What came first- the chickens or the blog?

Where are the Other Two?

Yesterday CC and I took a trip to a farm selling hens and met hundreds of them. Of most colours, sizes and all very noisy! The farmer reckoned that at three years old my hens were finished laying and offered to home them for me with his hens. He pointed out some “retired ladies” clucking happily amongst his own hens. This option offered me the opportunity to buy new laying hens and avoid the difficulties of introducing them to the older girls by removing the older girls altogether. it has always been my worry how to deal with introducing new hens into a well established flock. Apollo and Darling have not laid eggs for quite some months now and this is the time of year when new hens are at the “point of lay” at 16-18 weeks. It may seem very harsh but in the end it was an economic rather than an emotional choice. I keep hens for very different reasons to why we have dogs. Hens are not really pets. They are entertaining and pretty to look at but their purpose here is to provide eggs. We have already had to deal with the loss in the deaths of both Sweet Violet and Colonel Saunders. Apollo and Darling have not been disposed of but will hopefully enjoy their time as city birds retired to the country. The old hens have gone to live in a large community of old and young hens where two extra non laying mouths to feed are not a problem. 

So this morning our girls journeyed from the Big City to start a new life with lots of new friends out in the countryside. They appeared to be settling in well by the time I left.

Here are some of their new sisters – 

The eldest Gillyboy took these photos yesterday in anticipation of the departure of his feathered friends. I think they sum these lovely girls and their wonderful friendship up very well. Thanks Matthew.


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Cat Sitting

My name is Mrs Gillybirds and I am a cat person.
As the official owner of two dogs and three hens this may come as a surprise. I love cats. Really love them, but due to Mr G’s cat hair allergy we don’t have cats in the house.
I haven’t been owned by a cat in over 20 years.
So it is very exciting for me to be cat sitting for Miss Izzy and Miss Cookie whilst their lady takes a well deserved holiday.
And since I have opposing thumbs and the ability to open a pouch of cat food they are apparently just as excited to see me.
I had forgotten just how aloof and independent cats are. And how utterly silent.
In comparison if I leave the dogs at home even for ten minutes my return is greeted with a full parade of wagging tails, big doggy grins and loud barking.
When the back door handle is rattled the Gillybirds stop whatever they are doing and look up to see who is coming out and more importantly what treats they may be bringing.
But cats… Not so much.
As every good cat sitter knows, I spent some time last week in their home chatting with their lady about feeding, sleeping arrangements, waste disposal, and home security. (not wanting any cat burglars. Ha)
Cookie and Izzy have met me before, Izzy is a one woman cat, Cookie who is adopted, is more friendly and likes a head rub every now and again. She even let me pick her up, it’s amazing how little cats weigh, no wonder they move with such quietness and ease.
It’s much better to keep cats in their own home where their comforts are and things are familiar. So I’m calling round twice daily, for food and fellowship. Cookie is generally waiting for me, tail twitching, ready for breakfast. Izzy is more cautious, stealthily sneaking by when she thinks I’m not looking.
Izzy loves her lady so much she brings her love tokens on an almost daily basis, so I have a good check around for dead partially consumed wildlife which would not be a pleasant welcome home for anyone!
I chat away whilst they eat with such fastidious daintiness, today I even played the piano for them. Not sure how appreciated that was.
Hopefully we will get along just fine. And I can enjoy being a cat lady once more, provided I remove all traces of cat hair for fear of setting off allergies or alerting the dogs to the fact that for a short while I am reverting to my true self.


Even the Canary Had a Ticket

It may come as a surprise to learn that when Titanic sank beneath the cold North Atlantic waters on April 15, 1912, a pack of dogs were seen racing up and down the slanted deck.
As the luxury liner set off from Southampton to New York, along with passengers and crew there were at least 6 dogs, Jenny the Ship’s cat and her week old kittens, many rats, 4 roosters and hens, 30 cockerels and a yellow canary. Each animal required its own ticket, Elizabeth Ramel Nye paid 25 cents for the voyage as far as Cherbourg with her pet yellow canary.
The dogs were meant to be kept in kennels on F deck, and were given daily exercise on the appropriately named poop deck by a steward or bell boy. The first class passengers however appeared to have kept their dogs with them in their cabins, while the crew turned a blind eye to this behaviour. An impromptu dog show had been planned for the morning of April 15th, but by then most of the dogs and their owners had perished.

Among the dog passengers recorded were – a King Charles Spaniel and an elderly Airedale Terrier, owned by William Carter, Chow-Chow, a chow chow owned by Harry Anderson, a champion French Bulldog called Gamin de Pycombe, owned by Robert W. Daniel, who had bought him in England for the very high price of £150 (£12,575 in 2012 prices), Kitty, another Airedale Terrier, owned by millionaire John Jacob Astor, a Pomeranian owned by Margaret Bechstein Hays, which she kept (probably surreptitiously) in her cabin, a dog owned by Elizabeth Rothschild, also kept in her cabin, a Pekingese called Sun Yat Sen, owned by Henry Sleeper Harper and his wife Myra, Frou-Frou, a Toy dog owned by Helen Bishop. The dog was allowed to stay in her cabin as the stewards considered it “too pretty” to put among the bigger dogs in the kennels. There may have been other dogs on board, but their names, like those of their owners, perished with them.
As the ship was sinking, three dogs were put into lifeboats along with their owners. Mrs Hayes Pomeranian, Mrs Harper’s Pekingese and Elizabeth Rothschild’s dog all survived the sinking.
Helen Bishop who herself survived told of how Frou-Frou tried to stop her leaving her cabin to go to the life boat by sinking his teeth into her dress and tearing a seam. “The loss of my little dog hurt me very much” she recalled, “I will never forget how he dragged on my clothes. I will never forget how he so wanted to accompany me”.
It is thought that as the ship was going down someone let the dogs out of their kennels, which would account for the sighting of dogs running along the decks, probably as afraid and bewildered as the many passengers and crew still on board. Yet as the ship sank, so many of the third class passengers were still locked behind gates, installed to prevent the feared transmission of the lower classes germs to the other passengers.
A few days after the sinking a recovery ship found the body of a woman still clutching a large shaggy dog. Robert W Daniel’s expensive pedigree bulldog was last seen swimming away from the stricken vessel. Mr Daniels received $750 compensation for the loss of his dog, William Carter $300 for his two dogs.
Ella Holmes White of New York was bringing the 4 hens and roosters back to American to strengthen her poultry stock. A first class passenger, Mrs White and her maid were in Lifeboat 8 as the ship sank, taking her hens with it. She received $201.87 in compensation.
Another irony here- surviving passengers did not receive a refund for their journey, nor did families of victims, only the wealthy who sued the White Star Line Shipping Company for compensation. In fact, relatives of crew members who died were actually charged money- the White Star Line wanted them to pay for parts of the uniforms that were ruined when people died wearing them.
Poultry livestock would have been brought onboard by immigrant passengers in Steerage, for whom their favourite egg-laying hens would be the only luxury they could take to the New World. The temperature of the icy Atlantic was -2°C, and any living thing in the water soon drowned or died of hypothermia or cardiac arrest.
As you can imagine a ship this size carried a considerable amount of food including 40,000 eggs ready to be cooked for breakfast or made into fancy desserts. Along the debris field at the bottom of the ocean a frying pan rusts away.
Today the youngest Gillyboy and I had an outing to the Titanic Exhibiton in our own city. Thankfully unlike so many people, dogs and hens, we survived our experience.


A Shaggy Dog Story to Warm Your Heart


A lovely story to start your week with. The kind of story I will remind my dogs of when they are not getting along!

This is Eve and Dillon – Two ears and one eye between them! The deaf one-eyed rescue dog who is inseparable from his blind best friend.
Two special dogs who were abandoned as pups formed a close friendship when they were both rescued by a dog shelter, and now the two have been adopted out together to a new ‘forever home’.
You can read the full story at


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Cave Canem (beware of the dog)

If your life, family and home were under imminent threat of being extinguished by a dramatic volcanic eruption what would you take away with you as you tried (in vain) to escape? This is a question I asked myself this week.
We took a detour via London on our way home and made a planned visit to the Pompeii and Herculaneum – Life and Death exhibition at the British Museum.
In AD 79 Mount Vesuvius erupted and destroyed these two seaside towns with a couple of hours. This disaster preserved the towns until 1700 years later when archeologists began to uncover them. Most of the items on display were brought to London especially for this exhibition from Italy, making a journey identical to our own but without the tedium of going through passport control.

One of the first exhibits you see is the cast of a guard dog, still wearing his collar and chain, caught in the throes of what must have been a sudden but painful death, guarding his master’s home until his end.
As you pass by the many amazing exhibits- preserved food, household items, carbonised furniture, a little baby cradle, some spectacular wall frescoes, there is a mosaic from the doorway to a house of a black dog, wearing a red collar studded with stones representing jewels and the legend “cave canem” – beware of the dog. And wouldn’t you know, they tell us the the cast of the guard dog was found outside this very house. He must have been a well loved pet to have had his image produced in such detail by the tiny square tesserae that made up the mosaic, and to have proudly worm a jewelled collar. And also to have given a warning to would-be burglars.
It reminded me a little of the story of Greyfriar’s Bobby I blogged about back in June.
Some of the fleeing townspeople were instantly burned and were left as skeletons, still wearing jewellery, carrying purses, doctor’s tools, swords, keys to their property. Others were covered in heavy layers of volcanic dust which hardened around them, and that is how casts of their postures as they met their death were made. There is a family – mum still holding a small child in her lap, a man crouched against a wall, his hands covering his mouth and nose. The impact of a sudden and violent end to so many people (around 16,000) is still very evident and moving even now in 2013.
Certain things touched me more than others- the cradle, the dog, the freshly baked loaf still bearing the baker’s stamp, and a little gold ring with the image of a mother hen and three chicks engraved on it.
Ordinary lives snuffed out without warning.


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A Little Ice Bow Wow


Continuing our musical interlude in Italy we are now in beautiful Rome, the Eternal City. Italian taxi drivers certainly drive you as if wishing to take you to your eternal destination as quickly as possible!
The weather here is extremely hot and we have been cooling off with lots of delicious gelato at every opportunity. One thing I have noticed is how integrated dogs are into every daily experience, sitting at the table in a restaurant, being pushed around in dog buggies or carried in handbags, in baskets on bicycles. If you don’t want to bring your dog into the shop, outside most shops there is dog parking too.


Close to where we are staying is a beautiful park- Park Borghese- which had a huge area with lots of space for Roman dogs to roam around and plenty of trees for relief.

After some retail therapy (sorry for all the dog related puns) a light lunch in the local trattoria, a run around the park, the Roman doggie enjoys a bowl of dog ice cream- Icebau. Available at most ice cream shops the makers advise us it is low calorie, rich in fibre, gluten free, lactose free and available in three delicious flavours- rice, vanilla and yoghurt. You can also buy the mix to make fresh at home for your dog to enjoy and to cool off with. After traipsing round the Coliseum and Forum I seriously considered having a bowl myself. When in Rome….


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My Faithful Friends

Following on from the blog post about Greyfriars Bobby today, I just had to post this sweet picture of Buttons and Lucas looking like butter wouldn’t melt in their mouths.
They had to be bribed to sit looking so attentive at the camera.
Cute huh!
Photo credit to Gillyboy number 3

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A Faithful Friend


This is Bobby, known in his home city of Edinburgh as “Greyfriars Bobby”, whose story of loyalty and devotion is widely known. On a family visit to Edinburgh, Scotland this weekend we were able to see and hear first hand the tale of Bobby and his master John Gray.
In 1852 John Gray became a Police Constable in the Cowgate area of Edinburgh. He was required to have a watch dog, and chose a Skye Terrier pup. Back then this dog breed was very popular whereas today it is listed by the Kennel Club as an endangered breed.
Skye Terriers are noted for being “strong, canny, brave, and very independent. Not to mention the fact that when they love someone they are very loyal to think however this is not something that they just give away it is something that their owners genuinely earn. Furthermore, they can be very obedient dogs but they do have their choice in this as well.”
– See more at:
What other name could Constable Gray give his Police Dog than “Bobby”?
John Gray met many friends at the general weekly cattle market. He was well respected as a policeman, Bobby kept close to his master’s heels at these markets, because of the often unruly cattle.
Often John Gray and Bobby would take a leisurely walk to Greyfriars Place, to the Coffee House (also known as the Eating House) owned by Mr William Ramsey. They had a favourite seat and watched Mrs Ramsey coming in and out of the back room where she did the cooking. Night duty at the Cattle market was not very pleasant. The duty policeman know to his friends as “Auld Jock” and his dog, in all kinds of weather, had to keep on the move around the pens to prevent theft.
In October 1857, the nights were cold and wet, and Auld Jock and Bobby were often cold and wet. Auld Jock had developed a nasty cough which developed into tuberculosis. Bedridden and unable to work, Bobby lay at the foot of his master’s bed. Auld Jock died in the evening of 8th February 1858. A few data later he was buried in the graveyard at Greyfriars Kirk.

James Brown the keeper and gardener of the burial ground remembered John Gray’s funeral and he said the Skye terrier was one of the most conspicuous of the mourners. The grave was closed and the next morning James Brown the curator found the Skye terrier lying on the newly made mound of earth. Old James could not permit this, for there was an order at the gate stating that dogs were not admitted into the Kirkyard. Accordingly Bobby was driven out.
Next morning the same thing happened again, Bobby was lying on the grave. The third morning was wet and cold; James Brown took pity on the faithful animal and gave him some food.
Bobby made the Kirkyard his home for the next 14 years. Often in very bad weather, attempts were made to encourage him indoors, but he was not having any of that. At almost any time during the day, he would be seen in or around the Kirkyard. He had made many friends and became quite a celebrity in his own lifetime.
A weekly treat of steak given by Sergeant Scott of the Royal Engineers from Edinburgh Castle. Punctually at the sound of the One O’clock time gun, Bobby would appear at the Coffee House for his dinner.
The stone where Bobby sheltered had been there for many years. The higher one was put up in the year of the battle of Waterloo to commemorate a woman called Jean Grant and it is inscribed with a text from the Bible – which may well equally apply to Bobby. ‘With such sacrifice God is well pleased”
One hot summer there was an outbreak of dog distemper and all dogs were required to be licensed and muzzled and if not, they were to be destroyed. The Lord Provost of the City personally paid for Bobby’s licence to protect him in the absence of his late owner, to whom he remained so faithful.
From May 1862 John Traill, the new owner of the Eating House gave Bobby his dinner until Bobby’s death on 14th January 1872. According to records Bobby died in John Traill’s home and friends got together and buried him in the triangular flower bed beneath the tree in front of the old Greyfriars Kirk, on unconsecreated ground.
We were able to spend some time in the very tranquil Kirkyard and saw both the grave of John Gray and little Bobby.
There is a statue out on the main road which was modelled on Bobby in real life which attracts a great number of tourists. As does the pub named in his honour.


I loved the irony of the “No Dogs Allowed” sign at the entrance to the Kirkyard

At the bottom of the sign you can read it says ” except guide dogs, police dogs in the execution of their duty” and someone has graffitied and bobby

It was lovely to come home after two days away to be greeted with such enthusiasm by our own two dogs, and to reflect on the devotion of man’s best friend in the life of Greyfriars Bobby.


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A Chicken Funeral To Do List and a Chicken’s Will

Don’t worry we haven’t had an untimely death within our little hen community, I found this on the Internet and thought is was so cute (and sad) I had to share it with you. Anyone who has ever loved and lost a pet whether with scales, fur or feathers, knows how it feels 😥

Written by a small girl called Amanda, after the death of her pet chicken

Funeral To Do List
1. Coffin
2. Flowers
3. Everyone in black
4. Good place to do a funeral
5. Will
6. Dress
7. Pick a church
8. Piano player
9. My favourite dress
10. Rent a car
11. Get a priest
12. A bell
13. Cross over
14. Get to heaven. Party.
15. Chorus

Chicken’s Will
1.give food and water to the other chickens
2. Take care of them
3. Bury me in the backyard small garden
4. Give me a funeral
5. Always say prayers for me and other chickens
6. Never forget me
7. Don’t disturb my slumber
8. Remember I’m always going to be in your heart
9. Love me forever and ever
10. Keep this Will to remind you of me

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Paws for Thought

There is a sign by my kitchen sink which states “Always try to be the person your dog thinks you are”.
I consider this to be sound advice.
My dog thinks I am the greatest friend, companion, provider, soul mate, he is completely devoted to me, I am the centre of his little canine Universe. Where I go, he wants to go; where I rest, he will be lying snoring beside me within a couple of minutes. Even as I type this blog his paw is hitting my hand looking for a gentle scratch on his ample belly. He is jealous of others who compete for my attention. This is not always a good thing. Should Mr Gillybirds show any sign of affection the dog acts as the most diligent chaperone. A chaperone with a fierce bark and a set of fine sharp teeth which he is not afraid to use.
I didn’t even want a dog. I don’t like dogs. As a child I was terrified of dogs. I was a cat person through and through. Nevertheless when the oldest son, then aged ten, bought a plastic dog bowl and started cutting out puppies for sale ads in the local newspaper I responded to the old saying “Every boy should have two things: a dog, and a mother willing to let him have one”. After a bit of research we went to pick a Tibetan terrier puppy, one of a litter that had been born on December 25th. In the spirit of Christmas, with Tibet being a bit east of here, we decided to call him Caspar after one of the three Wise Men. Craftily the dog breeder lifted him from a heaving mass of wriggling pups and laid him on my chest as if I had just delivered him myself. One look into those deep brown eyes and I was a goner. Sadly Caspar died after only a week from Parvo virus and it was shocking just how attached we had all become to the little pup. As soon as we could we picked another pup from a different breeder, and so Buttons came into our lives just over seven years ago. The Vet refers to him as “the zen dog”. He is very chilled out, but is quick to find his Inner Canine should there be a bone, a squirrel or a postman. Not being one to boast but I should mention that one of his distant cousins, who answers to the wonderful name of “Fabulous Willie” won Best in Show at Crufts a couple of years ago.
So how can I become the devoted, loving, friend and all round decent person he believes that I am? I have no idea. Just try to be myself, but better. But perhaps I should bear in mind the words of Ann Landers – “Don’t accept your dog’s admiration as conclusive evidence that you are wonderful”.


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