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It has been a shamingly long time since my last blog post and I apologise. The truth is, since the passing of Effie, I have struggled connecting with my girls. Yes I adore them, yes I spoil them and yes I enjoy spending time with them but the sad fact is that none of them are Effie. And I feel awful saying that because I love them so, and they are all so special. They are just not Eff. But my mojo is slowly coming back; I am focussing on mindfulness to regain a little sanity and joie de vivre … and it is early days but it seems to be working.

The other reason I haven’t written is that we have lost four girls this year, three of them in one week, and my heart was not strong enough to be able to write about them. Each girl we lose has always had a full obituary and to deny these ladies the same tribute seemed to make them less important, less precious. But that is not so at all. With so many hens passing through I am ever conscious of them not becoming less individual, less of a personality. So eventually I decided that a few words was better than none at all. Girls, please forgive me my human weakness and know that you are all so very precious to me.

Little Nell: Little on stature but big on character, looks and charm, Nell was a stunner. She was also very vocal and told me off if something was not to her liking. Every evening she came to tell me very loudly that she was ready for bed and if her bowl of feed, was not in her run, she would pace and shout until I put them there. She did let me have a cuddle occasionally though, although if I cuddled her for too long, she would squawk indignantly at me to put her down.
She also had a special spot in the garden, the lowest branch on the hydrangea bush, just high enough to see everything and to put her at eye height with the other hens with just enough covered perchiness to make her feel a real jungle girl.
Also, despite her beautiful name, she only really answered to the name Chick, and only then when she wanted to!!

Cute Little Nell aka Chick

Inca: Inca the Tinker was top hen but bottom bantam (I know!) and suffered from Little Hen Syndrome. She bossed the Big Girls about, all of them terrified of her, but, oddly, was herself always being told off by Iona and Lemony Goodchicken. Initially she had been Effie’s maid of honour and chief preener and she adored her MummyEffie and was never apart from her. She also loved her twin sister Iona with all her heart. She died very suddenly in her sleep, the day after we lost Nell.

Inca Bantam, gorgeous girl

Margot: Ahh Margot, what can I say about Miss Margot Eggbetter? The biggest, bossiest, nosiest and naughtiest hen, she was a total delight. From the outset she was calm and confident with humans and decided that she would be cuddled if she wanted to be, but also that the Human Coop should be hers as well. Always first into the Human Coop, she learnt that if she pecked on the cat flap we would come running. As soon as she sensed a human inside, bang, bang, bang went the cat flap. She also enjoyed standing outside the patio doors, pecking the glass, demanding to be admitted. The cats were terrified of her but her squawk was worse than her peck, she never hurt them. Sadly, poor Margot was a victim of the industry we thought we had rescued her from and it was a tumour that took her precious life.

Gorgeous Margot Eggbetter

And so we were nine … these three losses happened within a week, and left us and the remaining girls reeling.

Special stones for special girls

Then in September our darling Lemony had another prolapse. It was her third and the second within a month. Naturally it occurred at 6pm on a Friday night so we isolated her and tried to put it back in, unsuccessfully. Seeing Jason the next day, he discovered an egg was imminent so he could not suture the prolapse and had to wait for the egg to pass. This bloody egg was huge and caused our darling girl so much pain throughout the day on Saturday but eventually it was out. However, she didn’t really seem herself and by Monday, the prolapse had become infected, tissue had died and the option of putting it back in was no longer open to us. After speaking at length to the vet, it was decided the kindest thing was to end her suffering.

Beautiful Lemony Goodchicken

Little Lemony Goodchicken was the kindest of souls, the best of hens. Born as part of a hatching project, she, along with Iona and Inca, came to live with us as chicks to keep Effie company after the loss of Miss Basket. Once Iona and Inca went to live with the Big Girls, Lemony remained to keep Effie company in her dotage. I do not have the words really to describe the love and happiness this little bundle of lemony loveliness brought to Effie’s life; ensuring her last months were passed with love and companionship and for that I am forever grateful to her – she will always hold a special place in my heart. When Effie did pass away, Iona escorted Lemony onto the Big Girls’ garden, where she was met with open wings of friendship. Flora-Jayne took a liking to Lemony, too much of a liking really, but Lemony and FJ became best friends; I think in Lemony’s eyes, a big brown chicken meant love and security. Our garden is not the same without her lemonyness brightening it up.

Lemony stands on tiptoe to preen her beloved Effie

And so, we thought our losses had come to an end, but sadly, a few weeks ago we lost Pumpkin cat. A huge bear hug of a boy he was the kindest gentlest soul – taking on and caring for two mad kittins and then becoming Protector of the Hens. A role he took most seriously; every evening helping us to lock them safely up. He was run over, the driver didn’t brake, let alone stop, and a friend found him by the road. The image of his body is still clouding the happy, loving images I have of him, I hope for not much longer so I can remember him just as he was. But I am still cross, all that love and pumpkinness taken away too soon, just because someone drove too quickly. Just think of the life he still had to live and the love he still had to give; he was only seven.

Naughty Pumpkin!
(no birds were harmed in the taking of this picture!)

Pumpkin with his kittins

But now, with Samhain approaching, I feel it is time to say au revoir to our ghosts – always there, never forgotten, but we need to look forward, embrace what and who is here with us now. So we shall light candles next Tuesday, oh so many candles, to remember all those that have left us but whose spirits are still with us.

This post has gone on for a long time, I am sorry, if you have made it this far, congratulations, you were in for the long haul! I hope I haven’t depressed you too much. Things feel much calmer now, just writing about it all is cathartic. So onwards and upwards.

Oh and we have a new superstar in our midst. I won’t say too much but will save it for the next post but suffice to say Milly is gathering quite a following!!

Jo xx

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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.

lav-naughty

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

lav-in-garden

Beautiful Lavender Goodchicken

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My apologies for being so slow in updating the blog. Effie’s passing has left us totally devastated, with a huge Effie-shaped hole in our lives that we are struggling to come to terms with. And if I am honest it has left my chicken keeping life without its sparkle. My girl has gone and everything seems muted and grey. I still talk to her every morning, well to her little ‘Effie’ stone anyway, which is now nestling next to Miss Basket’s on our little chicken graveyard – a sight which provides a little comfort and reassurance.

But there are still nine little hens running around the garden who depend on us and are trying everything in their magical chickeny power to lift our spirits and show us how to face life without Effie.

Mathematicians out there will be thinking; “I thought they had eight hens, with no Effie, that would make seven.” Well yes … therein lies a tale!

When Eff was ill and inside the Human Coop, I had an email asking me if I would take on a little frizzle who was being picked on. I had no real intention of any more hens with such a poorlie girl to care for but as usual I couldn’t say no! When I turned up to collect the frizzle, spookily there was a second frizzle who also needed a loving home. So two new babies came home to live with us. They looked quite a sight, bald and scraggly, so I decided they needed glamorous names. As they were from the same batch of eggs as my I girls, I decided on two I names (especially as I have many fabulous M names ready for the next batch of ex-batts whenever that will be!). So Ingrid Bergman and Iris Frizzle they became. Still flighty and scared of their own shadows they are now happily settled down in Effie’s Garden and will one day be integrated with the Big Girls.

Ingrid Bergman and Iris Frizzle

Ingrid Bergman and Iris Frizzle

So much for our Humans’ Garden!

But what about Lemony I hear you cry! Last time we looked, she was in Effie’s Garden waiting for her MummyEffie to get better. Well, hens seem to have an uncanny sixth sense – clever little things – and Iona knew something was wrong, so visited her sister Lemony in Effie’s Garden on a regular basis by scrooching under the fence. When I turned up with Ingrid and Iris, I took the plunge and popped Lemony in the Big Girls’ garden. Reunited with her bantie sisters, she was far too busy and happy to notice where she was and has settled in remarkably easily. The banties sleep in their own coop still, and there is the occasional silliness, but I am amazed at how well she has settled in. So well in fact that I now feel guilty for separating the banties and leaving Lemony with Effie. But Lemony, bless her beautiful little yellow feathers, loved Effie above all else and knew that she had an important job to do in caring for her elderly friend. But now she can go back to the task of being a naughty bantie with her sisters. And strangely, or not I suppose, ever since Lemony moved in with the Big Girls, Iona has never once gone back into Effie’s Garden. She knew, bless her.

Little Lemony - officially a Big Girl now!

Little Lemony – officially a Big Girl now!

But someone else has taken it upon themselves to pop over the fence into Effie’s Garden. Miss Lavender Goodchicken has discovered she can fly onto the fence and hop into the other garden, hoover up the food, lay her egg, bang on the patio doors and then hop back again. Little madam. Actually, it is working rather well. Firstly I like seeing a little brown hen outside the patio doors (if I am not concentrating I can let myself believe it is Effie for a split second) but most importantly she has got on very well with the frizzles and it will help with their integration later in the year. Lavender is also terribly pleased with herself for performing this miraculous flying trick and you can’t help but laugh with her.

Miss Lavender Goodchicken is very proud of herself!

Miss Lavender Goodchicken is very proud of herself!

Which brings us finally, to our Henniversary Girl. On 6th October Miss Greta Garbo Goodchicken celebrated three years as a free girl. An amazing achievement for a girl who came out with such a sore, red and swollen abdomen I thought the prognosis could only be bad. But Greta is living proof how resilient and hardy exbatts really can be. After almost two years of a bare swollen bottom, miraculously the swelling subsided and her feathers grew back. Now she is sporting a magnificent pair of knickers and a black tail that shows her Colombian Black Tail heritage. She is the happiest, sweetest and kindest girl and we are so very proud of her for being the wonderful little hen that she is.

Gorgeous Henniversary Girl Greta Garbo Goodchicken

Gorgeous Henniversary Girl Greta Garbo Goodchicken

So life does go on; the girls are using their magical henny healing power and are all trying their very best to mend our broken hearts and show us there is so much more for us to do. More hens to cuddle, more hens to love and ultimately more hens to rescue.

I just wish my Effie was here to help us.

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My little girl is gone and still I cannot believe it. From the day I brought her home, a terrified little bundle of feathers, Effie’s death was something I feared every day. Now that she has left me, I simply cannot comprehend it but must somehow learn to face life without her.

Effie’s tale is much documented – in this blog, in magazines and books and in exhibitions across the world, she became something of a legend. The little hen with the twisted neck (that gave her beautiful body her unique shape) who overcame physical and emotional traumas to find love and happiness in the Cornish sunshine with her beloved Miss Basket and then, with the tragic passing of Miss Basket, she learnt the wonders of motherhood with her three bantam babies. I have many, many wonderful memories of Effie in my head, my favourite is possibly the image of her, a new ‘mother’ standing in the coop at bedtime, her leg cocked in a most unladylike fashion, awaiting the three little feathery bundles who loved to tuck themselves underneath their new mum each night. Effie had a big, brave, beautiful and loving heart.

Effie sunbathes whilst her beloved Miss Basket watches over her

Effie sunbathes whilst her beloved Miss Basket watches over her

Mummy Effie and her bantam babies

Mummy Effie and her bantam babies

However, whilst my girl was enjoying every moment of her free range life, her precious body was slowly succumbing to the scars of her caged life.

She had been suffering from a suspected brain tumour for a while – the weeping ear a sign something sinister was lurking inside her beautiful head. In recent months she had increasingly been suffering from panic attacks and was generally slowing down. But about two weeks before she died, she suddenly went blind, or at least lost much of her vision. She was unable to judge distances and walked into objects. Knowing now, that the much dreaded end was in sight, we brought her inside the Human Coop – where she had been spending more and more time anyway with Lemony being broody. We adapted the Human Coop to her needs and she seemed to be coping well. The specialist vets assured me as long as her quality of life was good, then she would be fine. And Effie was happy in the Human Coop, she considered herself human anyway, and had come full circle. She started her life with us in the Human Coop almost four years ago, it seemed fitting it should be where she ended it.

Effie enjoying the comforts of the Human Coop

Effie enjoying the comforts of the Human Coop

For about ten days all was well, she ate, slept and pootled about the house, but then signs started to indicate that things were going downhill all too quickly. Always a girl who loved her food, suddenly her appetite wasted away to almost nothing and she started to be a little unsteady on her feet. You try and ignore these things, as they are indications of something too painful too comprehend, but then on the Tuesday evening she lost the ability to walk, she fell onto her face repeatedly, panicking and screaming. That all important quality of life was deteriorating rapidly. Knowing what awaited us on Wednesday I spent the night cuddled up with her on the sofa, calming her by talking to her, stroking her feathers and keeping her safe. It was the longest night, but also the shortest night. I tried to tell her how much she meant to me, to so many of us, and she heard me and replied with her gentle bwarks, but there would never be enough time to tell her how truly amazing she was. Our bond went beyond human and pet but was a meeting of spirits. She had been waiting for me and I for her. And now it was time for me to do the hardest but also the kindest thing.

An Effie cuddle was always an honour and a privilege but none more so than when I held her in my arms, as she passed away, slipping peacefully from this world. She died being told how much she was loved and that Miss Basket was waiting for her. And I find a little consolation knowing that Effie is now forever reunited with her beloved Miss Basket.

Effie and Miss Basket, flying forever free together

Effie and Miss Basket, flying forever free together

She was cremated the following evening, a garland of sweetpeas over her body and under her wings and a bouquet of sweetpeas on top of her pink shroud as her spirit soared skywards. In what was the darkest of days for us, a little ray of hope and love flickered in all the beautiful candle tributes people lit for her – not just in the UK but across Europe. We were unbelievably touched by such kindness.

Our candle tribute to Effie. Her candle is the one in the middle at the front and is in a holder with Effie's name linked to Miss Basket's with a heart

Our candle tribute to Effie. Her candle is the one in the middle at the front and is in a holder with Effie’s name linked to Miss Basket’s with a heart

No words I can write will ever do my Effie justice so I need to make her name and spirit live on to help other hens. Effie’s Garden (as it will forever be known) is already the garden for special hens that Effie had always planned it should be. People contacted me during her lifetime and more so since her death to say that she had made them view hens differently and that Effie’s story had inspired them to get their own hens. To think there are ex-battery hens enjoying a life of freedom today because of Effie, means my girl has left an amazing legacy. For myself I need to do something else for Effie’s memory, as yet I do not know exactly what, but it will come to me and she will guide me. The love and energy that was my little Effie will find a way to truly live on.

Hello gorgeous girl xx

Hello gorgeous girl xx

For anyone who has ever had, and lost, ex-batts they will understand just how much these girls mean to you. There is something undefinably vulnerable and yet invincible about them. After the abuse they have suffered, still they have the heart to forgive humans, to love us and trust us. I never fail to be humbled by their humanity. And to me, Effie was the epitome of all of those emotions and characteristics. She was more than just a special chicken, she was a symbol of hope for every commercial hen across the world, every animal who suffers abuse at the hands of humans.

And she was my world.

But still, I cannot believe she has gone. Losing her has broken my heart. But the blessing of having known her and to have been the recipient of all the love a little chicken could give to a human will somehow hold my heart together and make me strong enough to face a world without her.

Your work here is done my darling, sleep well old friend xxxx

Beautiful Effie

Beautiful Effie

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Many of you will remember that last year Effie was treated for her Earfection, the upshot of which was she had a suspected tumour or blockage causing the problem but with her being otherwise healthy (and elderly) we decided not to investigate further.

Sadly, in the past week or so Eff has been losing her sight. I think it is just in one eye but it is hard to gauge the extent. I first noticed it one morning when she was standing still and seemingly unable to move (this disorientation is something I had noticed a couple of times before). When she did start to walk, she walked into walls and the door and was totally unable to jump up the small step into the Human Coop. When I tried to tempt her with an eggy treat she was unable to peck at it, missing the mark by quite a way.

I remember a couple of years ago, beautiful Clara losing her sight, and she died very suddenly overnight. The Avian Vets thought she may have had an infection that caused the loss of sight, so I dosed Effie up with baytril and metacam just in case, although in my heart of hearts I knew it was the tumour pressing on her optical nerve. When I spoke to the Avian Vets they agreed it was the most likely scenario but as long as her quality of life was good then she would be OK.

As she was so very vulnerable outside and understandably prone to panicking, we have moved her inside permanently so she is in a familiar and safe environment. She is now sleeping in the lounge at night and can potter about the downstairs during the day. Her little Lemony bantam is still broody but as soon as she starts to come out of it I will reintegrate her with her bantie sisters before putting them all into the main flock in the Big Girls’ Garden. Effie will then have escorted walks around her garden when the weather is good.

She has adjusted very well to her loss of sight and is now able to eat more easily. We have found putting food in contrasting bowls – such as bright egg yolk in a dark bowl – is a big help, as is tapping the bowl gently to guide her. Just as if we had a small child in the house, we have removed anything she may injure herself on or trip over, such as wires, shoes etc. She is still enjoying her food, in particular any naughty treats such as egg, couscous, sweetcorn and a little cheese but I am very much of the opinion that, at this stage, anything she eats is a good thing. With our help, she is coping.

But it is breaking my heart. I am all too aware we are taking steps along Effie’s final journey with us and the care we are giving her is now very much end of life. The tumour is not going to go away and her eyesight is not going to improve. The thought of losing her is too much to bear. I want to spend every minute of every day with her as I know that there will not be many more days that she will bless my life, where I will be able to tell her just how much I love her. So every day I can hold her, stroke her feathers, breathe in her special Effie-scent and tell her just how much she means to me must be a good day. And I must hold myself and my breaking heart together for her until she tells me it is time to go.

Effie in the sun last year

Effie in the sun last year

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