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Archive for the ‘Beginner’s Guide to Caring for Ex-Batts’ Category

Sunday saw much celebration in the garden of the Rosewarne ex-batts. Greta Garbo and Grace Kelly, two gorgeous girls from our first ever rescue as Cornwall Fresh Start for Hens, celebrated one year as free girls!!

From that rescue I took home the three poorlie girls. Gracie with a prolapse, Greta with a very swollen and red abdomen and the very ill little Gina.

Gracie had the first of many baths – she loves them and especially the post-bath blow dry – to help clean up her prolapse and after a few days of treatment, the prolapse disappeared never to be seen again. Gracie has turned out to be the naughtiest, most vocal little hen I have ever met!! Who was first to fly up onto the bench with all the treats on? Gracie. Who discovered she could knock them over so her sisters could have them? Gracie. Who managed to fly over the fence into Effie’s garden and attack my precious baby? Gracie. Who is still to extend the wing of friendship to Hettie and kicks her out of the nest box every night? Gracie. But who sings beautiful songs to her mum every morning? Gracie. Who chirrups throughout her baths and blow dries? Gracie. And whose distressed alarm call alerted us to the dying Gina? Little Gracie. Grace Kelly is a character and true to her namesake, a really gorgeous and glamorous diva.

Miss Grace Kelly Chicken

Miss Grace Kelly Chicken

Greta’s swollen bottom was originally thought to be Egg Peritonitis but after Uncle Jason the vet had examined her, it was deemed to be a mass of scar tissue from a previous infection. Much better news! Her big beautiful bottom has spent a year being red and featherless and only now, after a year of freedom, have the first feathery tufts begun to appear around the edges. Greta has never laid an egg, and nor would I want her to, but she does love to sit in the nestbox after someone else has laid one and then rush out to declare her brilliance at laying an egg!! She is the sweetest, happiest chicken and an excellent beak cleaner, and it is this sunny, gentle character that has earned her the much coveted Goodchicken surname. It is a title only ever bestowed on the most special of hens and Greta knows she is a very special girl.

Miss Greta Goodchicken

Miss Greta Goodchicken

Little Gina was in the ICU for a few days before joining her two sisters for a week or so of fresh air and sunshine. But her little body was too weak to cope. Gracie woke us one morning with her cries of distress and I am eternally grateful to her for that as it enabled us to bring Gina inside and cuddle her as she passed away. However, her spirit was felt today and we spent a few moments at her grave telling her we loved her.

Gracie then ventured inside for a bath and knicker blow dry whilst Greta had extra cuddles as she awaited the main event.

left to right Flavia, Greta, Gracie, Liza and Bella

left to right Flavia, Greta, Gracie, Liza and Bella

Once Miss Kelly emerged in a fluffy and feathery shower of happiness, mealworm and corn cakes topped with live yoghurt and sweetcorn (grown on our allotment) were served, accompanied by much very bad singing on my part. Then followed a photoshoot before the girls collapsed, exhausted and full, under the bushes for a post-party preen and snooze.

Gracie, Bella Top-Hen and Greta tuck into a cake

Gracie, Bella Top-Hen and Greta tuck into a cake

(In Effie’s Garden, Effie had two cakes and allowed her babies to share one between the three of them. It was their first party and they behaved im-peckibly!)

Today was a double celebration – Gracie and Greta enjoying one year as free range girls and also the anniversary of our first rehoming.

If you are inspired to have some ex-batt hens, I can assure you it will be the best thing you have ever done. If you need some help and advice please visit my new website www.henhugger.co.uk or email me on henhugger@talktalk.net.

And if you are in Cornwall, there will be a rehoming of ex-commercial hens on 14th December. What better way to embrace the festive season than to save a life?

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The sun has got his hat on and all the hens in my garden are happy! Long, warm days spent foraging, dust bathing and dozing in the glorious Cornish sunshine are just what my special girls love most.

Young Hettie Hen is now a fully fledged ex-batt sister – well almost. She still sleeps with teddy in her own coop and has shown no inclination to sleep with the big girls. But that will come when she is ready. In the daytime, though, she pootles about with her big sisters who now accept her as part of their little flock. Her best friend is Bella Chicken and even though Bella is top hen, she gently cleans Hettie’s beak, lets Hettie share her food and lets her snooze next to her in the sunshine.

Hettie hanging out with her sisters!

Hettie hanging out with her sisters!

Greta Garbo has a new trick. She waits until I am kneeling down talking to the girls, then sidles up and swiftly pulls my beautiful badger earring out of my ear and runs off with it!! Little minx!

Miss Basket is still not 100% after her implant – she spends much of the day sleeping and is not eating very much. I think she is suffering from the heat as she is much perkier first and last thing, when it is cooler. She has been for a check-up with Uncle Jason and all is as well as can be expected. She has however, decided that Effie’s daily egg, which was up until now too precious to be eaten, is now fair game and tucks into it when my back is turned. Six days out of seven I just find the shell in the nest box and a nonchalant Miss Basket dozing in the garden, her crop full of egg! Still, she needs it more than I do.

Effie, in spite of the indignity of having her egg eaten, is happily tending to her beloved friend. She sits with her in the daytime, preening her gently and at night time snuggles on top of her in a two hen pyramid. They love each other very much indeed. For two little hens who had never known what it was to have a friend, to suddenly be sharing your days in the sun with your soulmate must be the stuff of dreams. So deep is their friendship, I do worry that one will not cope should anything happen to the other. I do have a plan, but Old Grumpy needs to be convinced…watch this space.

"Love you Effie." " Love you too, Miss Basket" xxx

“Love you Effie.” ” Love you too, Miss Basket.” xxx

And finally I am thrilled to say that the book is selling very well!! We have repeatedly been number one on the kindle and paperback bird charts and have five star reviews across the board! The more copies we sell, the more money we raise for hen rehoming charities. The book also featured in Your Chickens this month, as did Effie’s bi-monthly column telling of her rise to international superstardom!!

But all joking aside, the book, the column, this blog all have one purpose and that is to spread the word about the wonder that is ex-batts.

And there is more exciting news…but I will tell you next time!

Jo xx

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My chickens have changed my life in so many wonderful ways! They have made me laugh, they have filled my life with joy, they have saved me from the brink of despair and highlighting their plight has given my life a real meaning. At last I can make a difference, albeit a tiny one, in the lives of some of the beautiful creatures we share this planet with.

Another, and completely unexpected, way was to let me finally realise my dream of becoming a writer. Writing to me is the best, and sometimes only, way I can express myself. As a lifelong stutterer I have never been able to say the things I wanted to. Anyone who stutters knows you become a self-editing machine and sometimes it is easier just to say nothing at all.

But by writing I finally have a loud, clear, eloquent voice that people listen to. Ever since I was a little girl I have wanted to write a book; I used to write long, rambly (rather rubbish I am afraid) stories, and send them to publishers. Unsurprisingly I never got a reply! As an adult I continued to try and write novels but eventually realised that I had the imagination of a peanut.

‘Write about what you know,’ they say, but until my girls came along I didn’t really ‘know’ that much about anything! I had, however, been lucky enough to spend some time writing for and editing a newsletter for my friend Brigit’s wonderful charity, The Big Green Idea, which gave me that first little confidence boost. The thrill of having someone read and comment on what you have written is indescribable! I was ‘speaking’ and someone was actually listening!

Then my first three A girls arrived and suddenly everything just slotted into place! My girls became my life; changing their lives became my mission. Audrey, Agatha and Aurora taught me so much about hen keeping and I was a willing (although possibly not too competent) pupil. Working in a library I had access to numerous wonderful books on hen keeping and I soaked up all that information. Suddenly, writing about them was as easy as loving and caring for them; it combined my two great passions and it felt completely natural, almost as if it was meant to be.

I was lucky enough to start writing for poultrykeeper.com and then branched out into magazines. Miss Bunty Goodchicken being a Smallholder covergirl is one of the proudest moments of my life. She looked magnificent!

As I learnt more and more about ex-batts, people started to contact me for advice and help with their hens. It struck me that, with all the plethora of hen keeping books available, there was not one on ex-batts. And they are special girls who deserve their own special book. Whilst their needs are similar to ‘normal’ chickens, they can sometimes require a little extra care and attention.

The book cover featuring Miss Audrey Chicken!

The book cover featuring Miss Audrey Chicken!

Publishers, however, were not interested in the book so, bravely or foolishly, I went ahead and published it myself. It seemed more important to get the book ‘out there’ to help new ex-batt owners than it did to continue to plead with publishers.

The book covers all the basics of ex-batt keeping and I have woven tales and pictures of my girls throughout the book. I hope my love for them comes across in these stories, and prospective or new ex-batt owners understand what precious girls they have in their care. A picture of every girl I have cared for appears in the book, it seemed very important that they all had their stories told; they are all individual and special girls after all.

Back cover featuring Miss Bunty Goodchicken!

Back cover featuring Miss Bunty Goodchicken!

My hope is that, firstly, the book encourages more people to rehome some ex-batts and save a few more girls from slaughter and, secondly, that it helps new ex-batt keepers have the confidence to give their girls the best care possible and experience the joy that is ex-batt keeping! Each copy sold will raise money for the smaller hen rehoming charities and even if just one more little ex-batt is rehomed or helped then it has done its job.

Jo xxx

PS Effie says she is happy to sign any copies – with her special muddy footprint!

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