Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘animal welfare’

My little girl is gone and still I cannot believe it. From the day I brought her home, a terrified little bundle of feathers, Effie’s death was something I feared every day. Now that she has left me, I simply cannot comprehend it but must somehow learn to face life without her.

Effie’s tale is much documented – in this blog, in magazines and books and in exhibitions across the world, she became something of a legend. The little hen with the twisted neck (that gave her beautiful body her unique shape) who overcame physical and emotional traumas to find love and happiness in the Cornish sunshine with her beloved Miss Basket and then, with the tragic passing of Miss Basket, she learnt the wonders of motherhood with her three bantam babies. I have many, many wonderful memories of Effie in my head, my favourite is possibly the image of her, a new ‘mother’ standing in the coop at bedtime, her leg cocked in a most unladylike fashion, awaiting the three little feathery bundles who loved to tuck themselves underneath their new mum each night. Effie had a big, brave, beautiful and loving heart.

Effie sunbathes whilst her beloved Miss Basket watches over her

Effie sunbathes whilst her beloved Miss Basket watches over her

Mummy Effie and her bantam babies

Mummy Effie and her bantam babies

However, whilst my girl was enjoying every moment of her free range life, her precious body was slowly succumbing to the scars of her caged life.

She had been suffering from a suspected brain tumour for a while – the weeping ear a sign something sinister was lurking inside her beautiful head. In recent months she had increasingly been suffering from panic attacks and was generally slowing down. But about two weeks before she died, she suddenly went blind, or at least lost much of her vision. She was unable to judge distances and walked into objects. Knowing now, that the much dreaded end was in sight, we brought her inside the Human Coop – where she had been spending more and more time anyway with Lemony being broody. We adapted the Human Coop to her needs and she seemed to be coping well. The specialist vets assured me as long as her quality of life was good, then she would be fine. And Effie was happy in the Human Coop, she considered herself human anyway, and had come full circle. She started her life with us in the Human Coop almost four years ago, it seemed fitting it should be where she ended it.

Effie enjoying the comforts of the Human Coop

Effie enjoying the comforts of the Human Coop

For about ten days all was well, she ate, slept and pootled about the house, but then signs started to indicate that things were going downhill all too quickly. Always a girl who loved her food, suddenly her appetite wasted away to almost nothing and she started to be a little unsteady on her feet. You try and ignore these things, as they are indications of something too painful too comprehend, but then on the Tuesday evening she lost the ability to walk, she fell onto her face repeatedly, panicking and screaming. That all important quality of life was deteriorating rapidly. Knowing what awaited us on Wednesday I spent the night cuddled up with her on the sofa, calming her by talking to her, stroking her feathers and keeping her safe. It was the longest night, but also the shortest night. I tried to tell her how much she meant to me, to so many of us, and she heard me and replied with her gentle bwarks, but there would never be enough time to tell her how truly amazing she was. Our bond went beyond human and pet but was a meeting of spirits. She had been waiting for me and I for her. And now it was time for me to do the hardest but also the kindest thing.

An Effie cuddle was always an honour and a privilege but none more so than when I held her in my arms, as she passed away, slipping peacefully from this world. She died being told how much she was loved and that Miss Basket was waiting for her. And I find a little consolation knowing that Effie is now forever reunited with her beloved Miss Basket.

Effie and Miss Basket, flying forever free together

Effie and Miss Basket, flying forever free together

She was cremated the following evening, a garland of sweetpeas over her body and under her wings and a bouquet of sweetpeas on top of her pink shroud as her spirit soared skywards. In what was the darkest of days for us, a little ray of hope and love flickered in all the beautiful candle tributes people lit for her – not just in the UK but across Europe. We were unbelievably touched by such kindness.

Our candle tribute to Effie. Her candle is the one in the middle at the front and is in a holder with Effie's name linked to Miss Basket's with a heart

Our candle tribute to Effie. Her candle is the one in the middle at the front and is in a holder with Effie’s name linked to Miss Basket’s with a heart

No words I can write will ever do my Effie justice so I need to make her name and spirit live on to help other hens. Effie’s Garden (as it will forever be known) is already the garden for special hens that Effie had always planned it should be. People contacted me during her lifetime and more so since her death to say that she had made them view hens differently and that Effie’s story had inspired them to get their own hens. To think there are ex-battery hens enjoying a life of freedom today because of Effie, means my girl has left an amazing legacy. For myself I need to do something else for Effie’s memory, as yet I do not know exactly what, but it will come to me and she will guide me. The love and energy that was my little Effie will find a way to truly live on.

Hello gorgeous girl xx

Hello gorgeous girl xx

For anyone who has ever had, and lost, ex-batts they will understand just how much these girls mean to you. There is something undefinably vulnerable and yet invincible about them. After the abuse they have suffered, still they have the heart to forgive humans, to love us and trust us. I never fail to be humbled by their humanity. And to me, Effie was the epitome of all of those emotions and characteristics. She was more than just a special chicken, she was a symbol of hope for every commercial hen across the world, every animal who suffers abuse at the hands of humans.

And she was my world.

But still, I cannot believe she has gone. Losing her has broken my heart. But the blessing of having known her and to have been the recipient of all the love a little chicken could give to a human will somehow hold my heart together and make me strong enough to face a world without her.

Your work here is done my darling, sleep well old friend xxxx

Beautiful Effie

Beautiful Effie

Advertisements

Read Full Post »

Many of you will remember that last year Effie was treated for her Earfection, the upshot of which was she had a suspected tumour or blockage causing the problem but with her being otherwise healthy (and elderly) we decided not to investigate further.

Sadly, in the past week or so Eff has been losing her sight. I think it is just in one eye but it is hard to gauge the extent. I first noticed it one morning when she was standing still and seemingly unable to move (this disorientation is something I had noticed a couple of times before). When she did start to walk, she walked into walls and the door and was totally unable to jump up the small step into the Human Coop. When I tried to tempt her with an eggy treat she was unable to peck at it, missing the mark by quite a way.

I remember a couple of years ago, beautiful Clara losing her sight, and she died very suddenly overnight. The Avian Vets thought she may have had an infection that caused the loss of sight, so I dosed Effie up with baytril and metacam just in case, although in my heart of hearts I knew it was the tumour pressing on her optical nerve. When I spoke to the Avian Vets they agreed it was the most likely scenario but as long as her quality of life was good then she would be OK.

As she was so very vulnerable outside and understandably prone to panicking, we have moved her inside permanently so she is in a familiar and safe environment. She is now sleeping in the lounge at night and can potter about the downstairs during the day. Her little Lemony bantam is still broody but as soon as she starts to come out of it I will reintegrate her with her bantie sisters before putting them all into the main flock in the Big Girls’ Garden. Effie will then have escorted walks around her garden when the weather is good.

She has adjusted very well to her loss of sight and is now able to eat more easily. We have found putting food in contrasting bowls – such as bright egg yolk in a dark bowl – is a big help, as is tapping the bowl gently to guide her. Just as if we had a small child in the house, we have removed anything she may injure herself on or trip over, such as wires, shoes etc. She is still enjoying her food, in particular any naughty treats such as egg, couscous, sweetcorn and a little cheese but I am very much of the opinion that, at this stage, anything she eats is a good thing. With our help, she is coping.

But it is breaking my heart. I am all too aware we are taking steps along Effie’s final journey with us and the care we are giving her is now very much end of life. The tumour is not going to go away and her eyesight is not going to improve. The thought of losing her is too much to bear. I want to spend every minute of every day with her as I know that there will not be many more days that she will bless my life, where I will be able to tell her just how much I love her. So every day I can hold her, stroke her feathers, breathe in her special Effie-scent and tell her just how much she means to me must be a good day. And I must hold myself and my breaking heart together for her until she tells me it is time to go.

Effie in the sun last year

Effie in the sun last year

Read Full Post »

Little Lupin Chicken and her two sisters arrived to live with us last August, three little girls who had been starved in the cage and consequently were all in a dreadful physical state. Surprisingly it was the largest hen, Larkspur, who succumbed to illness the quickest, passing away after only a few weeks of freedom, while tiny Lupin and Lavender quickly feathered up and started to grow strong and healthy.

Lovely Lupin on rehoming

Lovely Lupin on rehoming

Named after the flower, Lupin also took on the more wolf-like connotations of her name, taking it upon herself to be top hen of this little trio and sleeping by the coop door each night, guarding her new sisters. It made for a touching sight, this feisty little scrap of skin and bone, fearlessly protecting her new family. She was brave as well as beautiful, a little girl with a big heart.

She was also a very hungry girl and spent much of her day filling her crop, one of the many things life in a cage had denied her. Very soon though, Loops and Lav (as they became known!) realised that life wasn’t just about survival, it is about having fun and being happy and Lupin embraced her new life with an unadulterated joy. Each day was a marvellous new adventure.

Loops, not long after rehoming, enjoying her favourite pastime. Note her beautiful quills emerging

Loops, not long after rehoming, enjoying her favourite pastime. Note her beautiful quills emerging

Merging Loops and Lav with the big girls was so easy, neither of them were interested in being top hen and avoided any fisticuffs. Life is too short to be worrying about such things. Lupin’s joy at her new life featured in a couple of magazines in an article called Through Eyes of Wonder.

“Lupin and Lavender … now have a whole garden to explore – bugs to find, holes to dig and grass to scratch, every day bringing new and exciting exploits; they are first up in the morning and last to bed at night. Their enthusiasm for life is contagious and their happiness a delight to witness.”

Look at those beautiful feathers growing!

Look at those beautiful feathers growing!

However, little Loops had the ghosts of her old life still haunting her. That crop that had been so empty in the cages, was weakened and caused her all sorts of problems. Occasionally it became impacted so we tried pineapple, oil and massage which seemed to work at first. Her crop episodes were sporadic and initially only mild but as time went on they became more severe and each time we feared we would lose her. However, Lupin was a fighter, she wasn’t going to give up on her wonderful new life without a fight, she still had too much fun to have.

Loops (right) and Lav enjoying special henniversary cake

Loops (right) and Lav enjoying special henniversary cake

What we did discover though was that she was a squiggler!! Hated being picked up, hated her medicine and squiggled away as soon as she was able. Poor baby. So when she had to go to see Uncle Jason for an implant to stop her soft eggs, I was very concerned about her in the cat carrier. I hate putting ex-batts in it as there is a wire door and I fear they will think they are back in the cage again. So I put Loops in the carrier on the front seat, we had the Abba CD playing and we sang along to Chiquitita, changing the words to Chicken Lupin which she seemed to find soothing.

But sadly soon after the implant, things quickly took a downward turn. The next day she was very under the weather and I hoped it was just the effect of the implant – but in my heart I knew it was her poor crop again. I do not know if it was the shock of the implant that triggered it, so naturally feel responsible for her subsequent illness. Within a couple of days she had developed sour crop and, although we tried everything we could to make her better, she continued to get worse and nothing that we tried to syringe into her was going through. She was losing weight rapidly and becoming very weak.

On her final morning, we found her with foul fluid pouring out of her beak and she was hardy able to stand. Knowing it was her last day, I put her in the sunshine under an apple tree. She turned her head to the sun and closed her eyes, I am sure she knew it was time, but wanted to enjoy one more moment of sunshine in the garden she loved so. On the way to the vets we sang along to ‘Chicken Lupin’ again in the hope it would comfort her and once there, she went to sleep almost immediately, her poor body exhausted from fighting her illness. She was peaceful in my arms but she took a while to pass over, it was almost as if she was hanging on to every last scrap of life.

Loops and Lav (left) enjoying life!

Loops and Lav (left) enjoying life!

She was cremated that evening with the first sweetpea of the summer under her wing as well as some lavender flowers. Her soulmate in life was Lavender and I felt she needed to take something of her darling friend with her on her journey.

And now our garden feels empty without the joyful energy of Lupin in it. Her friend and partner-in-crime Lavender, is very subdued and misses her sister almost as much as we do.

Rest in peace now my darling brave girl, eat to your crop’s content and never feel pain, hunger or fear again. You are safe now darling. Fly high little Loops xxxx

Read Full Post »

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

Read Full Post »

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!

Read Full Post »

Miss Dorothy-Kate was a big, gorgeous, feisty chicken with a character to match! Rescued in October 2012, she originally went to live in Helston with her sister Doreen, and her new human family, John and Sharon. Within weeks she was soon described as a ‘bit of a character’.  Quite the escapologist, Dorothy was often found exploring next door’s garden or standing on top of the Cornish hedge at the bottom of her own garden, bwarking away – almost as if she was daring the local foxes – ‘come ‘ere if you think you’re hard enough’!

I first met Dorothy near the end of 2013 when she and Doreen came to stay for a week whilst their humans went to London. Despite a dividing fence, that first morning was like World War Three. My girls were not impressed by these two newbies and Dorothy was equally furious at being fenced off when there was a whole new garden to explore.  I should have realised then what a big-spirited girl I was dealing with!

But with her big spirit, came her equally big heart. A few months later, Doreen became ill and sadly passed away leaving Dorothy alone. The sight of her forlornly cuddling up to a teddy in her coop at night was enough for John to bring her to live with the Rosewarne ladies.

Beautiful Dorothy-Kate

Beautiful Dorothy-Kate

At this point, in July 2014, she became Dorothy-Kate; she had to be a K girl and I couldn’t possibly change her name, so Dorothy-Kate she became.

After the initial two-week separation period I introduced Miss Dorothy to her new sisters – after giving my girls a stern talk on ‘being nice to the new girl’. I needn’t have worried, within five minutes Dorothy had established herself as top chicken, and that was that!!

However, very soon Dorothy-Kate (or DK to her friends) took on all the serious duties of a top hen. She rounded her girls up for bed each night, protected them during the day, and very sweetly, started to crow whenever she heard the neighbourhood cockerel start up in the morning. In what became something of a ‘crow-off’ she stood fast, her little feet planted squarely on the floor, and replied to every one of his crows with a rather impressive one of her own! It was very endearing and one of my favourite memories of her.

Dorothy-Kate, Greta and Flora-Jayne tuck into a treat!

Dorothy-Kate, Greta and Flora-Jayne tuck into a treat!

DK was however battling the same issues so many ex-batts struggle with. At over two years’ free she was starting to suffer from crop problems. Often a sign something nasty is lurking elsewhere, we treated her as best we could and managed to pull her back from the brink on many occasions. Never underestimate the will to live of an ex-batt! Especially a girl as feisty as our darling Dorothy-Kate.

In February this year, Dorothy and Flora-Jayne became ex-batt ambassadors extraordinaire. They took part as show hens in a short course on Keeping Pet Chickens and were, understandably, the stars of the show! They behaved like the true professionals they were and charmed their audience, who all went home eager to have their own ex-batts.  A little hen can ask for no greater legacy than to know that because of her, some of her caged sisters will be rescued and given a new life. I was so terribly proud of them.

Dorothy reads the paper backstage

Dorothy reads the paper backstage

Unfortunately, a few weeks later, Dorothy became ill again, her crop not emptying and her abdomen swelling at an alarming rate. I tried everything I knew to help her but to no avail; sadly I had run out of tricks. She was in pain and was getting worse by the day so, for a girl whose dignity was so important to her, I knew it was time. I asked John to come round to say goodbye to her before we visited Aunty Gina, who agreed that a girl as special as Dorothy needed to die in peace and with dignity. At two-and-a-half years’ free, she had spent longer out of the cage than in it. It is little comfort at times like these, but as she passed away peacefully in my arms, I hope her memories were of sunshine, worms, friends and sunbathing – all the things a little chicken should always be able to enjoy.

John wanted to take Dorothy home to bury her with her sister Doreen, so I wrapped her little body up snugly and placed some forget-me-nots under her wing. It was exceptionally hard to hand her precious body over – normally I see them through to the very end – but Dorothy had only ever been staying with us and she needed to be with her other sister. If I trusted anyone to care for her, it would be John and Sharon – they have good, kind souls. She is now buried next to her beloved Doreen with camellias on her grave. She also has, however, a stone here at Rosewarne, and will always be a part of our flock.

She was a big, brave and beautiful girl; a top hen and a show hen and all of us here, human and chicken, will miss her. Sleep tight darling Dorothy-Kate, fly high sweetheart xxxx

Read Full Post »

Don’t get me wrong, I love spring. With the longer days I get to see more of my hens (only interrupted by annoying bouts of work) and the girls enjoy the sun’s returning warmth. But there is a less sunny side to spring – the toll it can take on the girls. One dark spring weekend a few years back, we lost three girls in as many days – the demands of nature proving too much for their moult-weakened bodies. Since then I have greeted spring with a mixture of joy and trepidation and gird the girls’ feathery loins as best I can beforehand, getting them into peak physical fitness before spring arrives.

This spring of course has been no different and we have had the usual round of illnesses and dramas. Both Lupin and Dorothy-Kate have suffered from impacted crops. For Lupin, her crop is obviously her weak area – starved in the cage, she understandably ate until it was almost bursting on rehoming – but a few days of pineapple, oil and massages sees her back to her normal cheeky self.

Dorothy’s was a far more serious affair. An older and pretty bolshie ex-batt she is not one to succumb to something as mundane as illness without it being something rather nasty. Indeed, there was a time I thought we were going to lose her. But Dorothy, true to feisty form, rallied and pulled through. She had been having pineapple, oil and massages twice a day for a week but her crop was still not emptying. We asked Uncle Jason for some metroclopramide and bingo! The crop cleared and has been working perfectly ever since. I must admit to really being amazed, I thought we would lose her and had even asked her dad what he wanted regarding her funeral arrangements. Oh me of little faith! Never underestimate the fighting spirit of an ex-batt!

Lemony all recovered from her prolapse and operation

Lemony feeling so much better!!

Our other poorlie area has been prolapses. Lemony bantam had always struggled to lay her eggs, taking most of the morning, so I suppose it was no surprise that she eventually suffered from a prolapse. Uncle Jason kindly performed emergency Saturday morning surgery on her, giving her little vent a purse string suture and gave her the suprelorin implant. After an anxious few days of Prolapse Watch she was back in the loving wings of Effie, untroubled by any more eggs.

Just like children, hens will be ill at the most awkward of times. Moments before we left for a long day in Devon, I discovered Flora had a prolapse. It was impossible to leave her unsupervised so Gary kindly stayed with her whilst Caroline and I headed up to Exeter to see Tom and Amanda. Consequently crowned the Prolapse King of Cornwall, Gary successfully treated her so by the time I checked her the next morning, everything was just where it should be. Unlike the spare bedroom she had been staying in – poo-covered chaos!! But she was booked in to see Uncle Jason on the Monday morning for an implant to avoid any more poppings out.

Flora-Jayne back to looking amazing!

Flora-Jayne back to looking amazing!

And then there is my Effie. Over the years Eff has had three implants as she has been plagued by soft eggs but I had hoped that now, at over five years old, egg laying was behind her. But after a few days of her jumping onto things, nestling in corners and a definite reddening of her comb, sure enough a pained Effie produced a softie. Two days later the same thing happened so, you guessed it, straight to Uncle Jason for an implant. She is now back to being egg free and naughty!

At £100 a shot for three implants, plus one operation and numerous meds it has certainly not been cheap but, what has proved to be a financially disastrous spring for us humans, has also proved to – so far (I cannot tempt fate) – be a successful one healthwise for the girls. And after all they are the ones that are important!

Spring Chicken Effie!

Spring Chicken Effie

Read Full Post »

« Newer Posts - Older Posts »