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When Miss Clara Chicken arrived to live with us, she was unable to walk. Along with her Amberlink sisters, Constance and CocoChanel, Clara had spent over two years in a cage and her legs were so weak, she couldn’t even stand up. Of the three girls, Clara’s case was the worst and even when Constance and Coco were managing to hop about, poor Clara could only sit and watch.

Every morning and evening we lifted her in and out of the coop and bathed her legs daily and rubbed them with arnica gel. Named after Clara, the little crippled girl in Heidi, our Clara’s legs finally became strong enough so that she could walk. She never lost her limp completely though but when she ran she looked as though she was skipping.

Fisrt steps...

First steps…

Clara and her sisters

Clara and her sisters

She did however still enjoy being picked up out of the coop in the mornings and sat there with her wings outstretched almost as if to say ‘Pick me up Mum.’ And so she became my Cuddling Girl. A big, blonde, downy-feathered cuddling girl, Miss Clara loved to be sung to as well. We had a song, Clara and I, adapted slightly from My Favourite Things:

Raindrops on roses and feathers on chickens
Bright copper kettles and warm woollen mittens
Brown paper packages tied up with string, Clara is one of my favourite things.
Chickens in white feathers with blue satin sashes
Doorbells and sleighbells and Clara with eyelashes
Clara that flies with the moon on her wings, Clara is one of my favourite things.

We used to walk around the garden, Clara nestling in my arms, the two of us singing and bwarking away respectively. She always recognised Her Song, even if I was singing it to myself, and she would come up and join in with her beautiful bwarks.

Beautiful feathers

Beautiful feathers

Uncle Jason was quite enchanted with her on her only ever visit to the vets. She was chirpy and cuddly and chatted away to him as he checked her over. It was all going so well until he looked in her mouth and she burped in his face. Such a lady!!

She was a very happy chicken, was Miss Clara. So she was the perfect candidate to come with top girl Bella Chicken and I to a display at Pets at Home advertising our Fresh Start for Hens rehoming. She loved the attention!! She was happily picked up and went around the store in my arms bwarking contentedly at shoppers. She was stroked by so many people, all of whom were delighted with her and many of whom had never touched a chicken before. She was the perfect advert for how wonderful hens are and because of her hard work, many more little hens were saved from slaughter and given loving new homes.

Mud bath girl!

Mud bath girl!

However, her moult in January totally transformed her relaxed happy character. Her re-emerging feathers caused her such pain she screamed if anyone came near her, she couldn’t even preen herself and she would not be picked up. No amount of Raindrop on Roses would calm her and she took to her bed for a fortnight and had her meals in the coop. Two weeks later as she came back out of the coop, she looked resplendent in her new white feathers, and sported a Light Sussex-esque collar of darker feathers. She was still not herself though, skittish and seemingly off-kilter. Something was most definitely wrong. We discovered that she was blind in one eye and had great trouble judging distances and locating small objects. Whether this was a slow degeneration or something triggered by the moult we had no idea.

Clara - One Year Henniversary Party Girl!

Clara – One Year Henniversary Party Girl!

We managed to adapt things to make her life easier: she had breakfast in bed (a throwback from her moult days) of egg and mash and was then lifted out of the coop and into the greenhouse where the food bowls were always in the same place. When she was in our arms we sang Her Song to comfort her and reassure her all was well – it must be frightening to be lifted up and not know where you are. The ramp and any edges/steps she had to negotiate were painted white so she could see them and she was fed out of our hands four times a day. She managed to get around the garden very well and we were hopeful we could manage her problem. We were very aware that we had come full circle with her care – again putting her in and out of the coop; our girl needed us once more.

Magnificent girl (slightly blurry sorry)

Magnificent girl (slightly blurry sorry)

At the same time Miss Bunty Goodchicken was ailing and Bunty and Clara, close friends for many months, stayed side-by-side providing support and company for each other.

However one night, without warning and after twenty-one months of freedom, darling Clara went to sleep with her sisters and never woke up. I do not know if I had missed something but I had found nothing wrong with her beautiful body except her blindness. She had come through the moult although it may have taken too much out of her. Or maybe it was the sad passing of her soulmate Bunty Goodchicken three days before. Maybe her life without Bunty was just going to be too hard. Our only comfort is that she went quickly in her sleep, without suffering and was cuddled up with her sisters.

It doesn’t make it any easier though. And I have tried to sing Raindrops on Roses to cheer myself up but it is not the same. I miss her bwarks, I miss her cuddles but most of all I miss my Clara. The garden is a much darker place without her beautiful blonde feathers brightening it up.

RIP darling Clara Chicken, find your beloved Bunty and fly high together my special girls.

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