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Archive for the ‘Keeping Pet Chickens’ Category

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

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

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

Quite the dilemma!

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

Dorothy reads the paper backstage

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

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

Flora-Jayne has her wings clipped

Flora-Jayne has her wings clipped

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

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

Talking chicken books at the end of the course

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

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

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

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

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

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