The Chickens Have Landed!

I can’t remember exactly when it was that I wanted to keep chickens, but I know that when we were house hunting, a garden which was suitable for chickens was on the check-list. I also knew that if we were to have chickens, they would be retired commercial egg layers, or ex-bats. I know they are not going to produce the amount of eggs that a young layer (pellet I believe I should call them) would, but for me that’s not the point. I love the idea of ‘rescuing’ them. For 18 months they have only known the inside world, a small one with no natural light or exercise. One with exactly calculated nourishment and no stimulation to encourage natural behaviour.

An average age for a chicken is 3 to 6 years I’ve been told. An average life for a battery hen is 18 months. This premature death is not brought on from the conditions they are kept in, but is a sad fact that in this commercial way of egg production that they are no longer viable to keep alive and are sent to slaughter.

If it wasn’t for the charity British Hen welfare Trust (www.bhwt.org.uk) hundreds, if not thousands more battery hens would end up the same way each week. They arrange for a number of hens to leave the commercial farms on their own transport and co-ordinate re-homing days around the country for people like myself to collect for a really modest donation. So all three of us jumped into the car yesterday to Bristol, where we were to collect our 10 reserved hens. It was an exciting journey, we were full of anticipation and discussing what condition the girls might be in. We arrived at the agreed location and were greeted with a smile by a volunteer working for the charity and directed to the barn where the hens were being held, waiting for their adopters. It is a very emotional time, you are excited about meeting your new pets, anxious about how they must be feeling after their morning, guilty because you know they must be feeling stressed and they had a further car journey ahead of them, sad as you think briefly of their alternative fate they escaped, proud as you conclude they will love their new life, running free, scratching, sunbathing, playing, exploring and all the other natural chicken activities.

We weren’t expecting any eggs this morning, it would be unfair of us to. After all, that’s all they have known. Eggs. Eggs. Eggs. Nothing else. But first thing I went out into the garden to let them out into their run. I was worried they would be getting restless being ‘cooped up’ (just realised where that phrase comes from…) so at first light, out I went, donning my wellies and keeping an eye on the Springer Spaniel, to open up the door. I was greeted with a view of ten hens, some perched, some in the nest boxes, quite cosy and content. Of course, they are not used to being allowed out, so why would they expect it on day one of their new lives? But right in front of me, on the floor next to the door was an egg! I was so proud of my girls, and grateful too, I thanked them and picked it up. So then I had a peep into the nest boxes and I found 2 more, “clever girls” I said and gently closed the lid, leaving them in peace and went inside.

It’s now lunch time and we have been given 4 more eggs. We never thought we would be so excited about it, but I can see already that Paddy, almost 2, will really enjoy having our ex-bat friends.

Something else I am realising quickly is that wellies are a pain to get off. I think I knew this already, as I obviously have worn them before. But this was for walking the dogs, or for gardening in. I would be wearing them for hours at a time, then taking them off once and leaving them there, ready for the next time. I think I would say to myself “I really must get a boot jack” then thought nothing more about it. Getting the first one off is never usually the issue. You have the other welly on to get it off with. But when you’ve got that one off, revealing a nice clean sock, how, really, do you remove the second welly without getting your sock dirty? And it’s harder to do because your toes can’t grip the welly as well…Now I am going to be wanting to wear my wellies every morning, then I think now I will get one. Plus it will help keep my socks cleaner.

 


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The Chickens Have Landed!

I can’t remember exactly when it was that I wanted to keep chickens, but I know that when we were house hunting, a garden which was suitable for chickens was on the check-list. I also knew that if we were to have chickens, they would be retired commercial egg layers, or ex-bats. I know they are not going to produce the amount of eggs that a young layer (pellet I believe I should call them) would, but for me that’s not the point. I love the idea of ‘rescuing’ them. For 18 months they have only known the inside world, a small one with no natural light or exercise. One with exactly calculated nourishment and no stimulation to encourage natural behaviour.

An average age for a chicken is 3 to 6 years I’ve been told. An average life for a battery hen is 18 months. This premature death is not brought on from the conditions they are kept in, but is a sad fact that in this commercial way of egg production that they are no longer viable to keep alive and are sent to slaughter.

If it wasn’t for the charity British Hen welfare Trust (www.bhwt.org.uk) hundreds, if not thousands more battery hens would end up the same way each week. They arrange for a number of hens to leave the commercial farms on their own transport and co-ordinate re-homing days around the country for people like myself to collect for a really modest donation. So all three of us jumped into the car yesterday to Bristol, where we were to collect our 10 reserved hens. It was an exciting journey, we were full of anticipation and discussing what condition the girls might be in. We arrived at the agreed location and were greeted with a smile by a volunteer working for the charity and directed to the barn where the hens were being held, waiting for their adopters. It is a very emotional time, you are excited about meeting your new pets, anxious about how they must be feeling after their morning, guilty because you know they must be feeling stressed and they had a further car journey ahead of them, sad as you think briefly of their alternative fate they escaped, proud as you conclude they will love their new life, running free, scratching, sunbathing, playing, exploring and all the other natural chicken activities.

We weren’t expecting any eggs this morning, it would be unfair of us to. After all, that’s all they have known. Eggs. Eggs. Eggs. Nothing else. But first thing I went out into the garden to let them out into their run. I was worried they would be getting restless being ‘cooped up’ (just realised where that phrase comes from…) so at first light, out I went, donning my wellies and keeping an eye on the Springer Spaniel, to open up the door. I was greeted with a view of ten hens, some perched, some in the nest boxes, quite cosy and content. Of course, they are not used to being allowed out, so why would they expect it on day one of their new lives? But right in front of me, on the floor next to the door was an egg! I was so proud of my girls, and grateful too, I thanked them and picked it up. So then I had a peep into the nest boxes and I found 2 more, “clever girls” I said and gently closed the lid, leaving them in peace and went inside.

It’s now lunch time and we have been given 4 more eggs. We never thought we would be so excited about it, but I can see already that Paddy, almost 2, will really enjoy having our ex-bat friends.

Something else I am realising quickly is that wellies are a pain to get off. I think I knew this already, as I obviously have worn them before. But this was for walking the dogs, or for gardening in. I would be wearing them for hours at a time, then taking them off once and leaving them there, ready for the next time. I think I would say to myself “I really must get a boot jack” then thought nothing more about it. Getting the first one off is never usually the issue. You have the other welly on to get it off with. But when you’ve got that one off, revealing a nice clean sock, how, really, do you remove the second welly without getting your sock dirty? And it’s harder to do because your toes can’t grip the welly as well…Now I am going to be wanting to wear my wellies every morning, then I think now I will get one. Plus it will help keep my socks cleaner.

 


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