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It has been many weeks since my last blog post. I blame work myself, getting in the way of important things such as chicken cuddling! As always, it has been busy here on the hen front so here is everybody’s latest news:

Hettie has started her annual Broody Marathon and will be broody for much of this month I expect. Being a Light Sussex cross I understand this is normal! Interestingly she will only growl at me when I take her out of the coop but will peck Gary. Maybe it is a man-thing.

Greta is well, although suffering from her usual dirty knicker issue. At this time of year I am paranoid about flies so she is having regular baths. My special egg-sitter, Greta has learnt not to try and sit on an egg that is already being nestled over by a broody bantam!

Talking of which, Inca and Iona are taking it in turns to be broody. As soon as one stops the other one starts! In her non-broody times Inca is still hellbent on world (or flock) domination and bosses the big girls about with a serious case of Little Hen Syndrome.

Iona though is the sweetest girl ever and, especially when best friend Inca is broody, comes over and asks for a cuddle. She also likes to be put to bed and sung too!

Gary cuddles Iona whilst Inca enjoys some non-broody time

Gary cuddles Iona whilst Inca enjoys some non-broody time

Flora-Jayne is well after her prolapse and subsequent implant. No more eggs have emerged and she didn’t really have a moult either so has sailed through the whole episode. Remarkable for a girl who will be celebrating three-and-a-half years of freedom next week!

Little Lavender is as gorgeous as ever and lights up the garden just by being there. She has had some soft eggs which have made her poorlie and after she laid a horrible egg and lash combo, has been given an implant. She was not impressed but after some Brave Girl Eggy was back to her usual sunny self. She will also, I believe, have some very exciting news soon … watch this space!

Lavender (front) and Lupin enjoy life!

Lavender (front) and Lupin enjoy life!

Lupin has had a few re-occurences of her crop issues but magic pineapple seems to do the trick each time. I fear that one day we will not be able to pull her through but all the time she is fighting so will we. In between episodes she is full of life and as happy as Lavender and my initial aim is to ensure she enjoys a full summer of freedom.

Little Lemony came back into lay after her prolapse and implant and I am happy to say everything stayed where it should be! She is becoming so very fond of Effie, and follows her round like a little powder puff shadow. She has just started to go broody and taking her out of the coop gives me the chance of a rare cuddle – a treat indeed!

Lemony stands on tiptoe to preen her beloved Effie

Lemony stands on tiptoe to preen her beloved Effie

And then there is Miss Effie. After her third implant, Miss Effie is moulting quite a bit but is well in herself, if slowing down a little. She is still having the odd panic attack, bless her, but a cuddle with mum usually calms her down. With Lemony broody, she is dividing her time between snoozing in her coop with Lemony and snoozing in the Human Coop (where she is as I write this). Next week she too will be celebrating three-and-a-half years as a free girl, and as always, I am quite emotional about yet another milestone my special girl has reached.

With summer coming, so too are lots of lovely family and friends to visit us and Effie. Well, when I say us, I mean Effie. She is happily granting royal audiences to her army of fans and I am looking forward to taking lots of pictures to post here!

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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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“Oh the north wind does blow, and we shall have…feathers.”

Just as Miss Effie Chicken – ex-batt, big sister extraordinaire and international chicken celebrity – was settling down to the quiet life with her bantam babies, Mother Nature, in her infinite wisdom, decided that the wettest, windiest winter ever to blow through Cornwall was the perfect time for Effie to moult.

Effie had been sporting this season’s latest look of sparse neck feathers and a bare crop for a few weeks but one day, a particularly strong gust of wind resulted in a flurry of feathers flying off our precious girl and every subsequent gust blew away a handful more. A few days later and little Effie was looking rather bedraggled and semi-naked.

Well, what’s a girl to do?! It is no way for a superstar diva to look at all!

Cornwall’s most precious chicken deserves only the very best treatment, so all the stops have been pulled out to bring Effie through her moult – she has been having sardines every other day to increase her protein levels and help her grow her new feathers, she has been having Total Moult solution in her water, she has spent the wettest and windiest days inside the human’s coop, warming herself by the fire and she has had extra soft bedding in her coop at night, with a blanket tucked over the roof to stop the wind ruffling those oh so beautiful feathers! And, of course, she has been having extra loves and gentle strokes!!

And sure enough, her new quills have emerged and her gorgeous new feathers are at the delicate paintbrush stage. Like the brave girl that she is, she has barely complained and, in fact, has remained very happy and upbeat throughout the whole ordeal. Her bantam babies have given her a new lease of life and filled her little heart with so much happiness that nothing as mundane as a moult will prevent her from enjoying every single day with them.

In all seriousness, at over two years free and with the truly horrible weather we are currently enduring, I am well aware of the dangers a moult could inflict on Effie’s beautiful little body. I promised Effie I will bring her safely through her moult and I will make the same promise to all the kind hearted people who have been following her story over these past two years and who love her almost as much as we do.

Effie is surrounded by love, and the strength of that love, combined with the best care we can possibly give her, will ensure that by the spring, Miss Effie Chicken, that most beloved of girls, will be basking in the spring sunshine, feeling its warmth on her resplendent new feathers.

Effie in the springtime!

Effie in the springtime!

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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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Effie’s bantam babies are now almost fully grown and Effie has become quite used to them on the other side of the fence. There has been no fighting and, even occasionally, the odd pecky kiss and beak clean so I was hopeful a beak to beak meet may not go too badly. It was time, darling Effie needs some friends…

Sunday 22nd September was booked in as The Big Day. It was the equinox, which felt like a good omen, both Gary and I were at home to supervise and, perhaps most importantly, the humans were going to the pub for lunch and a stiff nerve settler beforehand.

On Friday evening the bantams’ wings had been clipped as they had been shooting around their run like little feathery jets and, after the Colin incident, I didn’t want them to fly over the fence into the Big Girls’ Garden.

Sunday morning saw their run adapted with a little gate so they could come and go and we could lock them back in afterwards.

Bantams explore Effie's Garden

Bantams explore Effie’s Garden

Pub lunch was eaten, we were ready and I felt sick with nerves!! After seeing Effie fight beak and claw with Gracie, Bella, Eliza etc and saw her hounding a terrified Hettie, I dreaded a battle with the bantams.

But I am delighted to report that it all went rather well.

Effie walked straight into the run, and had a dustbath in the bantams’ flowerpot/dustbath whilst the babies watched. Inca tried to clean Effie’s tail feathers and Effie gave her a ‘look.’ Inca scuttled off. Effie then explored the babies’ run and coop before giving Inca and India lemon Drop a gentle (for Effie) yet stern peck to ascertain her Big Sister/Top Hen role.

Effie meets her bantams

Effie meets her bantams

After that she wandered off whilst the bantams braved life outside of their run and explored Effie’s Garden. Effie came over a couple of times and the babies scurried back into their run. Which I was very pleased with as firstly Effie knows she has no competition for her Top Hen position, secondly that the babies all stick together and lastly that they go straight back to their run if they are frightened.

The babies followed Effie around for a while keeping a safe distance and eventually trundled back to their run and went to sleep, exhausted after their adventures.

All in all a very successful first meet. I will keep letting them out for a supervised hour or two each day and lengthening their time together.

I am finally cautiously optimistic that my darling Effie will at last have some friends again. Much as she loves cuddling down with Malcolm her cuddly duck each evening, the night she tucks up surrounded by her three bantam babies will be the night I know my most precious girl has found love again.

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Can two humbugs and a lemon drop mend a broken heart? Well, if they are eight-week-old bundles of feathers and mischief maybe…

Two humbugs and a lemon drop!

Two humbugs and a lemon drop!

With Effie suffering two sad losses recently, her little spirit was flagging. She was becoming very clingy, spending more and more time in the humans’ coop and she had taken to standing by the gate looking into the big girls’ garden. At night time, instead of being the top tier of a two hen pyramid, she discovered that being a one hen pyramid was a very lonely place to be.

We had decided that Effie needed small hens as company. Young hens, so that she did not feel threatened or frightened. Seeing how calm she had been with little Izzy, it was certainly the right thing for her.

And then I heard that three little bantam chicks were ready for a new home. They had been hatched in the animal care unit at work and I had seen them at only a few hours old. My friend who had originally reserved three was unable to have them, so they were needing a home.

It was a sign.

On Friday afternoon these three bundles of mischief came to live in Effie’s Garden. India Lemon Drop is a lemon pekin bantam and the two little humbugs are Inca and Iona, partridge pekin bantams. India Lemon Drop is the naughty one but also the girl who does not quite trust me yet, Inca is the darker of the humbugs and is brave and inquisitive and loves cuddles (well, tolerates them) and little Iona is the humbug with the reddier, more Celtic colouring. She is sweet and gentle and also tolerates my cuddles!

Two humbugs Iona (left) and Inca

Two humbugs Iona (left) and Inca

India Lemon Drop

India Lemon Drop

They have their own coop and run for the moment and Gary, Effie and I spent the weekend building them a bantam-chick-proof run with a top on as we discovered very quickly that bantam chicks can easily clear a four foot fence! The cats were also quite intrigued so security was essential! In between her cuddles with Gary, Effie tried out the babies’ dustbath (it used to be hers in the ICU) and deemed it most suitable.

Gary and Effie take time out from run building for a cuddle and a snooze

Gary and Effie take time out from run building for a cuddle and a snooze

Effie is now rather taken with her new babies, although I am not sure she knows quite what they are. When India Lemon Drop did her Houdini act over the fence, she landed right at Effie’s feet. Effie just stared (in shock no doubt!) and made no attempt to attack her. And yesterday there was even some beak cleaning going on through the fence!

Meeting big sister Effie

Meeting big sister Effie

I am hoping that by the time these babies are big enough to meet the big wide world that is Effie’s Garden, Effie will have accepted them and she will have friends and company once more. No-one will ever replace her beloved Miss Basket in her eyes, or in ours, but our little humbugs and lemon drop may just provide the comfort our darling Effie needs.

Thank you Quolanta Arnold for the brilliant title to this blog xx

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