Effie the Hen is this month’s ‘Amazing Animal of the Month’
Effie was nominated by Jo Barlow, who has written about her below:
Effie is an extraordinary little hen. Rescued in December 2011, one of the last hens out of the barren cages before the 2012 ban, she was immediately identified as being a ‘special girl.’ She had a twisted neck, so was whisked away to the security of my ICU (converted coal hole) with other poorlie girls. By Christmas, only Effie and Eleanor (forever to be called Miss Basket as she was initially unable to walk and spent her first two weeks of freedom tucked up in a pink laundry basket) remained inside with the humans. This relationship with Miss Basket was so important in Effie’s rehabilitation, what started as a cautious companionship blossomed into friendship. However, Effie’s scars were emotional as well as physical; she was a traumatised little hen and everything caused her great concern. As her feathers grew back, Effie learnt the wonders of a dustbath, of scratching for food, of being able to preen herself and she learnt to trust her humans. Her broken body belied a big, brave spirit, that given love and care, was slowly starting to emerge.
Her next step was free ranging outside and Effie and Miss Basket were taken out on escorted walks around the garden once the Big Girls (older ex-batts) had been shut up for the evening. By early spring, Effie had grown confident enough to move outside and the pair had established themselves in a little coop in their own separate part of the garden and also, somehow, managed to commandeer access the human’s garden as well.
Thus followed a blissful 18 months for these two very precious ex-batts. They settled into a lovely daily routine together – sunbathing, mutual preening, dustbathing, foraging – before tucking up together to night, either in a hen pyramid (Effie on top) or tucked side by side, necks entwined. Together they showed the wide range of emotions that hens have: happiness, fear, friendship and love to name but a few.
However in early summer 2013 the gentle soul that was Miss Basket succumbed to a tumour brought on by her enforced laying days as a battery hen. As Effie grieved for her soul mate, Gary and I tried to think of a way to find company for our girl. The answer came in the shape of three bantam chicks who needed a home. Would Effie accept young hens, far smaller than her, or would she attack them?
A very slow and careful integration followed and by early autumn, Effie was happily free ranging with the young bantams. Effie had surprised us all by showing that ex-batts do indeed still have maternal instincts. She took the three little hens under her wing, literally, caring for them, guiding and teaching them and tucking herself protectively and contentedly over them at night. They in turn adored their new mother, followed her around like three shadows and preened her lovingly, especially the tail feathers that her neck would not allow her to reach.
Now a proud mum, Effie is starting to show signs of slowing down. She has had her third implant to stop her laying after having soft egg issues and she is starting to feel her age. She is about five, which for an ex-batt is very old, they are not bred to last longer than two years. And she has discovered that she has unlimited access to the human’s coop through the patio doors. She is often found tucked up on an armchair or snoozing on the floor at my feet or asleep on one of the cats’ beds in the sunshine.
But Effie is also an ambassador for caged and commercial hens. Her story highlights the effects of cages on hens and shows people what amazing personalities hens have and what wonderful pets chickens make.
Effie has become quite the star and her story has earned her a legion of fans! She has received fan mail and lovely people have travelled across the country to meet her but more importantly she is inspiring other people to rehome ex-batts. There is a misconception that after the 2012 barren cage ban, there are no caged hens. Unfortunately this is not true. Hens are now caged in Enriched or Colony cages, giving them fractionally more space than the barren cages and the most rudimentary of scratching, perching and nesting materials. When I think of the horrors that Effie suffered in the cages, it breaks my heart to think there are other ‘Effies’ in cages enduring everything she did. Every hen we can rehome because of Effie’s story is a life saved and I am so very proud of her.
Considering on that day back in December 2011, I did not think this pitiful little scrap would survive the night, Effie has proved us all wrong. Every day we have with her is a blessing; she has given me so much love and happiness and I am honoured to be her human.