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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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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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Grace Kelly Chicken came to live with us as a poorlie hen from the rehoming, she had a prolapse and needed some special love and attention. This scrawny little chicken with featherless patches seemed to love the bath she was given and afterwards happily dozed in my arms, wrapped up in a towel. Poor little scrap, this was the first act of kindness she had ever received. Gracie’s coop mates were the very ill Gina and the swollen-tummied Greta Garbo and a happy little flock of poorlie girls they made. Gracie was always the big character of the three; the cleverest, the naughtiest and by far the loudest! But it was Gracie’s cries that woke us up early one morning to let us know Gina was dying, and enabled us to hold her as she passed away.

As her feathers started to emerge, Gracie lived up to her namesake and became a stunningly beautiful girl – her feathers a rich auburn with a single black tail feather nestled amongst the others, a quirky nod to her ancestry! Gracie and Greta integrated with the main flock relatively easily, and settled in as bottom hens, although Gracie had other plans! The next day she flew back into her old garden to cause mayhem and had a subsequent wing clip! However, this did not stop her discovering she could fly onto the table where all the seeds and worms were kept and merrily munch her way through as many as she could. But Gracie, who by now was nicknamed Gracie Lou, also found she could kick the pots of goodies off the table and onto the greenhouse floor, enabling her sisters to enjoy her ill-gotten gains! Gracie was always a generous girl!!

Soon after rehoming, Gracie inspects her new knickers!

Soon after rehoming, Gracie inspects her new knickers!

With the arrival of Hettie and Flora-Jayne, Gracie was very keen to establish the fact she was no longer bottom hen. A little too keen at times and spent some of the merging free ranging time in the Naughty Coop thinking about her actions. Things soon settled down, although Gracie was always first into the coop at night to get the best place in the nestbox and nothing, but nothing, would make her budge, so there was often a four headed mass of feathers piled into one nestbox and three nestboxes left empty!!

But Gracie’s favourite thing in the whole world was a bath. Her prolapse had left her with a slightly messy bottom at times so baths were a regular occurrence, much to Gracie’s delight. Naturally she hated being caught as she was convinced we were trying to kill her, but once scooped up into our arms, she thoroughly enjoyed the attention. She liked me to sing to her, Mika’s Grace Kelly of course, and chirruped along as I attended to her messy feathers. Afterwards she stood on the draining board and fanned out her rear end awaiting the warm wafty delights of the hairdryer, dozing contentedly as I dried her feathers. Given the chance she would have stood like that for hours; she even posed for a photoshoot for Your Chickens in her bath!

Gracie having her beloved bath and blow dry

Gracie having her beloved bath and blow dry

During the early spring, Gracie started to have the odd ‘quiet’ day. She rallied within hours each time and we could find nothing obviously wrong. She was eating well and was as loud and mischievous as always. On her last day, she bundled out of the coop first thing in the morning and spent the day happily eating corn, chasing magpies and digging for bugs. At bedtime though, I found her under the bush, unable to walk. Something was obviously very wrong and she had The Look, so we dosed her up and tucked her into the nestbox in her favourite spot with her sisters.

Beautiful Grace Kelly Chicken

Beautiful Grace Kelly Chicken

Gracie went to sleep that evening and did not wake up. In the morning, the other girls were all tucked around her and top hen Liza would not leave her sister, even pulling at her feathers to try and wake her up. Gracie was a feisty and dignified girl and she was allowed a peaceful, dignified death, safe in the loving wings of her sisters. I still do not know what it was, I suspect a tumour, but it was mercifully quick and Gracie did not suffer. It is little comfort for us humans though, or for her sisters, who were very shocked at her sudden death and struggled to understand it. Liza especially took Gracie’s death very badly, it was her first loss as a top hen, and the night after Gracie had died, Liza was still looking for her to put her to bed.

Grace Kelly was cremated that evening, a beautiful scented narcissi tucked under her wing so she smelt lovely as she headed to the Rainbow Bridge, where Bella would be waiting for her. After we buried her ashes, we sprinkled forget-me-nots on her grave – the blue similar to one of the human Grace Kelly’s dresses in To Catch a Thief. I think Gracie would have liked that.

RIP darling, beautiful Grace Kelly. Fly high little hen xxxx

Miss Grace Kelly Chicken sunbathes

Miss Grace Kelly Chicken sunbathes

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All hens are precious, exbatts are even more precious and Effie is the most precious one of all. But she will not live forever, which is why, at almost two and a half years free, every sniffle and snuffle is closely monitored and fussed over at great length.

So far Effie had sailed through her moult, she had ignored the indignities of bare, featherless patches and was now sporting her Chanelesque New Look…and fabulous she looks too dahhrling.

Effie resplendent in her new feathers

Effie resplendent in her new feathers

But last weekend, she started to have an upset tummy. Without embarrassing her any more than necessary, things were a bit…eruptive and watery. All necessary measures were taken and despite a certain, solidifying of things, Effie started to appear rather unwell. Whilst still eating well (she does love her food) she became lethargic, hunched and generally not herself. Even having workmen interrupting her peaceful garden did nothing to raise her interest.

Investigations found nothing untoward, so a general antibiotic was administered, and I must admit, I was so worried about her, I sat with her that evening and gave her The Talk. I told her everything I needed to – about how much I loved her, how blessed my life was through knowing her, how special she was and how she had changed the lives of so many chickens – just in case.

She went to bed tucked up under a fluffy bantam blanket – her babies covering their mum in love and protection. I sat up late into the night, boosted by the love and support of my wonderful chicken friends – Liz, Jan, Quolanta, Helen and Trish. Only a mad chicken lady would understand the trauma I was going through.

But as I did a last late night check on her I saw above her coop, shining high in the night’s sky, the moon, Jupiter and Venus. It was almost as if the whole universe was looking after my girl.

But it was to be a long night…

Early next morning, darling Gary, who had been kept awake all night by my fretting, kindly got up first to open the coop to see how she was.

First out and hungry!!!

Hey gorgeous Effie!  (she is not foaming at the beak, that is the remains of the bribe I had to give her to pose for a photo!)

Hey gorgeous Effie!
(she is not foaming at the beak, that is the remains of the bribe I had to give her to pose for a photo!)

Whatever it was had been overcome and Effie was back to her normal, naughty, fun, brilliant and thoroughly gorgeous self!! She wolfed down copious amounts of mash and spent the day shouting at the builders through her fence – they were putting in patio doors, with Effie’s unsupervised foremanship I expected to come home to a customised chicken flap in the new doors!

A few days later, she is still fit as a fiddle and I cannot begin to describe how happy I am that she is well again. I love her so much, the very thought of losing her is more than I can bear. Every day with her is a gift and I am thankful for every sunrise that we share together. She has blessed my life and has left her little footprints on my heart.

Effie has asked that this blog be dedicated to the memory of two of her friends – very special hens who passed away recently.
Kiev, the beautiful and dignified exbatt, head hen and all round legendary chicken who went to sleep last week, leaving her beautiful owner, Quolanta, heartbroken.
And little Rosemary bantam, who died very suddenly on Saturday. Her owners, our good friends Ann and Sarah Louise, are devastated at the loss of their little girl.
RIP Kiev and Rosemary xxx

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A joyous and momentous event occurred in the little white coop this weekend. Little Inca Bantam laid her very first egg!

It was Sunday morning and, having completed the daily de-pooing, I did a swift headcount to make sure everyone was present and correct before heading back to bed for my much-anticipated cup of tea and lie in.

However, Inca was nowhere to be seen!

Eventually I tracked her down to her nest box where she was happily snuggled down in an Eggy Laying position and she glared at me for interrupting her. Aware something amazing and exciting was probably about to happen I skulked around in the garden awaiting The Great Moment, my lie in long forgotten.

After a little while, Effie, obviously having sympathy pains, had her own Eggy Feeling and toddled in to join Inca. Even after her own egg had been laid, Effie, always the good Big Sister, stayed with Inca. A first egg is a very important moment in a girl’s life and Effie was on hand to help Inca through this milestone.

Inca's First Egg!

Inca’s First Egg!

Suddenly, Miss Inca Grown-Up Bantam appeared from the coop and amidst much sqwarking and running around the garden, proudly announced the arrival of her First Egg! She was, quite rightly, terribly pleased with herself.

And now, a few days and two more eggs later, Miss Inca Bantam is officially a Big Girl and Effie’s second-in-command. Whilst Iona and India Lemon Drop happily peck away in blissful pre-egg innocence, Miss Inca Bantam is a mature woman of the world.

My baby is all grown up!

Miss Inca Bantam and her little sisters!

Miss Inca Bantam and her little sisters!

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