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Archive for the ‘Chicken Cuddling Wednesday’ Category

Little Effie Chicken may not wear a Team GB vest, run very fast or flap very high, but she deserves a gold medal anyway. A very special gold medal for bravery.

After her Soft Egg Incident, poor Effie was blighted with more soft eggs. Within two days, she had laid two normal-shelled eggs, and three…yes three…soft eggs. Two of those within ten minutes of each other. Poor baby was very ill and very unhappy. And it isn’t good for a girl to lay so many eggs, she must have been exhausted. The sight of her poor hunched, sad little body straining to get out yet another soft egg was tragic and enough to spur us into action.

Golden Girl Effie

So off to Uncle Jason the vet we went.

Now Effie, is a brave girl just for being alive, outside in the garden and being able to be a normal free ranging hen; she has overcome so much already. But when it comes to illness Effie doesn’t cope too well. She is a mummy’s girl when she is ill or in pain.

Being taken to the vets in a cat basket was traumatic enough but then having the VERY LARGE needle put in her to inject the implant was awful. Poor Effie screamed and then went into shock, panting, her eyes wide.

Luckily Gary had held her for this ‘major surgery’ and she immediately took agin him (she hadn’t forgotten about him likening her physique to a bowling ball) – glowering at him.

We whisked her home for some restorative cuddles, scrambled egg and rescue remedy but she insisted on staying inside her cat basket, her little body still shocked, her plans of revenge against Gary the Cruel still being formulated.

But after an hour, she emerged, bright as a button, hungry and ready to go outside to see Miss Basket and take her anger out on a few unsuspecting worms.

We watched her closely for a couple of days to make sure no more eggs were forthcoming but Effie is now officially egg free and feeling much better.

So the Gold Medal for Extreme Bravery goes to Miss Effie Chicken of Cornwall.

Yes Effie!! A gold medal for you xxxx

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Some days are special days! Today is one such day. A Henniversary, a birthday, two new babies and a competition winner!

Henniversary

Firstly Misses Clara and CocoChanel chickens are celebrating their one year Henniversary. When these two beautiful blonde angels came to live with me, along with their beautiful sister Miss Constance Chicken, they had spent two years in a cage. None of them could walk or even stand up. A few weeks of gentle care, of lifting them in and out of the coop each day, of arnica rubs and of soft grass to test out those tender legs resulted in these three beautiful girls finally finding their feet, literally. Only Clara, the most severe case, has the remains of a limp, and only then when she runs. But she looks like she is skipping!

Gorgeous Henniversary Girl Clara enjoying her celebration corn on the cob

Clara has always been my cuddling girl. Named after Clara, the crippled girl in Heidi, she loves nothing more than a cuddle and a song. We sing:

Raindrops on roses and feathers on chickens, bright copper kettles and warm woollen mittens.
Brown paper packages tied up with string, Clara is one of my favourite things.
Chickens in white feathers with blue satin sashes, snowflakes that fall on my nose and eyelashes.
Chickens that fly with the moon on their wings, Clara is one of my favourite things.

She endured a severe moult in January, potentially so serious for ex-batts with their already weakened bodies. But she got through it and is now resplendent in her glorious white plumage!

Miss CocoChanel Chicken was named because of her feathery markings – a ring of brown specks around her neck resembling pearls – glamorous just like her namesake! When her little legs had recovered she suddenly decided that escaping was the order of the day. She spent many days in the hedge separating our garden from our neighbours and I consequently spent many days climbing into the bramble-infested hedge calling her name and trying to retrieve her. It was at this point I briefly regretted her exotic name. Recently Coco has been battling a mystery illness and two weeks ago I doubted she would make this special day. But my darling Coco is a fighter and has been out there this evening pecking her celebratory corn on the cob with the other girls!

Darling CocoChanel tucking into her Henniversary corn on the cob

But amidst our celebrations we are remembering their sister Miss Constance Chicken who passed away in May, watching her sisters from the Rainbow Bridge xxx

Birthday Boy

Pumpkin kittin is two years old today!! Our big ball of fluff came to us in 2010 with his sister, Nutmeg. Both were semi-feral and terrified of humans. It took us weeks to gain their trust and even longer before we were allowed to stroke them. Last year, Nutmeg reverted to her roots and took up with the gang of feral cats on the farm. Floozie. Despite numerous attempts to lure her home, she lives quite happily on the farm. Cats after all choose their owners, she knows where we are if she needs us. Pumpkin, despite being broken hearted at first, decided the comforts of the sofa were too irresistible and has become quite the lap cat!! Happy 2nd birthday darling boy xx

Kittin in a basket!!

Kittins!

I go to a party, there are kittins there who need homes. What are the chances of me coming away without a kittin? Nil.
So…welcome to the family beautiful Maisie and Max kittins. Just the cutest, cuddliest pair of kittins I have ever seen. Currently trashing my furniture, stinking out my lounge and terrorising my big cats. But more importantly stealing our hearts. Thank goodness I have much of the summer off so I can enjoy them!

Max and Maisie our newest family members!!

Competition Winner!

Today was the big draw to win the beautiful Hedgecomber print of Ada and her Atkins diet! And I am pleased to announce the winner is….drum roll….

Amanda Heaney!

Congratulations Amanda, I will be contacting you soon for your address. Well done it is a beautiful print.

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Bunty Goodchicken had been a bit ‘off’ for a day or two, with nothing obviously wrong, but by Tuesday she looked very unhappy, hunched and straining. On closer inspection I discovered a small prolapse. After washing it and pushing it back in, it refused to stay put, so as I was at the edge of my chicken knowledge and feeling somewhat panicked, we whisked her off to the vet. The vet tried to put it back in but by the time we had got home, it had popped out again. So I spent much of the evening (Valentine’s Day – so romantic) with my finger holding in her prolapse. We put her to bed in the broom cupboard (warm, safe and dark) tucked up in lots of towels. I hate illness and ever since Tom was so ill I struggle to cope with it. Bunty is a very special chicken, the sweetest of girls and I wanted to do everything I could to make her better again.

Beautiful Bunty Goodchicken before her prolapse dramas

All night, when not awake fretting, I dreamt of prolapses and dreaded finding her in a worse state in the morning. But after an early morning check-up and although it had got bigger, it was not as bad as in my nightmares. She was immediately taken back to the vet where she had a purse string suture put into her vent under anaesthetic to hold in the prolapse and a superlorin implant to stop her laying and hopefully stop the problem re-occurring. She also had an X-ray to ensure there were no imminent eggs. The suture allows poo to pass out of her vent but will not let an egg pass so it is a balancing act between leaving it as long as possible to stop the prolapse re-appearing and not leaving it in too long so it stops eggs being laid. The implant takes a day or two to kick in but after that should hopefully stop her laying for about three months.

I spent all day at work worrying myself into a tiz about her being alone and frightened and operated on, but she arrived home quite perky and nonplussed by the whole thing. She had to be isolated to stop interested friends pecking anything that may emerge – the main danger of a prolapse is that being red, it will attract pecks and lead to a fatal bleed. Being a friendly, sociable wee girlie, she didn’t take kindly to her enforced isolation and wasn’t quite herself for a couple of days although the combination of the implant and the anaesthetic probably didn’t help.

How could you resist that beautiful face?

She had to visit the vet every day to make sure there wasn’t an egg forming and a decision had to be made as to whether the suture would come out. After three days, and a rather grumpy Bunty at having yet another internal examination, her stitches were removed. So far…after 9 hours…quite a few poos and much checking of her ‘area’, it has not returned. She is sleeping alone again tonight, just in case, but if all is well in the morning I will let her back in with her sisters and keep a very close eye on her.

My darling brave girl deserves the very best, I hope we have done enough to save her, she is the most precious of chickens.

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Lured by all that delicious grass, Effie and Eleanor have been getting bolder and bolder with their evening jaunts and explorations, wandering further and further up the garden away from the security of the house. Such is their bravery and boldness, that this weekend I decided to keep them outside during the day…all day!! The Hermitage’s run is only small so a quick scout round the farm found some chicken wire in a skip and an impromptu larger run was hastily fashioned for them.

Effie and Eleanor on an evening stroll (it wasn't really as dark as it looks!)

And it was mostly very successful! They were in and out all day…eating grass, having a snooze in the coop, scratching, eating more grass and so on. Effie seemed much happier if I was in the run with them (any excuse) or if I was within her sights somewhere in the garden. Eleanor spends quite a lot of time sitting to rest her leg but in between bouts of grass eating she seemed happy to sit in the coop doorway looking out at the sky – a much better view than the one from the coal hole/ICU.

Hey gorgeous Eleanor!!

The only main issue was Dolly, who as bottom hen of the Big Girls, is very keen to establish herself as above the new girls in the pecking order. She has been a complete minx with Evie and Eliza and this afternoon attacked Effie through the wire, cutting Effie’s pretty little face. Effie seemed quite non-plussed by the whole thing but happily agreed to a reassuring cuddle, a salt water bathe and some medicinal meal worms.

I also think she worries a little. Do hens worry? I think so. As soon as she comes out of the run (once the Big Girls are in their coop) she scuttles full pelt across the garden to her ICU inside – just to check it is there I think. Once she has had a look round and is happy she comes back outside again. It is almost as if it is security for her. The ICU is the first place in her little life where she has been safe and I think she likes to know it is there and she will be returning to it in the evening. So for that reason, as well as the fact Bertha still likes to sleep alone in the one spare coop, they will spend their nights inside with me for the foreseeable future.

Grass Effie, delicious grass!!

I love talking to them when I am in the kitchen, seeing their faces and hearing their friendly bwarks – they are both very human friendly now and Effie in particular comes running up to me for a stroke and a fuss each time I see her, she eats out of my hand and snuggles up to me when I cuddle them. I hope she loves me almost as much as I love her!

A special girl indeed.

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A frosty sparkling dawn heralded the one year henniversary of Bella, Brigit, Bertha and Bunty Goodchicken. One year ago today they were rescued from their cage and came to live with us. We already had three ex-batts at the time – Audrey, Aurora and Agatha – but the new B girls spent much of last February living apart from their big sisters in our greenhouse as it was a particularly cold spell. Come the end of the month, their much anticipated first meeting didn’t go too well and by the time they had merged (of sorts) Aurora had sadly passed away. Less than a month later we lost darling Agatha as well, leaving just Audrey to live contentedly with the B girls.

When I think how we struggled through all sorts of illnesses to get Audrey to her one year henniversary, the B girls have come through their first free ranging year in wonderful health.

Luncheon is served!

Their Big Day started with being sung to, followed by a warm porridge and sultana breakfast and built to the main event of a corn on the cob luncheon party in the sunshine. Naturally they shared their treats with the Cs, the Ds and the Es and a good time was had by all!

The Hen Party in full swing!

My Birthday Girls
Bella

On her first night Bella was a nightmare. She attacked me, Gary, Caroline and the other three girls. In desperation she was put in a cat box to go to bed. Later that evening, when we went to put her in the coop I saw the look of resignation in her eyes and suddenly I understood her. She must have thought she was back in a cage, poor girl. I think these feisty girls who attack everyone are just scared, having had to fight to survive in the cage.

Bella 1st February 2011

And next morning my Bella (named by my lovely friend Sarah who thought she deserved a pretty name) proved me right and was an angel; peace reigned in the greenhouse. She was instantly top chicken and has remained so, even when meeting the imperious Audrey. She is fair and kind to her girls and when new girls have come into my ever expanding flock she has told them who is boss gently but firmly and rules over her little empire with an iron claw in a velvet glove. She is also extremely intelligent – the first girl who discovered she could fly onto the Cornish hedge and consequently the first girl whose wing I clipped. She is the only girl clever enough to have worked out how to get over the fences into the veg beds, thus affording herself all the spoils. She is also coming into college with me next week to help give a lesson on intensive farming, free range living and ethical shopping. She will be a star and I am very proud of her. She is the picture of health, lays almost every day and is just gorgeous, I love her.

Bella 1st February 2012

Bertha
Bertha and Brigit are both Amberlinks – white girls who are supposedly more placid and therefore better suited to living in a cage (no creature least of all my beautiful girls, is ‘better suited’ to live in a cage). Anyway, whilst my C girls (also Amberlinks) are indeed placid angels, Bertha and Brigit are possibly the most endearingly cantankerous, cranky pair of chickens I have ever come across. The Victor Meldrews of the hen world.

Bertha 1st February 2011

Bertha is very beautiful and she lays the most wonderful eggs every day. She also is a great help when I am hanging out the washing; as I hang things up, she drags the rest of the contents of the laundry basket across the garden for me, usually through the mud and copious amounts of chicken poo. She does however not like to share. When CocoChanel wanted to use the nest box next to Bertha, Bertha decided the way to say no was to pin Coco down and attack her eye. She consequently spent some time in the Naughty Coop thinking about her actions, and took to it so much she decided to sleep there every night. So now, whilst she free ranges all day with her sisters, she waits until everyone else has gone to bed and then puts herself to bed in her own coop – now renamed The Hermitage.

Bertha 1st February 2012

Brigit
Brigit (my other white Victor Meldrew hen) is named after my dear friend Brigit and also after the goddess whose day is celebrated on February 1st, Imbolc. She was the frailest of the four and became bottom hen quite quickly.

Brigit 1st February 2011

She did however try to assert her dominance over the new hens when they arrived later in the year and became quite a monster towards the limpy Clara. So Brigit too, spent some time in the Naughty Coop, composing a note of apology to Clara. Since her featherless beginnings she has now developed the most beautiful white feathers, with the fluffiest, frilliest knickers – she looks stunning. Always individual, Brigit is the one who will not go to bed when I want her to, she goes to bed when she is good and ready and not a moment before! Brigit had always had a snick (sneeze) but in October she suddenly became very ill. Her comb was blue and her breathing rattling. The vet gave her some antibiotics and advised she have steam inhalations twice a day. She spent the next few days tucked up in a towel in the laundry basket, transported from room to room, wherever I happened to be. Gary did draw the line at her sharing our room at night so she spent her nights in the spare room – I wish I had kept the baby monitor! She enjoyed the inhalations and the attention and even snuggled up on my lap and went to sleep in the evenings. Three days later, she was back to her usual naughty self and has been the picture of health ever since.

Brigit 1st February 2012

Bunty Goodchicken
The Goodchicken name is a very special title and only given to the most perfect of girls, who never throws a peck in anger (we shall put the past few days handbags at dawn behaviour down to pre-henniversary excitement) and whose kindness and general all round gentleness is a shining example to her sisters.

Bunty Goodchicken 1st February 2011

Bunty Goodchicken is indeed, a good chicken. She is good and sweet and kind and, due to her close friendship with top girl Bella, has never had to fight for her place in the pecking order. She has formed another close friendship with CocoChanel and the two girls sleep together at night with the two ‘babies’ – Dolly and Daisy – tucked up between them. She preens the little ones before bed and generally mothers them. There is no way to describe Bunty Goodchicken other than adorable.

Bunty Goodchicken 1st February 2012

So my darling girls, thank you for sharing your lives with me, I am blessed. And thank you so much for a wonderful year, may you enjoy many many more.

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Ask me which of my nine* beautiful girls is my favourite and you will get nine different answers. Well Bella of course because she is my top hen and so clever. Or chicken cuddling Wednesday pin-up girl Clara, my singing-to girl. Or gentle blonde angel Constance. Oh, or little Brigit who is first across the garden to greet me each day. And not forgetting skitty little Daisy and her foot fetish. Or darling Dolly who is so vulnerable and in need of so much love. Or egg layer supreme Bertha and her dragging clean washing across the garden trick. And CocoChanel of course for her gentle, loving treatment of the D-girls and her new friendship with Bunty Goodchicken.

And then there is Bunty Goodchicken. From the day she first arrived, little Bunty Goodchicken has never thrown a peck in anger and has always been the most gentle of souls. But recently her kind loving nature has reached new heights even for her. With the (never ending) integration of the Bs, Cs and Ds, Bunty has been a true star. She has formed a very touching friendship with CocoChanel Chicken and the two are now inseparable. They go everywhere together and tuck up in the big nest box at night.

Beautiful Bunty Goodchicken enjoying some sweetcorn

But more importantly Bunty has taken the two D girls under her gentle wings. At night time she preens them both and then tucks them in between herself and Coco. Dolly and Daisy were tragic little souls when I brought them home in the summer but have both blossomed. They are still however, tiny in comparison to the other girls and consequently very vulnerable, being at the bottom of the pecking order. But now they have a protective mother figure in the beautiful shape of Bunty Goodchicken and darling Bunty can put all her latent mother hen nurturing instincts to good use on these two fragile souls.

* When I say nine girls, of course I mean twelve. My three A girls are not forgotten. Audrey and her fundraising pin up status and Agatha and Aurora featuring in the new 2012 BHWT calendar. I tell them they are beautiful every time I clear leaves away from their graves and namestones. I even told them about the calendar. I think they are very proud – watching from hen heaven and clucking their approval xx.

Look at that beautiful face xx

But just in case you think I am going soft(er) in the head , a scary thing happened to me the other day. I watched a real video nasty. You know, one of those clips people post on facebook and twitter about injured or mistreated animals. They are always horrifying and I generally avoid them as they upset me so much, the images haunt both my sleeping and waking thoughts for days afterwards. And I am a sensitive soul, overly sensitive most would say and I never watch nature programmes as some beautiful creature always ends up as lunch for another creature.

This link I clicked on was luckily quite a ‘positive’ video. It showed some poor little hens in cages but then it told the story of two of them and their rescue and subsequent recovery. ‘In the Arms of the Angels’ was playing in the background.

And this was the really scary thing, not only did I watch it, but I didn’t cry. I think this scared me more than the video. Had I become de-sensitised? Was I now finally a hardened soul that saw horrific images of suffering animals and mentally brushed them aside?

After days of this revelation niggling at the back of my mind, I heard ‘In the Arms of the Angels’ on the radio and found myself sobbing like the big woose I know I am.

And that’s all it was, delayed shock.

Normal service is resumed!

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I think it is fair to say I am obsessed with my chickens. That my life (and those long suffering souls that share it with me) has been taken over by these wonderful girls! I would describe myself as an ex-batt eccentric (a much nicer word than ‘mad’) – or an ex-batty if you will.

So how do I know chickens have taken over my life? Well there are a few tell-tale signs:

Bottom Obsession
This first became apparent when I found myself looking at pictures of chicken poo on the internet to make sure what my girls were producing was OK. I refer to it regularly.

Then, it resurfaced when darling Audrey was running around the garden one evening with blood pouring from her vent. She was quite oblivious to it and, miraculously, so were the other hens. When we cleaned her up, we discovered a large blood clot which we removed but absolutely no other signs of illness. I have since spoken to vets, chicken experts and experienced keepers and no-one has ever heard if it before. Anyway, over the following days I became obsessed with checking Audrey’s vent, so much so that every time she saw me she backed away, keeping her lady’s area well away from me. So I came up with a Cunning Plan. If I stood looking out of the dining room window with binoculars and got a helper to sprinkle corn in front of the window I could check out Audrey’s nether regions without her knowing! Ha!

Also little Dolly Daydream is having trouble laying her eggs at the moment so I check her obsessively for any signs of difficulty and give her some Zolcal D and pop her into a warm bath if needs be. The warmth generally does its job and if I am completely honest I love spending this time with her. She is a flighty girl who is still afraid of humans but when she is wrapped up in her towel after her bath she nestles into my arms quite happily (if I was completely mad I would sing to her, of course I am not…). And then when I blow dry her knickers, she falls asleep in my arms. This happened the other lunch time. You try explaining to the farmers that I work with what I had spent my lunchtime doing – they are still laughing!

And then there was Constance’s prolapse…bottom checks followed by vaseline every morning. She still hasn’t forgiven me.

Ex-batts have big characters!

Shopping
No longer do I smuggle new purchases home into my wardrobe and then assure Gary I have had them ‘for ages.’ Now all my spare money (and much that I can’t really spare) goes on my girls. From mealworms to corn on the cob to extra special bowls to big new coops to extra comfy bedding, the list is endless . On checking our bank balance, Gary once asked, ‘So how much do you spend on these girls then…?’

My Glittering Career
Forget money, targets, career progression and job satisfaction – I chose my job because I can pop home at lunchtime (and sometimes during my tea break) to check on my girls. The fact I work with animals and farmers and gardeners and vets is pure luck!

Social Life
Well it has never been particularly bustling anyway (we are social lepers), but now our occasional evening out revolves around when the chickens have to be locked up for the evening. We book tables in restaurants to fit in with the girls and often leave early so we can close their pop holes – just in case!

Presents
Suddenly I am the easiest person in the world to buy a present for! If it has a chicken on it, I will love it. And a little bird recently told me that one of my beautiful ladies has made it onto the BHWT 2012 calendar – a true Calendar Girl. Guess what I will be buying everyone for Christmas?

Bella - My Cuddling Girl!

Serious Obsession – Cuddling…
Chicken Cuddling Wednesday is a wonderful invention! Knackered from Monday and Tuesday, by Wednesday morning you are still not half way through the week. Come the Hump at lunchtime, all seems to go happily downhill to the weekend but Wednesday morning is in need of some serious chicken lovin’. Cuddling a chicken is truly sunshine for the soul, where both parties benefit. Your cuddling girls get some one-to-one love and you get all the spiritual and physical perks of holding such a beautiful girl in your arms. Nothing says ‘I Love You’ like a cuddle!

…and Singing*
The final nail in the coffin of sanity – singing to your girls. During her daily cuddle Clara especially likes ‘Raindrops on roses and feathers on chickens…’ All three verses plus the chorus. Naturally we harmonise the final chorus – her bwarks complimenting my weedy strains perfectly. Little Daisy likes ‘Daisy, Daisy’ and Little Dolly likes ‘Hello Dolly.’ Bit of a recurring theme, I am not very imaginative.

Ex-batts are deserving of so much love

But when I was cuddling and singing to a dozing Dolly, as she was wrapped up in a warm towel after her egg-inducing bath, suddenly my arms remembered what it is like to cradle a fragile, precious baby. It is something that never leaves you.

And just as we are privileged to be able to care for these girls, whose very presence makes our days so worthwhile, they can also bask in the warmth of our love and devotion. And if there was any creature on this planet more worthy of some serious love and tlc it is these little ex-battery chickens.

*And no, I don’t think eccentric really covers it either…

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