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Dame Effie of Rosewarne, ex-batt ambassador extraordinaire and international superstar has had an ear infection. ‘Do hens have ears?’ someone asked me. Well yes of course they do, it is just they are not very obvious. But this was a first for Effie and a first for me. No matter how much you think you know about hens, these girls will always find something to make you realise just how much you still have to learn.

I had noticed some liquid on the side of Effie’s head, not far from her eyes, which looked as though her ear was weeping. She had been quiet of late but after having two implants in close succession, that was to be expected. She had also taken to spending much time in the Human Coop, but Effie considers herself a human anyway so again it was not unusual. But put it all together and it meant a visit to Uncle Jason.

Ever the professional vet, Uncle Jason was fascinated by Effie’s ear (it was a first for him too) and excitedly took swabs to have a look at! His results showed she had a bacterial infection, so baytril was prescribed, as usual, and we went home ready to tackle the ear-fection.

Dame Effie looking gorgeous as ever

Dame Effie looking gorgeous as ever

Now Effie has many talents, most of them very good, but one particular talent she has is spitting. She can spit food, she can spit greens (‘Effie, don’t eat the sweet peas, you don’t like them…’ munch…spit) and she can projectile spit medicine very impressively indeed! So a Cunning Plan had to be devised. It came in the form of some manuka honey (nothing is ever too good for our girl) which, when dissolved in a little warm water and added in equal measures to the baytril, produced something Miss Effie actually liked. Naturally, this does not mean we didn’t have games of ‘Catch the Effie’ or ‘Find the Effie’ when it comes to medicine times but, once caught, she happily has her medicine.

However, after the first course of antibiotics finished, the weeping started again the next day. So a second course was prescribed, but again, as soon as the drugs stopped, the ear started to weep. Effie did not seem unduly unwell in herself, was eating heartily (quails egg for breakfast dahhhrling…) and was doing everything a happy, healthy girl should be doing. So a second swab was taken and this time sent to the lab for an in depth analysis.

The lab found ‘mixed growth’ in her precious ear – two nasties competing. One had been clobbered by the baytril, the other needed something else. So Synolux (erythromycin) was prescribed – two tablets twice a day.

So how to you get a hen to eat a tablet that is almost as large as her head??

Eventually we settled on crushing it, dissolving it in 2ml of water and schlurping it back into the syringe. A fiddle, especially at 7am, but miraculously it worked! And even more miraculously Effie loved the taste! She opened her little beak for more and almost seemed to enjoy it. I expect the diva in her also appreciated the bright pink colour!!

So now, with the magic pink pills finished, Effie’s ear-fection has not returned. She is back to her naughty, happy, gorgeous, beautiful, wonderful self! And we are busily making great plans for 19th December, when a certain little lady celebrates being three years’ free!!

Yes Effie, I love you too xxx

Yes Effie, I love you too xxx

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Today is a very Happy Day as the Rosewarne ladies are celebrating Miss Greta Goodchicken’s two year Henniversary!!

Two years ago, Miss Greta Chicken, arrived to live with us, one of three poorlie girls from a rescue. She had a big, bare, swollen bottom and was very waddly and worryingly heavy. After letting her settle down for a few days after the trauma of rehoming, we visited Uncle Jason who confirmed it was a mass of scar tissue from an infection in the farm. She was prescribed frusemide to reduce the fluid and within a few days she was much less waddly and far more mobile!

Greta was a very good sister to her two fellow poorlies, very sick Gina who sadly passed away soon after rehoming, and Grace Kelly, the little hen with a prolapse. Greta was beak cleaner extraordinaire and, due to the fact that a very good, gentle and loving heart was beating in her beautiful body, she was soon awarded the much-coveted title of Goodchicken; a prestigious honour awarded to only the very kindest of hens.

Birthday Girl Greta Goodchicken

Birthday Girl Greta Goodchicken

When Greta and Gracie moved into Henderlay with the Big Girls, they stayed the best of friends and were always together. When Gracie passed away very suddenly, the other girls were quick to take Greta under their wings and now she is part of a very naughty but close-knit and sweet trio who spend their days gleefully trashing my garden and terrorising the cats! Due to her bottom issues, Greta has never laid an egg since her rehoming but that doesn’t stop her going into the nest box after an egg has been laid by someone else, sitting on it for a while and then proudly proclaiming it is hers! So we all pretend we don’t know that and tell her what a clever girl she is!

From time to time she has a course of frusemide to stop the fluid building up, but otherwise she is a healthy and happy little girl; a worthy holder of the Goodchicken name. She is however, still knickerless with a larger than average bottom, but as I tell her, big bottoms are in! She is my bootylicious babe and I tell her she is beautiful every day!

Sweetest Girl Greta Goodchicken

Sweetest Girl Greta Goodchicken

She dined on quails eggs for her breakfast (what else?!) and in the evening the celebrations got into full swing with everyone enjoying her special Henniversary cakes. And now the partygoers are snuggled up in their coops, crops blissfully full of mealworm cakes, we humans will light two candles for Gina and Gracie who are not here to celebrate with us anymore.

Two years’ free is an amazing achievement for even a healthy ex-batt. For a poorlie girl with a swollen bottom, it is quite remarkable. But Greta is a Goodchicken and she deserves only Good Things.

Happy Henniversary sweetheart xx

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Little Larkspur Chicken arrived to live with us on 16th August, one of three very poorlie girls from a traumatic rescue. She was one of the lucky ones, she survived long enough to be rescued, and along with her new sisters, Lavender and Lupin, came down to Rosewarne for some special care.

She was named after my wonderful friend, Liz’s dearly departed ex-batt and I hoped that Liz and her lovely husband Mike could enjoy seeing their girl’s name live on in my Larkspur.

Initially, Larkpsur seemed the most healthy of the three girls. The only one with feathers, she set about beak cleaning her two new featherless sisters and seemed quite content with her new life, if a little quiet. She was a gentle soul, she had suffered a great deal in the cages and her new life would take a little getting used to.

Larkspur on rehoming day

Larkspur on rehoming day

However, as the two baldies started to develop and blossom, it became clear that Larkspur was not blooming with them. She was still quiet, but hunched and not eating very much. An initial veterinary examination found nothing untoward and Larkspur was given the usual baytril to help kill any potential lurking infection. She was malnourished and, I believe, traumatised from her experiences and I desperately wanted to give her something to fight for; to help her see the wonderful free life that awaited her.

She responded well at first and within a week had become the happy little chicken I hoped she would be. She ate plenty, went to bed with a full crop and a mashy beak and tucked up in the nestbox with her new best friend Lavender, whilst self-appointed top hen, Lupin, guarded the door. She took a dustbath and paced the fence impatiently in the hope of treats whenever I went into the garden. Things were going so well, that I dared to hope we had beaten whatever it was that had ailed her.

However, a few days later I noticed she had become quiet again, she was listless and not eating. So back on the meds we went in the hope that any infection just needed an extra thwack to completely knock it out. And it did, she was soon back to Healthy Larkspur, doing everything a free chicken should be doing.

When she was feeling well, Larkspur loved her mash!

When she was feeling well, Larkspur loved her mash!

To supplement her medicine, she had a range of vitamins, health foods, digestive aids and treats in a bid to give her body the boost it obviously needed. She was however, starting to slide back down into ill health again and no matter what I tried she would not respond.

Looking back there were clear signs and in my heart I knew we were not dealing with a mere infection. The medicine was just masking something very sinister lurking in her poor tired little body. I told myself when we went to visit the vet on that last day that it was just a check-up. She had been dozing in the sun all day (the Cornish weather had, for once, been mercifully kind to these girls) and she put up no resistance as I put her into the carrier.

Gina, our lovely vet, found a large tumour in Larkspur’s abdomen and the yellow colour I had told myself was because she had been eating corn, was in fact sky high bilirubin levels, indicating her liver was failing. Looking at her though Gina’s eyes, I suddenly saw how very sick she was, I had been too close, too intent on small details and not seeing the bigger picture. Her body was shutting down and her organs were failing. Sadly, there was only one option and as we awaited Gina and the medicine, Larkspur snuggled into my arms, quite content as I stroked her feathers gently. I believe she knew – she had tried so hard, I had tried so hard, but her scars from her caged life were just too deep. We could not win this battle, no matter how desperately we wanted to. Her passing was peaceful, she stayed where she was in my arms and just drifted off to sleep. The very least I could give her was a dignified death.

Little Larkspur, looking gorgeous and fighting hard

Little Larkspur, looking gorgeous and fighting hard

She was cremated with pink flowers under her wings and we watched as her spirit soared heavenwards, finally free of pain, she could now fly high with her Rosewarne sisters – I could feel Bella and Bunty Goodchicken waiting to greet her. Because she was the sweetest, gentlest of souls she has been awarded the posthumous title of Goodchicken – awarded to only the very best of girls.

Larkspur Goodchicken did not deserve to die so soon. She was a victim of a cruel system, her caged life was one of suffering, her body abused … and all for what? She had done nothing wrong, she did not deserve the life she had or the fate that awaited her. Every hen deserves to be free – free of pain and suffering, free to do just as she wishes and free from the abuses some humans inflict on them. Nothing I could do could save her from that, and I tried so hard to save this sweet, sweet girl. And Larkspur had wanted to live so much, she fought with her big, brave heart but in the end her broken little body could fight no more. I could not give her the long free range retirement that she should have been able to enjoy.

But what I could give her was six weeks of freedom; she knew love (such love), she knew sunshine and friendship, she scratched the grass and she bathed in the dust, she foraged for worms and she pecked at corn. It is nowhere near enough, six weeks of freedom in return for two years of suffering, but I hope she knows how hard I tried for her.
Godspeed little Larkspur Goodchicken – forever in our hearts, darling girl. RIP angel, fly high little hen xxxx

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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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The loss of our darling, glamour girl Flavia has been a particularly difficult one for us; it was very sudden and very shocking and we are still struggling to come to terms with it.

The 16th March 2012 was a Friday and at about 5.30pm we received a phone call from our vets, a hen had been abandoned there. She had been attacked by the family dog, had been patched up by the vets, but as she had been given baytril, her owners to longer wanted her as they could not sell her eggs (due to the baytril withdrawal period).Would we have her?

Stupid question, when have we ever said no to a hen??

En route to the vets, I was thinking of F names for her and going along the old fashioned ladies names route, had chosen Freda. On seeing her, cradled in the nurse’s arms, I knew a Freda she was not. She was a Black Rock, exotic and glamorous, with a collar of shiny golden feathers. On the way home I asked her what she would like to be called and Flavia was the name that sprang to mind. I am a fan of Strictly and Flavia was one of my favourite dancers…petite and glamorous…no other name would do.

As an emergency new girl, Flavia’s initial home with us was a cat basket in the greenhouse; safe but not particularly homely. She spent her first few days exploring the human’s garden (in the days before a certain Miss Effie Chicken occupied it) getting used to her new life. We thought we would integrate her slowly but Flav had other ideas. One morning, about five days into her life with us, Gary accidentally left the gate between the two gardens open and Flavia just sauntered through, cool as you like. And that was that.

Gorgeous Girl Flavia

Gorgeous Girl Flavia

Flavia was our first non-exbatt, and my girls, all shades of auburn and ginger, could not quite understand what she was. I think they thought she was a large blackbird and consequently they ignored her. There was none of the handbags at dawn silliness we usually get with integrations, Flav was content to be bottom hen and the others just let her be.

Except Eliza…

Newly integrated to the main flock, Eliza was bottom hen and she was keen to let this new usurper know that she, Eliza, would not be bottom hen any more. Luckily, Flavia was not a fighter and was not interested in Eliza’s domination strategies, and happily settled into bottom hen mode. Strangely though, the two hens quickly became firm friends and Eliza would often chirrup that she had found a tasty treat for Flavia. They spent many happy hours together as a twosome, foraging the garden for bugs and worms.

Despite their dreadful past life, I have found that exbatts tend to be inquisitive, trusting and friendly towards humans and are almost always happy to be cuddled. Flavia though, maybe because of her breed or because of her sad history, was not fond of human contact. She got terribly distressed if we tried to pick her up, so we had as little hands on contact with her as we could. Much as my arms ached to cuddle this gorgeous girl, we respected her wishes to be left alone.

When new girl Hettie arrived, also a non-exbatt, Flavia showed great kindness and compassion in welcoming a fellow outsider to the flock. A kind girl as well as a beautiful one, she showed that her beauty was more than skin deep. At night times the two girls snuggled up together in the big nest box in Henderlay, with Eliza perching protectively above them. A happy little threesome, they formed a secure sub-flock of the main Big Girls flock.

With Hettie being part Light Sussex and therefore prone to broodiness, she spent much of June and July this year in the nestbox, and the trio became a duo for much of the summer. So with the sad passing of top hen Eliza in late June, Flavia felt her loss very badly. She became a little off colour and out of sorts but regular (and upsetting for her) checks proved nothing to be amiss; other than what would seem to be a broken heart.

Best Friends Flavia and Eliza

Best Friends Flavia and Eliza

However, on 18th July, Miss Flavia Chicken passed away very suddenly. Her death was traumatic for us all, but I believe a girl as private as Flavia deserves dignity and so I will not go into details. Her death broke my heart and my spirit and will haunt me forever. Suffice to say though that she went to sleep peacefully in my arms and that is maybe all we can hope for.

She was cremated with sweet peas under her wing and her ashes were buried with sweetpeas, a beautiful flower for a beautiful girl.

RIP darling Flavia, our glamour girl forever dancing at the Rainbow Bridge xx

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It was the saddest day on Monday, when after more than two and a half years a free girl, Miss Eliza Chicken went to sleep in my arms. A brave girl to the end, she had been valiantly fighting crop stasis for a few weeks but eventually it proved too much for her tired body.

Darling Eliza, or Miss Eliza Elizabeth* Chicken to give her her full name, came to live with us as a poorlie girl from the last rescue out of barren cages before the January 2012 cage ban. Weighing almost nothing she was also unable to walk, so she was tucked up in the ICU (coal hole) with Evie, Miss Basket and a certain Effie Chicken. A few days of tlc, leg massages and as much food as her little tummy wanted saw a magical transformation in Eliza, so much so that a few days after Christmas, she was living outside in the hospital coop with Evie.

New friends Eliza (head in flowerpot) and Evie explore their new world

New friends Eliza (head in flowerpot) and Evie explore their new world

Eliza and Evie quickly became good friends and spent many happy hours exploring their half of the garden; discovering grass, sunshine, bugs and dustbaths – all those things every hen should enjoy. However, Evie had been a very unwell girl and her days as a free girl were numbered and two months later, after Evie’s untimely death, Eliza was moved into the Big Girls’ garden so she could be integrated as soon as possible.

It was at this point that Eliza discovered greens. For obvious reasons, Liza loved food, but most of all she loved greens. Still in her own coop at night, Eliza loved nothing more than to devour some greens away from the attentions of the other hens, chirruping madly, merrily munching her way through her suppertime treats.

Eliza (foreground) in happily integrated with the Big Girls

Eliza (foreground) is happily integrated with the Big Girls

Once integrated, Eliza was briefly bottom hen until Flavia arrived and Eliza was very quick to let Flavia know that she was no longer bottom hen! However, the two girls quickly became close friends, a friendship that lasted for the rest of Eliza’s life. Whenever Eliza found a tasty treat, she spent so long chirruping to Flavia about it that by the time she had finished chirruping, Flav had come over and stolen the treat from straight under Liza’s beak!

Best Friends Eliza and Flavia

Best Friends Eliza and Flavia

Within a year, and after the sad loss of some of her sisters and with the arrival of the G girls and Hettie, Eliza had risen through the ranks to become Bella’s lady-in-waiting and performed her tasks admirably, unless of course, there was food involved and then Eliza did not like to share!

With the sad passing of Top Hen Bella Chicken, Eliza suddenly found herself as top hen. Initially she struggled with her new role and forgot about making sure everyone was in bed at night or intervening in any squabbles. At best, she was a bit laissez faire, at worst a bit rubbish! But then Eliza found her true strength in her role as Top Hen; Gracie Lou was taken very ill suddenly one evening and sadly died in the night. Eliza sat with her until the coop was opened and even then she was pulling at Gracie’s feathers to try to wake her up. It was enough to make a grown man (Gary) cry. She took the loss of one of her girls very badly and was in mourning for days but eventually came out of it and took to her Top Hen tasks with renewed aplomb. Poignantly this tale features in the edition of Your Chickens magazine that is due out any day.

My favourite memory of Eliza was last summer when, until recently, she had been a reliable layer. Suddenly the eggs stopped and as Eliza showed no signs of any ailments, I put it down to her having far too much fun in the Cornish sun to bother with something as mundane as egg laying. Then one morning, she hurtled out of the coop, a hen on a very important mission. Minutes later I was surprised to see the bush by the wildlife pond wobbling and making strange noises. On investigation, I found Eliza happily laying an egg in a beautifully made nest that was holding a clutch of about ten eggs! She had obviously discovered that laying eggs al fresco was much more fun than in a stuffy old nest box! But she was so happy, doing just what a hen should be doing and it is a memory I will hold of her forever.

Eliza loved her food, especially her 2 Year Henniversary cakes!

Eliza loved her food, especially her 2 Year Henniversary cakes!

A few weeks ago, Eliza started to lose weight and become generally listless. We discovered it was a crop issue but after treating her for sour crop, her crop was still not emptying. We worked with Uncle Jason to treat crop stasis and tried everything in our power to make her well again. She had live yoghurt and garlic, yummy light treats to tempt her, honey in her water to boost her sugar levels and a whole host of meds. Jason and I agreed that there was probably something underlying that was causing the problem but by this time she was possibly too weak to undergo treatment. One afternoon, she took a turn for the worse and I booked an appointment at the vets for the next day for her to be pts. We put her to bed and she settled in the coop door watching the sun set. We thought it would be her last, but Eliza had other ideas and the next morning she had rallied again. All the time she was fighting we knew we had to fight for her. So we saw Jason again and increased the meds.

However, I could not ignore the fact she was getting lighter and lighter. Food was so important to her, for a hen deprived of food during her life in the farm, she had been so very happy to fill her crop every day that she was a free girl. She had come to me a starving hen and I could not let her leave me a starving hen. The next time she took a turn for the worse, I decided that she could suffer no longer. It is the hardest decision we have to make but I must believe I did the right thing and could not bear to watch her waste away. It is an act of love and the final act of kindness I could give her. It didn’t make it any easier though. She went to sleep in my arms being told she was a good girl and that she was loved and very, very special.

Miss Eliza Chicken, sweet dreams darling xx

Miss Eliza Chicken, sweet dreams darling xx

She was cremated with a sweetpea under her wing and an arum lily (from the plant neighbouring the infamous quivering egg bush) placed on top of her flowery shroud . Her ashes were laid to rest with those of her sisters and scattered with more sweetpeas.

Fly high darling Eliza Elizabeth, top hen and special girl. May you enjoy filling your crop every day at the Rainbow Bridge. Rip darling girl xx

* Elizabeth is a very special name for me. It was my beloved grandmother’s name, a gracious, witty and wonderfully irreverent lady, and consequently my darling daughter’s middle name. I also have a very beautiful and special friend called Liz. A fitting name for my special hen.

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Little Effie has been a Very Brave Girl recently. Since she came back into lay after her moult, she has been laying softies. Initially they did not prove to be too much of a problem for her, although a worry for me, and Effie and her babies always happily tucked into any softies that appeared.

We upped her calcium and the shells started to appear slightly more shell-like, although still not hard enough to stop me fussing. And then last week, the problems really started; the yolk and white were emerging bit by bit but the shells were not. I removed one softie shell from her vent but the next day discovered a rather wiffy bit of soft shell just inside her vent.

So off to Uncle Jason we went!! Luckily, we already had an appointment booked for Clooney cat’s check-up and, spookily, Clooney was all too happy to give up her vet visit so that Effie could go instead.

After discussing her situation with Uncle Jason, we agreed an implant was the best solution for her. Initially I was loathed to give the implant again as she had been so unwell and depressed the first time she had it, but it was definitely the lesser of two evils.

Effie was so very brave when faced with the Very Big Needle that Uncle Jason was brandishing around, it was me that felt quite ill. But Effie, stoic as ever, merely let out a little squeak, then wriggled free once the injection was over.

She was however, more than happy to partake of a Wounded Soldier’s breakfast of scrambled egg when she got home. She then took herself off into the garden to tell her babies about how brave she was after her major surgery and then recuperated with a dustbath followed by a sunbathe.

Brave Girl Effie, recuperating from her implant with a sunbathe

Brave Girl Effie, recuperating from her implant

Three days later I am still watching her like a hawk. There have been no eggs and she has shown no signs of illness or depression at all. I think her babies are keeping her too busy!

I am however, very aware of the dangers that soft eggs and stuck shells can bring and whilst the implant is not a miracle cure, it will give her a chance to recover from the demands of egg laying. Even though Effie will no longer have any memory of her wretched life in the cage, it is desperate to think that its effects are still taking their toll on her beautiful body.

Breaking News! It would appear Effie is not the only exbatt to have had an implant this week. We have just heard that Miss Fajita Chicken of Cheshire has also been a very Brave Girl at the vets today. Well done Fajita xx

For more information on suprelorin implants for hens click here and scroll down almost to the bottom of the page.

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