Archive for the ‘Bunty Goodchicken’ Category

Oh my darling girl, my Greta. I cannot believe that you have left us. We have gone through so much together to keep you healthy and happy and then, in the prime of health, you decide it is time for you to go. We never got to say goodbye to you, to tell you we loved you and to wish you godspeed. But what was the very best way for you to go – suddenly, painlessly and in your sleep with your sisters around you – was perhaps the hardest for us unsuspecting humans to bear. My darling girl, I wish I could cuddle you one more time.

My sweet Greta was rescued in October 2012, one of three poorlie girls we took home from our rescue. A large, red swollen bottom meant my ever pessimistic prognosis was not good (but what do I know eh!!?). Initially Greta lived with the very poorlie Gina and the not quite so poorlie Grace Kelly in what was yet to be named Effie’s Garden. Sadly, Gina died soon after rehoming but Gracie the Pickle and Greta soon decided free range life was far too much fun to give up on and integrated with the Big Girls very quickly.

Miss Greta Garbo on rescue - already a Goodchicken

Miss Greta Garbo on rescue – already a Goodchicken

The Goodchicken name, as we know, is very sought after and one not lightly bestowed upon a chicken but Greta seemed to be born for the title. Always one to care for other girls, to clean their beaks (whether they needed it or not), to tend to poorlie sisters and to tolerate cuddles with humans, Greta was always the star. Miss Greta Goodchicken she became, a worthy recipient of Bunty’s legacy.

Miss Greta Goodchicken

Miss Greta Goodchicken

But Greta had other talents…secretly she was also a magpie. She coveted all things shiny. In particular, my earrings. She somehow managed to work out that if she came over to me all cuddly and cute I would bend down to stroke her, dangly earrings dangling aplenty. At this point she moved in for the kill. One of those oh so tantalising silver dangly earrings was whipped out by an expert beak and whisked off around the garden in a ‘really fun’ game. The time it took me to catch both her and the earring were naturally inversely proportional to the weather; sunny and warm meant a quick game, monsoonal rain or hurricane winds ensured a long and oh-so-fun game. You would think after the first time I would learn….it would seem not. Greta 3 – Idiot Human 0.

Secret magpie Greta

Secret magpie Greta

But Miss Garbo also had a thing for mobile phone cameras…or was it just the handsome gents operating them?? When Neil, keen photographer and husband of my lovely friend Jan, came to visit, Greta was entranced by his phone camera, inquisitively posing for shot after shot. As another infamous Rosewarne lady had had a bit of a thing for Neil (Effie who was oh so fickle in her affections had happily trotted across the garden to greet him – the girls can always tell a good egg) we assumed Greta was also smitten. But when lovely chicken friend Pete turned up and started to photograph the girls with his phone camera, Greta assumed the same diva-esque pose. Obviously she loved the camera. And it loved her right back!!

Gorgeous Greta Garbo Goodchicken

Gorgeous Greta Garbo Goodchicken

Greta’s other special talent was as an egg thief!! Not literally (although given the chance I am sure she would have tucked in) but as she had never laid an egg in her retirement I think her body was sending her eggy feelings. She used to wait outside the coop in the mornings until someone came out announcing the Great Arrival of their egg, before sneaking in, nestling atop the egg for a brief while and then rushing out to announce….Her Egg!!! No one else seemed perturbed by this egg plagiarism, so we congratulated her each day on her beautiful egg and everyone was happy.

That tummy though, swollen and red but still beautiful, was always present and caused us no end of problems. We, along with Uncle Jason, tried many many things to help her. She swelled up in the spring and slimmed down in the autumn but it wasn’t a fluid eggy mass, it was a solid one. Various vetty examinations didn’t reveal anything helpful, deducing it was scar tissue, and in the end a mixture of diuretics and occasional antibiotics seemed to keep any issues at bay. This year, we threw everything at getting her through another summer, mistakenly believing that once winter came we were safe for another year.

Gorgeous Greta Garbo and that big and beautiful red bottom

Gorgeous Greta Garbo and that big and beautiful red bottom

And by her fourth henniversary in October I hoped that she would be OK for a few more months at least. She was slim, spritely and racing round like a spring chicken so I, foolishly, stopped worrying about her. One Friday morning, I opened the coop, everyone trooped out and for once I didn’t do a headcount, lulled into a false sense of ‘all the hens are well’ security. When you have a poorlie girl, part of you always worries that you will find her dead in the morning. When everyone is well, you don’t have quite that same worry. So to open the nestbox and find my darling girl asleep forever was quite, quite horrifying. There had been absolutely no indication she was ill, in fact we had been commenting on how well she seemed. For her, naturally and for all of us, to go to sleep peacefully and surrounded by those we love is the best we can hope for. But for those she left behind it was heartbreaking. Selfishly, we had been denied our chance to say goodbye.

Greta's official four year henniversary shot

Greta’s official four year henniversary shot

Miss Greta Garbo was a legend in our garden, and in our lives, our longest resident (Flora although a year older, came to us after 2 years’ fee) and our very best girl, central to our flock’s happiness and well-being. Losing both her and Lavender in close succession has broken our hearts and shattered our spirits – not to mention those of poor Flora who has lost her two wingmen (or women) in the space of a month. I keep seeing her in the garden (as Margot could be her twin sister) and I still talk to her – to all of those that have left us – every day.

Greta Garbo was the last of the Goodchickens – a beautiful, free spirit that shall always fly free amongst us. You chose to leave us on your own terms, darling girl, so please take this as my goodbye to you.
Godspeed precious girl, fly high xxxx

Greta and Flora sunbathing in the so-called Humans' Garden

Greta and Flora sunbathing in the so-called Humans’ Garden

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Little Larkspur Chicken arrived to live with us on 16th August, one of three very poorlie girls from a traumatic rescue. She was one of the lucky ones, she survived long enough to be rescued, and along with her new sisters, Lavender and Lupin, came down to Rosewarne for some special care.

She was named after my wonderful friend, Liz’s dearly departed ex-batt and I hoped that Liz and her lovely husband Mike could enjoy seeing their girl’s name live on in my Larkspur.

Initially, Larkpsur seemed the most healthy of the three girls. The only one with feathers, she set about beak cleaning her two new featherless sisters and seemed quite content with her new life, if a little quiet. She was a gentle soul, she had suffered a great deal in the cages and her new life would take a little getting used to.

Larkspur on rehoming day

Larkspur on rehoming day

However, as the two baldies started to develop and blossom, it became clear that Larkspur was not blooming with them. She was still quiet, but hunched and not eating very much. An initial veterinary examination found nothing untoward and Larkspur was given the usual baytril to help kill any potential lurking infection. She was malnourished and, I believe, traumatised from her experiences and I desperately wanted to give her something to fight for; to help her see the wonderful free life that awaited her.

She responded well at first and within a week had become the happy little chicken I hoped she would be. She ate plenty, went to bed with a full crop and a mashy beak and tucked up in the nestbox with her new best friend Lavender, whilst self-appointed top hen, Lupin, guarded the door. She took a dustbath and paced the fence impatiently in the hope of treats whenever I went into the garden. Things were going so well, that I dared to hope we had beaten whatever it was that had ailed her.

However, a few days later I noticed she had become quiet again, she was listless and not eating. So back on the meds we went in the hope that any infection just needed an extra thwack to completely knock it out. And it did, she was soon back to Healthy Larkspur, doing everything a free chicken should be doing.

When she was feeling well, Larkspur loved her mash!

When she was feeling well, Larkspur loved her mash!

To supplement her medicine, she had a range of vitamins, health foods, digestive aids and treats in a bid to give her body the boost it obviously needed. She was however, starting to slide back down into ill health again and no matter what I tried she would not respond.

Looking back there were clear signs and in my heart I knew we were not dealing with a mere infection. The medicine was just masking something very sinister lurking in her poor tired little body. I told myself when we went to visit the vet on that last day that it was just a check-up. She had been dozing in the sun all day (the Cornish weather had, for once, been mercifully kind to these girls) and she put up no resistance as I put her into the carrier.

Gina, our lovely vet, found a large tumour in Larkspur’s abdomen and the yellow colour I had told myself was because she had been eating corn, was in fact sky high bilirubin levels, indicating her liver was failing. Looking at her though Gina’s eyes, I suddenly saw how very sick she was, I had been too close, too intent on small details and not seeing the bigger picture. Her body was shutting down and her organs were failing. Sadly, there was only one option and as we awaited Gina and the medicine, Larkspur snuggled into my arms, quite content as I stroked her feathers gently. I believe she knew – she had tried so hard, I had tried so hard, but her scars from her caged life were just too deep. We could not win this battle, no matter how desperately we wanted to. Her passing was peaceful, she stayed where she was in my arms and just drifted off to sleep. The very least I could give her was a dignified death.

Little Larkspur, looking gorgeous and fighting hard

Little Larkspur, looking gorgeous and fighting hard

She was cremated with pink flowers under her wings and we watched as her spirit soared heavenwards, finally free of pain, she could now fly high with her Rosewarne sisters – I could feel Bella and Bunty Goodchicken waiting to greet her. Because she was the sweetest, gentlest of souls she has been awarded the posthumous title of Goodchicken – awarded to only the very best of girls.

Larkspur Goodchicken did not deserve to die so soon. She was a victim of a cruel system, her caged life was one of suffering, her body abused … and all for what? She had done nothing wrong, she did not deserve the life she had or the fate that awaited her. Every hen deserves to be free – free of pain and suffering, free to do just as she wishes and free from the abuses some humans inflict on them. Nothing I could do could save her from that, and I tried so hard to save this sweet, sweet girl. And Larkspur had wanted to live so much, she fought with her big, brave heart but in the end her broken little body could fight no more. I could not give her the long free range retirement that she should have been able to enjoy.

But what I could give her was six weeks of freedom; she knew love (such love), she knew sunshine and friendship, she scratched the grass and she bathed in the dust, she foraged for worms and she pecked at corn. It is nowhere near enough, six weeks of freedom in return for two years of suffering, but I hope she knows how hard I tried for her.
Godspeed little Larkspur Goodchicken – forever in our hearts, darling girl. RIP angel, fly high little hen xxxx

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It has taken me over a week to try and write a tribute to darling Bella. Our hearts are broken and watching Hettie struggle each day, grieving for the only friend she has ever had, is only compounding our sadness. Bella was a very, very special girl and no words I write can truly capture the gentle spirit that was Bella, but I hope I can try to do our special girl justice with this tribute…

1st February 2011 saw the arrival of four little hens; my B girls. I had planned to collect three Amberlink girls, so naturally came home with two Amberlinks (Brigit and Bertha) and two ginger girls (Bunty Goodchicken and Bella). Of course at that point Bunty Goodchicken was just Bunty and Bella was Psychochicken. Only my second batch of girls, I was unprepared for the feisty little scrap that was to become Bella. She attacked me and Gary, she attacked the other hens, she attacked her reflection and she attacked her coop. I didn’t know what to do with her. Now of course I know I was dealing with a very frightened little hen, who had had to fight for every thing in her caged life. No-one had thought to tell her it was now all going to be OK – at that point I hadn’t learnt how to speak ‘chicken.’ So, on advice of fellow chicken keepers, I separated her whilst the other three girls went to bed. Pyschochicken was put to bed in the cat carrier. Once everyone was asleep I went to take her out of the carrier. I will never forget the look in her eyes. It was one of total resignation and defeat. She was back in a cage. That moment with Bella taught me more than any book could ever have done. The true suffering of caged hens, the depth of emotion they feel and the effects our human idiocy can have on them. From then on, I truly understood her.

Bella on rehoming day

Bella on rehoming day

My friend, Sarah, decided that to make her feel special and loved, she needed a special name and she called her Bella, meaning beautiful. So Bella she became. And over the next (almost) three years as a free range girl and top hen in our flock, beautiful she proved to be. In every way.

Diminutive in stature, Bella was always my smallest hen, but was the girl with the biggest character. Hers were the first wings I ever clipped! Three months after she came to live with us, Bella suddenly became intent on using the logpile as a launchpad for her escape efforts. Despite my attempts at containing her, one morning I looked out of the dining room window to see the little scamp running gleefully up and down the Cornish hedge. Never having clipped wings before I raced round to a work colleague, with Bella tucked tightly under my arm, to show me what to do. Bella came home suitably clipped and proceeded to lay an Egg of Protest in the greenhouse. Her escape attempts were brought on by her pre-eggy frenzy, something I have now realised many hens do just before their first egg after a lull.

Bella's first taste of fresh air

Bella’s first taste of fresh air

You see Bella was a teacher. She knew I had much to learn and consequently took it upon herself to educate me in the ways of All Things Hen. We were good friends Bella and I. Each evening as I sat chatting with the girls, she came and climbed onto my lap and told me about her day. Every time I cleaned out the coop, she came up to make sure I had done it properly, tactfully rearranging my humble human efforts. She even tolerated me cuddling her and occasionally allowed me to hold her long enough for a photograph – her beautiful face has featured in many magazines and websites promoting the plight of her ex-commercial sisters.

But I was not Bella’s only pupil. She had greater plans – she wanted to educate as many humans as possible.

She came to college with me and transformed the views of all the students she met. Previously they had thought of hens as ‘just a chicken’ and were not interested in my futile exbatt witterings. But Bella knew how to change their minds. She breezed into their classroom, preened, bwarked and looked resplendent and then stood obligingly on a piece of A4 paper to show them the space she would have had in her battery cage. She had given a face to factory farming. Suddenly these previously uncaring students understood. Bella had made them see. Then they were feeding her and stroking her as she ate corn of their hands. Bella had performed her role magnificently. To this day they still ask after her.

Sunbathing beauty

Sunbathing beauty

Spreading the word became Bella’s mission. She was one of the lucky ones and she was going to do all she could for her less fortunate sisters. She came with me and Clara to Pets at Home and met the public whilst promoting a hen rehoming for Fresh Start. She was picked up and cuddled and went around the store meeting customers, enchanting them with her beauty. People who had never even touched a hen in their lives were delighted with her, wanting to hold her and asking all sorts of questions about hens and battery farming. Children, especially, were enamoured by her. Because of her efforts, many loving homes were found for more ex-commercial hens.

Bella had many, many wonderful characteristics; she was clever and funny, dignified and brave, but most of all she was a kind and fair top hen. She ruled her flock with a firm but gentle wing. No hen was allowed to be left out or picked on. She kept neighbourhood thugs Eliza and Grace Kelly in check. When Flavia arrived, dumped at the vets after being attacked, it was Bella who welcomed her into the flock. When Flavia was afraid to go to bed as Eliza lurked menacingly by the coop door, it was Bella who would escort her safely into the coop every night. When terrified little Hettie arrived, Bella understood her fears and immediately extended the wing of friendship to her. Bella had recently lost her beloved Bunty Goodchicken and Clara in close succession and this new friendship helped both hens heal their emotional scars. Every evening Hettie went to bed early to get her favourite nestbox and every evening Gracie Thug came in and turfed her out. So every evening Bella offered Hettie the prime Top Hen nestbox and slept by her side. A true leader, she knew she had to care for the weakest in the flock.

Bella celebrating her two year Henniversary

Bella celebrating her two year Henniversary

Apart from two soft egg incidents (cured by a warm bath and a very lovely cuddle) Bella had never had an ill day in her free range life. She breezed through her first moult and was the picture of good health. However, about a month ago, at the start of October, Bella started to slow down. She was having a small moult and struggling to regrow her new feathers. I found her looking a little unwell at times, occasionally her comb was slightly tinged with blue. Fearing her intensive laying life was finally catching up with her and suspecting a tumour, and with Uncle Jason’s advice, we treated her as best we could and each time she rallied. But both Bella and I knew her days were now numbered.

Bella took her Top Hen responsibilities very seriously and I know she struggled with the thought of leaving her girls, so she fought her illness with all the stoicism of a true Maggie Smithesque grande dame…….Bella was always a proud and dignified girl and I knew without her having to tell me that she would not want to be seen to be weak in front of her girls. She needed not to suffer and she needed to have her dignity to the end. Sometimes words are not needed between friends, they understand implicitly what is needed, and one bleak morning, she told me that she had had enough. It was time. Her best friend Hettie had been by her side the whole time she had been ill and on Bella’s last day Hettie stayed with her all day, never venturing from her guardian angel’s side. Darling Bella knew it was time but I don’t think poor Hettie understood.

After a very weak Bella had seen her girls safely to bed for the final time, we visited Uncle Jason. Bella and I sat together in a quiet room, she was cradled in my arms and, as she passed on, I told her that I loved her, that she was a good chicken and I promised her that I would look after her girls, especially Hettie, and that she could now rest in peace. Once I had told her this, she passed very quickly and peacefully. Her final gift to me was one of her moulting feathers that fluttered away from her beautiful, precious body. A treasure.

Bella needed dignity in death and I hope I was able to give her that; the last wish of my most special girl.

She was cremated on Saturday, a golden marigold for my golden girl tucked under her wing for her final journey. Her spirit is now flying forever free at the Rainbow Bridge with her beloved Bunty Goodchicken and Clara by her side, as my darling Bella takes gentle charge of her heavenly flock.

My darling Bella with her beautiful heart-shaped pupil

My darling Bella with her beautiful heart-shaped pupil

Us mere mortals left behind will uphold our final promise to her. Hettie will be cared for, loved and protected and Bella’s flock will slowly adjust to the loss of their beloved leader. For a while they will have a human Top Hen who will muddle through until a new gentle chicken leader emerges. She will however have very big claws to fill – in fact she probably never will. There will only ever be one Bella Top Chicken.

After almost three years as a free girl, our hens and our hearts are mourning the loss of Bella. Nothing will ever be the same again.

RIP my darling, beautiful, brave, big-hearted, generous Bella. Fly high my precious Top Hen xxx

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I have struggled to find the words to write this little tribute to this special little lady. It has all been so very sad, especially after reading back over my previous blog post.

Little Izzy chicken came to us all the way from Somerset. We had been looking for a friend for Effie and this little fluffy white angel seemed perfect. She had a bad leg, but nothing that some painkillers and arnica rubs wouldn’t sort out…or so we believed.

Sometimes when you are caring for a girl, you become so intent on looking for every minor improvement and trying so hard to save her, that you fail to see the bigger picture. When she arrived Izzy could walk, albeit with a limp. By the time she told me it was time for her to go, she could not even right herself in a sitting position. We had been nursing her so closely – taking her out of the coop in the morning, hand feeding her, syringing in water and medicines, massaging her leg, bathing her dirty knickers, settling her for the day, moving her around each hour so she didn’t sit in the sun, tucking her up for bed – that I do not think we realised how ill she had become. However, these are things I would have happily continued doing if she was going to get well but little Izzy was deteriorating and her quality of life was minimal.

Izzy rests in the shade under her apple tree and Gamesmaker umbrella

Izzy rests in the shade under her apple tree and Gamesmaker umbrella

Uncle Jason agreed with me and also with my concerns that she was possibly suffering from Mareks. We decided she should be able to go to sleep with dignity and she drifted off peacefully in my arms. She was cremated that day with sweet peas tucked under her wings and her ashes are now with those of the big girls. I asked Bunty Goodchicken and Clara to look after her, they are kind girls and will see she is cared for.

We only had three weeks with Izzy, not enough time at all, we never had the chance to really get to know her. However my overriding memories of her are this beautiful powder puff of a hen, sweet and gentle. When we picked her up, she clung furiously to our fingers with her good foot. Clinging onto us just as she was clinging onto life.

But now she is free to run and jump and fly without any pain or suffering.

RIP precious darling Izzy, fly high little hen xx

Miss Izzy Hen

Miss Izzy Hen

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Saturday evening saw the grand launch of Uncooped, an online exhibition curated by the National Museum of Animals in Society in Los Angeles.

As well as celebrating the beautiful creatures that are chickens, the exhibition highlights the plight of the millions of commercial hens across the world and features pictures and stories of people’s pet hens – showing just what wonderful characters chickens are!

We found out about it when my very talented artist friend, Lesley Ann Cooper, was approached by the museum’s curator for paintings and stories. She sent them some of her beautiful ex-batt portraits and then very kindly put them in touch with me for some stories.

Naturally one of two of my girls were very keen to ‘crack the American market’, most notably a certain Miss Effie Chicken. Graciously she let Miss Basket appear in her photograph and story and the two girls now think of themselves as international celebrities. No doubt we will soon have demands for a red carpet, champagne breakfasts and mealworm fountains…

California Dreamin'...

California Dreamin’…

All joking aside I am enormously proud of my girls for being chosen to appear in the exhibition and I am also enormously proud of the lovely Lesley, whose wonderful artwork makes quite a few appearances.

And poignantly a certain Miss Bunty Goodchicken also features in the exhibition. Her story was written as she was slowly losing her fight against the scars her caged life had left on her body. As we still mourn the loss of this most precious of hens, it is reassuring to know that her story is being told in another country; so that more people will read of her brave battle to enjoy a free range life and be inspired by the little hen who blessed our lives for two years.

Miss Bunty Goodchicken, BHAW

Miss Bunty Goodchicken, BHAW


To see Effie, Miss Basket and Bunty Goodchicken go to Get To Know, then Portrait Gallery. Bunty is on line 2 and California Girls Effie and Miss Basket are on line 13.

To see Lesley Anne’s artwork click on Advocacy , then Chicken Advocates and scroll down to Battery Hen Rehoming Organisations.

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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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With the sad loss of Miss Bunty Goodchicken in March, our flock is without a Goodchicken. My dear friend Fi, is keeping the Goodchicken name alive with her two new girls, Miss Isobel Goodchicken and Miss Valerie Goodchicken so Bunty’s spirit lives on but I felt the need to pass her Goodchicken mantel on to one of the girls in my sadly depleted flock.

Gary and I discussed it at length and two names were clear contenders. Greta and Miss Basket.

Miss Basket has befriended little friendless Effie and has nursed her into the happy, confident free range girl she is now. Unable to mix with other hens, Effie has to be kept separate and Miss Basket has forgone her chance of being in the big flock to stay with Effie. Often playing Melanie to Effie’s Scarlet, Miss Basket needs her own moment in the spotlight. But Miss Basket Goodchicken sounds wrong!

Greta Garbo is the sweetest girl. Sporting a big, bare, beautiful bottom due to a mass of scar tissue built up over her time at the farm, Greta is the kindest, gentlest girl. Never throwing a peck in anger and bottom of the flock she makes it her mission to clean everybody’s beaks, all the time! So happy in her new life, Greta’s joy is contagious.

So who to choose? Drum roll…

After more discussion we have decided that both girls deserve the title. Greta will now become Miss Greta Goodchicken and Miss Basket (who was originally called Eleanor) will be like the royals and have two titles: Miss Basket, also known as Miss Eleanor Goodchicken.

Miss Eleanor Goodchicken (Miss Basket)

Miss Eleanor Goodchicken (Miss Basket)

Miss Greta Goodchicken

Miss Greta Goodchicken

After this momentous decision I came up with the equally wonderful idea of expanding the Goodchicken Sisterhood to include other special hens all over the world.

If you have a hen that is worthy of the Goodchicken name, who is sweet and kind, who never throws a peck in anger and whose gentle spirit and soul are a shining example to her sisters, please send me her name and photo and I will add her to the Goodchicken Sisterhood

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Miss Bunty Goodchicken, arrived in our lives one frosty February, just as the sun was starting to return to our corner of Cornwall. Very apt for a little hen who has brought light into our lives every day since.

One of our four B-girls, Bunty was a special girl from the moment she was rescued from her cage. Instant best friends with the feisty and soon-to-be-top-chicken Bella, Bunty’s gentle spirit and kind nature meant that very quickly she became Bunty Goodchicken. The Goodchicken name is the much-coveted title bestowed on only the most special of hens; whose loving soul is a shining example to her sisters. Never throwing a peck in anger, Bunty Goodchicken was indeed a Good Chicken.

Bunty's first day of freedom, February 1st 2011

Bunty’s first day of freedom, February 1st 2011

Her first year of free ranging saw her grow all her feathers back and settle into the sort of life every hen should enjoy; sunbathing, worm hunting, foraging, scratching, dustbathing and tucking up snugly with her sisters at night.

A particularly pretty hen, Bunty was also very photogenic. So much so that one of her best photos graced the cover of Smallholder magazine promoting an article on why we should all rehome ex-battery hens. Overnight, Bunty became an ambassador for exbatts and many of her caged sisters owe their new lives to Miss Goodchicken.

The original of that covergirl shot

The original of that covergirl shot

Our Beautiful Coverglrl

Our Beautiful Covergirl

However, at the start of her second year as a free range girl, Bunty Goodchicken became ill. She had a prolapse and no amount of home remedies would help. So off to Uncle Jason the vet she went; the first of many visits and the start of her biggest battle.

Bunty had an operation putting in a purse-string suture to keep her prolapse in. She also had a suprelorin implant to stop her laying and thus stop the prolapse re-emerging. After three days of internal check-ups and monitoring, the suture was removed and after a further few days of anxious Prolapse Watch, she was deemed fit enough to return to the loving wings of her sisters.

During this time Bunty remained stoic and uncomplaining – a brave chicken as well as a good one. The vets therefore awarded her a Braveheart Award and the medal and certificate are now both very proudly displayed in the human’s coop.

Bunty's Braveheart Award Certificate and Medal

Bunty’s Braveheart Award Certificate and Medal

However, the battle was not won. Bunty Goodchicken subsequently developed egg peritonitis – she was laying internally and the egg fluid building up – and was given medication to relieve this fluid build-up. At first she happily took her pills, ground up on a delicious treat, but she soon got wise so it had to be syringed in along with a painkiller.

For over a year, this precious girl was kept alive by her various pills and a couple of sessions draining the fluid from her abdomen. She remained her normal happy, chirpy self and enjoyed her free range life to the full. After the sad passing of two of her B-sisters (Bertha and Brigit), Bunty Goodchicken and Bella became firm friends with Clara and the three were inseparable.

During this time, Bunty Goodchicken became a household name. Not content with being just a covergirl, she also appeared in a chapter of Tales From the Coop, a book by the lovely Sophie Mccoy to raise money for exbatt hens, and most recently she has cracked the American market by having her story, photo and portrait appear in an exhibition in the National Museum of Animals and Society in Los Angeles.

Miss Bunty Goodchicken at her 2 year Hennniversary party

Miss Bunty Goodchicken at her 2 year Henniversary party

However, slowly Bunty started to worsen and in an attempt to keep her precious life going a little longer, she trialled a pill to help relieve the pressure on her heart. Uncle Jason, amazed at how Bunty Goodchicken had fought to stay alive against all the odds, is currently writing a paper on her treatments. Due to his work with Bunty, he has subsequently been able to successfully treat many more hens. So she is also a medical pioneer.

However, she was not getting any better and we went to see Uncle Jason with that dreadful dilemma. Was she suffering? Were we prolonging her life just for ourselves? Could she live a little longer? It was a decision I wasn’t brave enough to make, so my darling Bunty, a Goodchicken to the end, made it for me. Whilst we were at the vets she started to fit and within seconds her heart had given up and she died in my arms. Her big, brave, beautiful heart, full of love and goodness to the very end, had finally decided it was time for Bunty to rest.

And it is now our hearts that are breaking.

But as we said goodbye to our girl, her spirit soaring to the heavens, we took a little solace in all the hens our darling Bunty Goodchicken had helped to save.

Miss Bunty Goodchicken: Covergirl, Exbatt Ambassador, Braveheart Award Winner, Medical Pioneer and (very) Good Chicken.

A big legacy for a little chicken.

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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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Forgive me it has been a while. The shorter days do not seem to give me enough time to do all the things I want to do. My girls always take priority – I have even been known to sneak home from work during the dark midwinter afternoons to put them to bed!!

So then, a brief update on all my beautiful girls and a wonderful new ex-batt health initiative.

G girls

Gina, Greta and Grace Kelly are settling in well. Little Gina, who almost died after the rehoming, is still a very weak girl but I can find no reason for it other than growing her feathers. She has been dosed up and spoilt with protein-rich foods and supplemented food and drink so I hope I have given her every chance to make a full recovery.


Greta’s swollen abdomen is responding well to her frusemide, which she has ground up on a piece of scrambled egg. She has grown all her feathers back except for her knickers, which in spite of looking pretty wanton makes it easy to monitor the state of her abdomen.

Grace Kelly is a changed girl from the terrified prolapsed hen we brought home. Her prolapse is cured and her feathers have grown back, along with her confidence. She is great friends with Greta and the two of them patrol the human’s garden (currently theirs), concocting new ways to get into the human's coop (currently not theirs) and devour the cat food (also not theirs.)

Big Girls

It has been moulting season for the big girls. Bella and Eliza have come through their moults with flying colours and are now resplendent in their new feathers complete with showgirl tail feathers!! Bunty Goodchicken has just started her moult and is looking a little bedraggled but still just as beautiful. There is a positive side to her moult though, she is no longer laying internally so has had her medicine reduced. Clara has got over a nasty cold thanks to tylan and is back to being my cuddling and singing girl. Do you know she knows the words to her song, Raindrops on Roses, and will sing along even if I am not cuddling her. My special girl Flavia is the only hen (out of 10) I have who is laying eggs and carries on with her eggy duties without a word of complaint, bless her.


Operation Merge is slow going with the combination of moults and illness but this weekend as Gary and I spent time pootling in the garden, Grace and Greta had a wander into the Big Girls Garden with very little incident. A few weekends of gentle introductions and once Gina is back to full health will see Operation Merge go full steam ahead!!

Effie and Miss Basket

The naughtiest girls in Cornwall are doing just great!! Our nightly game of Benny Hill Chase, or Bedtime as I prefer to call it, sees me outwitted each time by a girl with a broken neck and a girl with only one good leg. As their Narnia Garden has been extended to include all four raised beds, Effie and Miss Basket are far too busy to bother with anything as mundane as going to bed. Miss Basket has stopped egg laying now, not that we notice – she ate them anyway!! And Effie is still struggling to complete a full set of tail feathers. On reflection, I think the fact they are still encased in their quills is due to the fact that her little neck will not allow her to reach them and preen them. A poignant reminder of how special my girl is.

Go to bed? Us? Catch us first mum!

And finally…

I had an email the other day from a vet who, knowing how special ex-batts are and how their early lives impact on their free range lives, is compiling as much information and data as possible in order to provide more help for these very special girls. If you can, please visit his facebook page and add your information to help him help our girls.

Thank you xx

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