With Jo Barlow, who keeps ex-bats in Cornwall

The new year is always a time of changes, reflecting on the achievements of the old one and looking forward to the challenges of the months ahead.

Looking back over 2013 with the Rosewarne hens, Bella, Effie and Eliza have all celebrated their third festive season and New Year as free girls, whilst Hettie and the bantam babies celebrated their first. Of my 10 hens, six live in the Chickens’ Garden and are a close knit group now, even timid little Hettie has found a best friend in Top Hen Bella. In the Humans’ (or Effie’s) Garden, Effie and her three bantam babies are now a flock. She has accepted them and they look up to her like a big sister, following her faithfully around the garden. Finding new friends for my broken-hearted Effie has undoubtedly been 2013’s greatest ex-bat achievement.

Despite losing some girls – most noticeably Bunty Goodchicken, Clara and Effie’s beloved Miss Basket – we have had great successes in treating illness and supporting the girls through their moults. Eliza especially has transformed from a scarily underweight girl on rescue day to post-moult resplendence with gleaming auburn feathers and, interestingly, has started to lay for the first time in two years! She is, quite rightly, terribly proud of herself.

So what will 2014 bring? A first egg from the bantam babies? I do hope so! And more poorlie ex-bats from rehomings to be nursed back to health, growing and blossoming into beautiful free-range girls with big characters. It is easy to forget when you see a garden full of healthy, happy hens that so many commercial hens are still suffering in cages.

Even though we cannot change the system merely by rehoming a few hens, or by writing about them, we can still continue to help where we can. Every hen rehomed is a life saved and, when the enormity of the situation is overwhelming, I remind myself of that famous (if slightly adapted) saying: Saving one hen will not change the world, but it will change the world for that hen.

It is something to take us forward into what I hope will be a happy, healthy and compassionate 2014 for all Your Chickens readers and their beautiful hens.

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