Posted in Pets

A Tale of Two Jack Russells

Written by Molly Jack Russell

Our human sister Clare has asked us, Teddy and Molly, to write a guest article for her blog. We yapped “Yes!” to the challenge. Neither of us know what a blog is, or an article, but we are expecting a treat in return. Maybe a marrowbone?

Anyway, we are two Jack Russells, the best dog in the world of course. We live with Clare’s parents who claim to be our pack leaders. At least that’s what they say. My big brother Ted says he’s pack leader although he’s still working on a plan to oust Human Mum (aka Top Dog) out of this current position. When she gets up off her armchair, Ted will jump on it quick to claim it as his. But he will always end up having to share it with her.

“Co-leading,” he explains to me, as he snuggles next to Human Mum.

“Crawler,” I mutter, before trying to jump up and sit next to the two of them.

I asked Ted what we should write about for this article and he laughed and said we should write about the most interesting subject in the world.

“What’s that Ted?” I asked, thinking tasty treats was the answer.

“Marrowbones?”

He replied, “No, silly! Me, of course!”

Teddy

So I’ve compromised and will write about the two of us.

As I’ve said, we are Jack Russells, pedigree of course (no papers but our parents were full bred). We are often told that, when we were puppies, we lived with a cat. I do not recall this but I do know that cats are very wicked creatures and we should shout at them if we see them. I look for them under hedges and atop fences.

“Clear off,” I shout, if I see any.

Ted swears, “**** **** off!”

My big brother can swear like a trooper.

We are told off for shouting at these villains but I think humans are naive about cats. By the time they realise the truth it will be too late and cats will have achieved their goal – world domination.

We arrived at our human family when we were about eight weeks. Ted was the biggest in our litter and I the smallest. When we argue, Ted sometimes calls me a runt. He can be a bully at times but I always stand up to him. My mother told me not to take any nonsense from anyone. Just because I’m small they may take advantage of me. I’ve always remembered this and will fight back if need be. Clare calls this ‘little dog syndrome’ but my mother is right, we little dogs need to stand up for ourselves.

I don’t recall my early days too well. Ted says I slept a lot those first few days of arriving at our new home. He was wide awake, he says. He told me he was hoping he would be able to snatch my dinner from me, like the way he used to try and push in front of me and our siblings when we were suckling mother. But our human parents never allowed him. And I didn’t too!

We used to sleep in a dog bed in the kitchen but worked our way up to the human settee. We had so much fun as pups! We used to hide and run under the settee and armchair until the day Ted got too fat (“tall”, corrects Ted) and couldn’t get through. Nibbling the furniture was great fun but we were told off for that, and we used to try and nibble feet too. Another no, no – but what larks we had!

We like visiting Clare’s house, not least because she gives us a marrowbone. She has two strange rat-like creatures with no tails. Fatter than rats though. They have a lot of delicious chocolate drops which fall onto the floor. I enjoy clearing these up. I get told off for this though.

“Disgusting” say the humans. But they eat chocolate, why can’t I?

Because of our thin hair, we wear dog coats on winter evenings when it gets cold. They are rather fashionable. Clare calls them ‘pyjamas’ which they are, in a way. We wear them to sleep in after all. Speaking of sleep, it’s time for bed.

“What do you think of the article?” I ask Ted. He says more should have been written about him and next time he’ll write the story.

“Goodnight Ted,” I bark to Ted before sleep. “‘Night Molly,” he replies, before giving me a goodnight kiss on my head. It’s true, we get on each other’s nerves but despite that, we are family and love each other too.

Posted in Pets

The illness of Tim the guinea pig

Tim

It has been rather cold at Cosy Cottage recently, it being November after all. So it’s natural to see the guinea pigs hunkered down in their respective houses – a wooden house, an igloo and under the attic. I believe that wild guinea pigs in the Peruvian Andes seek the security and warmth of caves and nooks and crannies. So, too, do our domestic ones.

Tom was particularly quiet one day, but in the evening he was back again looking for his treats. So, two days later, when his companion Tim was being quiet, snuggling in his cosy igloo, I thought nothing of it.

I offered red pepper and was rebuffed by Tim, although Tom took full advantage of the offer. I thought, strange, I thought Tim liked pepper, maybe not the red one. I put the heating up and assumed that, after some warmth, Tim would, like Tom, be himself the next day.

Except he wasn’t. He was, once again, nestled in the igloo. But it was more serious than a one-day hibernation. He had gone off his food entirely and was lethargic. I had been worried about Tom this year with his eye (Tom was now back to normal but needed regular eye drops to keep his eye from getting dry). But now it looked like it was Tim’s turn to feel under the weather.

He turned his nose up at any food I gave him, so I used a syringe to give him water to keep him hydrated, and some of Tom’s painkiller (prescribed for his eye). I thought I would see how it would go, perhaps a visit to the vet may be needed.

Simon came to visit and he observed that Tim nibbled a little of the red lettuce in the packet I gave the pigs. This was called radicchio and we looked for it the next time we went to the supermarket. Tim ate a little then stopped. But at least it was something. Tom was eager to help Tim – by eating his lettuce as well as his own. “Waste not, want not”, he mumbled while eating Tom’s uneaten slice of carrot.

Tim was given water and painkiller via syringe for the next couple of days and we started to see what looked like the beginnings of a slow recovery. He moved a little more, ate a little more. He even went over to the water bottle himself to drink. Each time we took him out, he darted back to his cage and would rattle the bars with his teeth. Each day, he seemed to be getting more and more strength to do this.

He was weighed every day. A short time ago, he had weighed 1279. Now he dipped to 1080. Thankfully he started to put weight on – from 1080 to 1140 and rising.

Tim being weighed

One day we went for a long walk and were greeted by a loud whistle when we got back. It wasn’t Tom. It was actually Tim, ready and waiting for lettuce. And when, the next day, I saw and heard Tim nibble at the plastic at the cage in his usual cheeky way of getting attention for tasty treats, I knew he was definitely on the mend.

Posted in Chickens, Pets

Chickens at the back door…

Jemima looks in

I saw a little feathered face peering in at me through the window. It was Jemima, head chicken and spokeshen for the bantams.

“Hello, we would like to come in. It’s rather chilly out here today and I remember that the last time we came in, it was nice and toasty. So, yes, we have had our morning conference and have all agreed we would like to visit your ‘Big House’ and eat mealworms, thank you very much.”

Morning conference outside my back door
Mabel investigates

Posted in Gardens, Pets, Self-sufficiency

Going… Going…. Gone – Guinea pigs Tom and Tim volunteer for the great basil experiment

Thanks to free basil seeds handed out by a kindly group of Network Rail staff, I grew three seedlings. (I’m not sure what the connection was between a safety campaign of ‘Don’t trespass on the tracks’ and a goody bag of basil seeds among other freebies, but I never asked and was certainly very grateful for the basil seeds). Two of my seedlings were too weak but I was pleased with how my last one was progressing (see above photo).

One morning, I decided it was time to test out the basil. Now, who will volunteer to be my ‘guinea pigs ‘ in this experiment? Aha, Tom and Tim, eager volunteers who would give me an honest review.

Well, that was a quick experiment. Anyway, a thumbs up by Tom and Tim and a polite request for more homegrown local produce.

Thankfully I have more basil seeds…

(Note on photos: Tom and Tim don’t really have red eyes, it’s just my not-particularly high-tech camera!)

Posted in Chickens, Pets

The broody season

Mabel with her friends

It’s broody time again and, like last year, Mabel is the lone candidate for ‘Mother of the Year’ at Cosy Cottage Coop.

To be fair, she deserves a rest after a hard-working spring and summer, supplying delicious eggs nearly every day.

But head girl Jemima does not approve (despite going through the same process herself a couple of years ago).

When I take Mabel out, Jemima saunters over to give her a sharp peck to tell her off or maybe it’s to try and snap her out of her grumpy dreaminess.

“Cluck, cluck, cluck,” responds Mabel.

Back in the coop, she is accompanied by Ava and Dottie, two ladies who have never felt maternal in this way. They have sympathy for her plight though.

Not so Jemima, who keeps a beady eye on proceedings. She does not want the rest of her flock to go the same way…

Jemima keeps an eye on the situation
Posted in Chickens, Gardens, Pets, Self-sufficiency

Chickens’ day trips to Buttercup Meadow

A day out to Buttercup Meadow

This spring the chickens have had several day trips to Buttercup Meadow, aka my back garden.

Buttercup Meadow’s main arena is fenced off to avoid escapes but that didn’t deter Dottie who kept insisting she wanted to dig for worms outside. The fact that I may not have wanted holes in that part of the lawn didn’t enter her head.

Mabel somehow managed to sneak out, the grass being greener on the other side, being her motto. In particular the goldenrod she spotted en route …

And Little Ava, a former teacher’s pet, usually so quiet and meek, was surprisingly the worst for squeezing through the hole of the fence. She didn’t like Buttercup Meadow. Oh yes, she loved the delicious food it offered, but not the confines. She was, she said, happier to be on the outside, mooching about the flower beds, nibbling away at the grass. She wouldn’t go far, she promised. And Ava being a good girl, I believed her.

Ava does her own thing

Jemima was often the last one to leave despite being leader. It must have irked her to see her usually good flock doing their own thing and not following her, as always, excellent example.

Jemima looks on

Once they sampled the delights of Buttercup Meadow on lazy hot summer days, they presumed they would be able to enter this chickens’ theme park at any time of their choosing. They would make their way confidently from their garden, through their gate, towards Buttercup Meadow.

Jemima and Dottie make their way back from Buttercup Meadow

“But ladies,” I would explain, “the grass is wet, it’s been raining, you’ll be covered with mud…”

“It’s alright, we will keep ourselves as clean as we can,” Mabel would cluck distractedly as she would veer away from Buttercup Meadow towards Goldenrod Corner, the tall plants beckoning her over each and every time.

Posted in Pets

Tom the guinea pig’s mystery eye problem

Tom’s eye looking a little better

At first it looked like a scratch on the eye and I blamed myself for putting the hay into the guinea pigs’ cage too hastily. Tom would always get in the way, making his way right under the hay for best pickings. I would worry that stray pieces would get into his eyes.

The scratch then seemed to turn into a weird green colour. The pigs had been out on the grass – had a strand of grass got stuck on his eye by some chance?

It wasn’t getting better, it was getting worse. It was time to take him to the vet.

The vet, a very pleasant man who called Tom ‘darling’, peered into Tom’s eyes and stated there was pressure behind them. It was either an infection or a tumour behind the eye. Or it might be glaucoma but that would cause pain and he didn’t appear to be in any pain.

Tom agreed with this last point by greedily and angrily chomping on the cardboard box he was sitting in.

Whatever the problem was, not much could be done, said the vet.

The only long-term solution, continued the vet, was an operation to remove the eye. There were cases of one-eyed guinea pigs who were happily thriving. But there were risks with such an operation due to the animal’s size and there were possible side-effects of anasethia. Also, if it was a tumour, rather than an infection, there would be no point in carrying on.

Hmmm, a big decision. I couldn’t rush into a decision like that. So I opted for the short-term answer – medication. I was given painkiller (Metacam, which is also what Florence and Blaze were given), eye drops and antibiotic. The painkiller was for once a day, the antibiotic was twice a day and eye drops were for three times a day.

Medication for Tom

Tom received medication every day for the next two weeks and the eye, which was full of pus at the worst point, seemed to start healing. The pus, the weird green colour, the scratch is now gone and from a distance it looks healed although, on closer viewing, the bulge is still there although maybe not as prominent.

Three weeks on, I check on him closely and give him the eye drops daily. He’s still chomping away on hay and joins his friend Tim at regular begging sessions for lettuce and other treats.

From past experiences, I have learnt my lesson of being too positive and optimistic when it comes to small animals, of being convinced they are better before they take a downward spiral, but in this case, I remain hopeful.

Posted in Chickens, Gardens, Pets, Reblog, Self-sufficiency

Posh ladies

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I was looking back at this 2017 post, one of my first ones. The plants in the above picture are no more. My dream of a plant-filled chicken garden hasn’t come to fruition because plants and hens don’t go well together! Although I have managed to plant a few fruit trees which are still uneaten! Mabel and Little Ava have joined the group but Florence (my favourite but don’t tell the others) sadly passed away last year in 2020. And I do still want to rescue ex-battery hens one day.

I wanted to be a heroine and save three lives from certain death, and a previous hellish existence.

Imagine being locked up in tiny A4-size cages with no natural light, no pecking order companions (not unless you count fellow prisoners crammed next to you), no kindliness, no space, not even to flap your cramped wings. You are, essentially, treated and seen as a machine.

Writing the above, makes me feel a sense of guilt, even now.

You see, I didn’t adopt three ex-battery hens.

Instead, I selected three posh bantams – Jemima (white), Dottie (speckled) and Florence (brown barred).

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I dithered for two years, unable to choose between hybrids, bantams and ex-bats. Hybrids were given short shrift as, although I heard they were perfect for beginners, I deemed them too large for my garden. If I was going to have full-size chickens, I would adopt three or four, maybe five, former battery hens.

My heart would plead for me to sign up for one of the various rehoming programmes that would occur on a regular basis. Charities such as The British Hen Welfare Trust would advertise, and I would be thinking, I’m sure the coop would be ready in a month’s time. Yes, I could sign up today for the rehoming date next month…

But my head would impatiently nudge my heart aside and urge me to look at the facts. Despite my rural smallholding fantasies, I had a small garden in the suburbs. The coop outside area was large enough for two or three full-size hens, just about, but the interior – the bedding quarters, nest boxes, perch – may be a tight squeeze for three.

Although they would probably class it as luxury compared to their previous miserable cell.

Perhaps most importantly, my head sternly reminded me I had zero experience of chickens. What if one was ill or died? It was more likely to happen with girls who had a traumatic beginning in life than youngsters who were born and brought up in the best circumstances. So I went for the ‘easier’ option.

I don’t regret getting the genteel pekin ladies, with their flamboyant bustles, flares and bootees.

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But I have not turned my back on the battery girls. Some time in the future, three or four will find a home at Cosy Cottage.

In the meantime, sponsoring a hen for £4 a month is always the next best thing… 🐔🐔🐔

Facts of the Day

1. Do you have a home for ex-battery hens? Call the British Hen Welfare Trust on 01884 860084 or visit http://www.bhwt.org.uk for information.

2. JB of boyband JLS fame has three ex-bats on his farm and the 600,000th rescue hen has found a home at Kensington Gardens no less!

3. If you can’t rehome, why not sponsor a hen for £4 a month? Email info@bhwt.co.uk for details.

Posted in Pets, Reblog

2015 – year of the pig

A flashback to a previous blog post, written in 2017, when I first thought about adopting animals. At this point, I did not have any guinea pigs or chickens. Now it’s hard to imagine Cosy Cottage without them!

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In 2015, I was all about the chickens. After seeing an article about ex-battery hens looking for homes, I could literally imagine them in my garden. My side garden wasn’t doing anything. It was just there, a spare piece of land filled mostly with stones or random plants, I knew not what they were. So that tiny plot was obviously waiting for my hens, right?

So I joined chicken internet forums, asked questions, made notes of the answers, bought books, became a regular visitor to Fulwood Library (great customer service, thanks Caroline and Chris!) read and researched, perused and contemplated. I saw images of poorly hens and dead roosters, articles on culling and roast chicken recipes, library book chapters on coops and breeds. My relatives told me about rats and smells and noise and neighbours who would report me for annoyances.

I attended jury service and bought a book one lunchtime from Oxfam about ultra-small smallholdings. Somehow during deliberation, among seriously talking about what verdict to reach, there was chat from jurors who knew people who had chickens. So many real people – that is people like me who had normal gardens, not acres – had them pottering about their patios.

For five months, I chatted about chickens.

In March, Simon asked me when I was getting them.

In May, he asked again. Had I got the garden ready for them yet?

Procrastination was in charge though.

I dithered because chickens seemed too ‘alien’ to me, too unusual. It felt like I would be giving farm animals a home rather than pets. I wasn’t a farmer. I shouldn’t have livestock.

And the pictures of poorly hens, queries about rats, criticism about smell… And then there was a case of bird flu not far from me! The last straw!)  🙁

So I rehomed Loco and Bugsy (I did not choose those names!) instead. Not hens, but two guinea pigs who are very endearing and cheeky, and were residing in a pet shop’s Adoption Section.

Loco, the black and white guy, thinks with his stomach and is a first class beggar. Bugsy, the punky red head, can be a tad irritable and reclusive (not as much now he knows there’s food around so it’s worth getting out there to see what’s happening!)IMG_20170915_221432_BURST001_COVER.jpg IMG_20170915_221448_BURST003.jpgbut Loco is his best pal and he misses him when he’s not around.

I had guinea pigs as a child. I knew how to look after them. If you put in the time and effort, they’re pretty easy to care for.

2015 – the Year of the Guinea Pig. 🐹

Will there be a Year of the Hen? 🐔