Posts Tagged ‘Tom’

When you are rescuing 700 hens, it takes a very special girl to be singled out. That girl was Evie.

In the massive Cornwall rescue just before the cage ban came into force, my son Tom came to help us and he noticed one pale little hen, cowering and hunched, her newly emerging quills pecked out and bleeding. She was barely moving. So he whisked her up in his arms and decided we had to take her home. At that moment she became his special girl.

Evie spent the next week being attended to by Tom in the ICU wing at our house (the utility room by any other name) with her new sisters Effie, Eleanor and Eliza. There was something rather lovely about having four expectant little faces greeting you in the morning. After a week or so of intensive care, Evie and Eliza were deemed well enough to graduate to the hospital coop in the garden. They had their own large run, dustbath and perches but Evie was always happiest perching on the edge of the open door of their coop. It was almost as if she was sitting back and surveying her new life and taking it all in. Once she had no-one pecking her, her feathers grew back quickly and were so beautiful – creamy brown with laced edges. Her comb stayed floppy though but it rather suited her!

Beautiful Evie

Once they had settled into their new coop they were allowed out for evening jaunts around the garden once the Big Girls had been locked in their run. Here they met Effie and Eleanor again who were also allowed out for an evening constitutional. It became a lovely little ritual as all four girls were getting better.

Within weeks, Evie and Eliza were free ranging in the day with the Big Girls but in their own coop at night. They always stayed together though and when Effie and Eleanor were moved outside into a run, Evie and Eliza used to sit on the other side of the fence to them and ‘chat’ – like a true flock, they remembered their old friends.


But the reason we brought Evie home was that there was something not quite right, all was not well I just couldn’t put my finger on it. But then the pieces started to fit together – her lack of eggs, her constant perching and sleeping all day, her increasing weight and odd gait. On giving her a thorough once over I discovered her abdomen was full of fluid. This water belly, or ascites, is basically a circulatory problem that would probably be fatal at some point. The immediate treatment was for a vet to drain the fluid to make her more comfortable.

On the day of Evie’s operation, Eliza was completely lost and spent the day sitting outside Effie and Eleanor’s run. They stayed close to her all day.

Evie the Brave Girl returned and at first all was well. She seemed more comfortable and active and had a healthy appetite. She was prescribed heart pills for the rest of her life, however long that would be, as well as diuretics.

We knew anything we did would only prolong the inevitable but really didn’t expect the end to come so quickly. Less than two weeks after her op, Evie started to look unwell, her comb pale and she stood around, hunched and listless. Feeling her crop I could find nothing untoward but on feeling her tummy all was firm and as it should be! At least we had made her more comfortable. By Saturday I think we knew what to expect and all I could really do was give her painkillers so she was comfy. And, indeed her tired little heart finally gave out on Sunday morning.

Just because we expected it didn’t make it any less heartbreaking. Evie only had three months of freedom compared to 18 miserable months in her hellish cage. Poor girl, she missed the summer and she did love the sun so. But we had watched her sunbathe and preen and dustbathe and forage. In her short time of freedom she had been a happy hen.

Evie (facing) and best friend Eliza free ranging

We were in fact fighting a losing battle against a system that had abused her little body so that whatever we did was never going to be enough. But we had to try. As my literary hero Atticus Finch said:

“It’s when you know you’re licked before you begin but you begin anyway and you see it through no matter what. You rarely win, but sometimes you do.”

She did however know love, kindness, freedom and friendship. And she was a good, sweet, loving little chicken with a big and beautiful, but ultimately weak heart. Her spirit has flown to henven now where I hope she can fly forever free and without pain. There is a very special mother hen, called Agatha, waiting there for her and I know she will take great, great care of our precious little Evie.

Fly high little hen. Three months with you was nowhere near enough.

RIP angel xxx

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It’s been a busy old hen-orientated festive season – rescuing battery hens, tending to the very special poorlie girls we brought home as well as looking after my own nine beautiful girls.

My big girls outside are all doing well, in particular Dolly who is possibly the most beautiful chicken I have ever seen (don’t tell the others). Since her implant in October she has blossomed and now quite unrecognisable from the scrawny, scared little girl I brought home in the summer.

Beautiful Dolly, just 9 weeks after her implant!

Poor old Clara on the other hand is moulting and is looking very sorry for herself. She is very clever though, the first day I identified the owner of the pillow full of white feathers in the coop, I gave her some scrambled egg for breakfast, laced with nutridrops and supplements, in the privacy of the greenhouse, away from the gannets…sorry other girls. She now waits patiently by the greenhouse door each morning as I give the others their porridge a la sultana and poultry spice, to be let in to enjoy her egg in peace!

Poor Moulty Girl Clara

My new poorlies are both adorable and heartbreaking, but all doing very well, considering.


My son Tom came on his first battery hen rescue in December and was a star, it was a lot to ask of a 20 year old university student but he rose to the challenge brilliantly. I was so very proud of the way he handled being in the farm and dealing with hundreds of hens but was most proud with the kindness and compassion he showed towards these frightened, fragile creatures. He picked out the injured or poorlie girls and one in particular, who was terrified and cowering, her new quills bleeding from being pecked, he decided we had to bring home. That was Evie. She is still terrified of everything and everyone but her feathers are growing back slowly, along with her confidence. She only spent a few days in the ICU (converted coal hole in the utility room) before relocating to the hospital coop where she is now enjoying green grass, fresh air and the sunshine (occasionally between showers). She is eating well and slowly learning to trust me (especially when I have a handful of corn!) and her coop mate Eliza.

Pretty little Evie, growing in confidence each day


Limpy Liza was one of two poorlie hens left at the Rosewarne collection point, so naturally came home with us. Her limp was nothing too sinister, possibly just sore from being taken out of the cage, and a few days of rest and twice daily arnica rubs have worked wonders. She is a placid, sweet girl and an ideal coop mate for little Evie. She is negotiating the ramp well now and is walking around her run almost normally.

Beautiful Eliza

Eleanor (Chicken in a basket)

Eleanor was the second poorlie girl left at Rosewarne and a much more severe case. She was unable to walk at all on one foot, the middle toe swollen and infected with a black nail. Her first two days were spent cuddled up in a pink basket (hence the name) and after a further few days in the ICU, twice daily salt baths, arnica rubs and Vaseline to keep the wound clean, we took her to the vets as the toe was completely floppy and she seemed to have no control over it. On examination, he discovered something stuck up inside her toe which he removed as well as some dead tissue. He thought she had had an infection, which our treatment was successfully dealing with and simply recommended more of the same. Since her visit she is walking a lot better and putting a little weight on her foot. She ventured outside yesterday into the safety of the spare run and spent a pleasant few hours admiring the sun and sky and pecking the grass.

Beautiful, photogenic Eleanor with her bad foot raised


And then there is little Effie. Unashamedly my favourite as she is the most fragile, traumatised and vulnerable girl I have ever seen. In the rescue barn she was terrified of all the other hens, constantly running away from them, and looking at the state of her, she must have been picked on her whole life. More frightening, though, was her neck. It looks as though it has been broken at some point and then the bones knitted back together at right angles, giving her a slightly hunched, rather worrying appearance. How this happened and more importantly how she is still alive I have no idea, but it is now up to me to make her time from now on as happy, comfortable and full of love as possible. She is eating and drinking well, moving around ‘normally’ and is very friendly towards Gary and I – bless her, after all she has been through she still trusts humans – and even perches on our legs of an evening on one of her jaunts around the kitchen.

Heartbreakingly Beautiful Effie

She is staying in the ICU with Eleanor who is a good coop mate for her, not being overly mobile and apart from the odd peck of Effie’s delicious quills, leaves her alone. We took Effie outside to see the sky yesterday as well but she was terrified of the grass, the air, the wind, the noises, the coop, everything, so she came back inside to the safety of her ICU. What she must have been through to be in this terrible way breaks my heart. If there was ever a candidate for a house hen she is it…

It’s actually rather lovely having hens watching me in the kitchen and coming out for a little walk around the house! Only a few minor problems with this – the cats are not impressed, there is a distinct eau de hen in the house and the rather rank 70s kitchen carpet we inherited when we bought the house is not wipeable…Still I think I will take my time before Effie heads off into the garden with the other hens, she will tell me when she is ready. In the meantime I shall just enjoy her company.

Eleanor and Effie in the ICU Wing!

*Apologies to Charlotte Popescu for a dreadful play on the title of her brilliant book, Hens in the Garden, Eggs in the Kitchen.

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