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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

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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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Miss Greta Garbo Chicken has a very important announcement … she is finally wearing knickers!!!

Greta, if you remember, is the exbatt with the bootylicous bottom. Two-and-a-half years’ free, she has always had a swollen rear end that was completely featherless. Her big, knickerless bottom never really gave her any issues, she has always been a happy and active girl who loves her food. Occasionally her bottom swelled a little and felt fluidy and she was treated with furosemide and dandelion tea until things settled down. She has had regular check-ups with Uncle Jason but has never had an ill day in her free range life.

The first sign something was changing was that Greta stopped her usual trick of sitting on eggs in the coop and claiming them as her own. She showed no interest at all in Lupin’s eggs (the only girl laying at the minute)!! Then, over the winter, she started a small moult and something miraculous happened! Not only did her bottom reduce in size, literally, overnight to an almost ‘normal’ size, but she started to grow feathers on it!! They are currently at the paintbrush stage.

I have absolutely no idea how this has happened; Jason and I believed her bootylicous area was scar tissue … obviously it was just fluid and for some reason it has gone. Maybe it is linked to her eggy urges stopping, maybe it is something else. Either way, she is looking even more magnificent and beautiful than before and by spring I hope to be able to post a picture of her fully grown, fabulous frilly knickers!

Gorgeous Greta!

Gorgeous Greta!

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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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On Friday 19th December, a very special event was celebrated here at Rosewarne. Miss Effie Chicken and Miss Flora-Jayne Chicken celebrated the amazingly brilliant achievement of being free range girls for three years!

This is no mean feat as ex-battery hens are bred to live for about two years, 18 months of that laying intensively. To survive a year out of the cages is good, two very good and three … well, three is a first for me!!

Effie’s story is well documented here in this blog, she came to me a terrified scrap of feathers, injured and traumatised and her rehabilitation took many months. She showed me what cages can do to a hen physically and emotionally and, more importantly, what a brave heart can overcome given love and care. She is my special girl and the three years she has blessed my life has been an absolute privilege. I adore her and am grateful for every day she spends with me.

Miss Flora-Jayne, my strawberry blonde showgirl, came to live with us about 18 months ago. She had come from the same rescue as Effie and all of my E girls, but she and her three new sisters had gone to live with two lovely ladies in Helston. However, Flora outlived all of her sisters and was a lonely girl, so she came to live with us. She recognised Eliza immediately and the two hens were mesmerised by each other. It is not so improbable, they came from the same row of cages and could easily have been in the same or neighbouring cages. It does go to prove though, that hens recognise other hens and also have excellent memories! Flora has never had a sick day in her life, she is gorgeous and happy and feathery and an absolute delight to care for!!

Showgirl Flora-Jayne!

Showgirl Flora-Jayne!

Before the Big Day, parcels and cards started to arrive for the Henniversary Girls: Numerous tasty morsels from Sarah and Ann, mealworms and personalised cards from Liz, handmade festive treats from Megan and Dawn and mealworms from Quolanta. All were addressed to the hens and invariably ended up at college reception. Luckily the receptionist is aware of the girls and only commented that they were very popular! The night before, Gem brought round a couple of dozen quails’ eggs for the girls’ breakfast, and after cooking, peeling and mashing them, I made bunting and mealworm cakes. We were ready!!

Presents, cards and bunting!

Presents, cards and bunting!

The girls adored their quails’ eggs breakfast and then excitedly headed off for a dustbath and forage. At lunch time the party began in earnest. The cakes were devoured in moments and the treats were scattered – Effie and Flora had kindly allowed their gifts to be shared. We sung Happy Henniversary and the girls posed for some photos before human friend, Jane, turned up to join in the celebrations*. It wasn’t long before the sun started to set and the exhausted party goers headed happily off to bed, crops full of tasty treats.

Effie and BFF Lemony enjoy their cake!

Effie and BFF Lemony enjoy their cake!

In all seriousness I found the day very emotional. Effie means the world to me and the fact that we have managed to get her to enjoy three years as a free range hen is truly amazing. She has overcome so many hurdles, her big, brave heart is an inspiration to me and to the many lovely people who have read about her and love her almost as much as I do.

Here is to another three wonderful years xxx

*I can only apologise to the man who was up a ladder painting my neighbour’s house and witnessed the entire thing in absolute amazement!

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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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