Archive for the ‘Hettie’ Category

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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The loss of our darling, glamour girl Flavia has been a particularly difficult one for us; it was very sudden and very shocking and we are still struggling to come to terms with it.

The 16th March 2012 was a Friday and at about 5.30pm we received a phone call from our vets, a hen had been abandoned there. She had been attacked by the family dog, had been patched up by the vets, but as she had been given baytril, her owners to longer wanted her as they could not sell her eggs (due to the baytril withdrawal period).Would we have her?

Stupid question, when have we ever said no to a hen??

En route to the vets, I was thinking of F names for her and going along the old fashioned ladies names route, had chosen Freda. On seeing her, cradled in the nurse’s arms, I knew a Freda she was not. She was a Black Rock, exotic and glamorous, with a collar of shiny golden feathers. On the way home I asked her what she would like to be called and Flavia was the name that sprang to mind. I am a fan of Strictly and Flavia was one of my favourite dancers…petite and glamorous…no other name would do.

As an emergency new girl, Flavia’s initial home with us was a cat basket in the greenhouse; safe but not particularly homely. She spent her first few days exploring the human’s garden (in the days before a certain Miss Effie Chicken occupied it) getting used to her new life. We thought we would integrate her slowly but Flav had other ideas. One morning, about five days into her life with us, Gary accidentally left the gate between the two gardens open and Flavia just sauntered through, cool as you like. And that was that.

Gorgeous Girl Flavia

Gorgeous Girl Flavia

Flavia was our first non-exbatt, and my girls, all shades of auburn and ginger, could not quite understand what she was. I think they thought she was a large blackbird and consequently they ignored her. There was none of the handbags at dawn silliness we usually get with integrations, Flav was content to be bottom hen and the others just let her be.

Except Eliza…

Newly integrated to the main flock, Eliza was bottom hen and she was keen to let this new usurper know that she, Eliza, would not be bottom hen any more. Luckily, Flavia was not a fighter and was not interested in Eliza’s domination strategies, and happily settled into bottom hen mode. Strangely though, the two hens quickly became firm friends and Eliza would often chirrup that she had found a tasty treat for Flavia. They spent many happy hours together as a twosome, foraging the garden for bugs and worms.

Despite their dreadful past life, I have found that exbatts tend to be inquisitive, trusting and friendly towards humans and are almost always happy to be cuddled. Flavia though, maybe because of her breed or because of her sad history, was not fond of human contact. She got terribly distressed if we tried to pick her up, so we had as little hands on contact with her as we could. Much as my arms ached to cuddle this gorgeous girl, we respected her wishes to be left alone.

When new girl Hettie arrived, also a non-exbatt, Flavia showed great kindness and compassion in welcoming a fellow outsider to the flock. A kind girl as well as a beautiful one, she showed that her beauty was more than skin deep. At night times the two girls snuggled up together in the big nest box in Henderlay, with Eliza perching protectively above them. A happy little threesome, they formed a secure sub-flock of the main Big Girls flock.

With Hettie being part Light Sussex and therefore prone to broodiness, she spent much of June and July this year in the nestbox, and the trio became a duo for much of the summer. So with the sad passing of top hen Eliza in late June, Flavia felt her loss very badly. She became a little off colour and out of sorts but regular (and upsetting for her) checks proved nothing to be amiss; other than what would seem to be a broken heart.

Best Friends Flavia and Eliza

Best Friends Flavia and Eliza

However, on 18th July, Miss Flavia Chicken passed away very suddenly. Her death was traumatic for us all, but I believe a girl as private as Flavia deserves dignity and so I will not go into details. Her death broke my heart and my spirit and will haunt me forever. Suffice to say though that she went to sleep peacefully in my arms and that is maybe all we can hope for.

She was cremated with sweet peas under her wing and her ashes were buried with sweetpeas, a beautiful flower for a beautiful girl.

RIP darling Flavia, our glamour girl forever dancing at the Rainbow Bridge xx

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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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On Friday evening, a very special little Silkie hen travelled across three counties to come and live with us. Bullied by her coop mates she had been seeking sanctuary in a rabbit hutch until her new life began.

The day before she came to live with us she had somehow been attacked by other hens in her flock and on opening up her cat carrier we discovered this special baby was unable to walk. Her left leg hung lifelessly and at a scary angle. After an arnica rub and painkiller she was tucked up in her new coop with her warm duck-shaped wheatbag. The next day Uncle Jason could find nothing broken or obviously wrong and thought she had nerve damage. After also seeking advice from specialist chicken vets I put her on metacam and continued with the three times a day arnica rubs. If it is nerve damage, it may well take time to heal.

Miss Izzy Hen

Miss Izzy Hen

So for the past week, little Izzy hen has had cuddles and massages and medicine and has been fed tempting treats. Her previous owner warned me she was suffering from depression and I believe she is. She is sad, limpy and lonely. Seeing her struggle is heartbreaking. When I pick her up she trembles in fear and at first when I clambered into her run she struggled desperately to get away. It was a pitiful sight. But in the past few days she hasn’t tried to escape me and has even let me stroke her as she sat on the grass.

I remember another little hen who was terrified, traumatised and trembled when she was touched…

Little Effie, is intrigued by her new friend. The first time she saw her she threw herself against the fence as expected. Izzy squeaked in fear and Effie immediately backed off, somewhat ashamed. Since then, Effie has cautiously watched Izzy and even sat on the other side of the fence to her. They actually seem to enjoy each other’s company. Two little hens with broken hearts and bodies who, I am hoping by all things good in the world, will find love and friendship together.

There seems to be a poignant symmetry in the fact that Effie lost Miss Basket, the little hen with the bad leg who cared for her and helped mend her spirit, and is now with another hen with a bad leg whose own spirit needs Effie to help mend it.

Hello. My friend Miss Basket had a bad leg too, just like you...

Hello. My friend Miss Basket had a bad leg too, just like you…

This evening, after what has admittedly been a difficult week (Hetty is broody to add to our troubles), we had two very, very small but I hope significant steps in the rehabilitation of Izzy’s spirit and body and of Effie’s heart.

As Izzy stood up, she used her bad leg to help push her up to a standing position. She has never done that before and it is a start. But perhaps most importantly, when Izzy had had her massage she squawked in distress as she was put back on the ground. Immediately, Effie came rushing across to the fence and chirruped at Izzy, checking she was OK.

Little, but important steps and as my lovely friend and long-time Effie supporter Quolanta said:

Little steps make the longest friends

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The sun has got his hat on and all the hens in my garden are happy! Long, warm days spent foraging, dust bathing and dozing in the glorious Cornish sunshine are just what my special girls love most.

Young Hettie Hen is now a fully fledged ex-batt sister – well almost. She still sleeps with teddy in her own coop and has shown no inclination to sleep with the big girls. But that will come when she is ready. In the daytime, though, she pootles about with her big sisters who now accept her as part of their little flock. Her best friend is Bella Chicken and even though Bella is top hen, she gently cleans Hettie’s beak, lets Hettie share her food and lets her snooze next to her in the sunshine.

Hettie hanging out with her sisters!

Hettie hanging out with her sisters!

Greta Garbo has a new trick. She waits until I am kneeling down talking to the girls, then sidles up and swiftly pulls my beautiful badger earring out of my ear and runs off with it!! Little minx!

Miss Basket is still not 100% after her implant – she spends much of the day sleeping and is not eating very much. I think she is suffering from the heat as she is much perkier first and last thing, when it is cooler. She has been for a check-up with Uncle Jason and all is as well as can be expected. She has however, decided that Effie’s daily egg, which was up until now too precious to be eaten, is now fair game and tucks into it when my back is turned. Six days out of seven I just find the shell in the nest box and a nonchalant Miss Basket dozing in the garden, her crop full of egg! Still, she needs it more than I do.

Effie, in spite of the indignity of having her egg eaten, is happily tending to her beloved friend. She sits with her in the daytime, preening her gently and at night time snuggles on top of her in a two hen pyramid. They love each other very much indeed. For two little hens who had never known what it was to have a friend, to suddenly be sharing your days in the sun with your soulmate must be the stuff of dreams. So deep is their friendship, I do worry that one will not cope should anything happen to the other. I do have a plan, but Old Grumpy needs to be convinced…watch this space.

"Love you Effie." " Love you too, Miss Basket" xxx

“Love you Effie.” ” Love you too, Miss Basket.” xxx

And finally I am thrilled to say that the book is selling very well!! We have repeatedly been number one on the kindle and paperback bird charts and have five star reviews across the board! The more copies we sell, the more money we raise for hen rehoming charities. The book also featured in Your Chickens this month, as did Effie’s bi-monthly column telling of her rise to international superstardom!!

But all joking aside, the book, the column, this blog all have one purpose and that is to spread the word about the wonder that is ex-batts.

And there is more exciting news…but I will tell you next time!

Jo xx

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Friday evening saw the arrival of a beautiful blonde lady to our little Rosewarne flock!

Miss Hettie Hen, a glamorous mix of Light Sussex and Cornish Game, had been badly picked on by the hens in her flock. Her lovely owner, who had raised her from a chick, was distraught at having to part with her but needed a loving home for her where she would be safe from bullying hens. And spoilt rotten! So, naturally, she came to us!!

She is currently in her own coop and run until she settles in but apart from a little shouting by Grace Kelly, and Eliza giving her the evil eye from a distance, all has been calm. I have high hopes Miss Hettie Hen will soon be in with the big girls!

She is a sweet, gentle, beautiful girl; I have so missed having a white hen in the garden since my darling Clara passed away, Hettie has arrived at the perfect time!

Welcome to our home sweetheart xx

Miss Hettie Chicken

Miss Hettie Chicken

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