Archive for the ‘Fresh Start for Hens’ Category

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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My chickens have changed my life in so many wonderful ways! They have made me laugh, they have filled my life with joy, they have saved me from the brink of despair and highlighting their plight has given my life a real meaning. At last I can make a difference, albeit a tiny one, in the lives of some of the beautiful creatures we share this planet with.

Another, and completely unexpected, way was to let me finally realise my dream of becoming a writer. Writing to me is the best, and sometimes only, way I can express myself. As a lifelong stutterer I have never been able to say the things I wanted to. Anyone who stutters knows you become a self-editing machine and sometimes it is easier just to say nothing at all.

But by writing I finally have a loud, clear, eloquent voice that people listen to. Ever since I was a little girl I have wanted to write a book; I used to write long, rambly (rather rubbish I am afraid) stories, and send them to publishers. Unsurprisingly I never got a reply! As an adult I continued to try and write novels but eventually realised that I had the imagination of a peanut.

‘Write about what you know,’ they say, but until my girls came along I didn’t really ‘know’ that much about anything! I had, however, been lucky enough to spend some time writing for and editing a newsletter for my friend Brigit’s wonderful charity, The Big Green Idea, which gave me that first little confidence boost. The thrill of having someone read and comment on what you have written is indescribable! I was ‘speaking’ and someone was actually listening!

Then my first three A girls arrived and suddenly everything just slotted into place! My girls became my life; changing their lives became my mission. Audrey, Agatha and Aurora taught me so much about hen keeping and I was a willing (although possibly not too competent) pupil. Working in a library I had access to numerous wonderful books on hen keeping and I soaked up all that information. Suddenly, writing about them was as easy as loving and caring for them; it combined my two great passions and it felt completely natural, almost as if it was meant to be.

I was lucky enough to start writing for poultrykeeper.com and then branched out into magazines. Miss Bunty Goodchicken being a Smallholder covergirl is one of the proudest moments of my life. She looked magnificent!

As I learnt more and more about ex-batts, people started to contact me for advice and help with their hens. It struck me that, with all the plethora of hen keeping books available, there was not one on ex-batts. And they are special girls who deserve their own special book. Whilst their needs are similar to ‘normal’ chickens, they can sometimes require a little extra care and attention.

The book cover featuring Miss Audrey Chicken!

The book cover featuring Miss Audrey Chicken!

Publishers, however, were not interested in the book so, bravely or foolishly, I went ahead and published it myself. It seemed more important to get the book ‘out there’ to help new ex-batt owners than it did to continue to plead with publishers.

The book covers all the basics of ex-batt keeping and I have woven tales and pictures of my girls throughout the book. I hope my love for them comes across in these stories, and prospective or new ex-batt owners understand what precious girls they have in their care. A picture of every girl I have cared for appears in the book, it seemed very important that they all had their stories told; they are all individual and special girls after all.

Back cover featuring Miss Bunty Goodchicken!

Back cover featuring Miss Bunty Goodchicken!

My hope is that, firstly, the book encourages more people to rehome some ex-batts and save a few more girls from slaughter and, secondly, that it helps new ex-batt keepers have the confidence to give their girls the best care possible and experience the joy that is ex-batt keeping! Each copy sold will raise money for the smaller hen rehoming charities and even if just one more little ex-batt is rehomed or helped then it has done its job.

Jo xxx

PS Effie says she is happy to sign any copies – with her special muddy footprint!

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“Saving one chicken won’t save the world, but it will save the world for that chicken.”

Saturday 9th February, the second rehoming of Cornwall Fresh Start for Hens, saw 228 beautiful little girls waved off to their new homes.

On the Friday night, the hens had been collected from the farm and brought back to their luxury overnight accommodation. Swiftly unpacked and tucked up in their comfy, haylined stable, everything was going so well. Until…

As we turned the lights off, congratulating ourselves on a job well done, someone commented that when we first came in, weren’t there four donkeys in the neighbouring stable? With a sinking feeling, we all noted that there were now only two donkeys in the stable and an all-telling gap in the fence. Cue an hour long hunt (in the dark over 200 acres) for the two errant donkeys. They were found munching the grass in a nearby field but had the scent of freedom in their nostrils and did not want to go back to bed. Eventually, and with the help of buckets of feed, they were lured back to their stable. It was a scene reminiscent of the Great Escape, as the unsuccessful escapees were returned to their fellow inmates.

The dramas were over. Or so we thought…

Stable full of hens!

Stable full of hens!

Next morning, we expected to find 228 little hens in their stable, contained by the netting we had erected on top of the walls to stop any escapologists. What we found were about 4 hens in the stable and the other 224 on the walls, in the rafters, in with the donkeys, in with the goats and over the main wall in the cattle shed. So another ‘interesting’ hour was spent retrieving the little monkeys and getting them back into their stable and all ready to greet their wonderful new owners.

So if any rehomers wondered why the team looked a little frazzled that morning, there were 230 (228 hens and 2 donkeys) reasons why!!

Being good...mostly. Look at the two in the water trough, not to mention Hayrack Hen!

Being good…mostly. Look at the two in the water trough, not to mention Hayrack Hen!

But on a serious note, 228 hens is a very small drop in the ocean of the thousands of commercial hens that are sent to slaughter each year. Saving 228 hens will not change the world. But for those 228 hens, their world has been changed. Their lives have been saved and they have the chance of a new life.

The little hen in the hayrack is typical of the girls we rehome. Discovering a rack full of hay for the first time in her life, she nestled down and laid her egg in glorious, luxurious comfort. She then decided to announce this fact very proudly (and loudly) to the world! Was there ever a happier hen?

Was there ever a happier hen?

Was there ever a happier hen?

So thank you from me and the 228 hens to all the wonderful people who found room in their homes and their hearts for some of these little girls. You are all, quite literally, lifesavers. Thank you to all the amazing people that helped me; on the day and before and after the event. None of it could have happened without you and I am forever grateful. You are all stars.

Jo xx

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We lost our darling girl Gina this morning, she passed away peacefully in my arms. She had only enjoyed two months as a free girl and that was nowhere near enough. But in her short time she knew love and kindness, sunshine and dustbaths and when she did fly away to the Rainbow Bridge, she did it surrounded by love.

On Rescue Day in October, little Gina was spotted standing alone, head and wings down; the picture of a poorlie girl. I assumed the rehoming had been too much for her so we whisked her up, tucked her in a hay-lined box and syringed sugar water into her every two hours. That evening we placed a warm hot water bottle under her in the hope that she would make it through the night and just in case she didn’t we named her Gina – every hen deserves the dignity of a name. But survive she did!! And after three days of intensive care, hourly syringe feeding and as much tlc as a girl can have, little Miss Gina deemed herself fit enough to join her sisters, Greta Garbo and Grace Kelly, who were already enjoying the free range life.

Gina in her five star intensive care unit!!

Gina in her five star intensive care unit!!

My initial fears that Gina would be picked on were unfounded, in fact it was Gina who told Greta and Grace who was boss and took her place at the top of the pecking order. She was always a hungry girl and first out of the coop in the morning for her breakfast. She particularly loved egg and as luck would have it an egg was always atop their morning bowl of layers mash! She enjoyed the Cornish autumn sunshine, finding her favourite spot in the garden and splaying her sparse wing feathers in its glorious warmth. She found she rather liked worms and quickly realised that Gary with spade in hand equalled a worm fest!! She also discovered the joy of a dustbath, often ousting the other two so she could enjoy her dusty ablutions in peace!! She discovered that chasing blackbirds out of the garden was fabulous fun! Although not as much fun as chasing kittins around the garden! She was a tiny dit was our Gina, but what she lacked in size she made up for in spirit!!

Enjoying that Cornish sunshine xx

Enjoying that Cornish sunshine xx

But tiny she was and there was obviously an underlying problem. Despite her eating for England, she still weighed next to nothing and her bad days were occurring with increased frequency. I could find nothing wrong, nor could Uncle Jason, and we tried every treatment we could think of. Some she responded to briefly, others made no difference. Try as we might our girl was fading. She was still pecking around the garden, taking dustbaths and eating well but her times spent standing and dozing were become longer and more frequent. She was however still always first out of the coop in the morning for her delicious egg.

Until today.

As it was Sunday, Gary had gone to open the coops and kindly let me lie in. However the G girls’ coop is below our bedroom window (they had not merged with the big girls as Gina’s frailty made it impossible) and I heard Grace Kelly making an awful noise, she was terribly upset. Chickens feel great empathy for their sisters – these two girls were so very distressed by Gina’s condition. Knowing Grace’s cries didn’t bode well I came down to find a very tearful Gary with a dying Gina in his arms. We wrapped her up in a soft towel and I sat with her on my lap as she passed away. We stroked her and told her she was a good chicken and a loved chicken and I hope the last thing she heard and felt as she flew away to the Rainbow Bridge was that love.

It breaks my heart that I have failed her, that I couldn’t find what ailed her and I couldn’t make her better. Gina darling I am so so sorry your time with us was cut short and I wish from the bottom of my heart that you could have enjoyed the long retirement you so deserved.

RIP darling girl, fly high little hen xxxx

Beautiful girl Gina xx

Beautiful girl Gina xx

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Some very special things happen during a hen rehoming: precious lives are saved; hens are cuddled for the first time in their lives; wonderful, kind chicken-lovers from all over the county appear to offer a loving home to some girls and you get to meet some truly amazing people.

But there is nothing better than meeting a new rehomer for the first time and watching as they discover the unadulterated joys of keeping exbatts.

Two days before the rehoming a lady called Angie contacted me. Her mum was treating her to some chickens for her birthday and they had planned to buy some point of lay hens on the weekend of the rehoming. However, after seeing an article in the West Briton about the rehoming they changed their plans at the last minute and reserved four hens from me.

Fate they called it. And I agree!

Here are Angies replies to some of our standard rehoming questions:

Hen experience – It has been my dream for many years to have hens, our neighbours have hens that we look after when they are away, I have read many books on hens to gain knowledge and my friend also is an experienced hen keeper so I can pick her brains if I need to!

Hen accommodation – My husband has custom built our coop and run, it is plenty big enough for many more but want to keep numbers small and give them the best. We have all they need ready and waiting, all we need now are some girls!

Home for life– Yes! Absolutely, we have rescued dogs too (hence the need for a run for the chooks) Our animals are a huge part of our life and part of our family, the hens will be no different.

You just know those girls will be spoilt!!

Exploring their new luxury accommodation!

Angie sent me some pictures of the beautiful, palatial coop and run they had built for their hens and so touched was I by this lovely home some of my girls would be living in I made a note to give her some of the more vulnerable, baldy girls. I knew they would be going to a good home. It is people like Angie that make the hard work of rehomings so very worth it.

Lovely free range fresh air!

I have tried to put into my own words all the updates that Angie has emailed to me but I think it is better in her own words. The way her enthusiasm, happiness and newly found love of her hens is captured in her emails puts it far more eloquently than anything I could have written.

Happiness is green green grass…

Two days after the rehoming I received the following email:

Dear Jo, Our new girls are called Violet, Daisy, Wendy and Beaker (my fellas choice that one!) They are settling in very well, we have had four eggs since their arrival so have thanked them all! Violet is the bravest and is always first out and last in, Beaker needs to catch up a bit but I am sure she will.
The sun came out (very) briefly here today and Daisy looked up to the sky, thought for a moment and lay down and spread her wings for a sunbathe, lovely to see natural behaviours are
there. We are so thrilled and could just watch them for hours, don’t get much else done though. They aren’t at all worried about being close to us and milled around the run today while Pete tweaked some areas, not so keen on the rain though!
Angie xx

Warming her quills in the sunshine!

Reading this lovely email truly lifted my spirits and then another update came. The girls hated the rain so a roof was put on the run:

Dear Jo, they are all doing well, personalities are appearing now! The grass however has almost disappeared, as we expected! They so enjoyed rooting around in their quest though. Their new feathers have started to sprout, Wendy in particular looks hedgehog like with them growing on her back. I bought them an old baby bath and filled with dry soil and play sand, so far Daisy (who is the most inquisitive) is the only one to venture in, the others will follow her lead I am sure.
We have put up a “roof” over their run (clear tarpaulin) as it has done nothing but rain pretty much for the last week and a half, much more practical, I think they are a tad spoilt!
We have had some lovely eggs, three at the most in a day, sometimes one or two, they are a lovely bonus.
Angie xx

Daisy in her deluxe dustbath. Note the new tarpaulin roof!

I feel blessed to be able to watch as Angie’s hens blossom under her love and devotion into the beautiful, happy, confident free range girls I know they will become. And just as the girls blossom, so will Angie’s love of her hens. Finding out what an absolute joy and wonderful, quirky, amazing pets chickens are was a discovery that changed my life.

I think it has already changed Angie’s.

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I was concerned that our resident diva and global superstar, Miss Effie Chicken, would have her perfectly formed beak put out of joint by the arrival of our new G girls but as luck would have it, Effie has discovered she is not only featuring in Your Chickens AGAIN this month but also has a whole chapter of a new book just about her.

In a magnificent double spread photo which forms part of an article on ex-batts, Effie is seen luxuriously sunbathing, her little neck at its own special jaunty angle. Miss Basket is standing over her and (don’t tell Effie) but she too looks magnificent. So often Melanie to Effie’s Scarlet O’Hara, it is good to see Miss Basket take centre stage.

Effie and Miss Basket in the now infamous Your Chickens photo!!

And yes Effie has a whole chapter of a new book, Tales from the Coop, dedicated to her story. Also featuring in other chapters are Miss Bunty Goodchicken and the rather splendid Miss Audrey Chicken. Edited by the inspirational Sophie Mccoy, Tales from the Coop has a collection of stories, poems, photos and more by many wonderful and reassuringly barmy ex-batt owners. All proceeds of the book go to hen rehoming charities so, if you need a stocking filler, or indeed just something to make you smile, please buy this little book.

Tales from the Coop; a fabulous read!!

So what tales are there this week from my little coops?

The G Girls

My G girls are blossoming! Little Gina is making up for lost time and consequently eating like a horse. Whilst still very bald she has discovered the delights of sunbathing and has taken up residence in a particularly sunny spot in the garden. She has settled in very well with Grace Kelly and Greta Garbo – all girls pootling round the garden together by day and sleeping in a hen pyramid each night. Gina has discovered a penchant for delicious quills though – not her own I might add – so Grace and Greta are currently sporting this season’s must have look – purple sprayed backs!

Gina – sunbathing beauty!

Grace’s prolapse has disappeared and she is performing her ‘natural functions’ without anything making an unwanted reappearance. She is quite a scared little girl though – she is terrified of me still. So to spray her quills purple I had to wait until everyone was asleep, open the coop slowly, take aim and spray. Needless to say much of the coop interior is now purple but luckily so are the girls’ backs!

Timeless beauty Grace Kelly

Greta Garbo’s swollen abdomen is reducing significantly. I am taking her to the vets soon but as she is still very flighty I do not want to stress her unnecessarily. She is the most confident of the three girls though – always first out of the coop, always first to do everything!

Gorgeous Greta Garbo

I am delighted with the progress all three are making.

Final Confession

Now I have ten lovely hens in my flock, you would think eggs would be in abundance and omelettes would be our staple diet. Ahh..well

Of my ten girls, Gina, Greta and Grace are too poorly to lay, Effie has had an implant and doesn’t ‘do’ eggs anymore, Bunty Goodchicken has egg peritonitis and no longer lays, Eliza and Bella are moulting, Miss Basket lays each day but eats her egg, Clara lays intermittently and Flavia lays every day.

So 1 egg a day then!!

I may joke about it but I would rather none of my girls laid and just had a rest. They have earned it and I want them to live out their retirement in luxury and not be burdened by egg laying.

So I sneak down to the animal care unit at work and buy some of their hens’ eggs. Shhh…don’t tell anyone!

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We did it!! Cornwall Fresh Start for Hens’ first ever rehoming meant 281 ex-commercial girls have been saved from slaughter and are now starting their new lives as loved family pets. It is the loveliest feeling in the world to know that we have saved 281 precious little lives!!


Naturally the rehoming wasn’t without incident – not least the torrential (I mean TORRENTIAL) rain on Friday night as we drove the hens to their overnight accommodation. Desperately trying to unlock the padlocked gate in the downpour, still wearing my white disposable overalls complete with fetching hood, with a large van waiting behind me, I hoped against hope the police didn’t drive past and get the wrong idea!!!

And the girls, once in their stables, were feisty girls!!! When we went to check on them early the next morning they were all over the place! In the water trough, on the walls, sitting on top of the pile of crates, in the rafters…and they didn’t want to be caught!!!

Naughty hens!! Look at the smile on the hen on the far left’s face!!

Naughty? Me?

Luckily we had a splendid team – Paula and Tim who gave up their entire weekend to help these girls, and some expert chicken catchers and cuddlers in Lynette, Lynn, her lovely daughter Becky and Carol-with-the-chicken-earrings, who were totally marvellous all day. We even had FSFH national co-ordinator Taz and her husband Steve come down to support us on our first rehoming. And of course, not forgetting international pop star* Gary Barlow who spent the day washing crates.

left to right: Steve, Taz, Tim Gary, Jo, Lynette and hen, Carol, Paula, Becky, Lynn

All ex-commercial girls are special but these rehoming days always produce some rather wonderful and individual girls.

First there was little Onesey. As we were loading the crates at the farm, one little girl made a bid for freedom. We desperately tried to find her in the pitch black night but after many failed attempts thought she was gone forever. Suddenly as we were closing the van doors, a little face, drawn by the light, appeared. The gods were smiling on us as little Onesey allowed herself to be picked up. She has now gone home with Paula and is enjoying a life of complete luxury, along with two more sisters from the rehoming – Toosey and Freesey.

Little Toosey – already a handful! Apologies for mistaking her for Onesey initially

Then there were the three poorlies who came home with me. Greta Garbo with suspected egg peritonitis, Grace Kelly with her prolapse and little Gina who couldn’t cope with the change and just went into shutdown. On Saturday night I feared we would lose her. She was motionless and cold. We syringed sugar water and egg yolk into her every two hours, kept her snuggled up in a hay lined box, with a hot water bottle underneath her and hoped the angels were on our side and would let this girl enjoy her new life. Despite our administrations there was no change on Sunday but by Monday she had perked up and was eating on her own – discovering a penchant for egg yolk! She spent Monday night in the coop with her two new sisters and whilst still not 100% fit, is definitely on her way to full recovery. Greta seems to be perfectly well and Grace’s prolapse has been successfully treated! Welcome to my little flock ladies!

Georgina in her sick bay

All in all it was an exhausting but exhilarating day; there is so much in this harsh world of ours that we cannot change so this is one tiny, tiny drop in the ocean of compassion.

But it is my way of helping by making just a small difference.

And to tell you the truth I am thrilled!!! It may not be the biggest hen rehoming in the world but it was ours. We did it and we did it well.

Roll on February for our next rehoming!

Jo xx

* OK maybe not the once-tubby Take That singer, but still my Gary Barlow!

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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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