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Nine very excited little hens have just tucked themselves up in their coops, trying very hard to stay awake to see if Father Christmas comes!

Nobody wanted to go to bed tonight so to keep everybody happy we had a rousing rendition of Winter Wonderland (Sleigh bells ring, are you listening? Bwark!) before sitting very quietly and listening for sleigh bells. We remembered their sisters at the Rainbow Bridge and then we thought about all the little hens who will not be free girls this season and whose Christmas Day will consist of staring at the inside of a cage. And we decided we were all very lucky.

Now they are finally asleep I can put the finishing touches to their Christmas cakes and wrap up their presents.

As Christmas morning dawns they will have a special breakfast of scrambled egg followed by a day of love, cuddles and treats. And they will enjoy the one thing that is so precious to every little ex-battery hen – her freedom.

Seasons blessings to everyone and may the new year bring us all happiness and a kinder, more compassionate world for animals and humans alike.

With love from Effie, Miss Basket and all the Rosewarne hens xxxxx

With love from Effie, Miss Basket and all the Rosewarne hens xxxxx

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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.

Gina

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.

Flavia

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

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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!

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We love our chickens here at Rosewarne. And if a garden full of gorgeous girls is not enough, our house is filling up with chickens too!

No, not more poorlie girls in the ICU (yet), these are not real chickens but chickenalia. Basically if it has a chicken on it, I want it!

My obsession started soon after the arrival of the three A girls (almost two years to the day) when Gary went to an artist’s fair in Falmouth and very kindly brought me a beautiful Barbara Karn print of three chickens. It looked just like my three angels and after having a frame custom made is now in pride of place in the hall. It is also my avatar on facebook, twitter and this blog! Unfortunately my three A girls did not make it to the luxury quarters of Henderlay (darling Audrey, the last of the three passed away the night before they moved in) so a copy of the print is on the Hen-der-lay sign; meaning all of my girls have lived there.

The Hen-der-lay sign featuring Misses Aurora, Agatha and Audrey Chicken

Next came the ‘Beware of the Ex-Batts’ plaque which is currently on the garden gate. I am also hankering after a ‘Free Range Ladies Live Here’ sign for the gate to their garden!

Then came the fleece and t-shirt with chickens on. Closely followed by the coasters, calendar, car sticker, apron, Cath Kitson tea towels, mug, ‘Keep Calm and Keep Chickens’ sign and numerous chickeny knick knacks. I have saved all the chicken-themed Christmas and birthday cards and covered my drab 1970s-nightmare beige kitchen cabinets in them.

Gary has even asked our lovely, talented friend Helen to make me a feather-inspired silver bracelet for Christmas

Most recently I have bought some lovely chicken cards made by my friend Christina’s very clever mum – they are just beautiful.

As I was sitting in the garden (between showers, thunderstorms and hurricanes) chatting to the girls about all my chickenalia, they were admiring Gregory (Peck) the cockerel on my mug of tea. Now Effie wants to launch her own range of Effinalia – Effie mugs, Effie pictures, Effie coasters etc and Bunty Goodchicken has decided the world needs a book of the story of her life…

Effie has plans for her own range of Effinalia!

But back in the sane world I now have a chance to spread the chicken love…my friend Janie at Hedgecombers writes a wonderful blog and also draws the most beautiful hen pictures and cards   She has very kindly asked if I would do a competition to give away one of her beautiful prints!

Ida and her Atkins Diet!

So for your chance to win this fabulous chicken print of Ida and her Atkins Diet please comment on this blog or on my facebook or twitter pages and I will draw a name at random on Friday 29th June. This special day is Clara and CocoChanel’s one year henniversary so a celebratory day all round!

Good luck, I just wish I could enter!!

And if you have five minutes, please watch this little Chicken Song by Finding Violet It is sad but not graphic, but have a tissue handy xx

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Recently this blog has been about such sad events, that to lift our spirits and coincide with spring introducing new life I am celebrating some wonderful and positive news about my girls! Health, friendship, a new coop and a Smallholder magazine covergirl!

My ten girls are all healthy and happy and enjoying the spring sunshine. Seeing them stretching out those newly feathered wings in glorious delight to catch the sun’s springtime warmth makes you truly appreciate that every day free ranging is a blessing and we must cherish every moment, just as our girls do.

Eliza

Flavia and Eliza are now pretty much fully integrated with the Big Girls – Bunty Goodchicken was even cleaning Flavia’s beak tonight, bless her gentle soul. All eight girls are spending their first night together in Henderlay this evening and are currently tucked up together in perfect harmony! An early start in the morning to check on them though!

Flavia

Effie and Eleanor are having a new deluxe, ex-batt-specific prototype coop delivered next week. We are all terribly excited. The lovely people at Oakdene Coops have developed a recycled plastic coop especially for ex-batts and have asked us to give them our thoughts on it. Effie and Eleanor are looking forward to trying it out and giving me their opinions! Personally I think if anyone cares enough to develop a coop especially for these precious girls then it is going to be a stunner. Watch this space…

Effie and Eleanor freeranging

People who have chickens are truly amazing and by the power of the internet and social media we are able to ‘speak’ to and connect with fellow chicken lovers across the globe. These people become friends and confidantes as they are privy to our thoughts and feelings, often much more so than people we interact with daily in the real world. Sometimes we are lucky enough to encounter our online friends in the flesh so it was wonderful to meet the lovely Jan and her family today. Meeting people you have talked to online is always like catching up with old friends – you have already shared so much – and like any proud parent I am always delighted to show off my girls. Jan was kind enough to bring me two beautiful cards with chickens on – as a fellow chicken lover she knew how much I would appreciate them! Next week, another online chicken chum, Paula, is heading down to Cornwall and I am looking forward to more chicken chat and yes…showing off my girls again!!

And finally but most certainly not least, Bunty Goodchicken’s fame is spreading far and wide. Never was there a more deserving chicken – the kindest, sweetest, bravest girl I have ever encountered. She is the May covergirl for Smallholder magazine, an exciting event for us both. Her picture graces the front cover and my article – on how amazing ex-batts are and why everyone should have them – is featured. It is almost impossible to explain how important this is to us all. Promoting ex-batts has become a life mission for me; helping these victims of the intensive farming system is the most important thing I have ever done. Writing has also been a lifelong passion of mine and to have an article published in Smallholder magazine is totally thrilling. Smallholder is my favourite magazine, it has a fabulous poultry section and I read it from cover to cover each month; it is chock full of useful and informative articles and I am honoured to have written something for them. The article is also illustrated with many photos of my girls, including the adorable Effie, as well as Bunty’s covergirl shot:

Bunty Goodchicken in her covergirl shot

So just as day follows night and spring follows winter, from the ashes of sadness and loss, new, tender joyful beginnings emerge. We are celebrating all that is new, alive and exciting whilst still holding those dear departed close to our hearts.

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I think it would be fair to say we have had an unusually large amount of illness in our little flock recently. I know spring is a bad time for hens with all the demands of the new season on their little bodies but even so I think we have been particularly unlucky.

We lost Bertha, have had Bunty’s prolapse, soft shelled egg issues from Daisy and Effie, Constance’s bleeding vent, Evie’s water belly…the list goes on.

When I had my first hens – I had to have ‘hen holding practice’ beforehand – I knew next to nothing about them, least of all how to diagnose and treat a sick girl. Had I known what I know now, I think I could have maybe saved Aurora and Agatha. I don’t know, it is too upsetting to think about but I think every sick girl you have teaches you something new that you can use to help one of their sisters at a later date. Personally I can never know enough and am still learning so much from both my girls and some real chicken experts.

Clara moulting in January 2012

I think the most important thing is to find a good chicken vet. Vets are quickly cottoning onto the fact that more and more people are keeping hens as pets and organisations such as Chicken Vet run courses and support for vets interested in supporting this new, rapidly developing area. There is a list of accredited vets here.

My local vets have been amazing – especially recently – I have gone in with numerous requests and demands and they have done their very best to accommodate me and my girls. Anything they have not known about, they have researched and then undertaken. From learning about Superlorin implants to scouring Cornwall for Nystatin or performing purse string sutures on Bunty’s prolapsed vent.

I think in these early days of ‘hens as pets’ it is good to go to the vets with an idea of what is wrong and what the best treatment is. Wanting to avoid the ‘hypochondriac with mild symptoms and a medical dictionary’ syndrome I try not to just wildly google my girls symptoms but instead refer to a good, reliable website. By far the best I have found is poultrykeeper with their interactive and really helpful Diseases and Disorders section. It gives you an informed and useful starting point to diagnose your girl’s ailment and also has a forum for more obscure questions. I find it much easier to go to the vets with an ‘I think my hen has XYZ and needs ABC’ than to go in cold.

Another valuable source of information is Twitter. By following chicken experts such as @avianvets, @chickensaspets (both of whom have been invaluable in my battle to beat Brigit’s sour crop Avian Vets ), @chickenvet @chickenstreet and @poultrykeeper you will learn a vast amount about chicken health.

Here I must declare my ‘interest.’ Poultrykeeper have an ex-batt section with a writer you may recognise! Quite frankly I am honoured to be allowed to write for them – there are some real chicken experts writing for the site, I am in esteemed company!

Talking of writing…if anyone reads Smallholder magazine, then reserve your May copy now!!! Not only is the cover girl a stunner but it also features my article!!

I am beyond excited!

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After such a sad start to the week saying goodbye to our darling Bertha, much has been happening in Rosewarne’s world of ex-batty hens. Some good, some bad and some downright surreal…

Effie
All is blissfully quiet in Effie’s world. She is well, she is getting on fabulously with Eleanor and she is enjoying pootling around her large run. Her favourite place in the world, other than my arms (or so I like to think) is standing on her log surveying the world. Long may it last. The sun has been out of late and my darling Effie has been enjoying the sun’s warmth on her feathers for the first time in her little life.

Darling Effie

Evie
Alerted by her increased weight and general sleepiness, much checking and prodding revealed little Evie has ascites, or water belly. This is a build-up of fluid in the abdomen and is basically a circulatory problem which needs to be drained by a vet. Evie was an angel at the vets and very brave. Much of the fluid has been drained and we now need to keep an eye on her in case it needs doing again, which it may well. She is on diuretic pills for a couple of months and also heart pills which she will be on indefinitely. Crushed up in a couple of pieces of tasty cat food she takes her medicine quite happily!!! I fear we will eventually lose Tom’s girl Evie to this so it is up to us to make her as happy and comfortable during her time with us, be it weeks, months or years. Watching her sunbathing this afternoon – stretching her wing out in the glorious warmth – makes it all worthwhile. Every day is a gift.

Beautiful Evie

Daisy
Daisy Doos appeared to be at deaths door the other day. Hunched, listless, pale and pooing yolk. I feared the worst – an egg broken inside her and whisked her to the vet. An internal revealed no shell and within hours she had returned to her usual, dippy, floppy-mop-capped-combed self! Phew!!!

Darling Daisy Doos

Bunty
Miss Bunty Goodchicken has been nominated for a Braveheart Award at the vets due to her outstanding bravery during her prolapse operation and subsequent internals, stitch removal and moult. She had to go for a photoshoot (oh the glamour!) and now we await the results of the competition – I am not averse to bribing the judges if it means my girl wins! We are both debating what we are going to wear to the awards ceremony – I prefer Givenchy but Bunty favours Dior. She is a very grounded girl and will not let the fame go to her head but I have noticed her referring to me as her assistant recently…On a serious note it is a fabulous way to promote both ex-battery hens and chickens as pets.

Miss Bunty Goodchicken - celebrity

Flavia
I received a phonecall from the vets on Friday asking for my help. A hen had been abandoned there and they needed a home for her. What were the chances of me saying no? The little hen had been attacked by the family Jack Russell, successfully patched up by the vets but was no longer wanted as she had been on baytril and the owner could not sell her eggs. Bloody idiots. Within minutes we had picked her up and on the journey home, when debating which name beginning with F would suit her, she informed us her name was Flavia (after Ms Cacace). She is a Black Rock I think and very glamorous and exotic like her namesake – our first non-exbatt, but still a rescue girl. She has had a rough old time but is settling in well in her part of the garden, so much so I think we will try integrating her at the weekend.

Gorgeous new girl Flavia

Brigit
Initially I thought Brigit’s malaise was due to her grieving for her beloved friend, Bertha. However, on picking her up last night, foul smelling fluid poured out of her beak. I knew immediately it was the wretched sour crop – something I had yet to encounter and something I dreaded. Fortunately I had my friend Diana’s brilliant idiot-proof instructions on how to treat sour crop to hand so we tipped Brigit upside down (not as scary as I had thought it would be) to empty her crop. I managed to get some Epsom salts today and gave her a flush but had to empty her crop two more times beforehand. Since her flush, she has picked up a little, has had some water to drink and some critical care formula. I have ordered some Nystatin from the vets and will collect that tomorrow. All being well I will start her on a little bio-yoghurt and garlic tomorrow and some boiled rice. It is a scary time for us all so fingers crossed for our darling Brigit xxxx

Darling girl Brigit

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