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Posts Tagged ‘environment’

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.

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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.

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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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It has been four weeks since Misses Larkspur, Lupin and Lavender came to live with us. And I am pleased to report that all three are blossoming!

Lupin, (Loops to her friends) is top hen and in charge of her little flock. At first she tried to round up Gary and I at bedtime to put us safely to bed in the coop, before forgetting what she was doing and falling asleep in the run! Now, however, she has her top hen duties all sewn up and gets her girls into bed every evening before tucking herself up just inside the door, guarding her friends. She is a real sweetie, always first to the food she also helps me poo pick, usually by standing on my feet or on the poop scoop and has been very busy growing her beautiful new feathers. Obviously highly intelligent, she was the first to work out the dustbath, although she actually had her bath next to the dustbath in the wood shavings, but let’s not be too picky!

Top Hen Lupin, looking gorgeous with her new feathers

Top Hen Lupin, looking gorgeous with her new feathers

Little Lavender is a beautiful girl with a beautiful heart. She has befriended little Larkspur and takes the greatest care of her. It never fails to amaze me, that in spite of all they have endured at the hands of humans, ex-batts are so trusting and friendly. Little Lavender especially so. She comes running to me each time I am in the run and loves to eat out of my hand. She will nestle at my feet and follows me around. Her feathers are growing so well, she is going to be a stunner!

Little kind-hearted Lavender, feathers growing

Little kind-hearted Lavender, feathers growing

Larkspur, the most feathered of the girls, has had a long hard battle to get where she is today. A visit to the vets found nothing nasty lurking, she was just emaciated and traumatised. We have tried everything we can for her, anti-biotics just in case and numerous mineral supplements to give her a boost. She has finally discovered a love of food, especially corn, and at the moment anything that she is happy to eat is fine by me! She discovered the dustbath yesterday and had a gloriously long bath and today she was shouting at me impatiently for her treats. She was also chirruping when she found a tasty worm. These are all small but important steps in her rehabilitation and whilst I am watching her very closely, I am cautiously optimistic our girl will pull through.

Little Larkspur, looking gorgeous

Little Larkspur, looking gorgeous

Every day, I am still grateful that our three L girls are enjoying their free range life. With poorlies, it is often touch and go for a long time after rehoming, but they are fighting hard and I am fighting for them.

Little angels, may their free range lives be long and happy.

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Excited children all over the world are beginning their festive countdowns. 22 sleeps until Christmas!

However, for rescuers of battery hens in Cornwall we have another, much more wretched countdown. We have 20 days to rescue and find homes for as many hens as we can before the unlucky girls who don’t have homes go to slaughter. How can we possibly celebrate the festive season when so many girls who have spent their lives entombed in cages, will be sent to their deaths a couple of days before Christmas?

The thought of these poor, desperate, unloved angels being slaughtered, has spurred us on to find as many homes as we can as every home we find is a life saved. The lucky ones will wake up a few days before Christmas and be whisked away to new loving homes where they can scratch in the grass, bathe in the dirt and see the sky. The others will spend a few more nights in the cages before waking up one morning to be transported to the slaughterhouse, hung upside down in shackles and killed.

How many live and how many die is up to us. It is a terrifying responsibility and one I am not sure I equipped mentally to handle.

But every spare moment has been spent trying to find homes for all these little hens as we have, literally, thousands of girls coming out of their cages.

Darling Agatha xx

Raising awareness by writing about it – blogging and asking people to promote the plight of these darling girls online – takes no time and has been remarkably effective. Many homes have been found via social media and many real and online friends have been so very supportive and kind, as have charities like CIWF and Chicken Out, green campaigners Brigit and Dick Strawbridge, Cornish chefs Nathan Outlaw and Paul Ainsworth and local publications MyCornwall and Bude People. To name but a few!

In the real world I have enlisted the help of the animal care staff at work and, bless them, they are rounding up homes at a marvellous rate. I have accosted students and got them to put posters up for me as well as trailing round vets and shops myself with posters. I have dressed up as a chicken on a Saturday morning in Newquay. I have dragged unsuspecting members of staff into my back garden to see how amazing my girls are in the hope of encouraging them to re-home some hens. No-one is safe!!

But my efforts are nothing compared to Michelle Boulton who has been amazing. If I thought I was committed then she is doubly so, she has boundless energy and love for these girls and rest assured every girl that she can possibly get out she will get out. She is an inspiration to us all.

Darling Aurora x

And it is not just Cornwall, the same desperate scramble to find homes is happening all over the country. Lovely Sophie Mccoy in Wigan, for example, has managed to find 1,200 homes already but still has thousands more to find.

After all our efforts, we have homes for about 800 Cornish girls. Which leaves over 3,000 to go to slaughter. It is a desperate and soul destroying situation. I can’t help but ask myself why is this happening? Why didn’t these girls come out in stages over the autumn to save this last minute, horrific and mostly futile search for homes for them? It is a mammoth task we have taken on and one we will not complete successfully I am afraid. I am heartbroken at the thought of all those beautiful, gentle, forgiving girls going to slaughter.

It haunts me and I can feel I am on the edge. I owe the hens you see. My first ex-batts, Audrey, Agatha and Aurora, saved me when I was crying out for help and it is my turn now to do my utmost to return the favour and save as many of their caged sisters as humanly possible.

So please, if you can, offer a home to some ex-batts. Wherever you are in the country some girls will be needing homes. If you don’t have the room for any ex-batts then please, repost this blog, retweet it, tell everyone you know, do everything you can.

There are some little girls in cages right now who are depending on you to save their lives.

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We are currently desperately trying to find homes for literally thousands of battery hens in Cornwall that are coming out just before Christmas. It is heartbreaking to think we are going to have to go into the farm, rescue the lucky few and leave those other poor tragic girls in there, when we know what their fate will be. They have had no chance of a decent life and now they will be heading to their deaths. So every home we can find will be a life saved. If you or anyone you know can offer a home to some girls, please, please do. Ask your friends, your family and your work colleagues. Tweet it and post it on facebook. Please.

These little girls are haunting my thoughts. Once you have been into a battery farm, it stays in your head and no matter how hard you try, it won’t go away. Do they know their sisters are heading for freedom and that by the cruellest twist of fate – where their cage is – they will be heading off to the slaughterhouse? Are they crying out ‘pick me, pick me’ as I walk past them, bundles of luckier hens in my arms? You see, I worry about it a great deal.

But this way lies madness I feel.

So, this weekend I appreciated a brief moment when my head was filled with something rather lighter. I swapped my chicken poo-ingrained clothes for a posh frock and some heels and headed off to the bright lights and razzle dazzle of Strictly with my ballroom dancing son and let my head be filled with sequins and sparkle for a short while.

Naturally though, my thoughts very quickly returned to both those poor caged hens and my own darling girls. I had been away for 27 hours (leaving them in the capable hands of Gary, armed with a long list of instructions) but in that short time I swear they had changed.

Take Dolly for example. In the four weeks since her implant, my darling little Dolly has really blossomed. She has put on weight and grown many new feathers compared to her sister Daisy Doos, who is still laying. Comparing the two side by side, whereas they used to be of a similar size, Dolly is noticeably (to me) bigger.

Picture of health, little Dolly Daydream

Naturally I am delighted that I have helped her but, also naturally, I am feeling guilty that Daisy is still burdened with egg laying and her precious little body isn’t recovering as quickly. Whereas much of Daisy’s energy goes into laying her eggs, little Dolly’s body can concentrate on getting strong and growing feathers.

A hen has about 40g of calcium in her body (bones etc) and laying an egg takes up 4g. So if she is laying an egg a day, as she has been in the cage, then her body can easily get depleted of calcium and lead to problems such as weak legs – something which is exacerbated by the cramped conditions in the cage. For this reason carrying these lovely ladies by one leg is illegal and quite right too. Absolutely barbaric way of handling them.

So to replace that precious calcium, the girls need a well-balanced diet and supplements such as poultry spice, oyster shell, limestone flour and Zolcal D. Never overdose on calcium though, just make sure they have the recommended amount.

So whilst I worry about my precious girls, I also worry about those poor girls in cages who have no-one to check their feathers are growing OK or to soothe their sore pecked skin or to bathe their wounds or to cuddle them if they are ill. No-one to tell them it’s going to be OK, because for many of them, it’s never going to be OK.

On 19th December some of those caged girls are going to have the Best Day of their Lives. Waking up in their cage and going to bed in their new free range coop, with a new family to show them love and kindness for the first time in their lives.

The other girls will not have a good day. They will never know what it is to be loved, to free range in a garden, to stretch out their wings in the sun or to have a glorious dustbath. They will never know human kindness and they will never see the sky.

So, if you can possibly offer any of these girls a home I beg you, please do. Please contact Michelle the Cornwall co-ordinator on michelle.boulton@bhwt.org.uk or 079011 07096.

Every chicken deserves to be this happy!

xxx

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When one of your chickens dies it is always a sad day and you are probably not best disposed to make big decisions. But added to your grief you suddenly have to decide what to do with her little body.

The chickens have become part of our family and we all grieve for them should one pass away. My children have grown so attached to the hens and Gary – the man who commentated, ‘It would be cheaper to just buy the bloody eggs,’ before we got our first girls – is more distraught than I am when a girl dies.

And the harsh fact is that ex-batts don’t often live that long after they come out of the cage. Their little bodies have been used and abused to produce an egg every day for over a year and they suffer the physical and emotional consequences. From tumours and cancer to egg peronitis and mycoplasma (the lungs in chickens have similar cells to the reproductive organs so bronchial problems are common and dangerous with ex-batts). A year out of the cage is good, anything over that is excellent!

Darling Agatha

So, your beloved girl has died, what can you do with her body? Defra with the same infinite wisdom that stated all chickens are not to be fed waste scraps (Defra are seemingly incapable of distinguishing between a battery farmer and someone who keeps a few girls in their back garden) state that as chickens are livestock they cannot be buried in the garden. Well yes, if I had thousands, burying them may not be hygienic but as I only have a few…?

The deaths of Agatha and Aurora caught us off guard so we buried them in the wildlife area of the garden that they loved. We decorated stones with their names on and laid flowers on their graves. In fact, the banner at the top of this blog features Audrey near the front (no surprise) and Agatha watching in the bushes as her new sisters (Bella et al) explore the garden. If you look closely in the middle at the top you can see some pink flowers. They are marking Aurora’s grave.

Dancing Aurora

But the very real concern about burying your girls is that the smell will attract foxes or other predators who may then also discover your living ladies. Or more upsettingly dig up your departed angel. Plus, many gardens are small and if, like me you have an ever increasing flock, then it becomes impractical.

The alternative is to cremate your ladies, which will resolve the ‘aroma’ and ‘digging up’ issues. Some vets will cremate your girls for you and as long as you can afford the fee then this is a great option. You can then bury her ashes. If, however, you have lots of girls and not a lot of money, investing in your own device may be the answer. Nothing fancy is needed, a modified oil drum will suffice. You can buy them on ebay – festival burners – Michelle, a lovely friend of mine had the manufacturer change the cut out to a chicken shape. I was enchanted by this idea but broke as ever, we bought an old oil drum and Gary cut the chicken shape out. Ours looks more like a chicken crossed with Bart Simpson, but the thought and the love are there. Put a few holes near the bottom to ensure enough oxygen can get to the fire and you are done.

I am not good with death but the thought of sitting by the flames on the evening of a girl’s death, raising a glass as her spirit spirals to the heavens is much more appealing than burying her in the cold, damp ground. My girls don’t like the cold, I am sure they would rather their bodies depart this earth in the warmth.

That said, when darling Audrey died, we buried her with her two sisters. They were a flock in life and I wanted them to be a flock in death. They were the first chickens I loved, my life changers and the trail blazers for my campaigning. They needed to be together.

The other thing about death that terrifies me is being forgotten. What is the point of our life if after our death we are forgotten? All those battery hens who we never knew, who have suffered and died just so we can have cheap eggs, will never have a grave, will never be remembered and will never be missed. So to make up for their desperate plight, I remember my girls all the time. As well as their memorial stones, I leave flowers on their graves regularly and even sprinkle a few meal worms around them sometimes when I am giving the other chickens treats. I also sit at their graves and talk to them, but don’t tell anyone that…

Splendid Audrey

The most important day to remember those that are no longer with us is Samhain on 31st October. Legend states that the veil between the living and the dead is at its thinnest on this night and we are able to contact our departed ones. I am not sure about that but it is reassuring to have a day set aside to remember my girls. Just as you are supposed to set a place at the table for those that have gone, so I also put out a bowl of cat food out for my cats that no longer share their lives with us and provide a tasty mealwormy treat for my beautiful ex-batt angels. It is a time to sit and reflect and remember and look to the stars in the hope they can see us. And if I ever needed proof that my girls are still with me I need look no further than the hydrangea bush under which they are all buried. Last year it had pink flowers, this year, with three girls sleeping beneath it, the flowers have turned lilacy blue. I like to think it is the girls still enjoying the Cornish sunshine in their favourite part of the garden, still a part of the family.

Finally, whilst it is a desperately sad day when your girl passes away, always remember that your girls are the lucky ones, they experienced love, happiness and the free range life – what a worm tastes like, how the warm sun feels on their newly feathered backs and the glorious ecstasy of a long- awaited dustbath.

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You may have noticed that I love to talk about my chickens and I extol the virtues of my ex-battery ladies to anyone, regardless of whether they want to listen or not. But the other day one of my long-suffering work colleagues asked me how having ex-batts helped the environment.

For me, having ex-batts is my way of saving chickens from the horrors of the intensive farming system. It beggars belief that some humans can be so greedy, they inflict this terrible suffering on other creatures, purely for financial gain. Is man so arrogant that he assumes animals don’t know stress or fear or pain? If it was up to me, all meat, dairy and egg products on sale would have a hoofing great sign above them showing the conditions the poor animal had lived in.

Garden Helpers!

But, my colleague insisted as I finally drew breath, what did having ex-battery chickens have to do with helping the environment?

Naturally all useful facts momentarily deserted me so I decided to do some proper research and have handpicked a few particularly juicy snippets from the CIWF Report on Climate Change and Farm Animal Welfare. Now if someone asks again I will be able to blind them with science!

· Animal production is responsible for 18% of greenhouse gas emissions, compared to transport, which is only 14%. Really? More than the carbon emissions produced by all those planes zipping off around the world each day? That’s a huge amount!

· 64% of the world’s ammonia emissions come from animal production and pollute our air, water and soil.

· Scarily, if demand continues at this level, livestock production will double in the next 40 years.

· 50% of pigs and 70% of poultry are currently intensively farmed.

· 90% of the world’s soya is grown for livestock production, mostly in land that used to be rainforest.

· This deforestation leads to increased CO2 emissions (there are fewer trees left to absorb it).

So what do can we do to help this dire situation?

There are some very easy and simple things we can all do. Firstly, the CIWF report recommends reducing meat consumption by a third, supplementing it with more plant-based products such as beans, pulses, fruit and vegetables. Not everyone likes the idea of being a vegetarian (mores the pity) but you can promote such concepts as Meat Free Monday to them, especially if you highlight the health and financial benefits!

Secondly, if you do have to eat meat, make sure it’s free range, organic meat from local, ethical producers, preferably from a farm you have visited. I know, this is not always practical, so find a reliable butcher that sells local, free range meat. If you eat dairy products, only buy organic, the same goes for eggs – nothing but free range will do! And watch out for processed foods such as cakes, mayonnaise etc. If it doesn’t say ‘free-range’ in the ingredients it won’t be free range in the product!! Consumer power is a mighty thing, use it and hit these multi-nationals where it hurts them most.

Also, help raise awareness of the conditions of intensive farming. Tell everyone you meet. You will be amazed how many people aren’t aware of the conditions some animals are raised in. Campaign and raise money for animal welfare charities. Email politicians, governments and companies. Shout about it at every opportunity! One voice can easily be drowned out, but a whole army of voices is much harder to ignore.

Agatha and Audrey enjoying the life every chicken should be living!

So what am I doing for the environment by re-homing ex-batts? Besides offering a comfortable retirement to some beautiful ladies, I am highlighting their plight as well as the plight of other intensively farmed animals across the globe. The sooner intensive farming can be replaced with sustainable practices, the sooner our planet will be given the chance to heal itself.

www.ciwf.org and read the CIWF Report on Climate Change and Farm Animal Welfare Summary here.

www.bhwt.org.uk

www.meatfreemondays.co.uk/

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