flock in the Big Girls’ Garden. Effie will then have escorted walks around her garden when the weather is good.

She has adjusted very well to her loss of sight and is now able to eat more easily. We have found putting food in contrasting bowls – such as bright egg yolk in a dark bowl – is a big help, as is tapping the bowl gently to guide her. Just as if we had a small child in the house, we have removed anything she may injure herself on or trip over, such as wires, shoes etc. She is still enjoying her food, in particular any naughty treats such as egg, couscous, sweetcorn and a little cheese but I am very much of the opinion that, at this stage, anything she eats is a good thing. With our help, she is coping.

But it is breaking my heart. I am all too aware we are taking steps along Effie’s final journey with us and the care we are giving her is now very much end of life. The tumour is not going to go away and her eyesight is not going to improve. The thought of losing her is too much to bear. I want to spend every minute of every day with her as I know that there will not be many more days that she will bless my life, where I will be able to tell her just how much I love her. So every day I can hold her, stroke her feathers, breathe in her special Effie-scent and tell her just how much she means to me must be a good day. And I must hold myself and my breaking heart together for her until she tells me it is time to go.

Effie in the sun last year

Effie in the sun last year

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