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Archive for the ‘Factory Farming’ Category

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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It is not long now until Fresh Start for Hens’ first ever rehoming of ex-commercial hens in Cornwall takes place. I am thrilled that I have been asked to be the Cornwall co-ordinator and as the Big Day approaches I alternate between excitement and worry. I am good at worrying and getting this rehoming right is very important. Those little hens are depending on me.

There is much to organise to ensure the day runs smoothly – from sorting out food and bedding to disinfecting the crates; from organising collection slots for rehomers to baking the all-important cake to keep the team of fabulous volunteers going as they give up their weekend to help me rehome these precious girls.

All commercial hens, be they ‘enriched’ caged, barn or free range are sent to slaughter once they are no longer commercially viable, usually after about 18 months. So whatever system the girls we rehome come from, we are saving lives. Whilst it is all-to-easy to focus on the hens we cannot save, we must remember that every hen rehomed is a life saved. As the quote goes, by saving one animal you will not change the world, but you will change the world for that one animal.

So Saturday 6th October will see a team of volunteers (including the inspirational Taz who co-ordinates Fresh Start for Hens and the amazing Paula who is travelling halfway across the country just to be here) collect our hens from the farm and then, later in the day wave them off to their lovely new homes. It is a real team effort – it is touching how helpful and kind so many people have been. Not least the wonderful rehomers who have found room in their homes and their hearts for some ex-commercial girls.

There is still time to reserve your hens online for the Cornwall rehoming. There is also a Fresh Start for Hens national rehoming on 20th October. Please visit http://www.freshstartforhens.co.uk to reserve your hens.

Brigit enjoying her free range life!!

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What Do You Do With A Chicken Like Effie…? How Do You Catch A Cloud And Pin It Down?

Ever since my darling Effie came into our lives in December, she has been a special girl. With physical and emotional problems caused by her life in the cage, beautiful Effie with her brave little soul and inextinguishable spirit has triumphed over all but one obstacle. Free ranging with the flock.

Effie and Miss Basket are a happy little pairing in their own coop, run and extension (via the secret- garden-doorway-hole-in-the-fence-to-Narnia garden), they do everything together and for the first time in her tragic life, little Effie has a friend. Someone to sit with, to contemplate life with. Someone to tuck up next to at night, someone to share a worm with. Someone to enjoy a dustbath with and someone to share the sunshine with. Someone, finally who does not pick on her, terrorise her and make her life hell. Miss Basket is indeed a very special, gentle girl as she gives Effie so much love, companionship and support.

Miss Basket – probably the kindest, sweetest girl ever

Up until now, Effie’s attempts at free ranging have ended in fighting and disaster. With her delicate, fragile neck, fighting is not good for Effie but for some reason she seems hell bent on it. But today, I decided we should try again.

My clever daughter had looked after my girls so well this weekend (as we were away seeing Bruce Springsteen in Manchester – on my bucket list). She has always wanted ducks but up until now I had said no as I didn’t think she would look after them properly. However, after her remarkable efforts this weekend I relented but to have ducks we would need Effie and Miss Basket’s run so they would need to be integrated with the rest of the flock.

Miss Basket pootled round the garden quite happily and kept out of everybody’s way, busying herself exploring and scratching away with her good foot. Effie however, lasted two minutes before launching herself at top hen Bella. Now Bella never normally fights – a peck or indeed a look is sufficient to keep other hens in their place. But Effie could not see this – her and Bella went all out in a fight. Separating the two, Bella took to the bushes to smooth her ruffled feathers and Effie scurried off to find Miss Basket. Minutes later I turned my back, only to discover it happening again. I managed to separate the two girls and cradled Effie in my arms as Bella, now mightily miffed, went off to the greenhouse for a restorative dustbath.

Normally when I cuddle her, Effie struggles free. Today though, with her little heart beating furiously against her chest, she nestled into me, safe in my arms. My poor baby was terrified. I sung to her (Rockabye Effie on a Tree Top – she likes that) until she fell asleep. We sat in the sunshine until she felt well enough to wriggle free of my embrace and scurry off to find her friend.

Friends forever xx

What ever happened to my little Effie to make her so traumatised and so disturbed I do not know, it breaks my heart that my girl has suffered so. Why she feels she has to fight I do not know. What happened to my poor girl in those godawful cages? How in the name of all that is good can anyone, anywhere think that this is an acceptable way to treat animals? I have no words (not polite ladylike ones anyway) to describe how I feel about the individuals, the farmers, the consumers, the companies, the supermarkets and the governments that all contribute to this appalling abuse of these little hens.

I beg you, if you can’t offer homes to ex-commercial hens, then please protest, shout out loud. To supermarkets and farmers and governments. To anyone who will listen. Eventually our voices will be heard. Vote with your purse and your heart. All over the country there are hens like Effie – scarred emotionally and physically – who are not saved by a mad chicken woman. These hens live their lives in terror and pain and end them by being thrown into the back of a lorry, then dying terrified, in pain and in shackles. Nowhere is this acceptable. Nowhere.

How do you hold a moonbeam in your hand?

So my little Effie will remain in her special run with her special friend until the day comes when she is ready to free range. If in fact that day ever comes. I will do whatever it takes to make my girl happy and safe. It is the very least she deserves.

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There are currently 1,200 very fortunate little hens sitting in a barn in Camelford awaiting their forever homes. Their miraculous last minute reprieve from slaughter truly sums up the compassionate sentiments of the season.

With the barren cage ban imminent and farms all over the country furiously emptying their cages of hens, December has been a manic month for rehoming. What made it more heartbreaking for us rescuers is that any hens not rehomed would be going for slaughter. In Cornwall alone, over three re-homings in December, BHWT Cornwall Co-ordinator Michelle Boulton and her team had re-homed some 1,500 lucky hens.

At 7am, two days after Christmas, the dedicated Cornwall Re-homing team met at the farm for what they thought would be the last time to rescue 400 girls, before the slaughter lorry came the next day to take the remaining 1,200 away. It was something we had all been dreading, the joy of re-homing overshadowed by having to walk past rows upon rows of expectant little faces, knowing what the next 24 hours would bring for them. As we filled the final crate with the lucky ones, all of us trying to hold back the tears, Michelle suddenly decided that she simply could not let the remaining girls go to their deaths so in a moment of brilliance (or madness – you decide!) she asked the farmer if she could take them. He agreed and within minutes the slaughter lorry was cancelled and the girls booked to go to Michelle’s barn the next day.

Just some of the girls rescued!

It was something of a mammoth task which, after the rehoming of the original 400 hens, meant rearranging the barn and stables to be ready to accommodate these lucky ladies, organising transport and help and, most importantly, vast quantities of feed.

However, all 1,200 girls are now safely housed in the barn, keeping Michelle very busy and eating about eight sacks of feed a day!

A Little Christmas Angel Looking for her Forever Home

I appreciate not everyone is in the position to offer homes to these hens but you can help find homes for these 1,200 little angels by tweeting and facebook sharing about them, sharing this blog and passing on the word. Also, the eight bags of feed a day are not cheap (about £60 a day) so if you are able to donate a small amount towards their feed, we would be so very grateful. Within 12 hours of first asking for help with costs, Michelle had received over £300 from some wonderful, generous souls. Payments can be sent via Paypal to Michelle’s paypal account – mj4b@aol.com . Any surplus money, once all the girls have been rehomed, will go to the BHWT to help other hens.

People around the country have already shown so much kindness and support, both to offering homes for the girls earlier in the month and now by trying to find homes for these lucky 1,200. Their generosity and love has been quite humbling and has restored my faith in the kindness and compassion of our kind.

A final word then for Michelle who has shown dedication far and beyond anything any of us mere mortals could imagine. As the rest of us fell by the wayside, exhausted and emotionally drained, she has kept on and on and hasn’t given up until every last one of these girls was safe. She has barely eaten for days she has been so busy with the girls but can finally rest easy now, knowing she has saved so many precious little lives.

Chicken Champion and all round good egg, Michelle Boulton

All photos courtesy of lovely Karen Cunningham

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We are currently desperately trying to find homes for literally thousands of battery hens in Cornwall that are coming out just before Christmas. It is heartbreaking to think we are going to have to go into the farm, rescue the lucky few and leave those other poor tragic girls in there, when we know what their fate will be. They have had no chance of a decent life and now they will be heading to their deaths. So every home we can find will be a life saved. If you or anyone you know can offer a home to some girls, please, please do. Ask your friends, your family and your work colleagues. Tweet it and post it on facebook. Please.

These little girls are haunting my thoughts. Once you have been into a battery farm, it stays in your head and no matter how hard you try, it won’t go away. Do they know their sisters are heading for freedom and that by the cruellest twist of fate – where their cage is – they will be heading off to the slaughterhouse? Are they crying out ‘pick me, pick me’ as I walk past them, bundles of luckier hens in my arms? You see, I worry about it a great deal.

But this way lies madness I feel.

So, this weekend I appreciated a brief moment when my head was filled with something rather lighter. I swapped my chicken poo-ingrained clothes for a posh frock and some heels and headed off to the bright lights and razzle dazzle of Strictly with my ballroom dancing son and let my head be filled with sequins and sparkle for a short while.

Naturally though, my thoughts very quickly returned to both those poor caged hens and my own darling girls. I had been away for 27 hours (leaving them in the capable hands of Gary, armed with a long list of instructions) but in that short time I swear they had changed.

Take Dolly for example. In the four weeks since her implant, my darling little Dolly has really blossomed. She has put on weight and grown many new feathers compared to her sister Daisy Doos, who is still laying. Comparing the two side by side, whereas they used to be of a similar size, Dolly is noticeably (to me) bigger.

Picture of health, little Dolly Daydream

Naturally I am delighted that I have helped her but, also naturally, I am feeling guilty that Daisy is still burdened with egg laying and her precious little body isn’t recovering as quickly. Whereas much of Daisy’s energy goes into laying her eggs, little Dolly’s body can concentrate on getting strong and growing feathers.

A hen has about 40g of calcium in her body (bones etc) and laying an egg takes up 4g. So if she is laying an egg a day, as she has been in the cage, then her body can easily get depleted of calcium and lead to problems such as weak legs – something which is exacerbated by the cramped conditions in the cage. For this reason carrying these lovely ladies by one leg is illegal and quite right too. Absolutely barbaric way of handling them.

So to replace that precious calcium, the girls need a well-balanced diet and supplements such as poultry spice, oyster shell, limestone flour and Zolcal D. Never overdose on calcium though, just make sure they have the recommended amount.

So whilst I worry about my precious girls, I also worry about those poor girls in cages who have no-one to check their feathers are growing OK or to soothe their sore pecked skin or to bathe their wounds or to cuddle them if they are ill. No-one to tell them it’s going to be OK, because for many of them, it’s never going to be OK.

On 19th December some of those caged girls are going to have the Best Day of their Lives. Waking up in their cage and going to bed in their new free range coop, with a new family to show them love and kindness for the first time in their lives.

The other girls will not have a good day. They will never know what it is to be loved, to free range in a garden, to stretch out their wings in the sun or to have a glorious dustbath. They will never know human kindness and they will never see the sky.

So, if you can possibly offer any of these girls a home I beg you, please do. Please contact Michelle the Cornwall co-ordinator on michelle.boulton@bhwt.org.uk or 079011 07096.

Every chicken deserves to be this happy!

xxx

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The time will come when men such as I will look upon the murder of animals as they now look upon the murder of men. (Leonardo da Vinci…maybe)

Did you know Leonardo da Vinci was a vegetarian? No, nor did I until I read this remarkable quote and googled it to find out the author. There is some dispute about the authenticity of the quote, apparently it appeared in a fiction novel by Dimitri Merejkowski entitled, The Romance of Leonardo da Vinci, which attributed these words to Leonardo.

Regardless of whether he actually said it or not, da Vinci had a lot more to say on both meat eating and dairy production, most notably in my opinion:

‘Of the beasts from whom cheese is made, the milk will be taken from the tiny children.’

This is a quote from da Vinci’s Prophecies and eerily predicts our modern dairy industry where new born dairy calves can be removed from their mother from as little as one day old (they need their mother’s colostrum in those first precious 24 hours). The threat of US-style factory farms where thousands of cows are entombed in a grass-less concrete world would seem a massive backwards leap when we are battling so hard to ensure a free range future for our farm animals. For example, enriched cages for hens are not ideal but they are a step in the right direction and an acknowledgement that barren battery cages are most definitely not acceptable.

Is there any difference between a cow in a concrete cage and a hen in a wire one?

Aurora Chicken on Rescue Day

But the barren cage ban is still not safe. With EU countries such as Spain, France and Greece still not ready for the ban, the danger is illegal caged eggs will be imported into the UK by less than scrupulous supermarkets and food manufacturers. Today I read Lord Taylor, the Food Minister, is trying to stand up to these EU heel draggers to ensure none of these eggs find their way into the UK. I emailed him to offer him thanks and encouragement but am not too sure the support of ‘Jo from Cornwall’ will carry much weight in the gilded corridors of power.

We shall see if he can stand up to the Euro-bullies. I so hope he can. It would be about time.

Nothing is ever simple is it? Surely treating animals humanely isn’t so difficult? Why does greed always get in the way of more important emotions such as love and compassion?

Still, however uphill and disheartening our battles may seem, it is reassuring to discover that our generation is not the first to be shouting out against the factory farming, meat eating machine and we are in fact in very illustrious company!

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