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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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