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Posts Tagged ‘flocks’

Little Lupin Chicken and her two sisters arrived to live with us last August, three little girls who had been starved in the cage and consequently were all in a dreadful physical state. Surprisingly it was the largest hen, Larkspur, who succumbed to illness the quickest, passing away after only a few weeks of freedom, while tiny Lupin and Lavender quickly feathered up and started to grow strong and healthy.

Lovely Lupin on rehoming

Lovely Lupin on rehoming

Named after the flower, Lupin also took on the more wolf-like connotations of her name, taking it upon herself to be top hen of this little trio and sleeping by the coop door each night, guarding her new sisters. It made for a touching sight, this feisty little scrap of skin and bone, fearlessly protecting her new family. She was brave as well as beautiful, a little girl with a big heart.

She was also a very hungry girl and spent much of her day filling her crop, one of the many things life in a cage had denied her. Very soon though, Loops and Lav (as they became known!) realised that life wasn’t just about survival, it is about having fun and being happy and Lupin embraced her new life with an unadulterated joy. Each day was a marvellous new adventure.

Loops, not long after rehoming, enjoying her favourite pastime. Note her beautiful quills emerging

Loops, not long after rehoming, enjoying her favourite pastime. Note her beautiful quills emerging

Merging Loops and Lav with the big girls was so easy, neither of them were interested in being top hen and avoided any fisticuffs. Life is too short to be worrying about such things. Lupin’s joy at her new life featured in a couple of magazines in an article called Through Eyes of Wonder.

“Lupin and Lavender … now have a whole garden to explore – bugs to find, holes to dig and grass to scratch, every day bringing new and exciting exploits; they are first up in the morning and last to bed at night. Their enthusiasm for life is contagious and their happiness a delight to witness.”

Look at those beautiful feathers growing!

Look at those beautiful feathers growing!

However, little Loops had the ghosts of her old life still haunting her. That crop that had been so empty in the cages, was weakened and caused her all sorts of problems. Occasionally it became impacted so we tried pineapple, oil and massage which seemed to work at first. Her crop episodes were sporadic and initially only mild but as time went on they became more severe and each time we feared we would lose her. However, Lupin was a fighter, she wasn’t going to give up on her wonderful new life without a fight, she still had too much fun to have.

Loops (right) and Lav enjoying special henniversary cake

Loops (right) and Lav enjoying special henniversary cake

What we did discover though was that she was a squiggler!! Hated being picked up, hated her medicine and squiggled away as soon as she was able. Poor baby. So when she had to go to see Uncle Jason for an implant to stop her soft eggs, I was very concerned about her in the cat carrier. I hate putting ex-batts in it as there is a wire door and I fear they will think they are back in the cage again. So I put Loops in the carrier on the front seat, we had the Abba CD playing and we sang along to Chiquitita, changing the words to Chicken Lupin which she seemed to find soothing.

But sadly soon after the implant, things quickly took a downward turn. The next day she was very under the weather and I hoped it was just the effect of the implant – but in my heart I knew it was her poor crop again. I do not know if it was the shock of the implant that triggered it, so naturally feel responsible for her subsequent illness. Within a couple of days she had developed sour crop and, although we tried everything we could to make her better, she continued to get worse and nothing that we tried to syringe into her was going through. She was losing weight rapidly and becoming very weak.

On her final morning, we found her with foul fluid pouring out of her beak and she was hardy able to stand. Knowing it was her last day, I put her in the sunshine under an apple tree. She turned her head to the sun and closed her eyes, I am sure she knew it was time, but wanted to enjoy one more moment of sunshine in the garden she loved so. On the way to the vets we sang along to ‘Chicken Lupin’ again in the hope it would comfort her and once there, she went to sleep almost immediately, her poor body exhausted from fighting her illness. She was peaceful in my arms but she took a while to pass over, it was almost as if she was hanging on to every last scrap of life.

Loops and Lav (left) enjoying life!

Loops and Lav (left) enjoying life!

She was cremated that evening with the first sweetpea of the summer under her wing as well as some lavender flowers. Her soulmate in life was Lavender and I felt she needed to take something of her darling friend with her on her journey.

And now our garden feels empty without the joyful energy of Lupin in it. Her friend and partner-in-crime Lavender, is very subdued and misses her sister almost as much as we do.

Rest in peace now my darling brave girl, eat to your crop’s content and never feel pain, hunger or fear again. You are safe now darling. Fly high little Loops xxxx

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It has taken me over a week to try and write a tribute to darling Bella. Our hearts are broken and watching Hettie struggle each day, grieving for the only friend she has ever had, is only compounding our sadness. Bella was a very, very special girl and no words I write can truly capture the gentle spirit that was Bella, but I hope I can try to do our special girl justice with this tribute…

1st February 2011 saw the arrival of four little hens; my B girls. I had planned to collect three Amberlink girls, so naturally came home with two Amberlinks (Brigit and Bertha) and two ginger girls (Bunty Goodchicken and Bella). Of course at that point Bunty Goodchicken was just Bunty and Bella was Psychochicken. Only my second batch of girls, I was unprepared for the feisty little scrap that was to become Bella. She attacked me and Gary, she attacked the other hens, she attacked her reflection and she attacked her coop. I didn’t know what to do with her. Now of course I know I was dealing with a very frightened little hen, who had had to fight for every thing in her caged life. No-one had thought to tell her it was now all going to be OK – at that point I hadn’t learnt how to speak ‘chicken.’ So, on advice of fellow chicken keepers, I separated her whilst the other three girls went to bed. Pyschochicken was put to bed in the cat carrier. Once everyone was asleep I went to take her out of the carrier. I will never forget the look in her eyes. It was one of total resignation and defeat. She was back in a cage. That moment with Bella taught me more than any book could ever have done. The true suffering of caged hens, the depth of emotion they feel and the effects our human idiocy can have on them. From then on, I truly understood her.

Bella on rehoming day

Bella on rehoming day

My friend, Sarah, decided that to make her feel special and loved, she needed a special name and she called her Bella, meaning beautiful. So Bella she became. And over the next (almost) three years as a free range girl and top hen in our flock, beautiful she proved to be. In every way.

Diminutive in stature, Bella was always my smallest hen, but was the girl with the biggest character. Hers were the first wings I ever clipped! Three months after she came to live with us, Bella suddenly became intent on using the logpile as a launchpad for her escape efforts. Despite my attempts at containing her, one morning I looked out of the dining room window to see the little scamp running gleefully up and down the Cornish hedge. Never having clipped wings before I raced round to a work colleague, with Bella tucked tightly under my arm, to show me what to do. Bella came home suitably clipped and proceeded to lay an Egg of Protest in the greenhouse. Her escape attempts were brought on by her pre-eggy frenzy, something I have now realised many hens do just before their first egg after a lull.

Bella's first taste of fresh air

Bella’s first taste of fresh air

You see Bella was a teacher. She knew I had much to learn and consequently took it upon herself to educate me in the ways of All Things Hen. We were good friends Bella and I. Each evening as I sat chatting with the girls, she came and climbed onto my lap and told me about her day. Every time I cleaned out the coop, she came up to make sure I had done it properly, tactfully rearranging my humble human efforts. She even tolerated me cuddling her and occasionally allowed me to hold her long enough for a photograph – her beautiful face has featured in many magazines and websites promoting the plight of her ex-commercial sisters.

But I was not Bella’s only pupil. She had greater plans – she wanted to educate as many humans as possible.

She came to college with me and transformed the views of all the students she met. Previously they had thought of hens as ‘just a chicken’ and were not interested in my futile exbatt witterings. But Bella knew how to change their minds. She breezed into their classroom, preened, bwarked and looked resplendent and then stood obligingly on a piece of A4 paper to show them the space she would have had in her battery cage. She had given a face to factory farming. Suddenly these previously uncaring students understood. Bella had made them see. Then they were feeding her and stroking her as she ate corn of their hands. Bella had performed her role magnificently. To this day they still ask after her.

Sunbathing beauty

Sunbathing beauty

Spreading the word became Bella’s mission. She was one of the lucky ones and she was going to do all she could for her less fortunate sisters. She came with me and Clara to Pets at Home and met the public whilst promoting a hen rehoming for Fresh Start. She was picked up and cuddled and went around the store meeting customers, enchanting them with her beauty. People who had never even touched a hen in their lives were delighted with her, wanting to hold her and asking all sorts of questions about hens and battery farming. Children, especially, were enamoured by her. Because of her efforts, many loving homes were found for more ex-commercial hens.

Bella had many, many wonderful characteristics; she was clever and funny, dignified and brave, but most of all she was a kind and fair top hen. She ruled her flock with a firm but gentle wing. No hen was allowed to be left out or picked on. She kept neighbourhood thugs Eliza and Grace Kelly in check. When Flavia arrived, dumped at the vets after being attacked, it was Bella who welcomed her into the flock. When Flavia was afraid to go to bed as Eliza lurked menacingly by the coop door, it was Bella who would escort her safely into the coop every night. When terrified little Hettie arrived, Bella understood her fears and immediately extended the wing of friendship to her. Bella had recently lost her beloved Bunty Goodchicken and Clara in close succession and this new friendship helped both hens heal their emotional scars. Every evening Hettie went to bed early to get her favourite nestbox and every evening Gracie Thug came in and turfed her out. So every evening Bella offered Hettie the prime Top Hen nestbox and slept by her side. A true leader, she knew she had to care for the weakest in the flock.

Bella celebrating her two year Henniversary

Bella celebrating her two year Henniversary

Apart from two soft egg incidents (cured by a warm bath and a very lovely cuddle) Bella had never had an ill day in her free range life. She breezed through her first moult and was the picture of good health. However, about a month ago, at the start of October, Bella started to slow down. She was having a small moult and struggling to regrow her new feathers. I found her looking a little unwell at times, occasionally her comb was slightly tinged with blue. Fearing her intensive laying life was finally catching up with her and suspecting a tumour, and with Uncle Jason’s advice, we treated her as best we could and each time she rallied. But both Bella and I knew her days were now numbered.

Bella took her Top Hen responsibilities very seriously and I know she struggled with the thought of leaving her girls, so she fought her illness with all the stoicism of a true Maggie Smithesque grande dame…….Bella was always a proud and dignified girl and I knew without her having to tell me that she would not want to be seen to be weak in front of her girls. She needed not to suffer and she needed to have her dignity to the end. Sometimes words are not needed between friends, they understand implicitly what is needed, and one bleak morning, she told me that she had had enough. It was time. Her best friend Hettie had been by her side the whole time she had been ill and on Bella’s last day Hettie stayed with her all day, never venturing from her guardian angel’s side. Darling Bella knew it was time but I don’t think poor Hettie understood.

After a very weak Bella had seen her girls safely to bed for the final time, we visited Uncle Jason. Bella and I sat together in a quiet room, she was cradled in my arms and, as she passed on, I told her that I loved her, that she was a good chicken and I promised her that I would look after her girls, especially Hettie, and that she could now rest in peace. Once I had told her this, she passed very quickly and peacefully. Her final gift to me was one of her moulting feathers that fluttered away from her beautiful, precious body. A treasure.

Bella needed dignity in death and I hope I was able to give her that; the last wish of my most special girl.

She was cremated on Saturday, a golden marigold for my golden girl tucked under her wing for her final journey. Her spirit is now flying forever free at the Rainbow Bridge with her beloved Bunty Goodchicken and Clara by her side, as my darling Bella takes gentle charge of her heavenly flock.

My darling Bella with her beautiful heart-shaped pupil

My darling Bella with her beautiful heart-shaped pupil

Us mere mortals left behind will uphold our final promise to her. Hettie will be cared for, loved and protected and Bella’s flock will slowly adjust to the loss of their beloved leader. For a while they will have a human Top Hen who will muddle through until a new gentle chicken leader emerges. She will however have very big claws to fill – in fact she probably never will. There will only ever be one Bella Top Chicken.

After almost three years as a free girl, our hens and our hearts are mourning the loss of Bella. Nothing will ever be the same again.

RIP my darling, beautiful, brave, big-hearted, generous Bella. Fly high my precious Top Hen xxx

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When I first became an ex-batt mum, the only difficult thing about it was finding a good vet. The first time I took Aurora, my first sick hen, to my regular vets, they sugggested putting her to sleep and doing a post mortem. Needless to say they are no longer my vets. Up until recently chickens were treated as livestock, vets were only trained to treat them as a flock and not as pets. Cull a few birds to save the flock. So you can imagine my relief at finding a good vet, who had taken the Chicken Vet course and who was willing to learn more about hen health and care and happy to deal with no end of queries and possible new treatments I waved at them.

But even my fabulous vets pale in comparison to the marvellous work done by Avian Vets in Knutsford. Their brilliance in treating sick hens leaves all others in the shade. This tale of their miracle-working on Dusty, a 5 year old exbatt, is inspirational. I just wish they were based in Cornwall!!

News Stories

Hysterectomy helps ‘henopausal’ hen!

February 2013

Dusty is a 5 and a half year old ex-battery hen that Steve and Sharon Saberi of Moore, Warrington, rescued 4 years previously and who had been an extremely good layer and become a valued pet ever since. Over the past 12 months, however, she had started to lay ‘soft shelled’ eggs. Soft shelled eggs can be due to dietary deficiencies of minerals, however, in birds on a good quality diet with ad lib layers pellets and grit this is rarely the case. More commonly the cause is chronic infection or damage of the shell gland which is the terminal portion of the bird’s uterus or oviduct and is responsible for excreting the minerals which create the shell. It is also known to happen more in older birds when they, as Sharon brilliantly put it ‘enter the henopause!’

Birds really struggle to lay ‘softies’ as when the oviduct contracts and tries to expel a normally solid egg, such rubbery eggs just collapse and fail to move onwards. The resulting unproductive contractions are obviously quite painful and the birds can suddenly look extremely sick when this is going on until they manage to expel it, or we help it out with careful manipulation. Fortunately once out and, with a bit of TLC and some pain relief, they seem to rebound very quickly. Serious problems can arise however where the offending egg fails to pass and further yolks build up behind it leading to a potentially life threatening yolk peritonitis as they start to spill out into the body cavity.

Dusty had experienced a number of such events recently with her becoming painful and anorexic and we were concerned she was now at real risk of developing peritonitis. As such we decided to stop her laying temporarily using a hormone implant the size of a grain of rice that is inserted under the skin. Over the past few years avian vets have been successfully using such implants in a wide variety of species including parrots, poultry and birds of prey to help with reproductive disorders such as yolk peritonitis, recurrent egg binding and behavioural disorders related to breeding activity e.g. aggression and feather picking.

Dusty Chicken looking gorgeous!

Dusty Chicken looking gorgeous!

In Dusty’s case the implant would successfully stop her laying her problematic eggs for up to 6 months at a time, but unusually, in her case it seemed to have a detrimental effect on her overall wellbeing and attitude with her becoming extremely withdrawn and even ill looking. After discussion with her owners, and with her quality of life as top priority, we felt long term that this was not an acceptable situation. We decided the only option we had left was to perform a ‘salpingohysterectomy’ and attempt to remove her oviduct thus preventing any further egg production. The owners understood this was a high risk operation with their reproductive tract being very closely associated with major blood vessels and kidneys but we all felt at this point we had little choice.

When we took Dusty to surgery we encountered another complicating factor in that at some point in the past, a partially developed egg had ruptured through and was now sitting outside the oviduct in a capsule of scar tissue. This had become adhered to her intestines and was now distorting both organs, so it was hardly surprising she was experiencing pain when trying to lay. Using radio surgery which is essentially an electric scalpel that seals blood vessels as it cuts, during the one and a half hour procedure we finally managed to dissect free and remove the damaged oviduct and errant yolk. Dusty recovered remarkably from her surgery and after a couple of days went home with her owners delighted and over the past 5 months has led a happy egg and hormone free life!

As the reproductive tract seems to be the cause of the vast majority of problems in aging ex battery hens it will be really interesting to see how she does long term without that Achilles heel that was her oviduct and we will certainly keep you updated on her progress. Continue reading for Sharon’s take on Dusty’s journey.

“Dusty and 3 other ex battery hens arrived with us with very little feathers and an awful deadness in their eyes. However within a couple of days Dusty had firmly established herself as “Adventure Chicken”!

Dusty was always first out of the hen house on a morning and last in at night. She was the first to bravely have a dust bath (hence the name), the first to enter the garden from being in the enclosure and the first to toddle in and out of the house. Dusty’s strap line in life was a very positive “I’ll sleep when I’m dead!”

She started having a couple of egg issues at about the age of 4, so she was wheeled in to see Richard who decided a hormone implant would sort her out – and it did! This worked for about 12 months, until once again we had egg issues and noticed that Dusty had lost her lust for life. Once again she was taken to see Richard who implanted her with the idea of allowing the egg tube to shrink and then perform the chickerectomy (as we call it). After a more serious operation than expected, she finally came home. As Steve (chicken daddy) was away with work when she came home Dusty would Skype her chicken daddy to let him know how she was doing! Yes we truly are that nuts!

Anyway, today Dusty is head chicken of 7, fighting fit and back to “I’ll sleep when I’m dead” mode. We have nicknamed her The Dustinator – indestructible and fabulous!!

Dusty!

Dusty!

We owe Dusty’s life to the care and attention that Richard and Carli gave her before, during and after her op. She turned 6 (roughly) this Christmas and we hope there will be many, many more years in her yet!!

We can’t thank you both enough for looking after Dusty and restoring her joie de vivre. The chicken house wouldn’t be the same without her in it.”

Sharon, Steve & the Dustinator!

http://avianveterinaryservices.co.uk/index.html

Avian Veterinary Services,
at Gauntlet Birds of Prey Centre,
Manchester Road,
Knutsford,
Cheshire.
WA16 0SX.

01565 654131

Photos taken with thanks from the original article

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One year ago today, four very, very special girls came into my life. Rescued last Christmas as part of the big rehoming with the battery cage ban coming into force, four poorlie girls who needed extra love and care came home with me. We quickly fashioned the old coal hole in the utility room into an ICU and tucked them up for their first night as free girls; the lucky ones who had a chance of a new life.

There was little Evie Lou with a swollen belly, limpy girl Eliza who weighed next to nothing, Miss Basket with a blackened and infected foot, so bad she had no feeling in it or ability to control it and the saddest soul of all – Effie, a little hen with a broken body and a broken spirit.

All four girls spent Christmas in the ICU, having round the clock care. There is nothing lovelier than being greeted first thing in the morning by the gentle bwarks of four little hens.

Within two weeks Eliza and Evie had moved outside to the hospital coop; only a few weeks later they were successfully merged with the big girls. Arnica rubs had healed Eliza’s limp and she made up for her initial fragility by eating for England and blossoming in every way. Little Evie Lou responded so well initially that we thought we had beaten her ailments, however tragically she succumbed within a couple of months to the water belly that was swelling her poor abdomen. Despite draining and medication we could not save our poor girl and she passed away in March. The only consolation is that she had a few free range weeks, full of love.

Miss Eliza Chicken

Miss Eliza Chicken

Miss Basket (really called Eleanor) spent her first few days in a pink laundry basket as with her blackened foot she was unable to walk. As I tucked her up each evening in a blanket, she bwarked her thanks to me. At one point we feared she may lose her foot but with salt baths and arnica rubs and gentle exercise, she recovered so well you can only see her limp if she runs. Her foot still flicks out lifelessly in front of her but she copes so very well.

Miss Basket Chicken

Miss Basket Chicken

And then there was Effie – the most vulnerable of vulnerable girls. She proved to be much more of a long term challenge. As a sick hen – with her little neck set at right angles (either a birth defect or an injury) – she was a target for other hens and had spent her life being attacked and bullied, having to fight for survival and she was traumatised physically and mentally. In the gentle soul that is Miss Basket though she found a friend. The only hen in her life who did not pick on her. These two girls quickly formed a touching friendship and after many months of love and care, were moved outside into their own special coop and run. Such is Effie’s trauma she is unable to mix with other hens but these two special girls have recently moved from their run into their own part of the garden – a huge space for two little hens!!

Effie and Miss basket enjoy their cake!

Effie and Miss basket enjoy their cake!

It has been a long journey so today was a cause for much celebration!! One whole year free!

The day started with a special breakfast of layers mash with eggy topping and an early morning chorus of Happy Henniversary to you…After we had said a few words at Evie’s grave the girls enjoyed some delicious homemade cakes, some sweetcorn, a quick game of fatball football and then they opened their present and card sent by Effie’s special friend Liz.

It was a splendid day all round!

All of my girls are so special but I must save the final mention for my precious Effie. To me, with her hunched little body and Poirotesque waddle she is truly beautiful. Her inextinguishable spirit has overcome all her emotional and physical problems, she has learnt to trust, she has learnt what is to be loved, she knows what it is to be a free range girl and perhaps most importantly she has found a friend in the darling Miss Basket. She is an inspiration to all who read about her and meet her and I am blessed she chose to spend her life with me.

Miss Effie Chicken

Miss Effie Chicken

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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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It was a very special moment yesterday when the Hen-der-lay sign was finally put in pride of place on the new custom-made penthouse coop.

The glorious sparkly Hen-der-lay sign in position atop the new coop!

We are especially proud of our girls’ new penthouse apartment. Made by a local craftsman after we decided buying the wood and Gary building a coop would be more expensive and, let’s face it, most probably end in divorce. Although, to give him his due, he did add the few ‘optional’ extras I insisted upon – a new lid on the nest boxes as I decided the original was too flimsy and not fox proof enough, a more hen friendly ladder and a grill over the ventilation holes just in case…

Fabulous, deluxe, penthouse coop. They love the long ladder!

We deliberated long and hard over the name. It is a play on the name Manderley (I just need a hen called Repekker) but we did consider many other names: Pecking ham Palace (too royal), Cluckingham Palace (ditto), Fowlty Towers (shamelessly copied from another chook friend) and many other plays on the words hen, chicken, egg and roost.

In my head, the glorious new deluxe coop was to be pink and white with a veranda, deck chairs, hanging baskets and gingham curtains at the window. Think Calamity Jane’s cabin after the make-over. However I am assured boring green woodstain is far more practical and curtains would attract mould and red mite. By way of compensation, the sign is yellow, with pink, silver and gold sparkly stars on and has a copy of the picture that reminds me of my first three, now departed, A girls. By having them on the coop, all my girls can sleep there snugly together.

Or not, as the case may be…

Hen-der-lay is built to house up to twelve chickens so the mathematicians out there may wonder why I only have my four B girls luxuriating in it, whilst the C and D girls have to rough it in the two low-level, common old normal coops. Well, simply because they refuse to play nicely together.

I appreciate there is to be some handbags at dawn fisticuffs when chickens establish their pecking order, it is quite normal. However, when the Amberlink C girls (Clara, Constance and CocoChanel) came to me, they were unable to walk, having spent two years in the wretched battery cage. Coco and Constance recovered quite quickly but darling Clara (her that likes being cuddled and sung to) took much longer to walk and was still being lifted in and out of the coop long after her sisters were skipping up and down the ramp. Thanks to the magic of arnica gel, her limp has improved over time but is still obvious. When the B girls met the C girls, my two B Amberlinks (Bertha and Brigit) took ‘agin’ Clara and terrorised her, jumping on her back and hurting her healing leg. Each time they have been introduced this has happened and Clara is now terrified of them.

Limpy girl Clara, how could you stand by and watch her being picked on?

My girls have spent enough time being frightened and abused, I won’t have them harmed in any way again. Consequently, they are kept apart.

So Plan B (or possibly Plan Z, I have lost track) is to merge the new D girls with the C girls first, establish a little flock of five and then merge them with Bella (top chicken who gets on with them all) and Bunty Goodchicken (never thrown a peck in anger) into the luxury of Hen-der-lay. This will leave bullies Brigit and Bertha in the small coop, to think about their actions for a week or so. Once they behave like ladies again, they can return to the, hopefully, harmonious flock.

We shall see. But in the meantime I shall carry on admiring my fab new coop and sign!

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