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Archive for the ‘General Ex-Batt Mutterings’ Category

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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Earlier this week I tentatively launched a crowdfunding campaign to raise money for a new plastic coop and run for the girls of Effie’s Garden. I wasn’t sure at all about doing it, but I am so very glad that I did!!

To say that I am overwhelmed by the love and support I have received is something of an understatement. In fact, I am quite humbled and rather emotional. To all of those who have helped us, thank you from the bottom of my heart.

I have wanted to replace the Big Girls’ old wooden coop for a while but any attempt at saving was thwarted by vet bills, food bills etc. Henderlay is too small for all the girls to sleep together, and I currently have a chickenopolis of coops donated by lovely people, but I wanted all of my girls to sleep together and in safety, first and foremost, but also in the comfort they deserved and for me not to have to worry about red mite. I had heard about crowdfunding but, as my father said, it is just begging online, so was very concerned about asking people for money.

Well shame on me, because in only a few days, we have raised over 80% of the total target with many, many wonderful messages of love and support about how people had been inspired by Effie and her story.

And that, you see, is what has touched me the most. Effie died almost a year ago and her loss is still not any easier to bear. When she died, I found great comfort in the fact that her story had inspired so many wonderful people to rehome ex-battery hens. So many hens are alive today because of Effie – it is a big legacy for the little hen with a broken neck. Effie’s Garden, our microsanctuary, was started because I needed to celebrate and commemorate the life of this very special hen. Because she wasn’t just a hen, she was a survivor of a system that is so cruel and so inhumane that it breaks my heart every day thinking of what all those potential ‘Effies’ are going through. She symbolised all the suffering and abuse that is inflicted on these poor girls, but more importantly she symbolised all the strength of spirit and will to live these girls have; the same strength that made her overcome her emotional and physical demons and enjoy life as a free girl for over three years.

Quite simply, she was everything. She changed the lives of so many hens and she changed our lives too. There will never be another Effie, but her spirit and her story will always live on.

So to those that have helped us I am forever grateful to you and am currently thinking of ways in which we can thank you all properly.

“Saving one hen will not change the world, but it will change the world for that hen.”

Effie would send you all kisses if she could xx

Effie would send you all kisses if she could xx

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I cannot believe my last blog post was in January! I am tardy at best, downright lazy at worst but, just like buses, I have so much to tell you, that you may get a second blog post within the next day or so!

Our big news is that, as of March (yes March, sorry) we have four beautiful new babies helping the Big Girls to trash Effie’s Garden. I decided I didn’t have enough ex-batts in our mixed flock of ex-batt and rescue hens, so to balance things up, I planned to pick up three more little ex-batts. They were to be my M girls and I had their names all picked out. However, on arrival, another little hen told me her name was MillyMollyMandy so she simply HAD to come home with me! Actually I had intended to take four, as even though it is a bit of a squish in the Baby Coop, it is one more life saved and that is what matters. So Margot Eggbetter, Martha Tilst-hen, Miffy and Milly came home to Effie’s Garden.

Initially very timid, they stayed in their coop for the first day, anxiously peering out at the sky, but by Day 2, had ventured into their little garden that was securely fenced off from the prying, inquisitive eyes of the Big Girls. Margot, just like her namesake, tried to scratch and fell over but Miffy and Martha quickly got the hang of it. Only little Milly hung back, scared of this big world, but soon joined her sisters in their new adventures and discoveries.

Lavender is not one to let a small thing like a fence get in the way of meeting new hens and very quickly hopped over to say hello. She was a great ambassador for the Big Girls and merely scratched and pecked the ground alongside the M Girls without any fuss. Iona too, self-appointed head bantie, flew over to see what was going on, and all six just mooched around contentedly together.

So placid and uninterested in the pecking order were the M Girls that within days their coop had been moved into the Big Girls’ Garden and everyone was getting along just swimmingly. Even bossy boots Inca managed to leave the new girls alone!

Each little M girl has her own distinct and special personality: Margot is intelligent and inquisitive, confident and funny, walking into the Human Coop as if she has been doing for years and will even happily have a cuddle.

Margot EggbetterMiffy is the adventurous tomboy with the Pocahontas tail, a clever girl she is always first to figure things out but always last to bed – only recently after four months free did she finally put herself to bed – each day is just too much fun to end.

Miffy

Martha is top hen of the M girls, a folky sort of girl just like her namesake, and quiet yet firm in her manner, but recently I have seen a cheekier side to her character, following Chief Mischief Maker Margot over the fence and into the forbidden wonderland of the Humans’ Garden.

Martha Tilst-hen

And finally little Milly, still timid but always beautiful, she loves me very much as she has discovered she can eat food out of my hand and no one will chase her away. She is growing in confidence though and is a real sweetheart, I always have a soft spot for the bottom hen.

MillyMollyMandy

The M Girls are a delight – young, healthy and happy girls; watching them enjoy their new life brings that much needed spark back into my own. Every day brings a new adventure for them and a reason to smile for me!

We do have other exciting news but I don’t want to steal the M Girls’ thunder so will post about it tomorrow. Suffice to say people are amazing!!

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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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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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We are immensely proud to announce that Miss Effie Chicken of Rosewarne has been awarded The Amazing Animal of the Month Award by Good News Shared. She was nominated by the lovely people at Compassion in World Farming, who after reading Effie’s tale fell in love with her. And who wouldn’t!

Effie is an amazing ambassador for ex-battery hens and her story has inspired many lovely people to rehome their own ex-batts. She has shown what big hearts and huge personalities hens have and every person that realises this and has their own hens or stops eating chicken or only uses free range eggs is a victory in the battle against intensive farming.

This award means her story will reach a whole new audience so I would ask you to share the following link as far and wide as you can, so that Effie’s work to help her caged sisters can continue:

http://goodnewsshared.com/effie/

Thank you xx

Effie sends you all a kiss xxx

Effie sends you all a kiss xxx

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I write, post and tweet extensively about my girls, so that people can see what amazing creatures hens are and what travesties some humans are inflicting on them. However, for the past few weeks, there has been a hen living with us here at Rosewarne who I have not been able to talk about publicly. Very sadly, this week she passed away so I am now able to tell her story ….

A few days after the passing of our darling Larkspur Chicken, we were on our way to Truro, only to see a chicken on the verge at the side of the road. Screeching to a halt and jumping out we managed to catch her (thank goodness it was a Sunday and quiet or there may have been more than one fatality) and cradling her in my arms we set about trying to find where she came from. During our investigations of nearby houses, I noticed this little girl was very, very thin, had swollen sinuses, was filthy, very smelly and deeply, deeply stressed. Initial investigations proved fruitless and by this time I had already come to a decision made up from a few facts:

This was a sick chicken who needed care.
There was no frantic owner searching for her.
She was starving and filthy and ill. Contagiously ill.
She was almost certainly a commercial hen.
She may have escaped from the nearby poultry farm or the slaughter lorry, she may just have escaped her careless owners or, more worryingly, was thrown out because she was ill and was at risk of passing infection onto the rest of the flock.

This thought process did not take long, so we climbed straight back into the car and headed home, our new girl still cradled in my arms. Right or wrong, she stood the best chance of survival with us – we had a cupboard full of medicines and supplements and the facilities to care for her.

But we made the conscious decision not to mention her to anyone in case an owner came forward – because quite frankly whoever they were did not deserve her.

She took up residence in our greenhouse, the large cat carrier made into a ‘coop’ and an area outside fenced off for her so she could enjoy the grass and Cornish air. She tucked into her mash like a girl possessed and I had high hopes that a few days’ tlc and good food would make her better.

With Larkspur’s sad passing fresh in our hearts, we thought she should be an honorary L-girl, so Lichen she became. Following on from the floral L theme, but slightly different.

Lichen, my foundling

Lichen, my foundling

After a couple of settling in days we went to see Uncle Jason. Lichen’s sinuses were swollen and puffy, although there was no foam in her eyes. Jason agreed with my continuing the combination of baytril and tylan and keeping her separate from the others as she was almost certainly contagious. Over the next two weeks she continued to be interested in her food and paced her fence impatiently when I appeared with treats for all the girls. She usually took herself off to bed early and we tucked a blanket over her cat carrier, even though it was snugly ensconced in the greenhouse, for extra warmth. Every supplement and vitamin I had at my disposal was given to her in the hope of getting her well. We even put lavender flowers, and lavender and eucalyptus essential oils in her ‘coop’ to help boost her immune system and clear her sinuses.

Aside from her supplement-laden mash, she also discovered a love for corn, egg, pasta and couscous! Not to mention a few breakfast-time quails eggs.

However, after a fortnight, she was not making the progress I hoped she would be. Her swollen face was reducing fractionally but she was slowing down, eating less and she was spending more and more time asleep, with her head tucked under her wing. She was also having trouble seeing, so I put her mash and treats in bright green bowls so she could see them. All in all, it was not looking good.

Most tellingly though, after three weeks of good food, extensive tlc and minimal exercise she had lost 100g, weighing in at 1.1kg, almost half what an ex-batt should weigh. She was wasting away and we could not find the reason why. But we carried on in the hope that something would work.

But things quickly took a downwards turn. She absolutely hated taking her medicine and struggled and squirmed each time but the day she stopped fighting us, I knew she had stopped fighting completely. I bathed her on Sunday morning as she would not preen herself and she stood there up to her tummy in bubbles, a fragile fairy, unresponsive and uninterested. I wrapped her in a towel and snuggled her into me, willing her to find the strength to fight. But there was nothing left in her to fight. By Monday she could barely stand and I knew that it was time.

At the vets, she passed away very quickly, going straight to sleep in my arms, and within minutes she had left us. I sensed as her last breath left her body, and felt privileged to see this girl safely pass from this world to the next, where I hope she can fly free, her body forever strong and healthy.

Beautiful Lichen

Beautiful Lichen

On retrospect was I right to rescue her? Not from an ownership point of view, I have no qualms over that one – had she been a loved and cared for girl, I would have left no stone unturned to reunite her with her owner. But from her point of view, after all she is all that matters. Would it have been better to leave her on the road that day– she would almost have certainly died instantly and within minutes. Maybe I prolonged her suffering by taking her home with me??

I don’t know the answer to that one but I do know that seeing an animal somewhere where they should not be and in grave danger meant I could not leave her there. My reaction to seeing her in the road was a natural instinct; to protect her. And I am sure anyone reading this blog would have done the same. And as my darling Gary says, “No-one else stopped. No-one else tried to help her.”

All I can hope was that she knew I loved her and that she knew she was safe and cared for. I take some slight solace in the fact that she could be ill in peace, she was warm and dry and comfortable and that she could sleep safely at night, and eat as much as she wanted. And now she has a name and her story has been told; she was here and she mattered.

We cremated her with the last lavender flower of the season (she was an L girl to the end) under her wing and her ashes are buried with those of the sisters she never knew but who I know will be taking care of this angel at the Rainbow Bridge.

RIP Lichen Chicken, my foundling. Fly high little hen xxx

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Dame Effie of Rosewarne, ex-batt ambassador extraordinaire and international superstar has had an ear infection. ‘Do hens have ears?’ someone asked me. Well yes of course they do, it is just they are not very obvious. But this was a first for Effie and a first for me. No matter how much you think you know about hens, these girls will always find something to make you realise just how much you still have to learn.

I had noticed some liquid on the side of Effie’s head, not far from her eyes, which looked as though her ear was weeping. She had been quiet of late but after having two implants in close succession, that was to be expected. She had also taken to spending much time in the Human Coop, but Effie considers herself a human anyway so again it was not unusual. But put it all together and it meant a visit to Uncle Jason.

Ever the professional vet, Uncle Jason was fascinated by Effie’s ear (it was a first for him too) and excitedly took swabs to have a look at! His results showed she had a bacterial infection, so baytril was prescribed, as usual, and we went home ready to tackle the ear-fection.

Dame Effie looking gorgeous as ever

Dame Effie looking gorgeous as ever

Now Effie has many talents, most of them very good, but one particular talent she has is spitting. She can spit food, she can spit greens (‘Effie, don’t eat the sweet peas, you don’t like them…’ munch…spit) and she can projectile spit medicine very impressively indeed! So a Cunning Plan had to be devised. It came in the form of some manuka honey (nothing is ever too good for our girl) which, when dissolved in a little warm water and added in equal measures to the baytril, produced something Miss Effie actually liked. Naturally, this does not mean we didn’t have games of ‘Catch the Effie’ or ‘Find the Effie’ when it comes to medicine times but, once caught, she happily has her medicine.

However, after the first course of antibiotics finished, the weeping started again the next day. So a second course was prescribed, but again, as soon as the drugs stopped, the ear started to weep. Effie did not seem unduly unwell in herself, was eating heartily (quails egg for breakfast dahhhrling…) and was doing everything a happy, healthy girl should be doing. So a second swab was taken and this time sent to the lab for an in depth analysis.

The lab found ‘mixed growth’ in her precious ear – two nasties competing. One had been clobbered by the baytril, the other needed something else. So Synolux (erythromycin) was prescribed – two tablets twice a day.

So how to you get a hen to eat a tablet that is almost as large as her head??

Eventually we settled on crushing it, dissolving it in 2ml of water and schlurping it back into the syringe. A fiddle, especially at 7am, but miraculously it worked! And even more miraculously Effie loved the taste! She opened her little beak for more and almost seemed to enjoy it. I expect the diva in her also appreciated the bright pink colour!!

So now, with the magic pink pills finished, Effie’s ear-fection has not returned. She is back to her naughty, happy, gorgeous, beautiful, wonderful self! And we are busily making great plans for 19th December, when a certain little lady celebrates being three years’ free!!

Yes Effie, I love you too xxx

Yes Effie, I love you too xxx

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Little Larkspur Chicken arrived to live with us on 16th August, one of three very poorlie girls from a traumatic rescue. She was one of the lucky ones, she survived long enough to be rescued, and along with her new sisters, Lavender and Lupin, came down to Rosewarne for some special care.

She was named after my wonderful friend, Liz’s dearly departed ex-batt and I hoped that Liz and her lovely husband Mike could enjoy seeing their girl’s name live on in my Larkspur.

Initially, Larkpsur seemed the most healthy of the three girls. The only one with feathers, she set about beak cleaning her two new featherless sisters and seemed quite content with her new life, if a little quiet. She was a gentle soul, she had suffered a great deal in the cages and her new life would take a little getting used to.

Larkspur on rehoming day

Larkspur on rehoming day

However, as the two baldies started to develop and blossom, it became clear that Larkspur was not blooming with them. She was still quiet, but hunched and not eating very much. An initial veterinary examination found nothing untoward and Larkspur was given the usual baytril to help kill any potential lurking infection. She was malnourished and, I believe, traumatised from her experiences and I desperately wanted to give her something to fight for; to help her see the wonderful free life that awaited her.

She responded well at first and within a week had become the happy little chicken I hoped she would be. She ate plenty, went to bed with a full crop and a mashy beak and tucked up in the nestbox with her new best friend Lavender, whilst self-appointed top hen, Lupin, guarded the door. She took a dustbath and paced the fence impatiently in the hope of treats whenever I went into the garden. Things were going so well, that I dared to hope we had beaten whatever it was that had ailed her.

However, a few days later I noticed she had become quiet again, she was listless and not eating. So back on the meds we went in the hope that any infection just needed an extra thwack to completely knock it out. And it did, she was soon back to Healthy Larkspur, doing everything a free chicken should be doing.

When she was feeling well, Larkspur loved her mash!

When she was feeling well, Larkspur loved her mash!

To supplement her medicine, she had a range of vitamins, health foods, digestive aids and treats in a bid to give her body the boost it obviously needed. She was however, starting to slide back down into ill health again and no matter what I tried she would not respond.

Looking back there were clear signs and in my heart I knew we were not dealing with a mere infection. The medicine was just masking something very sinister lurking in her poor tired little body. I told myself when we went to visit the vet on that last day that it was just a check-up. She had been dozing in the sun all day (the Cornish weather had, for once, been mercifully kind to these girls) and she put up no resistance as I put her into the carrier.

Gina, our lovely vet, found a large tumour in Larkspur’s abdomen and the yellow colour I had told myself was because she had been eating corn, was in fact sky high bilirubin levels, indicating her liver was failing. Looking at her though Gina’s eyes, I suddenly saw how very sick she was, I had been too close, too intent on small details and not seeing the bigger picture. Her body was shutting down and her organs were failing. Sadly, there was only one option and as we awaited Gina and the medicine, Larkspur snuggled into my arms, quite content as I stroked her feathers gently. I believe she knew – she had tried so hard, I had tried so hard, but her scars from her caged life were just too deep. We could not win this battle, no matter how desperately we wanted to. Her passing was peaceful, she stayed where she was in my arms and just drifted off to sleep. The very least I could give her was a dignified death.

Little Larkspur, looking gorgeous and fighting hard

Little Larkspur, looking gorgeous and fighting hard

She was cremated with pink flowers under her wings and we watched as her spirit soared heavenwards, finally free of pain, she could now fly high with her Rosewarne sisters – I could feel Bella and Bunty Goodchicken waiting to greet her. Because she was the sweetest, gentlest of souls she has been awarded the posthumous title of Goodchicken – awarded to only the very best of girls.

Larkspur Goodchicken did not deserve to die so soon. She was a victim of a cruel system, her caged life was one of suffering, her body abused … and all for what? She had done nothing wrong, she did not deserve the life she had or the fate that awaited her. Every hen deserves to be free – free of pain and suffering, free to do just as she wishes and free from the abuses some humans inflict on them. Nothing I could do could save her from that, and I tried so hard to save this sweet, sweet girl. And Larkspur had wanted to live so much, she fought with her big, brave heart but in the end her broken little body could fight no more. I could not give her the long free range retirement that she should have been able to enjoy.

But what I could give her was six weeks of freedom; she knew love (such love), she knew sunshine and friendship, she scratched the grass and she bathed in the dust, she foraged for worms and she pecked at corn. It is nowhere near enough, six weeks of freedom in return for two years of suffering, but I hope she knows how hard I tried for her.
Godspeed little Larkspur Goodchicken – forever in our hearts, darling girl. RIP angel, fly high little hen xxxx

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