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It has been a shamingly long time since my last blog post and I apologise. The truth is, since the passing of Effie, I have struggled connecting with my girls. Yes I adore them, yes I spoil them and yes I enjoy spending time with them but the sad fact is that none of them are Effie. And I feel awful saying that because I love them so, and they are all so special. They are just not Eff. But my mojo is slowly coming back; I am focussing on mindfulness to regain a little sanity and joie de vivre … and it is early days but it seems to be working.

The other reason I haven’t written is that we have lost four girls this year, three of them in one week, and my heart was not strong enough to be able to write about them. Each girl we lose has always had a full obituary and to deny these ladies the same tribute seemed to make them less important, less precious. But that is not so at all. With so many hens passing through I am ever conscious of them not becoming less individual, less of a personality. So eventually I decided that a few words was better than none at all. Girls, please forgive me my human weakness and know that you are all so very precious to me.

Little Nell: Little on stature but big on character, looks and charm, Nell was a stunner. She was also very vocal and told me off if something was not to her liking. Every evening she came to tell me very loudly that she was ready for bed and if her bowl of feed, was not in her run, she would pace and shout until I put them there. She did let me have a cuddle occasionally though, although if I cuddled her for too long, she would squawk indignantly at me to put her down.
She also had a special spot in the garden, the lowest branch on the hydrangea bush, just high enough to see everything and to put her at eye height with the other hens with just enough covered perchiness to make her feel a real jungle girl.
Also, despite her beautiful name, she only really answered to the name Chick, and only then when she wanted to!!

Cute Little Nell aka Chick

Inca: Inca the Tinker was top hen but bottom bantam (I know!) and suffered from Little Hen Syndrome. She bossed the Big Girls about, all of them terrified of her, but, oddly, was herself always being told off by Iona and Lemony Goodchicken. Initially she had been Effie’s maid of honour and chief preener and she adored her MummyEffie and was never apart from her. She also loved her twin sister Iona with all her heart. She died very suddenly in her sleep, the day after we lost Nell.

Inca Bantam, gorgeous girl

Margot: Ahh Margot, what can I say about Miss Margot Eggbetter? The biggest, bossiest, nosiest and naughtiest hen, she was a total delight. From the outset she was calm and confident with humans and decided that she would be cuddled if she wanted to be, but also that the Human Coop should be hers as well. Always first into the Human Coop, she learnt that if she pecked on the cat flap we would come running. As soon as she sensed a human inside, bang, bang, bang went the cat flap. She also enjoyed standing outside the patio doors, pecking the glass, demanding to be admitted. The cats were terrified of her but her squawk was worse than her peck, she never hurt them. Sadly, poor Margot was a victim of the industry we thought we had rescued her from and it was a tumour that took her precious life.

Gorgeous Margot Eggbetter

And so we were nine … these three losses happened within a week, and left us and the remaining girls reeling.

Special stones for special girls

Then in September our darling Lemony had another prolapse. It was her third and the second within a month. Naturally it occurred at 6pm on a Friday night so we isolated her and tried to put it back in, unsuccessfully. Seeing Jason the next day, he discovered an egg was imminent so he could not suture the prolapse and had to wait for the egg to pass. This bloody egg was huge and caused our darling girl so much pain throughout the day on Saturday but eventually it was out. However, she didn’t really seem herself and by Monday, the prolapse had become infected, tissue had died and the option of putting it back in was no longer open to us. After speaking at length to the vet, it was decided the kindest thing was to end her suffering.

Beautiful Lemony Goodchicken

Little Lemony Goodchicken was the kindest of souls, the best of hens. Born as part of a hatching project, she, along with Iona and Inca, came to live with us as chicks to keep Effie company after the loss of Miss Basket. Once Iona and Inca went to live with the Big Girls, Lemony remained to keep Effie company in her dotage. I do not have the words really to describe the love and happiness this little bundle of lemony loveliness brought to Effie’s life; ensuring her last months were passed with love and companionship and for that I am forever grateful to her – she will always hold a special place in my heart. When Effie did pass away, Iona escorted Lemony onto the Big Girls’ garden, where she was met with open wings of friendship. Flora-Jayne took a liking to Lemony, too much of a liking really, but Lemony and FJ became best friends; I think in Lemony’s eyes, a big brown chicken meant love and security. Our garden is not the same without her lemonyness brightening it up.

Lemony stands on tiptoe to preen her beloved Effie

And so, we thought our losses had come to an end, but sadly, a few weeks ago we lost Pumpkin cat. A huge bear hug of a boy he was the kindest gentlest soul – taking on and caring for two mad kittins and then becoming Protector of the Hens. A role he took most seriously; every evening helping us to lock them safely up. He was run over, the driver didn’t brake, let alone stop, and a friend found him by the road. The image of his body is still clouding the happy, loving images I have of him, I hope for not much longer so I can remember him just as he was. But I am still cross, all that love and pumpkinness taken away too soon, just because someone drove too quickly. Just think of the life he still had to live and the love he still had to give; he was only seven.

Naughty Pumpkin!
(no birds were harmed in the taking of this picture!)

Pumpkin with his kittins

But now, with Samhain approaching, I feel it is time to say au revoir to our ghosts – always there, never forgotten, but we need to look forward, embrace what and who is here with us now. So we shall light candles next Tuesday, oh so many candles, to remember all those that have left us but whose spirits are still with us.

This post has gone on for a long time, I am sorry, if you have made it this far, congratulations, you were in for the long haul! I hope I haven’t depressed you too much. Things feel much calmer now, just writing about it all is cathartic. So onwards and upwards.

Oh and we have a new superstar in our midst. I won’t say too much but will save it for the next post but suffice to say Milly is gathering quite a following!!

Jo xx

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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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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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It has been many weeks since my last blog post. I blame work myself, getting in the way of important things such as chicken cuddling! As always, it has been busy here on the hen front so here is everybody’s latest news:

Hettie has started her annual Broody Marathon and will be broody for much of this month I expect. Being a Light Sussex cross I understand this is normal! Interestingly she will only growl at me when I take her out of the coop but will peck Gary. Maybe it is a man-thing.

Greta is well, although suffering from her usual dirty knicker issue. At this time of year I am paranoid about flies so she is having regular baths. My special egg-sitter, Greta has learnt not to try and sit on an egg that is already being nestled over by a broody bantam!

Talking of which, Inca and Iona are taking it in turns to be broody. As soon as one stops the other one starts! In her non-broody times Inca is still hellbent on world (or flock) domination and bosses the big girls about with a serious case of Little Hen Syndrome.

Iona though is the sweetest girl ever and, especially when best friend Inca is broody, comes over and asks for a cuddle. She also likes to be put to bed and sung too!

Gary cuddles Iona whilst Inca enjoys some non-broody time

Gary cuddles Iona whilst Inca enjoys some non-broody time

Flora-Jayne is well after her prolapse and subsequent implant. No more eggs have emerged and she didn’t really have a moult either so has sailed through the whole episode. Remarkable for a girl who will be celebrating three-and-a-half years of freedom next week!

Little Lavender is as gorgeous as ever and lights up the garden just by being there. She has had some soft eggs which have made her poorlie and after she laid a horrible egg and lash combo, has been given an implant. She was not impressed but after some Brave Girl Eggy was back to her usual sunny self. She will also, I believe, have some very exciting news soon … watch this space!

Lavender (front) and Lupin enjoy life!

Lavender (front) and Lupin enjoy life!

Lupin has had a few re-occurences of her crop issues but magic pineapple seems to do the trick each time. I fear that one day we will not be able to pull her through but all the time she is fighting so will we. In between episodes she is full of life and as happy as Lavender and my initial aim is to ensure she enjoys a full summer of freedom.

Little Lemony came back into lay after her prolapse and implant and I am happy to say everything stayed where it should be! She is becoming so very fond of Effie, and follows her round like a little powder puff shadow. She has just started to go broody and taking her out of the coop gives me the chance of a rare cuddle – a treat indeed!

Lemony stands on tiptoe to preen her beloved Effie

Lemony stands on tiptoe to preen her beloved Effie

And then there is Miss Effie. After her third implant, Miss Effie is moulting quite a bit but is well in herself, if slowing down a little. She is still having the odd panic attack, bless her, but a cuddle with mum usually calms her down. With Lemony broody, she is dividing her time between snoozing in her coop with Lemony and snoozing in the Human Coop (where she is as I write this). Next week she too will be celebrating three-and-a-half years as a free girl, and as always, I am quite emotional about yet another milestone my special girl has reached.

With summer coming, so too are lots of lovely family and friends to visit us and Effie. Well, when I say us, I mean Effie. She is happily granting royal audiences to her army of fans and I am looking forward to taking lots of pictures to post here!

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Miss Dorothy-Kate was a big, gorgeous, feisty chicken with a character to match! Rescued in October 2012, she originally went to live in Helston with her sister Doreen, and her new human family, John and Sharon. Within weeks she was soon described as a ‘bit of a character’.  Quite the escapologist, Dorothy was often found exploring next door’s garden or standing on top of the Cornish hedge at the bottom of her own garden, bwarking away – almost as if she was daring the local foxes – ‘come ‘ere if you think you’re hard enough’!

I first met Dorothy near the end of 2013 when she and Doreen came to stay for a week whilst their humans went to London. Despite a dividing fence, that first morning was like World War Three. My girls were not impressed by these two newbies and Dorothy was equally furious at being fenced off when there was a whole new garden to explore.  I should have realised then what a big-spirited girl I was dealing with!

But with her big spirit, came her equally big heart. A few months later, Doreen became ill and sadly passed away leaving Dorothy alone. The sight of her forlornly cuddling up to a teddy in her coop at night was enough for John to bring her to live with the Rosewarne ladies.

Beautiful Dorothy-Kate

Beautiful Dorothy-Kate

At this point, in July 2014, she became Dorothy-Kate; she had to be a K girl and I couldn’t possibly change her name, so Dorothy-Kate she became.

After the initial two-week separation period I introduced Miss Dorothy to her new sisters – after giving my girls a stern talk on ‘being nice to the new girl’. I needn’t have worried, within five minutes Dorothy had established herself as top chicken, and that was that!!

However, very soon Dorothy-Kate (or DK to her friends) took on all the serious duties of a top hen. She rounded her girls up for bed each night, protected them during the day, and very sweetly, started to crow whenever she heard the neighbourhood cockerel start up in the morning. In what became something of a ‘crow-off’ she stood fast, her little feet planted squarely on the floor, and replied to every one of his crows with a rather impressive one of her own! It was very endearing and one of my favourite memories of her.

Dorothy-Kate, Greta and Flora-Jayne tuck into a treat!

Dorothy-Kate, Greta and Flora-Jayne tuck into a treat!

DK was however battling the same issues so many ex-batts struggle with. At over two years’ free she was starting to suffer from crop problems. Often a sign something nasty is lurking elsewhere, we treated her as best we could and managed to pull her back from the brink on many occasions. Never underestimate the will to live of an ex-batt! Especially a girl as feisty as our darling Dorothy-Kate.

In February this year, Dorothy and Flora-Jayne became ex-batt ambassadors extraordinaire. They took part as show hens in a short course on Keeping Pet Chickens and were, understandably, the stars of the show! They behaved like the true professionals they were and charmed their audience, who all went home eager to have their own ex-batts.  A little hen can ask for no greater legacy than to know that because of her, some of her caged sisters will be rescued and given a new life. I was so terribly proud of them.

Dorothy reads the paper backstage

Dorothy reads the paper backstage

Unfortunately, a few weeks later, Dorothy became ill again, her crop not emptying and her abdomen swelling at an alarming rate. I tried everything I knew to help her but to no avail; sadly I had run out of tricks. She was in pain and was getting worse by the day so, for a girl whose dignity was so important to her, I knew it was time. I asked John to come round to say goodbye to her before we visited Aunty Gina, who agreed that a girl as special as Dorothy needed to die in peace and with dignity. At two-and-a-half years’ free, she had spent longer out of the cage than in it. It is little comfort at times like these, but as she passed away peacefully in my arms, I hope her memories were of sunshine, worms, friends and sunbathing – all the things a little chicken should always be able to enjoy.

John wanted to take Dorothy home to bury her with her sister Doreen, so I wrapped her little body up snugly and placed some forget-me-nots under her wing. It was exceptionally hard to hand her precious body over – normally I see them through to the very end – but Dorothy had only ever been staying with us and she needed to be with her other sister. If I trusted anyone to care for her, it would be John and Sharon – they have good, kind souls. She is now buried next to her beloved Doreen with camellias on her grave. She also has, however, a stone here at Rosewarne, and will always be a part of our flock.

She was a big, brave and beautiful girl; a top hen and a show hen and all of us here, human and chicken, will miss her. Sleep tight darling Dorothy-Kate, fly high sweetheart xxxx

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Don’t get me wrong, I love spring. With the longer days I get to see more of my hens (only interrupted by annoying bouts of work) and the girls enjoy the sun’s returning warmth. But there is a less sunny side to spring – the toll it can take on the girls. One dark spring weekend a few years back, we lost three girls in as many days – the demands of nature proving too much for their moult-weakened bodies. Since then I have greeted spring with a mixture of joy and trepidation and gird the girls’ feathery loins as best I can beforehand, getting them into peak physical fitness before spring arrives.

This spring of course has been no different and we have had the usual round of illnesses and dramas. Both Lupin and Dorothy-Kate have suffered from impacted crops. For Lupin, her crop is obviously her weak area – starved in the cage, she understandably ate until it was almost bursting on rehoming – but a few days of pineapple, oil and massages sees her back to her normal cheeky self.

Dorothy’s was a far more serious affair. An older and pretty bolshie ex-batt she is not one to succumb to something as mundane as illness without it being something rather nasty. Indeed, there was a time I thought we were going to lose her. But Dorothy, true to feisty form, rallied and pulled through. She had been having pineapple, oil and massages twice a day for a week but her crop was still not emptying. We asked Uncle Jason for some metroclopramide and bingo! The crop cleared and has been working perfectly ever since. I must admit to really being amazed, I thought we would lose her and had even asked her dad what he wanted regarding her funeral arrangements. Oh me of little faith! Never underestimate the fighting spirit of an ex-batt!

Lemony all recovered from her prolapse and operation

Lemony feeling so much better!!

Our other poorlie area has been prolapses. Lemony bantam had always struggled to lay her eggs, taking most of the morning, so I suppose it was no surprise that she eventually suffered from a prolapse. Uncle Jason kindly performed emergency Saturday morning surgery on her, giving her little vent a purse string suture and gave her the suprelorin implant. After an anxious few days of Prolapse Watch she was back in the loving wings of Effie, untroubled by any more eggs.

Just like children, hens will be ill at the most awkward of times. Moments before we left for a long day in Devon, I discovered Flora had a prolapse. It was impossible to leave her unsupervised so Gary kindly stayed with her whilst Caroline and I headed up to Exeter to see Tom and Amanda. Consequently crowned the Prolapse King of Cornwall, Gary successfully treated her so by the time I checked her the next morning, everything was just where it should be. Unlike the spare bedroom she had been staying in – poo-covered chaos!! But she was booked in to see Uncle Jason on the Monday morning for an implant to avoid any more poppings out.

Flora-Jayne back to looking amazing!

Flora-Jayne back to looking amazing!

And then there is my Effie. Over the years Eff has had three implants as she has been plagued by soft eggs but I had hoped that now, at over five years old, egg laying was behind her. But after a few days of her jumping onto things, nestling in corners and a definite reddening of her comb, sure enough a pained Effie produced a softie. Two days later the same thing happened so, you guessed it, straight to Uncle Jason for an implant. She is now back to being egg free and naughty!

At £100 a shot for three implants, plus one operation and numerous meds it has certainly not been cheap but, what has proved to be a financially disastrous spring for us humans, has also proved to – so far (I cannot tempt fate) – be a successful one healthwise for the girls. And after all they are the ones that are important!

Spring Chicken Effie!

Spring Chicken Effie

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Two of my beautiful girls have recently made me extremely proud. Even more proud than I usually am in fact! Misses Flora-Jayne and Dorothy-Kate Chickens took part in a course I was running, entitled Keeping Pet Chickens. It was billed as a hands-on course, so some show hens were needed.

Flora-Jayne was an obvious candidate; all frilly knickers and fluffy personality, I knew she would shine. But as the course numbers grew, so too did the need for a second show girl. Dorothy-Kate was the candidate that initially sprang to mind – bolshie and no nonsense, she would not be intimidated by a room full of people. So we were all sorted – or so we thought ….

About ten days before the course, Dorothy-Kate became unwell. Investigations showed an impacted crop which we treated with a combination of vegetable oil, massage and magic pineapple*. As DK started to get better, there was the growing concern that she would not be well enough to attend the course. So auditions for an understudy were planned. However, initial trials of picking up and cuddling proved … a bit rubbish. Lavender would be picked up for a nanosecond before squiggling free and Lupin was not much better. Both still young and new to our family I feared they would find the ordeal too overwhelming. Hettie hates to be touched at all and Greta Garbo, despite her splendid new knickers, is still a little back heavy and not a standard example of hen shape for new henkeepers. Effie was not happy to share the limelight with Flora (she does like to be the star dahhrling), Lemony is convinced I am trying to kill her if I so much as look at her, Inca screams blue murder and, despite her love of cuddles with her mum, Iona doesn’t like ‘strangers’.

Quite the dilemma!

However, Dorothy-Kate is a tough cookie and a week of treatment later and with some metroclopramide for crop stasis from Uncle Jason just to be on the safe side, she had made a full recovery. Back to her normal stroppy self, I knew she would tolerate being a show hen – although she didn’t take kindly to being told she would have to have her vent and knickers checked. Can a girl never have any dignity!!

Dorothy reads the paper backstage

Dorothy gets the hump when the attention is on Flora Dorothy reads the paper backstage and then gets the hump when Flora gets all the attention!

So one worry rectified, another still faced me. As a child I had a dreadful stutter, and as any stutterer will tell you, it never goes away, you just tend to manage it. Stressful situations – say, talking for six hours in front of a group of strangers – tend to magnify any hesitations.

Flora-Jayne has her wings clipped

Flora-Jayne has her wings clipped

However, knowing my subject and being passionate about spreading the message that hens are amazing, was enough to give me the confidence to overcome my nerves. That and some herbal happy pills!!

At the end of the course, talking chicken keeping books!

Talking chicken books at the end of the course

I am thrilled to say the day was a success – the attendees loved the course, all feedback was totally positive and lovely Chris who organised the course for me said it was excellent. Obviously my witterings were merely a support act for the day’s stars – who arrived during the lunchbreak amidst a fanfare of oohs and ahhhs – and behaved like the professionals they are. Real ladies throughout – even during the now infamous knicker and vent check. Flora even allowed her wing to be clipped without so much as a squawk. Secretly I think they loved the attention!!

Roll on the next course … which incidentally is 27th May (the Wednesday of half term!)

https://www.ruralbusinessschool.org.uk/events/keeping-pet-chickens

And a very big thank you to Jane Gray for her amazing help and hen wrestling duties. Jane does beautiful, upcycled artwork to raise awareness of chickens http://janegrayartist.co.uk/

* Pineapple is AMAZING for impacted crops! It has to be fresh pineapple, not juice or the chopped up stuff in plastic pots but a real knobbly pineapple. It has an enzyme, bromelain, that breaks down nasty clumps that block crops. Sieve or juice it and syringe in about 2ml at a time. Dorothy-Kate had 2ml syringed in night and day for a week, along with her oil and crop massage. This is the fourth time I have tried using this on impacted crops and so far have a 100% success record. It truly is amazing, please try it next time one of your girls has an impacted crop.

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