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Archive for the ‘Eccentricities’ Category

With the sad losses of both Lavender Goodchicken and Greta Goodchicken this year, our garden was left without a special Goodchicken girl. Only the very kindest, sweetest girls can be awarded the Goodchicken title; hens who have never thrown a peck in anger and who have always put their sisters’ well-being before their own. They are inspired by the original Goodchicken – Bunty. A hen whose goodness, kindness and beauty are much revered in Rosewarne legend.

So with the New Year upon us, it was decided that a new girl should be awarded the Goodchicken title and become part of the Goodchicken Sisterhood. And the title goes to …

Lemony!

Lemony was the standout choice to become a Goodchicken – in fact the award is long overdue. She performed services of love, care and attention, far, far above and beyond, when she cared for the elderly Effie. Not only did she have to give up on the opportunity of joining the Big Girls but she missed being with her two sisters who had already joined the main flock. But Lemony stayed with her beloved Effie; caring for her, preening the tail that Effie’s neck wouldn’t let her preen herself, keeping her company, tucking up with her at night and sharing Effie’s favourite pastime of coming inside to watch the washing machine go round. Even as Effie’s health was failing and she came inside on a more permanent basis, Lemony stood on duty outside the Human Coop, waiting for a brief moment with her elderly friend. That moment came in one last dustbath together, where Lemony preened Effie and they said their goodbyes. As Effie came back inside the Human Coop for the last time, so Iona bantam, who had been watching events unfold, came over the fence and escorted Lemony into the Big Girls’ Garden.

Effie and Lemony friends forever

Effie and Lemony friends forever

Lemony stands on tiptoe to preen her beloved Effie

Lemony stands on tiptoe to preen her beloved Effie

Lemony settled in very well, Iona and Inca ensuring that no one picked on her. But the Rosewarne ladies had watched Lemony caring for Effie and knew that she was a very special girl and would never dream of picking on her. In fact, Flora-Jayne decided that she loved Lemony very much – just a bit too much – and it is for enduing Flora’s amorous attentions that makes Lemony even more of a special girl. Lemony loves Flora, you see; I think it is because Flora is a big, brown chicken and in Lemony’s mind, a big brown, Effie-shaped chicken means love and friendship. Only Flora’s hormones cause them no end of problems!!

Lemony hanging out with the Big Girls

Lemony hanging out with the Big Girls

But Lemony is now and always will be a Goodchicken, a fluffy pale yellow ball of beauty and love scuttling across the garden, tiptoing over the wet grass and generally bringing a little sunshine into our world. We love her so much and she is a very well-deserved recipient of this precious title.
Welcome to the Sisterhood, Miss Lemony Goodchicken of Rosewarne

Beautiful Lemony Goodchicken

Beautiful Lemony Goodchicken

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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.

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What is a girl to do? With her BFF and bantie-in-waiting Lemony Bantam broody, Effie was left alone, kicking her heels in her private garden. However, it wasn’t long before Effie remembered her elevated status in the Rosewarne household and decided to set up camp in the Human Coop. This little summer sojourn involved her favourite blankey being laid out in the sunshine and her bowls of food and water (she insisted on my blue Denby ones of course) placed just inside the patio door – which naturally is left open when the humans are around so she can trot out for a brief turn around the grounds should the mood take her. Effie has quickly become accustomed to her new lifestyle as a house hen – in fact she started her free life in the Human Coop and has always thought of herself as human – and potters about quite happily. The cats have chosen to ignore her and I often find all five cats and Effie contentedly snoozing on various chairs, cushions and blankets around the dining room. Clooney cat is even brave enough to drink water from Effie’s water bowl.

Effie dozes in the sun on her blankey

Effie dozes in the sun on her blankey

The downsides of having a House Hen are firstly the mess – food , hendruff and feathers scattered across the floor – and secondly … the mess, there have been some very unladylike deposits! A nightly sweep-up easily sorts out the first issue and kitchen roll and anti-bac spray the second. The photo below shows one particularly messy episode after she had her post-dust bath preen and kicked her bowls over in the process!

Opps! Effie's mess.

Opps! Effie’s mess.

However, the upsides far outweigh the down: her little feet clattering on the floor as she comes to greet me when I get in from work; the way she follows me around the Human Coop, hoovering up dropped crumbs as I am cooking; the way we share breakfast every day and she dozes at my feet as I am working on the laptop; watching her as she sleeps, totally relaxed, safe and happy and purring (yes I know) gently; the way she lets me help her preen the quills of her new feathers that her poor neck won’t let her reach; finding she has put herself to bed at night snuggled up on an armchair and the way she will cuddle into me when I carry her out to her coop to go to bed with Lemony.

Effie puts herself to bed in an armchair in the Human Coop

Effie puts herself to bed in an armchair in the Human Coop

Having my Effie inside these past couple of weeks has been an unexpected joy; I am all too aware that at three-and-a-half years’ free every moment with her is a gift, this fortnight has been a truly magical one and I have cherished every minute. Very soon, Lemony will finish being broody and will be back out in the garden again wanting her beloved Effie by her side. And, quite rightly, Effie will want to go back into the loving wings of little Lemony. A big part of me wishes she could always stay inside but I am just being selfish. Effie’s happiness is all that matters, after all.

Effie and Lemony BFFs

Effie and Lemony BFFs

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Miss Greta Garbo Chicken has a very important announcement … she is finally wearing knickers!!!

Greta, if you remember, is the exbatt with the bootylicous bottom. Two-and-a-half years’ free, she has always had a swollen rear end that was completely featherless. Her big, knickerless bottom never really gave her any issues, she has always been a happy and active girl who loves her food. Occasionally her bottom swelled a little and felt fluidy and she was treated with furosemide and dandelion tea until things settled down. She has had regular check-ups with Uncle Jason but has never had an ill day in her free range life.

The first sign something was changing was that Greta stopped her usual trick of sitting on eggs in the coop and claiming them as her own. She showed no interest at all in Lupin’s eggs (the only girl laying at the minute)!! Then, over the winter, she started a small moult and something miraculous happened! Not only did her bottom reduce in size, literally, overnight to an almost ‘normal’ size, but she started to grow feathers on it!! They are currently at the paintbrush stage.

I have absolutely no idea how this has happened; Jason and I believed her bootylicous area was scar tissue … obviously it was just fluid and for some reason it has gone. Maybe it is linked to her eggy urges stopping, maybe it is something else. Either way, she is looking even more magnificent and beautiful than before and by spring I hope to be able to post a picture of her fully grown, fabulous frilly knickers!

Gorgeous Greta!

Gorgeous Greta!

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On Friday 19th December, a very special event was celebrated here at Rosewarne. Miss Effie Chicken and Miss Flora-Jayne Chicken celebrated the amazingly brilliant achievement of being free range girls for three years!

This is no mean feat as ex-battery hens are bred to live for about two years, 18 months of that laying intensively. To survive a year out of the cages is good, two very good and three … well, three is a first for me!!

Effie’s story is well documented here in this blog, she came to me a terrified scrap of feathers, injured and traumatised and her rehabilitation took many months. She showed me what cages can do to a hen physically and emotionally and, more importantly, what a brave heart can overcome given love and care. She is my special girl and the three years she has blessed my life has been an absolute privilege. I adore her and am grateful for every day she spends with me.

Miss Flora-Jayne, my strawberry blonde showgirl, came to live with us about 18 months ago. She had come from the same rescue as Effie and all of my E girls, but she and her three new sisters had gone to live with two lovely ladies in Helston. However, Flora outlived all of her sisters and was a lonely girl, so she came to live with us. She recognised Eliza immediately and the two hens were mesmerised by each other. It is not so improbable, they came from the same row of cages and could easily have been in the same or neighbouring cages. It does go to prove though, that hens recognise other hens and also have excellent memories! Flora has never had a sick day in her life, she is gorgeous and happy and feathery and an absolute delight to care for!!

Showgirl Flora-Jayne!

Showgirl Flora-Jayne!

Before the Big Day, parcels and cards started to arrive for the Henniversary Girls: Numerous tasty morsels from Sarah and Ann, mealworms and personalised cards from Liz, handmade festive treats from Megan and Dawn and mealworms from Quolanta. All were addressed to the hens and invariably ended up at college reception. Luckily the receptionist is aware of the girls and only commented that they were very popular! The night before, Gem brought round a couple of dozen quails’ eggs for the girls’ breakfast, and after cooking, peeling and mashing them, I made bunting and mealworm cakes. We were ready!!

Presents, cards and bunting!

Presents, cards and bunting!

The girls adored their quails’ eggs breakfast and then excitedly headed off for a dustbath and forage. At lunch time the party began in earnest. The cakes were devoured in moments and the treats were scattered – Effie and Flora had kindly allowed their gifts to be shared. We sung Happy Henniversary and the girls posed for some photos before human friend, Jane, turned up to join in the celebrations*. It wasn’t long before the sun started to set and the exhausted party goers headed happily off to bed, crops full of tasty treats.

Effie and BFF Lemony enjoy their cake!

Effie and BFF Lemony enjoy their cake!

In all seriousness I found the day very emotional. Effie means the world to me and the fact that we have managed to get her to enjoy three years as a free range hen is truly amazing. She has overcome so many hurdles, her big, brave heart is an inspiration to me and to the many lovely people who have read about her and love her almost as much as I do.

Here is to another three wonderful years xxx

*I can only apologise to the man who was up a ladder painting my neighbour’s house and witnessed the entire thing in absolute amazement!

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Little Miss Iona Bantam has just given me a terrifying ten minutes.

Whilst doing my lunchtime hen check and treats, I assumed she was in the nest box as she didn’t come over for mealworms. But on opening the nestbox I discovered it was empty!

Cue a terrible ten minutes when I searched the garden for her. She was nowhere. Panic rising I retraced my steps. What if she had been taken? I have been home all day but we have buzzards here, surely though I would have heard something??? Just as I was about to lose my last few strands of sanity, I found her…happily sitting on a nest of eggs underneath the sage in the herb spiral, chirruping and arranging sticks on her back.

The hens love the herb spiral, many bugs lurk amongst the stones and the larger herbs give them shade and protection. On reflection this photo I took of her earlier today should have given me a clue:

Iona happily exploring the herb spiral. I should have guessed!

Iona happily exploring the herb spiral. I should have guessed!

Can you spot the eggs…

Look what I can see...

Look what I can see…

Close up of the crime scene....

Close up of the crime scene….

Unaware of the horrors she had caused me, Iona happily wandered off, proudly announced her egg’s arrival and proceeded to have a dustbath. Meanwhile, having aged 30 years in ten minutes, I came inside for a sit down and a strong cup of tea!!

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“Oh the north wind does blow, and we shall have…feathers.”

Just as Miss Effie Chicken – ex-batt, big sister extraordinaire and international chicken celebrity – was settling down to the quiet life with her bantam babies, Mother Nature, in her infinite wisdom, decided that the wettest, windiest winter ever to blow through Cornwall was the perfect time for Effie to moult.

Effie had been sporting this season’s latest look of sparse neck feathers and a bare crop for a few weeks but one day, a particularly strong gust of wind resulted in a flurry of feathers flying off our precious girl and every subsequent gust blew away a handful more. A few days later and little Effie was looking rather bedraggled and semi-naked.

Well, what’s a girl to do?! It is no way for a superstar diva to look at all!

Cornwall’s most precious chicken deserves only the very best treatment, so all the stops have been pulled out to bring Effie through her moult – she has been having sardines every other day to increase her protein levels and help her grow her new feathers, she has been having Total Moult solution in her water, she has spent the wettest and windiest days inside the human’s coop, warming herself by the fire and she has had extra soft bedding in her coop at night, with a blanket tucked over the roof to stop the wind ruffling those oh so beautiful feathers! And, of course, she has been having extra loves and gentle strokes!!

And sure enough, her new quills have emerged and her gorgeous new feathers are at the delicate paintbrush stage. Like the brave girl that she is, she has barely complained and, in fact, has remained very happy and upbeat throughout the whole ordeal. Her bantam babies have given her a new lease of life and filled her little heart with so much happiness that nothing as mundane as a moult will prevent her from enjoying every single day with them.

In all seriousness, at over two years free and with the truly horrible weather we are currently enduring, I am well aware of the dangers a moult could inflict on Effie’s beautiful little body. I promised Effie I will bring her safely through her moult and I will make the same promise to all the kind hearted people who have been following her story over these past two years and who love her almost as much as we do.

Effie is surrounded by love, and the strength of that love, combined with the best care we can possibly give her, will ensure that by the spring, Miss Effie Chicken, that most beloved of girls, will be basking in the spring sunshine, feeling its warmth on her resplendent new feathers.

Effie in the springtime!

Effie in the springtime!

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A joyous and momentous event occurred in the little white coop this weekend. Little Inca Bantam laid her very first egg!

It was Sunday morning and, having completed the daily de-pooing, I did a swift headcount to make sure everyone was present and correct before heading back to bed for my much-anticipated cup of tea and lie in.

However, Inca was nowhere to be seen!

Eventually I tracked her down to her nest box where she was happily snuggled down in an Eggy Laying position and she glared at me for interrupting her. Aware something amazing and exciting was probably about to happen I skulked around in the garden awaiting The Great Moment, my lie in long forgotten.

After a little while, Effie, obviously having sympathy pains, had her own Eggy Feeling and toddled in to join Inca. Even after her own egg had been laid, Effie, always the good Big Sister, stayed with Inca. A first egg is a very important moment in a girl’s life and Effie was on hand to help Inca through this milestone.

Inca's First Egg!

Inca’s First Egg!

Suddenly, Miss Inca Grown-Up Bantam appeared from the coop and amidst much sqwarking and running around the garden, proudly announced the arrival of her First Egg! She was, quite rightly, terribly pleased with herself.

And now, a few days and two more eggs later, Miss Inca Bantam is officially a Big Girl and Effie’s second-in-command. Whilst Iona and India Lemon Drop happily peck away in blissful pre-egg innocence, Miss Inca Bantam is a mature woman of the world.

My baby is all grown up!

Miss Inca Bantam and her little sisters!

Miss Inca Bantam and her little sisters!

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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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Flora Day occurs on or around May 8th in Helston, Cornwall and celebrates the coming of spring with dancing, partying and an abundance of lily of the valley. However, here in Rosewarne, our Flora Day was celebrated today, 27th October, with the greatest storm since 1987 brewing in the skies, the dark winter evenings closing ominously in and rain, the like of which I have never seen before, blowing up the Red River Valley in menacing sheets of blackening doom.

But, in spite of all this autumnal ferocity, our Flora Day was alight with sun, happiness and joy (and an egg!).

Miss Flora Hen is an ex-batt who, until recently, has lived a very happy post-cage life in Marazion with her three sisters and two loving owners. However, her sisters have sadly all died and Flora was left alone. Her owners needed a new home for her so she could have hen company again and become part of another flock. There was a spare coop in our garden and it didn’t take long for Gary to get my (not so) subtle hints and suggest she come to live with us. So today Miss Flora arrived!!

Miss Flora-Jayne, a ray of sunshine!

Miss Flora-Jayne, a ray of sunshine!

After speaking to her, understandably upset, owners, we discovered Flora was part of the same rehoming as Evie, Eliza, Effie and her beloved Miss Basket. This means I may well have taken her out of her cage and it gives me a special affinity with this very pretty little hen.

She is now living in the Big Girls’ Garden, in her own coop and run, for a couple of weeks before introductions begin and I am amazed that Eliza ‘Give ‘em All Hell’ Chicken has merely come up to the wire fence and pecked at the grass that Flora is pecking at before wandering off. I know chickens recognise up to 80 other girls and I wonder if my most combative of girls actually already knows who this new hen is. Hens never fail to amaze me with their intelligence, empathy and compassion and I feel that my two remaining E-girls will recognise a fellow ‘survivor’ from their farm and offer her the wing of friendship.

Don't I know you? Flora-Jayne meets Eliza...

Don’t I know you?
Flora-Jayne meets Eliza…

But what of her name?? Flora?? Her name needs to begin with a J as fits my little system but a girl of two years free cannot have her name changed!! So we decided Flora-Jayne she would be! And it definitely suits her.

So far she had flown onto her coop roof, announced very loudly (and repeatedly) to the world that she is here, had her wing clipped amongst great protestations, shared a fence-limboing tuft of grass with Eliza (they do know each other I am sure of it!!) and laid an egg!!

Not bad for a first day!

If you are inspired by Flora-Jayne’s story, and you live in Cornwall and feel you can offer a loving home to some ex-commercial hens, I have a rehoming on 14th December in Camborne. Please visit the website to reserve your hens at www.freshstartforhens.co.uk or if you are tempted but unsure PLEASE email me for advice and information on cornwallgreenbean@tiscali.co.uk.

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