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With the sad losses of both Lavender Goodchicken and Greta Goodchicken this year, our garden was left without a special Goodchicken girl. Only the very kindest, sweetest girls can be awarded the Goodchicken title; hens who have never thrown a peck in anger and who have always put their sisters’ well-being before their own. They are inspired by the original Goodchicken – Bunty. A hen whose goodness, kindness and beauty are much revered in Rosewarne legend.

So with the New Year upon us, it was decided that a new girl should be awarded the Goodchicken title and become part of the Goodchicken Sisterhood. And the title goes to …

Lemony!

Lemony was the standout choice to become a Goodchicken – in fact the award is long overdue. She performed services of love, care and attention, far, far above and beyond, when she cared for the elderly Effie. Not only did she have to give up on the opportunity of joining the Big Girls but she missed being with her two sisters who had already joined the main flock. But Lemony stayed with her beloved Effie; caring for her, preening the tail that Effie’s neck wouldn’t let her preen herself, keeping her company, tucking up with her at night and sharing Effie’s favourite pastime of coming inside to watch the washing machine go round. Even as Effie’s health was failing and she came inside on a more permanent basis, Lemony stood on duty outside the Human Coop, waiting for a brief moment with her elderly friend. That moment came in one last dustbath together, where Lemony preened Effie and they said their goodbyes. As Effie came back inside the Human Coop for the last time, so Iona bantam, who had been watching events unfold, came over the fence and escorted Lemony into the Big Girls’ Garden.

Effie and Lemony friends forever

Effie and Lemony friends forever

Lemony stands on tiptoe to preen her beloved Effie

Lemony stands on tiptoe to preen her beloved Effie

Lemony settled in very well, Iona and Inca ensuring that no one picked on her. But the Rosewarne ladies had watched Lemony caring for Effie and knew that she was a very special girl and would never dream of picking on her. In fact, Flora-Jayne decided that she loved Lemony very much – just a bit too much – and it is for enduing Flora’s amorous attentions that makes Lemony even more of a special girl. Lemony loves Flora, you see; I think it is because Flora is a big, brown chicken and in Lemony’s mind, a big brown, Effie-shaped chicken means love and friendship. Only Flora’s hormones cause them no end of problems!!

Lemony hanging out with the Big Girls

Lemony hanging out with the Big Girls

But Lemony is now and always will be a Goodchicken, a fluffy pale yellow ball of beauty and love scuttling across the garden, tiptoing over the wet grass and generally bringing a little sunshine into our world. We love her so much and she is a very well-deserved recipient of this precious title.
Welcome to the Sisterhood, Miss Lemony Goodchicken of Rosewarne

Beautiful Lemony Goodchicken

Beautiful Lemony Goodchicken

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Oh my darling girl, my Greta. I cannot believe that you have left us. We have gone through so much together to keep you healthy and happy and then, in the prime of health, you decide it is time for you to go. We never got to say goodbye to you, to tell you we loved you and to wish you godspeed. But what was the very best way for you to go – suddenly, painlessly and in your sleep with your sisters around you – was perhaps the hardest for us unsuspecting humans to bear. My darling girl, I wish I could cuddle you one more time.

My sweet Greta was rescued in October 2012, one of three poorlie girls we took home from our rescue. A large, red swollen bottom meant my ever pessimistic prognosis was not good (but what do I know eh!!?). Initially Greta lived with the very poorlie Gina and the not quite so poorlie Grace Kelly in what was yet to be named Effie’s Garden. Sadly, Gina died soon after rehoming but Gracie the Pickle and Greta soon decided free range life was far too much fun to give up on and integrated with the Big Girls very quickly.

Miss Greta Garbo on rescue - already a Goodchicken

Miss Greta Garbo on rescue – already a Goodchicken

The Goodchicken name, as we know, is very sought after and one not lightly bestowed upon a chicken but Greta seemed to be born for the title. Always one to care for other girls, to clean their beaks (whether they needed it or not), to tend to poorlie sisters and to tolerate cuddles with humans, Greta was always the star. Miss Greta Goodchicken she became, a worthy recipient of Bunty’s legacy.

Miss Greta Goodchicken

Miss Greta Goodchicken

But Greta had other talents…secretly she was also a magpie. She coveted all things shiny. In particular, my earrings. She somehow managed to work out that if she came over to me all cuddly and cute I would bend down to stroke her, dangly earrings dangling aplenty. At this point she moved in for the kill. One of those oh so tantalising silver dangly earrings was whipped out by an expert beak and whisked off around the garden in a ‘really fun’ game. The time it took me to catch both her and the earring were naturally inversely proportional to the weather; sunny and warm meant a quick game, monsoonal rain or hurricane winds ensured a long and oh-so-fun game. You would think after the first time I would learn….it would seem not. Greta 3 – Idiot Human 0.

Secret magpie Greta

Secret magpie Greta

But Miss Garbo also had a thing for mobile phone cameras…or was it just the handsome gents operating them?? When Neil, keen photographer and husband of my lovely friend Jan, came to visit, Greta was entranced by his phone camera, inquisitively posing for shot after shot. As another infamous Rosewarne lady had had a bit of a thing for Neil (Effie who was oh so fickle in her affections had happily trotted across the garden to greet him – the girls can always tell a good egg) we assumed Greta was also smitten. But when lovely chicken friend Pete turned up and started to photograph the girls with his phone camera, Greta assumed the same diva-esque pose. Obviously she loved the camera. And it loved her right back!!

Gorgeous Greta Garbo Goodchicken

Gorgeous Greta Garbo Goodchicken

Greta’s other special talent was as an egg thief!! Not literally (although given the chance I am sure she would have tucked in) but as she had never laid an egg in her retirement I think her body was sending her eggy feelings. She used to wait outside the coop in the mornings until someone came out announcing the Great Arrival of their egg, before sneaking in, nestling atop the egg for a brief while and then rushing out to announce….Her Egg!!! No one else seemed perturbed by this egg plagiarism, so we congratulated her each day on her beautiful egg and everyone was happy.

That tummy though, swollen and red but still beautiful, was always present and caused us no end of problems. We, along with Uncle Jason, tried many many things to help her. She swelled up in the spring and slimmed down in the autumn but it wasn’t a fluid eggy mass, it was a solid one. Various vetty examinations didn’t reveal anything helpful, deducing it was scar tissue, and in the end a mixture of diuretics and occasional antibiotics seemed to keep any issues at bay. This year, we threw everything at getting her through another summer, mistakenly believing that once winter came we were safe for another year.

Gorgeous Greta Garbo and that big and beautiful red bottom

Gorgeous Greta Garbo and that big and beautiful red bottom

And by her fourth henniversary in October I hoped that she would be OK for a few more months at least. She was slim, spritely and racing round like a spring chicken so I, foolishly, stopped worrying about her. One Friday morning, I opened the coop, everyone trooped out and for once I didn’t do a headcount, lulled into a false sense of ‘all the hens are well’ security. When you have a poorlie girl, part of you always worries that you will find her dead in the morning. When everyone is well, you don’t have quite that same worry. So to open the nestbox and find my darling girl asleep forever was quite, quite horrifying. There had been absolutely no indication she was ill, in fact we had been commenting on how well she seemed. For her, naturally and for all of us, to go to sleep peacefully and surrounded by those we love is the best we can hope for. But for those she left behind it was heartbreaking. Selfishly, we had been denied our chance to say goodbye.

Greta's official four year henniversary shot

Greta’s official four year henniversary shot

Miss Greta Garbo was a legend in our garden, and in our lives, our longest resident (Flora although a year older, came to us after 2 years’ fee) and our very best girl, central to our flock’s happiness and well-being. Losing both her and Lavender in close succession has broken our hearts and shattered our spirits – not to mention those of poor Flora who has lost her two wingmen (or women) in the space of a month. I keep seeing her in the garden (as Margot could be her twin sister) and I still talk to her – to all of those that have left us – every day.

Greta Garbo was the last of the Goodchickens – a beautiful, free spirit that shall always fly free amongst us. You chose to leave us on your own terms, darling girl, so please take this as my goodbye to you.
Godspeed precious girl, fly high xxxx

Greta and Flora sunbathing in the so-called Humans' Garden

Greta and Flora sunbathing in the so-called Humans’ Garden

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Little Lavender (in the days before she was named a Goodchicken) came to live with us on 16th August 2014, one of three very poorlie girls. She came with her two beautiful, but equally frail sisters, Larkspur and Lupin, and all three of them caused us great concern speckled amongst the love and joy they brought us. The girls had been starved in their cages prior to slaughter, a practice sadly all too common in the hellholes masquerading as poultry farms. Consequently all three precious angels suffered with crop problems throughout their free lives – Larkspur’s time as a free girl painfully short at a few weeks, Lupin’s mercifully longer at just over a year. So for Lavender to survive over two years as a free girl was a massive victory for both her body and her spirit – she spent longer out of the cage than in it, and that gives us humans some comfort at this sad time.

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Lavender on rehoming

 

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Lavender, Larkspur and Lupin on rehoming

 

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Feathers growing back after two weeks

During Larkpsur’s illness, Lavender had already shown herself to be very much a Goodchicken, a title very soon to be bestowed upon her. She was kind and gentle and so very tender towards her ailing sister. But after Larkspur’s sad passing, Loops and Lav (as they were forever to be called), were integrated with the Big Girls. After the initial handbags at dawn, Loops and Lav developed a new lease of life. For the moment, gone were the frail, floppy-combed little souls, and in their place two gorgeous, fluffy ginger ladies, who treated every day as if it was a new adventure and viewed their new world through eyes of wonder. First out of the coop in the morning, last to bed at night, every moment had to be savoured.

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Little Pickle

 

Lavender discovered the joy of laying her egg in a nest, taking her time and languishing over her precious ‘baby’. So tender and loving was she with her egg, it brought tears to the eyes of those of us privileged enough to watch her. It was about this time, racing around with Loops, welcoming the new frizzles and helping care for the recently bereaved Lemony from Effie’s Garden that Lavender earned the title of Goodchicken. Kind, gentle and loving to all around her, Lavender was indeed a Goodchicken – an angel on this earth.

lav-1-yr-henniversary

Lavender’s Henniversary

But these golden halcyon days were soon to end as Little Lupin finally succumbed to the crop issues that had been plaguing her all her life. As Loops left us, so too did a little of Lavender’s spirit and love of life. Whilst still surrounded by her friends, she became something of a lonely girl, always OK, but never with that joie de vivre she had had when Loops was with her. Lavender often flew over the fence into the now empty Effie’s Garden and pottered about on her own and even the influx of the four hooligans that are the M Girls failed to restore her energies. She seemed content enough, hanging out with the other oldies some of the time, but both we and she knew she was pining for her departed soulmate.

loops-and-lav

Loops and Lav – soulmates

 

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Loops and Lav immortalised by Elaine Innes

 

As with Loops and Larkspur, crop issues plagued her and she was often on metoclopramide to keep that pesky crop working. She had been implanted to stop the soft eggs as her body needed no further demands on it other than just to keep surviving. This spring, however, she started to lose weight and during a routine visit to Uncle Jason it was discovered she had lost almost half her body weight. Never a big girl, she now weighed in at a smidge over 1kg. We tried everything to get her to put on weight, even putting sunflower oil in her treats to boost her calorie intake, but she continued to lose weight.

It was my goal, in the spring, to get her to enjoy at least one more Cornish summer and we pulled out all the stops to ensure both she and her quality of life were as good as they could be. And as far as I could see Lav enjoyed everything a happy, free girl should. Pecking at treats, dustbathing, eating worms, preening and dozing in the sun and tucking up with her sisters at night. Daily we checked her, treated her and ensured she was as well as she could be.

However, in the middle of October, she had lost even more weight and started to become frailer by the day. Then one Tuesday at the end of October, she stopped eating, her feathers were dull and her head and wings drooped. She was telling me that it was time.

At Uncle Jason’s she passed away very quickly and very peacefully in my arms; her spirit had obviously decided it was time to meet her beloved Lupin once more. She was cremated with lavender under her wings and her ashes buried with her sisters, all of them scattered with lavender flowers.

There are good chickens and then there are Goodchickens. Lavender was most certainly a Goodchicken; a kind, gentle, loving girl who relished her freedom and cared for all of those around her, hen and human. To me she epitomises everything about ex-batts. Her frail body, ravaged by its past, refused to be beaten, her spirit indomitable, she fought to enjoy the free life that was her right as a hen, and one that every hen should be allowed to enjoy.  We are heartbroken to have lost her, our garden seems empty. Our only consolation is that she is now flying forever free with her beloved Lupin and Larkspur.

Sweet dreams my darling girl. Fly high little hen xxxxxxxxxx

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Beautiful Lavender Goodchicken

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Saturday 13th of August dawned bright and sunny for the Grand Arrival of our new, bespoke, plastic coop and run. The girls had excitedly packed their bags, taken down their posters in Henderlay and were busy squabbling over bunks in their new home when the eagerly anticipated new coop arrived.

We were all like children on Christmas morning, jumping around in excitement and generally getting in the way as Chris the Coop Man tried to put the coop up with much hen ‘help’!

An hour later and the coop was up and in place and the girls waved their new friend Chris the Coop Man off before beginning exacting inspections of their new palatial home. Iris T Frizzle was the first hen in the coop as, being broody, we transferred her directly from Henderlay, followed by fellow broodies little Lemony and Iona.

I must confess, the coop is magnificent. The company that Chris the Coop Man runs, Arkus Coops is based just outside of Penzance and uses recycled plastic; so at least two boxes ticked there. He adapted the coop to the girls’ and my specific requirements and even made the run to be a tad taller than I am. It is on a special high stand to avoid my bending and has reinforced metal on the run, skirts and around the back of the coop as well very secure locks all over the place. Being plastic means the girls will not have to endure red mite and the coop has plenty of space for everyone and nice low perches for special exbatt physiques.

If initial reactions are anything to go by, the girls are very impressed and have enjoyed their very first night all tucked up together. Special times and special memories. I was very impressed with the magic door opener – although I was up early just to check it!

This coop and run were crowdfunded by many, many wonderful, kind and generous people. Without them, a new coop would not have been possible and we would have had to patch Henderlay up to try and battle through another winter. Their big and generous hearts have meant a greatly improved quality of life for my girls and a comfy night’s sleep snuggled up together. Exbatts deserve the very best and now my girls can have that. We are indebted to everyone who has helped us and thank you all from the bottom of our hearts.

 

The girls, Gary and I have all given great thought to how we can thank everyone and, even though the girls thought people would each like one of their special eggs (I had to explain the failings of the postal service and the vulnerability of eggs in envelopes), it was eventually agreed on that we will have a memorial page on this blog so everyone who has supported us can have a dedication and photo of the hen/hens/pet/pets in whose name the donation was given. It is a small thing but one that I hope will be appreciated and received with the love with which it is offered. I will be contacting everyone directly over the next few days, although there were three anonymous donations so if they were you, please contact me!

Thank you all again, please enjoy the first few pictures of the coop and I look forward to posting many more.

Jo xx

 

 

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Earlier this week I tentatively launched a crowdfunding campaign to raise money for a new plastic coop and run for the girls of Effie’s Garden. I wasn’t sure at all about doing it, but I am so very glad that I did!!

To say that I am overwhelmed by the love and support I have received is something of an understatement. In fact, I am quite humbled and rather emotional. To all of those who have helped us, thank you from the bottom of my heart.

I have wanted to replace the Big Girls’ old wooden coop for a while but any attempt at saving was thwarted by vet bills, food bills etc. Henderlay is too small for all the girls to sleep together, and I currently have a chickenopolis of coops donated by lovely people, but I wanted all of my girls to sleep together and in safety, first and foremost, but also in the comfort they deserved and for me not to have to worry about red mite. I had heard about crowdfunding but, as my father said, it is just begging online, so was very concerned about asking people for money.

Well shame on me, because in only a few days, we have raised over 80% of the total target with many, many wonderful messages of love and support about how people had been inspired by Effie and her story.

And that, you see, is what has touched me the most. Effie died almost a year ago and her loss is still not any easier to bear. When she died, I found great comfort in the fact that her story had inspired so many wonderful people to rehome ex-battery hens. So many hens are alive today because of Effie – it is a big legacy for the little hen with a broken neck. Effie’s Garden, our microsanctuary, was started because I needed to celebrate and commemorate the life of this very special hen. Because she wasn’t just a hen, she was a survivor of a system that is so cruel and so inhumane that it breaks my heart every day thinking of what all those potential ‘Effies’ are going through. She symbolised all the suffering and abuse that is inflicted on these poor girls, but more importantly she symbolised all the strength of spirit and will to live these girls have; the same strength that made her overcome her emotional and physical demons and enjoy life as a free girl for over three years.

Quite simply, she was everything. She changed the lives of so many hens and she changed our lives too. There will never be another Effie, but her spirit and her story will always live on.

So to those that have helped us I am forever grateful to you and am currently thinking of ways in which we can thank you all properly.

“Saving one hen will not change the world, but it will change the world for that hen.”

Effie would send you all kisses if she could xx

Effie would send you all kisses if she could xx

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I cannot believe my last blog post was in January! I am tardy at best, downright lazy at worst but, just like buses, I have so much to tell you, that you may get a second blog post within the next day or so!

Our big news is that, as of March (yes March, sorry) we have four beautiful new babies helping the Big Girls to trash Effie’s Garden. I decided I didn’t have enough ex-batts in our mixed flock of ex-batt and rescue hens, so to balance things up, I planned to pick up three more little ex-batts. They were to be my M girls and I had their names all picked out. However, on arrival, another little hen told me her name was MillyMollyMandy so she simply HAD to come home with me! Actually I had intended to take four, as even though it is a bit of a squish in the Baby Coop, it is one more life saved and that is what matters. So Margot Eggbetter, Martha Tilst-hen, Miffy and Milly came home to Effie’s Garden.

Initially very timid, they stayed in their coop for the first day, anxiously peering out at the sky, but by Day 2, had ventured into their little garden that was securely fenced off from the prying, inquisitive eyes of the Big Girls. Margot, just like her namesake, tried to scratch and fell over but Miffy and Martha quickly got the hang of it. Only little Milly hung back, scared of this big world, but soon joined her sisters in their new adventures and discoveries.

Lavender is not one to let a small thing like a fence get in the way of meeting new hens and very quickly hopped over to say hello. She was a great ambassador for the Big Girls and merely scratched and pecked the ground alongside the M Girls without any fuss. Iona too, self-appointed head bantie, flew over to see what was going on, and all six just mooched around contentedly together.

So placid and uninterested in the pecking order were the M Girls that within days their coop had been moved into the Big Girls’ Garden and everyone was getting along just swimmingly. Even bossy boots Inca managed to leave the new girls alone!

Each little M girl has her own distinct and special personality: Margot is intelligent and inquisitive, confident and funny, walking into the Human Coop as if she has been doing for years and will even happily have a cuddle.

Margot EggbetterMiffy is the adventurous tomboy with the Pocahontas tail, a clever girl she is always first to figure things out but always last to bed – only recently after four months free did she finally put herself to bed – each day is just too much fun to end.

Miffy

Martha is top hen of the M girls, a folky sort of girl just like her namesake, and quiet yet firm in her manner, but recently I have seen a cheekier side to her character, following Chief Mischief Maker Margot over the fence and into the forbidden wonderland of the Humans’ Garden.

Martha Tilst-hen

And finally little Milly, still timid but always beautiful, she loves me very much as she has discovered she can eat food out of my hand and no one will chase her away. She is growing in confidence though and is a real sweetheart, I always have a soft spot for the bottom hen.

MillyMollyMandy

The M Girls are a delight – young, healthy and happy girls; watching them enjoy their new life brings that much needed spark back into my own. Every day brings a new adventure for them and a reason to smile for me!

We do have other exciting news but I don’t want to steal the M Girls’ thunder so will post about it tomorrow. Suffice to say people are amazing!!

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I knew getting over Effie would be difficult and I had hoped that time would start to ease the heartache but, in all honesty, it hasn’t. Admittedly I am not crying as much as I was and I can recall some of Eff’s quirky little habits and sometimes even smile at things as I remember them. Which is good I suppose. But I also felt I needed to do something. Hers was a great big, fabulous life, lived by a funny, clever and darling little girl who triumphed over all her demons. She changed lives as well as saved them and she needed to be remembered properly, as befits a lady of her great stature.

Hello gorgeous girl xx

Hello gorgeous girl xx

And so Effie’s Garden was born. Effie’s garden, has always been the little plot of humans’ garden between the house and the Big Girls’ garden where Effie lived. With the arrival of the frizzles in the summer (when Effie was a house hen in her final days), it became a ‘nursery’ garden for the new girls before they were integrated. And come the spring it will be the new home of more ex-batts, before they too head off to live with the Big Girls. I have always wanted an animal sanctuary, but funds and space are limited so I became intrigued by the idea of a microsanctuary. The microsanctuary movement seems to have started in the US (correct me if I am wrong) in North Carolina by Justin and Rosemary who decided that instead of dreaming of a large sanctuary ‘one day’, the fact they had two rescued ex-batts meant that they already had a sanctuary, just a small one! And so Triangle Chance for All and the microsanctuary concept was born. A microsanctuary is probably what many ex-batt keepers are doing already – caring for ex-batts (or any ex-commercial farm animal) in their garden or on their smallholding and promoting the plight of these beautiful creatures. They are more informal than not-for-profit organisations and are usually funded by the owners themselves. But a microsanctuary can be anything – from one rescue hen in the backyard to a full-sized sanctuary! It is the concept that is more important than the size.

Mummy Effie and her bantam babies

Mummy Effie and her bantam babies

When I spoke to Justin, he said Gary and I were already running a microsanctuary, and indeed we pretty much were. But for me, I wanted something more tangible, something that was in Effie’s name and a tribute to her wonderful life. So Effie’s Garden was born. My inspiration in caring for my girls has always been Edgar’s Mission Farm Sanctuary in Australia and so the similarity in names seemed appropriate.

And almost as a sign, at the same time as Effie’s Garden was forming in my mind, an email arrived from Edgar’s Mission, telling me that there is now a coop at Edgar’s Mission dedicated to Effie, that will care for and keep safe some little ex-batts on the other side of the world. Four very wonderful and caring ladies had sponsored a coop for me in honour of Effie – even now just writing about it makes me cry, it means so much. It is a truly wonderful gift, given with such love and understanding of how much Effie meant to me; Liz, Jan, Quolanta and Helen I love you all.

Beautiful wording on Effie's Coop

Beautiful wording on Effie’s Coop

Effie's Coop at Edgar's Mission

Effie’s Coop at Edgar’s Mission

So as the sun sets on Effie’s Coop in Australia each day, so it rises on the coops in Effie’s Garden here in Cornwall. On the surface, Effie’s Garden is very much as it has always been, my little flock of ex-batts and rescued hens flourishes and we excitedly await the arrival of our new girls in the spring. But now I have something a little more structured, in my head and my heart at least, that means I can grow and develop Effie’s Garden, creating something positive out of the sadness. And, most importantly, it means that my girl’s beautiful name and indomitable spirit live on.

Jo x

We have a twitter account! Please follow us on @effiesgarden

Read more about Justin and Rosemary and Triangle Chance for All Microsanctuary here: http://www.microsanctuarymovement.org/

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