Just call me q

A woman contemplating life, incognito

Dear Fork… (A Letter To My No. 3 In Command Chicken)

Photo of my three BHWT ex-battery chickens with cartoon speech bubbles

Dear Fork,

I’m writing this letter to let you know that – for the last 14 months, 3 weeks and 1 day – you have bought joy to my life and entertained me with your feathery shenanigans. In fact, there have been so many funny incidents that it’s been really difficult for me to choose my top three but here they are anyway:

Do you remember, when I first got you, how you’d chase me across the lawn each morning while I was still in my nightie? Yes, it was food you were wanting – not me – but I didn’t know that, did I? No, because I was new to this chicken-keeping game.

And what about the day you attempted to de-bobble the back of my brand new jumper as I was sat cross-legged on the grass feeding Floppy, Semi and Pam? (I wondered where you’d got to, you know. You weren’t hungry, I thought; or you were scared of me. Didn’t realise that you were right behind me stripping the fibres of my prized pink woolly, bold as you like.

And I can’t tell you how many times you had me in stitches because you’d – somehow – managed to flick a dried worm, a pineapple chunk or some other tasty morsel onto your own back and then proceed to wander – totally unawares – around the garden.

Actually, that’s right. I can’t tell you, can I? No, because you passed away today day, quick as you like; peacefully and (thankfully) with no apparent pain.

But I think you know how much you meant to me, Fork, don’t you? So, have fun… wherever you are, oh, and, errr… stay c-lucky.

Love from Q x

Last photo of Fork my BHWT ex-battery chicken -  close up

The Chicken And Snow Combo…



Well, I don’t know about you but we’ve had snow here this week and – as a result of it – I’ve learnt quite a few things about my fabulous ex-battery chickens that, prior to the snow, I absolutely did not know. Here are my top three to be going on with:


  • They are scared of the colour white. So much so that they will not step out of their hen house of their own accord under ANY circumstances.


Photo of ex-battery chicken in the snow - with cartoon speech bubble - looking terrified


  • They secretly think that they are flamingos. Personally, I think that this is because I have four fabulous Don Featherstone flamingos in my garden. (I’ll show you some time, shall I?)


Photo of chicken in the snow with a cartoon speech bubble


And last but not least…

  • They are sensationalists. (Honestly, you’ve never seen such over-reacting to a bit of snow. They really should be on the stage.)



So, there you have it. Three thing that I did not know about Floppy, Fork and Pam until we had snow. I’m so glad we did!


What I’ve Learnt About Chickens #2


Keeping hens can be dangerous.

In other words:

They don’t mean to cause you actual bodily harm (well, at least… I don’t think they do), but keeping floof-balls (as I affectionately like to call them*) can sometimes result in serious injury. Oh, I’m not talking broken bones or anything like that – no, you need to keep cows or sheep or some other bulky domestic animal for that to happen – I’m talking cuts and bruises and minor head traumas. 

And, okay, so the cuts and the bruises can be dealt with, can’t they?

The snagging yourself on the pen door as you go in…

The nicking of your finger with the scissors as you open a packet of dried worms…

Even the knocking of your right elbow on the side of the house as you slip on the decking whilst carrying two containers full of sweetcorn while your next-door neighbour smirkingly watches on. (Actually, can you add ‘hurt pride’ to that one, please?)

cartoon picture of person slipping on decking


But the minor head traumas? Well, they’re serious, you know. Because who’s going to help you when you’re in the pen, tucked round the corner, out of view from everyone (including the nosy neighbour) and you lean forward on your fork to dig up some juicy worms for your cute little chooks and smack your bonce on the handle thus making a mahoosive ‘skin-egg’ form in the middle of your forehead in less time that it takes to actually boil a real egg, hmm? (These things can happen.)

Cartoon picture of hitting head on a fork


And how long are you going to have to lie there surrounded (and probably being trodden on) by your ‘loved ones’ before your other set of ‘loved ones’ realize that you’re actually missing and send a search party out to look for you, eh? (I wish I could answer this for you. Oh, hang on a minute. I can. It’s 37 mins & 56 seconds precisely and even then they didn’t send anyone who could actually help. Naming no names.)

cartoon picture of hen-keeper falling down in the hen pen



And six months down the line, when the bulging ‘skin-egg’ has flattened down and the rich purple has finally returned to its pasty off-white, will you even remember that the whole horrid incident actually happened? (Well, it was a head injury, don’t forget. Loss of memory can come with… I’ve forgotten what I was going to say now. Oh, well, never mind…)

So, anyway, yes – like I said before – keeping hens can be dangerous but (and I mean this wholeheartedly)

They’re great!

* Sometimes!

What I’ve Learnt About Chickens #1



They show blatant disregard for the feelings of their care-givers.

Photo of hen with cartoon speech bubble "I feel I SHOULD care... but I don't!"

In other words:

Keeping ex-battery chickens can be fun but be prepared to have your feelings hurt on a regular basis. Yes, because no matter how much effort you put into preparing their food… they will just step in it. And most of the time they don’t even seem to realise that they’ve done wrong. (Maybe it’s because their legs are so hard and scaly that they don’t feel it when they’re up to their knees in something warm and edible.)


Cartoon picture of different types of hen food.


But, I mean… come on, you guys. You’ve got eyes, haven’t you? Surely you notice when your owner comes towards you with a big pot of lovingly boiled vegetable peelings? And you must be able to smell the hot mash just before its oh, so carefully laid down in front of you? And, honest to goodness, if you don’t know what porridge looks like by now, well, you may as well just put me in a frock and call me Goldilocks.


Cartoon picture of hen standing in porridge


No – I’m not going to lie – I can’t say that I like it when my little feathered friends put their ‘size nines’ in their nosh Every Single Day but I think that I’ve finally reached a point on my ‘ex-batt journey’ where I accept it. But as for pooing in it? Well, that’s going to take me a little bit longer. 

Humorous photo of chicken stepping into bowl of food


I’m No Ex-Batt Expert But…



You may or may not know but, over Christmas, Fork (my No. Three In Command hen) was taken ill and spent a good week and a bit living in a cardboard box on my dining room floor.

cartoon picture of an ill ex-battery chicken in a cardboard box


Anyone For A Dried Worm?

I fed her a whole host of things including a pureed baby food sachet of fish pie and broccoli, dried worms, egg yolk, hen pellets, baby milk, warm porridge, plain yogurt with crushed garlic and cooked mixed veg, and – thankfully – she regained enough strength to be able to be re-introduced to her hen-friends in time for New Years Eve.

And the whole process, well, I’ll admit that it wasn’t easy. It cost me a bomb; I spent an inordinate amount of time googling ‘how to plump up a chicken but not for the oven’ and, as for the physio sessions… they were a complete waste of time because (as I now know) a sick chick will not do a thigh stretch until it’s good and ready.


cartoon picture of food for an ill chicken


I’m No Ex-Batt Expert But…

But the end result of this super expensive and extremely intensive TLC session over the festive season was that Fork – my previously poorly and almost at death’s doorly (sorry, about that) chicken – survived. Yes, she made it and I could not be happier because, apart from making me realise that I love her dearly and that her two hen friends love her dearly, she also made me realise that, okay, so I’m no ex-batt expert but… on the other hand, I’m no novice either.

Scratching Around In The Saw-Dust

And so, with that in mind, I have decided to (temporarily) branch out into the niche world of chickens; ex-battery chickens, to be more precise. Yes, and I am going to spend the rest of January, February and possibly March scratching around in the saw-dust and digging (I mean, dishing) the dirt on the messy, feathery and sometimes downright dangerous lives of the chicken-keeper.


cartoon picture of ex-battery chickens and fork



(To be continued…)

Christmas With A Cold Cat And A Sick Chick…


Cartoon picture of presents, Toblerone, alcohol, turkey and sweets


I normally cherish the memories that the festive period brings. But, this year, I will be trying very hard to forget.

Oh, don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t a total disaster. Food was consumed, drink got drunk and pressies were opened, but it was somewhat marred by the fact that the cat and one of the chickens had a rotten time.

A Cold Cat

The cat spent most of her time sitting in front of one of three oil-filled electric rads trying to keep warm (because my boiler is bust and the house is freezing). This had the effect of making her feel drowsy, which meant she kept nodding off and burning the tip of her nose on the rad, which made me feel bad because I should have sorted the boiler out weeks ago. And then, the one and only time that she ventured onto the windowsill for a quick look-see, the poor thing promptly sneezed and headbutted the glass, which set off a two minute uncontrollable fit of sneezing, which made me feel even worse.


Photo of a cold black cat in front of a radiator


A Sick Chick

And as for the chicken, well, she fell ill about six days ago so, in the spirit of Christmas, I bought her indoors (in a box on the dining room floor, to be more precise) to give her some TLC and to plump her up a bit. This appeared to be a good move until the aroma of ‘sick chick’ threatened to overpower my Marks and Spencer’s Mandarin, Clove and Cinnamon candles and so she was promptly returned to the hen house.


Photo of ex-battery chicken in a box and feeling ill


My Plans

And, you know, I don’t blame the cat for guilt-tripping me (goodness, no, it’s not her fault). And who knows quite what is going on inside the body of chicken Number Three. But I think that, to increase the odds of me making slightly better festive memories next year, I’m going to chase my boiler man up tomorrow to make sure that he is coming to fix my boiler on the 3rd Jan (like he said he would) and then I’m going to nip down to M&S for some more of those scented candles I was on about. I’m also going to see if I can get myself a provisional invite to someone else’s house for next Christmas too, but don’t tell the chicken and the cat, will you? No, cos – I’m not being funny but – they don’t really need to know…  

Cartoon picture of M&S Mandarin, Clove & Cinnamon candles

Meet Floppy, My Number One Egg Producer…



Meet Floppy, the ex-battery hen and my Number one egg layer *(but don't tell the other hens I said that.


Now, I know it’s not much of a festive blog post (considering it’s four days until Christmas day) but my boiler has broken, it’s freezing in our house and my hands are too cold to write. So, instead, here’s a piccy of Floppy, my Number One egg producer.

Happy Christmas!


I have a pancake factory in my back garden…


No, I’m not lying; I really do have a pancake factory in my back garden and I have three very hard-working girls on the factory floor.

pancake factory ex-battery chickens hens justcallmeq Q queline


(I used to have four girls helping me out but sadly last week, Semi, my Second-in command ‘moved on.’ Yes, it was an extremely traumatic time for us all and I hope you don’t mind but I’m not quite ready to talk about it yet. One day maybe… but not today, if that’s okay.)

justcallmeq Q queline cartoon drawing of crying girl woman


Anyway, back to my hard-working trio (as they now are) and – thanks to them – they’ve made running my fantastic pancake factory a breeze. “How so?” I hear you ask. Well, because each morning at sun-rise they cluck on – whoops, I mean clock on – whether I’m awake or not, and then just get straight on with their work.

cartoon sun justcallmeq Q queline


They regularly go the eggstra mile for me by producing one egg per laying unit per shift, which is great when I have a particularly large pancake order to fulfill. (What am I saying? I always have a large pancake order to fulfill).

boiled eggs ex-battery chickens BHWT justcallmeq Q queline


And since day one I can honestly say that I’ve never heard any of them use fowl language. I know; pretty amazing considering their genetics.

cartoon drawing justcallmeq Q queline


And, okay, so I will admit that my lovely ladies don’t live on fresh air. Why, since they’ve kindly agreed to come and work for me they’ve got through (among other things):

6 x 20 kg sacks of pellets (yum),

8 bags of organic porridge (only the best for my team)  and

18 packets of dried worms (?!).

hen food ex-battery chickens BHWT justcallmeq Q queline


But I’m certainly not going to grumble about it because, in 334 days, they’ve supplied me with the grand total of 322 ‘(nest) box-fresh’ eggs which I’ve used to make not only pancakes but also fried eggs, boiled eggs, scrambled eggs, poached eggs, egg sandwiches, omelettes, cookies and cakes…

cartoon egg food chickens ex-battery fried egg boiled egg scrambled egg cake pancake cookie BHWT justcallmeq Q queline


Hey, I’ve just re-read that last bit and how pretty darn great does that sound? I’d be a fool not to ask them if they want to stay on for another year, don’t you think? Yes, so, sorry but I must dash… because I have exactly 22 days to get a fresh contract drawn up for them. With (c)luck the pancake factory WILL continue.


cartoon pancake stack ex-battery chickens hens BHWT justcallmeq Q queline


Dear Twitter, I am (temporarily) leaving you…


My Dearest Darling Twitter,

It is with heavy heart and deep regret that I have to inform you… I am (temporarily) leaving you.

We seem to have been spending an inordinate amount of time together recently; so much so that everything else has gone by the wayside.

My chickens are having to collect their own eggs. (Yes, Twitter, you didn’t know that I kept hens, did you? No, well, they’re ex-batts and they’re great and I’ll tell you about them some time.)

Twitter ex-battery chickens bhwt Floppy Semi Fork Pam backyard hens justcallmeq Q queline


The cat thinks I’ve died; it’s been so long since she’s been fed.


Twitter cat justcallmeq Q queline


And my house is so disgustingly messy that it required a good ten minutes, the other morning, persuading the postman that I hadn’t been burgled (and I’m not sure he quite believed me even then).

But, dear Twitter, my dad coming round…

seeing my wet-suit hanging up in the utility room…

and saying “why is it so distorted?” is the main reason that I am (temporarily) leaving you.


Twitter big botty bottom bodyboarding justcallmeq Q queline


Yes, because I have exactly two weeks to reduce the size of my backside before I go body-boarding in Cornwall. Please wish me luck. I think I’m going to need it.

Yours truly

Q xxx