Archive for the ‘Grace Kelly’ Category

Grace Kelly Chicken came to live with us as a poorlie hen from the rehoming, she had a prolapse and needed some special love and attention. This scrawny little chicken with featherless patches seemed to love the bath she was given and afterwards happily dozed in my arms, wrapped up in a towel. Poor little scrap, this was the first act of kindness she had ever received. Gracie’s coop mates were the very ill Gina and the swollen-tummied Greta Garbo and a happy little flock of poorlie girls they made. Gracie was always the big character of the three; the cleverest, the naughtiest and by far the loudest! But it was Gracie’s cries that woke us up early one morning to let us know Gina was dying, and enabled us to hold her as she passed away.

As her feathers started to emerge, Gracie lived up to her namesake and became a stunningly beautiful girl – her feathers a rich auburn with a single black tail feather nestled amongst the others, a quirky nod to her ancestry! Gracie and Greta integrated with the main flock relatively easily, and settled in as bottom hens, although Gracie had other plans! The next day she flew back into her old garden to cause mayhem and had a subsequent wing clip! However, this did not stop her discovering she could fly onto the table where all the seeds and worms were kept and merrily munch her way through as many as she could. But Gracie, who by now was nicknamed Gracie Lou, also found she could kick the pots of goodies off the table and onto the greenhouse floor, enabling her sisters to enjoy her ill-gotten gains! Gracie was always a generous girl!!

Soon after rehoming, Gracie inspects her new knickers!

Soon after rehoming, Gracie inspects her new knickers!

With the arrival of Hettie and Flora-Jayne, Gracie was very keen to establish the fact she was no longer bottom hen. A little too keen at times and spent some of the merging free ranging time in the Naughty Coop thinking about her actions. Things soon settled down, although Gracie was always first into the coop at night to get the best place in the nestbox and nothing, but nothing, would make her budge, so there was often a four headed mass of feathers piled into one nestbox and three nestboxes left empty!!

But Gracie’s favourite thing in the whole world was a bath. Her prolapse had left her with a slightly messy bottom at times so baths were a regular occurrence, much to Gracie’s delight. Naturally she hated being caught as she was convinced we were trying to kill her, but once scooped up into our arms, she thoroughly enjoyed the attention. She liked me to sing to her, Mika’s Grace Kelly of course, and chirruped along as I attended to her messy feathers. Afterwards she stood on the draining board and fanned out her rear end awaiting the warm wafty delights of the hairdryer, dozing contentedly as I dried her feathers. Given the chance she would have stood like that for hours; she even posed for a photoshoot for Your Chickens in her bath!

Gracie having her beloved bath and blow dry

Gracie having her beloved bath and blow dry

During the early spring, Gracie started to have the odd ‘quiet’ day. She rallied within hours each time and we could find nothing obviously wrong. She was eating well and was as loud and mischievous as always. On her last day, she bundled out of the coop first thing in the morning and spent the day happily eating corn, chasing magpies and digging for bugs. At bedtime though, I found her under the bush, unable to walk. Something was obviously very wrong and she had The Look, so we dosed her up and tucked her into the nestbox in her favourite spot with her sisters.

Beautiful Grace Kelly Chicken

Beautiful Grace Kelly Chicken

Gracie went to sleep that evening and did not wake up. In the morning, the other girls were all tucked around her and top hen Liza would not leave her sister, even pulling at her feathers to try and wake her up. Gracie was a feisty and dignified girl and she was allowed a peaceful, dignified death, safe in the loving wings of her sisters. I still do not know what it was, I suspect a tumour, but it was mercifully quick and Gracie did not suffer. It is little comfort for us humans though, or for her sisters, who were very shocked at her sudden death and struggled to understand it. Liza especially took Gracie’s death very badly, it was her first loss as a top hen, and the night after Gracie had died, Liza was still looking for her to put her to bed.

Grace Kelly was cremated that evening, a beautiful scented narcissi tucked under her wing so she smelt lovely as she headed to the Rainbow Bridge, where Bella would be waiting for her. After we buried her ashes, we sprinkled forget-me-nots on her grave – the blue similar to one of the human Grace Kelly’s dresses in To Catch a Thief. I think Gracie would have liked that.

RIP darling, beautiful Grace Kelly. Fly high little hen xxxx

Miss Grace Kelly Chicken sunbathes

Miss Grace Kelly Chicken sunbathes

Read Full Post »

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

Read Full Post »

Sunday saw much celebration in the garden of the Rosewarne ex-batts. Greta Garbo and Grace Kelly, two gorgeous girls from our first ever rescue as Cornwall Fresh Start for Hens, celebrated one year as free girls!!

From that rescue I took home the three poorlie girls. Gracie with a prolapse, Greta with a very swollen and red abdomen and the very ill little Gina.

Gracie had the first of many baths – she loves them and especially the post-bath blow dry – to help clean up her prolapse and after a few days of treatment, the prolapse disappeared never to be seen again. Gracie has turned out to be the naughtiest, most vocal little hen I have ever met!! Who was first to fly up onto the bench with all the treats on? Gracie. Who discovered she could knock them over so her sisters could have them? Gracie. Who managed to fly over the fence into Effie’s garden and attack my precious baby? Gracie. Who is still to extend the wing of friendship to Hettie and kicks her out of the nest box every night? Gracie. But who sings beautiful songs to her mum every morning? Gracie. Who chirrups throughout her baths and blow dries? Gracie. And whose distressed alarm call alerted us to the dying Gina? Little Gracie. Grace Kelly is a character and true to her namesake, a really gorgeous and glamorous diva.

Miss Grace Kelly Chicken

Miss Grace Kelly Chicken

Greta’s swollen bottom was originally thought to be Egg Peritonitis but after Uncle Jason the vet had examined her, it was deemed to be a mass of scar tissue from a previous infection. Much better news! Her big beautiful bottom has spent a year being red and featherless and only now, after a year of freedom, have the first feathery tufts begun to appear around the edges. Greta has never laid an egg, and nor would I want her to, but she does love to sit in the nestbox after someone else has laid one and then rush out to declare her brilliance at laying an egg!! She is the sweetest, happiest chicken and an excellent beak cleaner, and it is this sunny, gentle character that has earned her the much coveted Goodchicken surname. It is a title only ever bestowed on the most special of hens and Greta knows she is a very special girl.

Miss Greta Goodchicken

Miss Greta Goodchicken

Little Gina was in the ICU for a few days before joining her two sisters for a week or so of fresh air and sunshine. But her little body was too weak to cope. Gracie woke us one morning with her cries of distress and I am eternally grateful to her for that as it enabled us to bring Gina inside and cuddle her as she passed away. However, her spirit was felt today and we spent a few moments at her grave telling her we loved her.

Gracie then ventured inside for a bath and knicker blow dry whilst Greta had extra cuddles as she awaited the main event.

left to right Flavia, Greta, Gracie, Liza and Bella

left to right Flavia, Greta, Gracie, Liza and Bella

Once Miss Kelly emerged in a fluffy and feathery shower of happiness, mealworm and corn cakes topped with live yoghurt and sweetcorn (grown on our allotment) were served, accompanied by much very bad singing on my part. Then followed a photoshoot before the girls collapsed, exhausted and full, under the bushes for a post-party preen and snooze.

Gracie, Bella Top-Hen and Greta tuck into a cake

Gracie, Bella Top-Hen and Greta tuck into a cake

(In Effie’s Garden, Effie had two cakes and allowed her babies to share one between the three of them. It was their first party and they behaved im-peckibly!)

Today was a double celebration – Gracie and Greta enjoying one year as free range girls and also the anniversary of our first rehoming.

If you are inspired to have some ex-batt hens, I can assure you it will be the best thing you have ever done. If you need some help and advice please visit my new website www.henhugger.co.uk or email me on henhugger@talktalk.net.

And if you are in Cornwall, there will be a rehoming of ex-commercial hens on 14th December. What better way to embrace the festive season than to save a life?

Read Full Post »

Forgive me it has been a while. The shorter days do not seem to give me enough time to do all the things I want to do. My girls always take priority – I have even been known to sneak home from work during the dark midwinter afternoons to put them to bed!!

So then, a brief update on all my beautiful girls and a wonderful new ex-batt health initiative.

G girls

Gina, Greta and Grace Kelly are settling in well. Little Gina, who almost died after the rehoming, is still a very weak girl but I can find no reason for it other than growing her feathers. She has been dosed up and spoilt with protein-rich foods and supplemented food and drink so I hope I have given her every chance to make a full recovery.


Greta’s swollen abdomen is responding well to her frusemide, which she has ground up on a piece of scrambled egg. She has grown all her feathers back except for her knickers, which in spite of looking pretty wanton makes it easy to monitor the state of her abdomen.

Grace Kelly is a changed girl from the terrified prolapsed hen we brought home. Her prolapse is cured and her feathers have grown back, along with her confidence. She is great friends with Greta and the two of them patrol the human’s garden (currently theirs), concocting new ways to get into the human's coop (currently not theirs) and devour the cat food (also not theirs.)

Big Girls

It has been moulting season for the big girls. Bella and Eliza have come through their moults with flying colours and are now resplendent in their new feathers complete with showgirl tail feathers!! Bunty Goodchicken has just started her moult and is looking a little bedraggled but still just as beautiful. There is a positive side to her moult though, she is no longer laying internally so has had her medicine reduced. Clara has got over a nasty cold thanks to tylan and is back to being my cuddling and singing girl. Do you know she knows the words to her song, Raindrops on Roses, and will sing along even if I am not cuddling her. My special girl Flavia is the only hen (out of 10) I have who is laying eggs and carries on with her eggy duties without a word of complaint, bless her.


Operation Merge is slow going with the combination of moults and illness but this weekend as Gary and I spent time pootling in the garden, Grace and Greta had a wander into the Big Girls Garden with very little incident. A few weekends of gentle introductions and once Gina is back to full health will see Operation Merge go full steam ahead!!

Effie and Miss Basket

The naughtiest girls in Cornwall are doing just great!! Our nightly game of Benny Hill Chase, or Bedtime as I prefer to call it, sees me outwitted each time by a girl with a broken neck and a girl with only one good leg. As their Narnia Garden has been extended to include all four raised beds, Effie and Miss Basket are far too busy to bother with anything as mundane as going to bed. Miss Basket has stopped egg laying now, not that we notice – she ate them anyway!! And Effie is still struggling to complete a full set of tail feathers. On reflection, I think the fact they are still encased in their quills is due to the fact that her little neck will not allow her to reach them and preen them. A poignant reminder of how special my girl is.

Go to bed? Us? Catch us first mum!

And finally…

I had an email the other day from a vet who, knowing how special ex-batts are and how their early lives impact on their free range lives, is compiling as much information and data as possible in order to provide more help for these very special girls. If you can, please visit his facebook page and add your information to help him help our girls.

Thank you xx

Read Full Post »

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!

Read Full Post »