Mabel and Ava have been busy making friends with three new girls, Victoria, Matilda and Eliza. Their story will be appear soon on Dreams and Adventures.
Jemima had been leader of Cosy Cottage Coop for four years before her sad passing earlier this year. Dottie, despite not being obvious leadership material, dutifully took over, gaining confidence and respect, until one morning I went outside to let the hens out and found her motionless.
It was a sad and unexpected shock and it took me a while for it to sink in. She had died peacefully in her sleep at the age of five.
The last of the original trio I had adopted back in 2017, she was a hen full of character and boasted a beautiful brunette speckled plumage.
It was her colouring that led to her name but it suited her persona too. She could be changeable in her outlook. Friendly at times, she would squat for us human friends to pick her up. Often she was demanding, vocally calling out for mealworms or other titbits. Her loud voice often sounded as if she was grumbling, a lack of worms , perhaps? During her stint as leader, she would lead her little flock of two to my back door. “What do we want? Mealworms!” She would loudly insist. But then there were times when she was much quieter, or if I would pick her up she would flap her wings, shrieking: “Let me down!”
Dottie was a hen’s hen. She loved the company of other chickens, especially Jemima. Along with Jemima and Florence, Dottie arrived at Cosy Cottage in September 2017. On the first couple of days, Dottie made a few attempts of being leader by being very vocal, claiming the first egg on the first night of arriving, and being bossy and pecking the younger (by two weeks) Flo. But it was the calmer, wiser Jemima who eventually took over as top hen.
Jemima was her best friend. I remember they had a spa day in their garden, when a large bag of woodchip was scattered on the ground. While Jemima enjoyed her dust baths, Dottie would insist on pushing underneath her.
A few years ago, in 2018, Dottie was ill. She wasn’t moving, eating or drinking and so we took her to the vet who gave her high energy food. A few days of keeping her inside my living room and giving her this food via a syringe, she seemed to start getting a bit perkier. From sad experience since then I realise that Dottie was one of the luckier hens to recover from an illness and it’s not always inevitable that they’ll survive. I do not know what the reason was behind the illness. I had wondered if it was because she was eggbound but the vet examined her with his hands and didn’t think she was. Although she made a full recovery, she was never a prolific layer of eggs, certainly not of edible eggs.
Dottie and eggs were never a perfect match. Often her eggs were soft and this led to the undesirable trait of egg eating, helped by her friends who, no doubt, thought this a grand treat.
When she was laying (soft eggs or otherwise), her comb was red and she was assertive and vocal. But there were times when she seemed perturbed about the softness or the lack of eggs and this seemed to diminish her confidence. I tried to encourage her to eat more grit in case this was the issue. Thankfully, for the most part, she was more often happy, pottering about with her pals.
In the early days, when it was just the three of them and Jemima and Florence went through their broody phase, poor Dottie would be wandering the garden by herself while the others would be queuing up at the coop door, waiting to be let in to continue their brooding.
When Mabel and Ava arrived, she found herself a faithful companion in Ava (although sometimes the independent Ava did her own thing). Ava didn’t lay eggs, except for a couple of tiny ones at the beginning. But Ava didn’t care about this, she didn’t let it worry her. Ava also didn’t take part in the brooding season so when Mabel joined in the broodiness, Dottie and Ava could often be found together.
She may have been bossy and liked to peck her friends (Ava, Florence and Mabel, never Jemima, who was top hen), but Dottie was pals with everyone. There was no malice behind her pecks. While Jemima and (surprisingly) the usually mild-mannered Florence showed aggression towards Mabel and Ava when they first arrived, Dottie was mild in her approach. She saved her pecks as friendly reminders – Jemima is boss and I am second-in-command.
There are only two left now, brooding Mabel and Little Ava, who wanders the garden, looking lost and perturbed by the loss of her friend and leader. They will miss their scatty but kind-hearted friend, as will I.
Cosy Cottage Garden now has a new boss – her name is Dottie.
The bantams’ previous head of state, Jemima, was an assertive and sensible leader. She took her duties seriously, whether it was telling Mabel off for brooding or alerting the others when a threat, such as a cat, appeared. After her sad illness and death earlier this year, for a while it looked like there was no new Queen of the Pecking Order, or even a pecking order.
So the girls did their own thing. Ava would dreamily wander around before perching somewhere to meditate and ponder the mysteries of life, Mabel foraged for tasty greens, destroying honesty and other flowers in the process, Dottie dug away – usually in the tubs where I was trying to grow onions.
“No need for these little things, not sure what they are, but they’re not worms. Keep getting in the way of my worms, toss them out, that’s what I’ll do. They’re only in the way here. Hmm, I’m sure I spotted a worm here… Dig, dig, dig away, merrily into the dirt…”
But hens need someone in charge, so gradually Dottie took control of the situation. She proved a different type of leader to Jemima, more laissez-faire and easygoing. In a different world, she would not have made mother hen with her hands-off approach to the role. But Ava had no interest, Mabel was inclined to be more concerned about food than social affairs and Dottie may be dizzy but she was the eldest of the three.
She is no natural boss and does suit her name ‘Dottie’ in her character, as well as her appearance. She is not particularly interested in important security issues such as cats and hawks. Instead I see her outside my patio doors, alongside her compatriots, demanding sunflower seeds and mealworms. She will never gain a reputation for wisdom but she has excellent negotiation skills when it comes to titbits. However, unlike Jemima, who would call the others over whenever mealworms were handed out, Dottie keeps news of such treats to herself.
She is no autocrat. Instead of rebuking Mabel, who is starting to go through the broody process again, Dottie sits alongside her companionably, Ava next to her.
When asked about being a leader, Dottie replies: “We all do what we like but I’m the boss of course.”
The year 2020 was a memorable year for the wrong reasons but it was also a year where Cosy Cottage awarded its first ‘Naughtiest Dog of the Year’ trophy. True, the trophy is an imaginary one due to cost restraints, but the accolade is still there.
Actually there are quite a few contenders for the Naughtiest Dog trophy. My family dogs Teddy and Molly are always prime candidates but I will select Max, Simon’s sister’s dog. Max is a springer spaniel who I met while on holiday with Simon in his sister’s caravan in Norfolk.
One day Simon’s sister and brother-in-law went out and we said we would take Max for a walk on the beach.
I once had – and sometimes still have – dreams of becoming a dog walker. I also had dreams of becoming a dog trainer until I realised I was unable to train Teddy and Molly, my family’s jack russells. I preferred to give dogs tasty treats rather than commands. In other words, I was too soft.
But I could always become a dog walker? Right? I took Max’s lead and he pulled… and pulled. I never realised dogs were so strong. Teddy pulls but as a small dog he’s manageable. But Max? And he wasn’t even a big dog, he was a springer spaniel – a medium-sized one! I gave him back to Simon in defeat.
“I need to rejoin the gym,” I admitted.
We brought Max to the nearby beach where Simon let him off the lead.
“He won’t run off, will he?” I fretted, thinking of all the possible perils of walking someone else’s dog.
Yet for some reason, we were under the impression that he was well behaved. We were mistaken.
He ran off.
And not only was Max strong, but he was fast. He turned out to be the strongest, fastest dog in the world. (He was awarded for those categories too).
We both called Max’s name (it seemed he was deaf too) and Simon (thankfully much fitter and faster than me) ran after him.
Although I was running too, I could no longer see Simon, let alone Max. But eventually both were spotted coming back. This time Max was on a lead.
It turned out that Max was also a thief. While running his marathon, he decided he would steal another dog’s ball. By the time Max had been retrieved, the other dog and his guardian had gone but Max defiantly had the ball in his mouth. I hope the other dog wasn’t too upset.
I suspect there is a picture of Max in the police stations of Norfolk, Most Wanted Ball Stealer – have you seen this dog?
Max, you may be a very charming fellow, but you deserve the Naughtiest Dog Trophy.
For one weekend in March, Newark Showfield in Nottinghamshire turned into the land of the giants, but have no fear as these were as gentle as they were dignified. They were Shire horses attending their own equine version of Crufts.
There was an array of classes for them to compete in and all ages took part. I had assumed they were black horses but there were bay and silver colours too. I was beginning to wonder why it was just geldings and stallions but it was actually ladies’ day the following day when the mares would get preened up. The overall winner would compete in the National Horse Show in Birmingham later on in the year.
Shire horses were once used to pull carts and we got a glimpse of this during another competition where drainage companies competed with breweries.
There was a selection of vintage tractors and other farming machines on display, and, as at these types of events in general, a host of stalls selling refreshments and merchandise, and promoting charities.
It all felt so very ordinary as we wandered about that I forgot how last year this enjoyable event would not have been allowed to happen.
I always get Shires mixed up with Clydesdales as they are both large horses. I knew the Shires were large – 17.2 hands – and is the largest horse in the world. What I didn’t realise was their war history, an irony as they have a reputation for being so calm. While I picture Shires working on the canal, pulling freight barges along, they actually came into being through war in the medieval ages. I had a look at the Shire Horse Society’s website to find out its history…
Back in medieval ages, knights wearing armour were too heavy for the small British horses such as the Dartmoor so heavier breeds came over from Flanders, Germany and Holland. And so the War Horse aka the Great Horse appeared on the scene.
Farmers then took advantage of the Shire’s great strength and it started ploughing and pulling heavy loads (taking over from the oxen). During the Industrial Revolution, the Shire towed barges along the newly constructed canals, as well as drays, trams and wagons.
Technology in the form of railways, tractors and cars meant the need for Shires declined and they were no longer needed on barges, farms or roads. Although the breed’s numbers fell to a few thousand in the 1960s, they are becoming popular again and are seen on small farms, agricultural shows, ploughing matches, forestry and rural life museums, among other places. They are also seen as the more environmental option when it comes to working on the land.
I’m glad to see that these dignified giants will be around for a long time yet.
It is rare to find a genuinely good leader – but that is what Jemima was. Her fluffy white plumage hid a sensible, fair and assertive personality, which won her the place of Mother Hen of the pecking order.
She never became tame in the way Mabel was (always in the hope of titbits) or Florence or Dottie when in the egg laying mood. Even when she laid eggs, she disdained human contact. Saying that, she did make friends with my godson Noah, eight at the time, who, on a visit, often brought her into my house.
She arrived with Dottie and the slightly younger Florence back in September 2017. A white egg arrived the next day. I never knew who laid it, although Dottie claimed credit by proclaiming to all and sundry. But it could have been Jemima. She was a quiet girl, not chatting for the sake of it and never boasting about her achievements, even after laying an egg.
Soon after she arrived, Simon called her wise. She always had that air of knowing more than the others.
Jemima and Dottie became good pals but she was always respected by all the hens.
Jemima took her duties seriously. She was quiet but if she thought there was danger she would alert the others with an alarm call. On these occasions, Mabel was second in command, joining in the chorus. Whether it was a cat, a sparrow hawk or a false alarm, the pair would loudly tell the others to ‘Be safe, be alert. There’s danger about’…
Every summer was broody time, a special occasion she celebrated with Florence and Mabel. Last year, she outgrew it and focused on laying eggs. How angry she was that Mabel was still taking part! She would go over to Mabel and give her an angry peck. I had to step in and make sure it didn’t become bullying. Jemima was mostly fair but you still wouldn’t want to get on the wrong side of her.
Recently Jemima became ill and although she apparently got better, she went downhill again before passing away.
That day Dottie looked around her as if to say, “Where’s Jemima?”
They will miss her, as will I.
Just after telling another blogger that I haven’t seen any snow this year, along came Eunice. Or Storm Eunice to give it its full name.
Simon’s parents had to find somewhere else to stay as their Cheshire hotel had a power cut. A slate fell off my parents’ house because of the wind. Trees were blown down and people even died.
The wind did little damage to my gardens thankfully, apart from the compost bin losing its lid (it was found elsewhere in the garden). But the next day was Eunice’s encore – a sleet shower which turned into snow.
Last year I grew herbs in my kitchen – basil, parsley and chive. This was a success so I tried again using more parsley seeds which I already had. Happily, the parsley grew and my guinea pigs were, once again, eager to take part in another experiment.
According to Rosemary Hemphill (an apt name!), in her book Herbs for All Seasons, parsley is originally from Sardinia and is a biennial which often lasts for two years in the garden. Despite this, she says it is best treated as an annual, with seed being sown each year.
She adds: “All parts of the herb contain medicinal substances; the root, leaves and seeds are sources of apiol, which is beneficial for the kidneys. The leaves are rich in vitamins A, B and C, and in iron, and assist in the assimilation of food. Parsley tea made from the leaves is good for rheumatism, kidneys and gall bladder, assists digestion and encourages circulation.”
Maybe I should have asked Tom and Tim to leave me some parsley although it looks like I was too late…
- I started having a look on the internet about the benefits of parsley and it looks like there might be possible side-effects too if too much is eaten. So like everything, moderation is key.
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.
He replied, “No, silly! Me, of course!”
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.
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.
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.