The girls have settled in well now. Bunty has made sure that the others all know that she is still queen bitch, but the others really only pay her lip service… Sorry, beak service…
The new girls are all competent jumpers, and even with cropped wings they still manage to reach new heights – literally. We’ve had to put higher netting up around the fences after Knickers found herself in the neighbours garden…. after getting on top of the hen house, along the fence & over the trellis…
Three of them are like shadows whenever we go out into the garden. Hulahoop, Porsche and Sonic have to be at our feet as soon as they see us. Hulahoop goes One further and tries to be eye level – or at least as high and close to us as possible. They are all very lovely ladies, and we’re glad that these rescued hens have settled in so well.
Two years ago we took in some rescued ex-battery hens. We took in 4, as that seemed a good number. You have to get a minimum of 3 so they have company, and if introducing them to an established flock you need a few to help the introduction go smoothly, or the new (scrawny) hens will get picked on….
Rescued hens awaiting new owners.
When we lost our first hen, we thought it seemed a bit too quiet with just 3. We decided to take on 3 more to make it up to 6. The reasoning being that if we lost 3, we would still have 3, and we could get another 3…. 6 as a number worked really well.
It’s really rewarding looking after rescue hens. Just seeing them become fitter, healthier and friendlier is wonderful… and of course there are the benefits of the eggs…. Gloriously bright & tasty yellow yolks, like nothing you’ll get in the supermarket.
In fact recently we had to buy some free range eggs from Sainsburys supermarket (we needed some for a cake, and had run out). They were top of the range supermarket free range eggs… the best they had to offer…. and in comparison to the ones our hens are laying, even the best supermarket eggs lacked colour and flavour.
Anyway… We lost one, so dropped down to 5. Then a friend said he had 3 hens that he wanted to pass on, as his wife wasn’t too keen on them. I figured that 8 wasn’t too much of a step up from the 6 we’d had.
And then we lost two due to old age & complications. We were back to 6.
Early this year, T2 bowed out…
…and so did Mel.
Ex-batts can have quite short lives.
This is due to their breeding, and what they have been through.
Then last week another took a turn for the worse and passed away. We were back to 5, so we put our name down for 5 new rescue hens to make the number back up to 10…. yes, not 8… Well, the garden looked so empty without a good sized flock…
And then in the same week, before we had picked up the new girls, another of our old girls passed away… We were down to 4….
I quickly changed our order to 6 new rescue hens. We still wanted 10… 10 was enough. A good number. No more though.
Today we went to pick them up…. and the lady in charge had managed to rescue 100 extra hens and was offering to up people’s orders…
… which is why I drove home in the old Land Rover with 8 new rescue hens…. These ones were ex-free range, so in better health to start with.
Hang on… we’ve got neighbours…
The 8 lucky ladies
Hulahoop, Sonic, Lotus, Pingu,
Charger, Porsche, Phantom and Knickers
joined V8, 22,Ginger and Bunty.
That’s it… 12. No more.
They have good sleeping quarters, as Cluckingham Palace has two wings, each easily sleeping 6 birds – and 4 nest boxes.
If you want to look into ex-batt and ex-free rescue, then get in contact with the British Hen Welfare Trust. (Website or Facebook)
If you want a good start in getting a hen-house – or extending what you have – then contact Hen House World and tell them I send you! They are really helpful, and if you don’t mind damaged/returned parts, they can do a real good deal if you’re handy with the tools (It’s how I made Cluckingham Palace).
Sadly, as mentioned previously, Terri passed away, so after some discussions we decided to get three new girls.
You see, you can’t just get one ex-battery rescue hen because it would get picked on. Getting two would leave us with five…. and that’s just not a round number of hens to have, especially as there would soon be two nesting quarters. That was it then… three new ladies were needed to make the number up to six.
Once that was decided, I took a look at the current run and nest box arrangement and figured out the best way to house and separate three new birds. They would need their own space to get used to the new freedom, but they would also need to be able to see the established girls to allow them to settle in.
I contacted Hen House World, the company I purchased the original hen house and additional parts from when we first got chickens. Back then I had asked for extra panels to extend the purchased run, and they were happy to oblige with advice and some ‘rejected’ panels – I just paid shipping costs. A little DIY skill was required, but I somehow managed…
I explained what I wanted to do this time, and chancing my luck I asked once more to see if they had any old or broken returned houses that may have been returned (they are always well packed, but couriers and the post office can always find a way to break even the best wrapped things).
They went through their returns with my wish list and sure enough they had some panel parts. For a very modest shipping fee the damaged parts were sent out to me. I knew what I needed and I knew I could utilise the parts for my design.
A few additional parts were found (old packing crates, some corrugated plastic and an old hinge) and I set to work on the extension. The most awkward part was the low garden wall that separated the old run from the new extension – but a catwalk was added and that solved that.
Next up I put a chicken wire fence in the open air run to split it into two parts. I also put a mesh halfway down the enclosed run to keep the girls apart when they were put to bed. Everything seemed fine at this stage…
Things mostly went smoothly and soon we were introducing three new girls into the pack (Yes, I know a collection of hens is not a pack, but you watch them working together and tell me that it isn’t a more apt group name for them….) .
A few squabbles broke out and blood was spilled as the six girls fought to fix their places in the new pecking order – and I even had to make the wire segregating fence into a double fence because they were attacking each other through the single fence!
Over the next few days things settled down, and now the fences are down, they are all getting on with each other , albeit with a few pecks here and there. The girls are all laying and very happy in their new home….
…but what of names? Well, Alex was given the pleasure and now, joining Crispy, Chicken 11 and Mel….. we can introduce the new girls… Turbo, Terri 2 and Ginger…
NOTES ON THE VIDEOS:
The new girls arrive at their new home. Free from the Hell of the battery farm, the British Hen Welfare Trust find caring homes for thousands of commercial laying hens destined for slaughter each year.
Our first girls (2010) were quite timid and quiet to start with, but soon settled in and have become great pets – very friendly and lots of fun. Our little lad (5yrs old) loves them – and we have all become very attached to these daft creatures.
Our new girls are a little ‘spirited’ right now, but they are fighting for rank (this is where ‘pecking order’ comes from). The thing to do is let them sort it out – stand back but keep an eye on them.
Be prepared for a little first aid – Vaseline & Gentian Violet (Purple spray – hides the blood, which just makes the others want to fight more).
For a 30th birthday present for Chris I brought a hen house and signed up for four rescue hens from the British Hen Welfare Trust (BHWT) – (BHWT are also on Facebook). The hens are extra battery farm layers. The poor things are devoid of most of their feathers an have weak legs from their hard life in the battery farm. The BHWT rescue these hens – which are only 18 months old – from the battery farms at the time the farms send the hens to the chicken equivalent of a wood chipper.
The lucky hens get taken on by people to be given a better life in family and free range farm conditions.
We had to wait for a slaughter date for our hens to become available. In the time it took the hens to become available I had built a hen house (from Hen House World).
Modification in progress
Hen House World bent over backwards to ensure I had all I needed. In fact after I told them of the modifications I wanted to carry out (lift top roofs, extended run area, guttered mid section and remote lighting), they were happy to send me spares that were in unsaleable conditions due to minor defects – all I did was pay postage.
Two months after we embarked on the hen rescue we finally received our birds. I went to pick them up with Alex as Chris was at work. The pick up place had all the birds that had been assigned new lives (and not destined for the wood chipper).
The halfway house
Seeing these pale, feather bare hens with hardly any weight to them was quite shocking really. By the time we got to the pick up, Alex had fallen asleep and was quite surprised when on the way home the boxes started clucking! He wasn’t aware we’d picked them up at all!
Sleeping Alex and the hens
Once home I moved them over into the custom coop! They didn’t put up much fuss being handled and were quite quiet as they started to explore. It was now that I could see how feather bare and pale they were.
Pale, half naked, but saved
After a peaceful first day and an early night, the hens awoke the next morning to prove themselves fully functional! Chris went down and let them out of their bedding area into the coop at 6am… a few moments later I was woken up as she excitedly showed me a fresh warm egg. Over the next hour two more were produced – including one that was so big it needed some Vaseline help… Now they are settled it should be easier for them….
Egg number one!
Chris was disappointed to not actually see an egg layed – and slightly annoyed that I went out to see the girls at 8am only to have one walk in front of me, stop, drop egg, then walk off! Egg number four had been delivered!
A little later we picked up some wire and posts to build an extended open run. Once I had built this (and Chris had clipped the hens flight feathers and tagged them) the hens were free to roam…. but it took a while!
It has been said that ex-battery hens are fearless. I guess it’s because they are used to so much stress in the battery pens that anything else is child’s play! Cats on the other hand, are less brave of a new arrival in their lives! Our three all took wide berths as they passed the coop, but slowly they became more curious…. or at least Spice did….
The cats and the hens are getting on very well – probably due to the fact that the hens are bigger than the cats (in height anyway) and there are more hens than cats…. and the fact that our cats are pretty soft in the head!
Trouble looks on
We end their first full day with the girls being happy, free and already perking up! Notice the colour in their combs – pinking up already!
Visit the BHWT on Facebook too...
The hens were also named today:
Alex named one “Eleven” – maybe a Spinal Tap reference… although he is only four!
Chris named one “Crispy” – As in KFC.
I named “Terri” (Theresa) due to the green leg tag.
I also named one “Mel” – bravest one who explores everything before anyone else… and is nuts.