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Little Lavender (in the days before she was named a Goodchicken) came to live with us on 16th August 2014, one of three very poorlie girls. She came with her two beautiful, but equally frail sisters, Larkspur and Lupin, and all three of them caused us great concern speckled amongst the love and joy they brought us. The girls had been starved in their cages prior to slaughter, a practice sadly all too common in the hellholes masquerading as poultry farms. Consequently all three precious angels suffered with crop problems throughout their free lives – Larkspur’s time as a free girl painfully short at a few weeks, Lupin’s mercifully longer at just over a year. So for Lavender to survive over two years as a free girl was a massive victory for both her body and her spirit – she spent longer out of the cage than in it, and that gives us humans some comfort at this sad time.

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Lavender on rehoming

 

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Lavender, Larkspur and Lupin on rehoming

 

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Feathers growing back after two weeks

During Larkpsur’s illness, Lavender had already shown herself to be very much a Goodchicken, a title very soon to be bestowed upon her. She was kind and gentle and so very tender towards her ailing sister. But after Larkspur’s sad passing, Loops and Lav (as they were forever to be called), were integrated with the Big Girls. After the initial handbags at dawn, Loops and Lav developed a new lease of life. For the moment, gone were the frail, floppy-combed little souls, and in their place two gorgeous, fluffy ginger ladies, who treated every day as if it was a new adventure and viewed their new world through eyes of wonder. First out of the coop in the morning, last to bed at night, every moment had to be savoured.

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Little Pickle

 

Lavender discovered the joy of laying her egg in a nest, taking her time and languishing over her precious ‘baby’. So tender and loving was she with her egg, it brought tears to the eyes of those of us privileged enough to watch her. It was about this time, racing around with Loops, welcoming the new frizzles and helping care for the recently bereaved Lemony from Effie’s Garden that Lavender earned the title of Goodchicken. Kind, gentle and loving to all around her, Lavender was indeed a Goodchicken – an angel on this earth.

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Lavender’s Henniversary

But these golden halcyon days were soon to end as Little Lupin finally succumbed to the crop issues that had been plaguing her all her life. As Loops left us, so too did a little of Lavender’s spirit and love of life. Whilst still surrounded by her friends, she became something of a lonely girl, always OK, but never with that joie de vivre she had had when Loops was with her. Lavender often flew over the fence into the now empty Effie’s Garden and pottered about on her own and even the influx of the four hooligans that are the M Girls failed to restore her energies. She seemed content enough, hanging out with the other oldies some of the time, but both we and she knew she was pining for her departed soulmate.

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Loops and Lav – soulmates

 

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Loops and Lav immortalised by Elaine Innes

 

As with Loops and Larkspur, crop issues plagued her and she was often on metoclopramide to keep that pesky crop working. She had been implanted to stop the soft eggs as her body needed no further demands on it other than just to keep surviving. This spring, however, she started to lose weight and during a routine visit to Uncle Jason it was discovered she had lost almost half her body weight. Never a big girl, she now weighed in at a smidge over 1kg. We tried everything to get her to put on weight, even putting sunflower oil in her treats to boost her calorie intake, but she continued to lose weight.

It was my goal, in the spring, to get her to enjoy at least one more Cornish summer and we pulled out all the stops to ensure both she and her quality of life were as good as they could be. And as far as I could see Lav enjoyed everything a happy, free girl should. Pecking at treats, dustbathing, eating worms, preening and dozing in the sun and tucking up with her sisters at night. Daily we checked her, treated her and ensured she was as well as she could be.

However, in the middle of October, she had lost even more weight and started to become frailer by the day. Then one Tuesday at the end of October, she stopped eating, her feathers were dull and her head and wings drooped. She was telling me that it was time.

At Uncle Jason’s she passed away very quickly and very peacefully in my arms; her spirit had obviously decided it was time to meet her beloved Lupin once more. She was cremated with lavender under her wings and her ashes buried with her sisters, all of them scattered with lavender flowers.

There are good chickens and then there are Goodchickens. Lavender was most certainly a Goodchicken; a kind, gentle, loving girl who relished her freedom and cared for all of those around her, hen and human. To me she epitomises everything about ex-batts. Her frail body, ravaged by its past, refused to be beaten, her spirit indomitable, she fought to enjoy the free life that was her right as a hen, and one that every hen should be allowed to enjoy.  We are heartbroken to have lost her, our garden seems empty. Our only consolation is that she is now flying forever free with her beloved Lupin and Larkspur.

Sweet dreams my darling girl. Fly high little hen xxxxxxxxxx

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Beautiful Lavender Goodchicken

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Little Lupin Chicken and her two sisters arrived to live with us last August, three little girls who had been starved in the cage and consequently were all in a dreadful physical state. Surprisingly it was the largest hen, Larkspur, who succumbed to illness the quickest, passing away after only a few weeks of freedom, while tiny Lupin and Lavender quickly feathered up and started to grow strong and healthy.

Lovely Lupin on rehoming

Lovely Lupin on rehoming

Named after the flower, Lupin also took on the more wolf-like connotations of her name, taking it upon herself to be top hen of this little trio and sleeping by the coop door each night, guarding her new sisters. It made for a touching sight, this feisty little scrap of skin and bone, fearlessly protecting her new family. She was brave as well as beautiful, a little girl with a big heart.

She was also a very hungry girl and spent much of her day filling her crop, one of the many things life in a cage had denied her. Very soon though, Loops and Lav (as they became known!) realised that life wasn’t just about survival, it is about having fun and being happy and Lupin embraced her new life with an unadulterated joy. Each day was a marvellous new adventure.

Loops, not long after rehoming, enjoying her favourite pastime. Note her beautiful quills emerging

Loops, not long after rehoming, enjoying her favourite pastime. Note her beautiful quills emerging

Merging Loops and Lav with the big girls was so easy, neither of them were interested in being top hen and avoided any fisticuffs. Life is too short to be worrying about such things. Lupin’s joy at her new life featured in a couple of magazines in an article called Through Eyes of Wonder.

“Lupin and Lavender … now have a whole garden to explore – bugs to find, holes to dig and grass to scratch, every day bringing new and exciting exploits; they are first up in the morning and last to bed at night. Their enthusiasm for life is contagious and their happiness a delight to witness.”

Look at those beautiful feathers growing!

Look at those beautiful feathers growing!

However, little Loops had the ghosts of her old life still haunting her. That crop that had been so empty in the cages, was weakened and caused her all sorts of problems. Occasionally it became impacted so we tried pineapple, oil and massage which seemed to work at first. Her crop episodes were sporadic and initially only mild but as time went on they became more severe and each time we feared we would lose her. However, Lupin was a fighter, she wasn’t going to give up on her wonderful new life without a fight, she still had too much fun to have.

Loops (right) and Lav enjoying special henniversary cake

Loops (right) and Lav enjoying special henniversary cake

What we did discover though was that she was a squiggler!! Hated being picked up, hated her medicine and squiggled away as soon as she was able. Poor baby. So when she had to go to see Uncle Jason for an implant to stop her soft eggs, I was very concerned about her in the cat carrier. I hate putting ex-batts in it as there is a wire door and I fear they will think they are back in the cage again. So I put Loops in the carrier on the front seat, we had the Abba CD playing and we sang along to Chiquitita, changing the words to Chicken Lupin which she seemed to find soothing.

But sadly soon after the implant, things quickly took a downward turn. The next day she was very under the weather and I hoped it was just the effect of the implant – but in my heart I knew it was her poor crop again. I do not know if it was the shock of the implant that triggered it, so naturally feel responsible for her subsequent illness. Within a couple of days she had developed sour crop and, although we tried everything we could to make her better, she continued to get worse and nothing that we tried to syringe into her was going through. She was losing weight rapidly and becoming very weak.

On her final morning, we found her with foul fluid pouring out of her beak and she was hardy able to stand. Knowing it was her last day, I put her in the sunshine under an apple tree. She turned her head to the sun and closed her eyes, I am sure she knew it was time, but wanted to enjoy one more moment of sunshine in the garden she loved so. On the way to the vets we sang along to ‘Chicken Lupin’ again in the hope it would comfort her and once there, she went to sleep almost immediately, her poor body exhausted from fighting her illness. She was peaceful in my arms but she took a while to pass over, it was almost as if she was hanging on to every last scrap of life.

Loops and Lav (left) enjoying life!

Loops and Lav (left) enjoying life!

She was cremated that evening with the first sweetpea of the summer under her wing as well as some lavender flowers. Her soulmate in life was Lavender and I felt she needed to take something of her darling friend with her on her journey.

And now our garden feels empty without the joyful energy of Lupin in it. Her friend and partner-in-crime Lavender, is very subdued and misses her sister almost as much as we do.

Rest in peace now my darling brave girl, eat to your crop’s content and never feel pain, hunger or fear again. You are safe now darling. Fly high little Loops xxxx

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What is a girl to do? With her BFF and bantie-in-waiting Lemony Bantam broody, Effie was left alone, kicking her heels in her private garden. However, it wasn’t long before Effie remembered her elevated status in the Rosewarne household and decided to set up camp in the Human Coop. This little summer sojourn involved her favourite blankey being laid out in the sunshine and her bowls of food and water (she insisted on my blue Denby ones of course) placed just inside the patio door – which naturally is left open when the humans are around so she can trot out for a brief turn around the grounds should the mood take her. Effie has quickly become accustomed to her new lifestyle as a house hen – in fact she started her free life in the Human Coop and has always thought of herself as human – and potters about quite happily. The cats have chosen to ignore her and I often find all five cats and Effie contentedly snoozing on various chairs, cushions and blankets around the dining room. Clooney cat is even brave enough to drink water from Effie’s water bowl.

Effie dozes in the sun on her blankey

Effie dozes in the sun on her blankey

The downsides of having a House Hen are firstly the mess – food , hendruff and feathers scattered across the floor – and secondly … the mess, there have been some very unladylike deposits! A nightly sweep-up easily sorts out the first issue and kitchen roll and anti-bac spray the second. The photo below shows one particularly messy episode after she had her post-dust bath preen and kicked her bowls over in the process!

Opps! Effie's mess.

Opps! Effie’s mess.

However, the upsides far outweigh the down: her little feet clattering on the floor as she comes to greet me when I get in from work; the way she follows me around the Human Coop, hoovering up dropped crumbs as I am cooking; the way we share breakfast every day and she dozes at my feet as I am working on the laptop; watching her as she sleeps, totally relaxed, safe and happy and purring (yes I know) gently; the way she lets me help her preen the quills of her new feathers that her poor neck won’t let her reach; finding she has put herself to bed at night snuggled up on an armchair and the way she will cuddle into me when I carry her out to her coop to go to bed with Lemony.

Effie puts herself to bed in an armchair in the Human Coop

Effie puts herself to bed in an armchair in the Human Coop

Having my Effie inside these past couple of weeks has been an unexpected joy; I am all too aware that at three-and-a-half years’ free every moment with her is a gift, this fortnight has been a truly magical one and I have cherished every minute. Very soon, Lemony will finish being broody and will be back out in the garden again wanting her beloved Effie by her side. And, quite rightly, Effie will want to go back into the loving wings of little Lemony. A big part of me wishes she could always stay inside but I am just being selfish. Effie’s happiness is all that matters, after all.

Effie and Lemony BFFs

Effie and Lemony BFFs

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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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Miss Greta Garbo Chicken has a very important announcement … she is finally wearing knickers!!!

Greta, if you remember, is the exbatt with the bootylicous bottom. Two-and-a-half years’ free, she has always had a swollen rear end that was completely featherless. Her big, knickerless bottom never really gave her any issues, she has always been a happy and active girl who loves her food. Occasionally her bottom swelled a little and felt fluidy and she was treated with furosemide and dandelion tea until things settled down. She has had regular check-ups with Uncle Jason but has never had an ill day in her free range life.

The first sign something was changing was that Greta stopped her usual trick of sitting on eggs in the coop and claiming them as her own. She showed no interest at all in Lupin’s eggs (the only girl laying at the minute)!! Then, over the winter, she started a small moult and something miraculous happened! Not only did her bottom reduce in size, literally, overnight to an almost ‘normal’ size, but she started to grow feathers on it!! They are currently at the paintbrush stage.

I have absolutely no idea how this has happened; Jason and I believed her bootylicous area was scar tissue … obviously it was just fluid and for some reason it has gone. Maybe it is linked to her eggy urges stopping, maybe it is something else. Either way, she is looking even more magnificent and beautiful than before and by spring I hope to be able to post a picture of her fully grown, fabulous frilly knickers!

Gorgeous Greta!

Gorgeous Greta!

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We are immensely proud to announce that Miss Effie Chicken of Rosewarne has been awarded The Amazing Animal of the Month Award by Good News Shared. She was nominated by the lovely people at Compassion in World Farming, who after reading Effie’s tale fell in love with her. And who wouldn’t!

Effie is an amazing ambassador for ex-battery hens and her story has inspired many lovely people to rehome their own ex-batts. She has shown what big hearts and huge personalities hens have and every person that realises this and has their own hens or stops eating chicken or only uses free range eggs is a victory in the battle against intensive farming.

This award means her story will reach a whole new audience so I would ask you to share the following link as far and wide as you can, so that Effie’s work to help her caged sisters can continue:

http://goodnewsshared.com/effie/

Thank you xx

Effie sends you all a kiss xxx

Effie sends you all a kiss xxx

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I write, post and tweet extensively about my girls, so that people can see what amazing creatures hens are and what travesties some humans are inflicting on them. However, for the past few weeks, there has been a hen living with us here at Rosewarne who I have not been able to talk about publicly. Very sadly, this week she passed away so I am now able to tell her story ….

A few days after the passing of our darling Larkspur Chicken, we were on our way to Truro, only to see a chicken on the verge at the side of the road. Screeching to a halt and jumping out we managed to catch her (thank goodness it was a Sunday and quiet or there may have been more than one fatality) and cradling her in my arms we set about trying to find where she came from. During our investigations of nearby houses, I noticed this little girl was very, very thin, had swollen sinuses, was filthy, very smelly and deeply, deeply stressed. Initial investigations proved fruitless and by this time I had already come to a decision made up from a few facts:

This was a sick chicken who needed care.
There was no frantic owner searching for her.
She was starving and filthy and ill. Contagiously ill.
She was almost certainly a commercial hen.
She may have escaped from the nearby poultry farm or the slaughter lorry, she may just have escaped her careless owners or, more worryingly, was thrown out because she was ill and was at risk of passing infection onto the rest of the flock.

This thought process did not take long, so we climbed straight back into the car and headed home, our new girl still cradled in my arms. Right or wrong, she stood the best chance of survival with us – we had a cupboard full of medicines and supplements and the facilities to care for her.

But we made the conscious decision not to mention her to anyone in case an owner came forward – because quite frankly whoever they were did not deserve her.

She took up residence in our greenhouse, the large cat carrier made into a ‘coop’ and an area outside fenced off for her so she could enjoy the grass and Cornish air. She tucked into her mash like a girl possessed and I had high hopes that a few days’ tlc and good food would make her better.

With Larkspur’s sad passing fresh in our hearts, we thought she should be an honorary L-girl, so Lichen she became. Following on from the floral L theme, but slightly different.

Lichen, my foundling

Lichen, my foundling

After a couple of settling in days we went to see Uncle Jason. Lichen’s sinuses were swollen and puffy, although there was no foam in her eyes. Jason agreed with my continuing the combination of baytril and tylan and keeping her separate from the others as she was almost certainly contagious. Over the next two weeks she continued to be interested in her food and paced her fence impatiently when I appeared with treats for all the girls. She usually took herself off to bed early and we tucked a blanket over her cat carrier, even though it was snugly ensconced in the greenhouse, for extra warmth. Every supplement and vitamin I had at my disposal was given to her in the hope of getting her well. We even put lavender flowers, and lavender and eucalyptus essential oils in her ‘coop’ to help boost her immune system and clear her sinuses.

Aside from her supplement-laden mash, she also discovered a love for corn, egg, pasta and couscous! Not to mention a few breakfast-time quails eggs.

However, after a fortnight, she was not making the progress I hoped she would be. Her swollen face was reducing fractionally but she was slowing down, eating less and she was spending more and more time asleep, with her head tucked under her wing. She was also having trouble seeing, so I put her mash and treats in bright green bowls so she could see them. All in all, it was not looking good.

Most tellingly though, after three weeks of good food, extensive tlc and minimal exercise she had lost 100g, weighing in at 1.1kg, almost half what an ex-batt should weigh. She was wasting away and we could not find the reason why. But we carried on in the hope that something would work.

But things quickly took a downwards turn. She absolutely hated taking her medicine and struggled and squirmed each time but the day she stopped fighting us, I knew she had stopped fighting completely. I bathed her on Sunday morning as she would not preen herself and she stood there up to her tummy in bubbles, a fragile fairy, unresponsive and uninterested. I wrapped her in a towel and snuggled her into me, willing her to find the strength to fight. But there was nothing left in her to fight. By Monday she could barely stand and I knew that it was time.

At the vets, she passed away very quickly, going straight to sleep in my arms, and within minutes she had left us. I sensed as her last breath left her body, and felt privileged to see this girl safely pass from this world to the next, where I hope she can fly free, her body forever strong and healthy.

Beautiful Lichen

Beautiful Lichen

On retrospect was I right to rescue her? Not from an ownership point of view, I have no qualms over that one – had she been a loved and cared for girl, I would have left no stone unturned to reunite her with her owner. But from her point of view, after all she is all that matters. Would it have been better to leave her on the road that day– she would almost have certainly died instantly and within minutes. Maybe I prolonged her suffering by taking her home with me??

I don’t know the answer to that one but I do know that seeing an animal somewhere where they should not be and in grave danger meant I could not leave her there. My reaction to seeing her in the road was a natural instinct; to protect her. And I am sure anyone reading this blog would have done the same. And as my darling Gary says, “No-one else stopped. No-one else tried to help her.”

All I can hope was that she knew I loved her and that she knew she was safe and cared for. I take some slight solace in the fact that she could be ill in peace, she was warm and dry and comfortable and that she could sleep safely at night, and eat as much as she wanted. And now she has a name and her story has been told; she was here and she mattered.

We cremated her with the last lavender flower of the season (she was an L girl to the end) under her wing and her ashes are buried with those of the sisters she never knew but who I know will be taking care of this angel at the Rainbow Bridge.

RIP Lichen Chicken, my foundling. Fly high little hen xxx

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