Most people don’t seem to care where their eggs come from, however I like to know that they are having a nice life. Some people could just go for Free Range or even Organic, but what is becoming increasingly popular is raising your own.
We decided to go one step further and actually raise our home, knowing exactly where our eggs come from. This then raises where to get the hens from, and thus we had two options.
Firstly raising the hens from birth or what we preferred, give some battery farm hens a happy retirement.
After researching the options we found out about the British Hen Welfare Trust. What they do is rehome battery hens once their ‘useful’ working lifespan is over, crudely put it is when the farms deem their output no longer profitable, usually as hens get older they produce less eggs.
We signed up and waited for the next rehoming day in our area, and we waited, but finally the day came.
We got a box ready to transport the hens home in; a large Amazon Box which we cut holes in and then travelled to a farm outside of Bristol.
We collected our 4 hens and took them home and introduced them into their new retirement villa. We named our hens Bert & Ernie, Kiev and Dostoyevsky.
Our first thoughts were of shock, and worry. Shock about how badly treated the hens looked, as you can see by the pictures they were malnourished and missing a lot of feathers – usually through stress and being pecked by other hens. We worried because the hens were weak, poor Bert could barely stand and walk and Ernie stood in the corner, afraid to move.
Problems came the second day. Dostoyevsky (Dot to her friends) was clearly a lot stronger and better treated than the others, and became violent, squawking and trying to peck the other hens, who were still too weak to fight back.
Tip: When rehoming birds it is advisable to get the same type of hens from the same origin, thus they are all of relatively the same condition and treatment.
Frantically we converted a greenhouse into a temporary home to Dot, separating her by wire mesh from the others till at least they get their strength back.
Finally we reintegrated them all and the Hens were happy. In the weeks and months to follow we have learnt some invaluable tips to help when raising Hens.
Tip: Hens eat nearly everything, which is great for vegetable left overs from meals, but not if you have vegetable patches!
Tip: Hens need some soil so they can have a dust bath, they use it as a method to kill off red mites they get (a common occurrence for hens). Normally if you find red mites you will find earwigs (they love eating red mites) and hens in turn love eating earwigs.
Tip: Treating your hens is an easy way to get them to do something (usually distracting them while we clean their coup) I have found the best treats include: Meal worms (they are like crack for hens!), grapes, sweetcorn and strawberries. Soon you will find hens have a rather expensive taste!
Tip: Hens are very very curious, and they will explore everywhere if you let them. Make sure there are no holes in your fences or anywhere they can escape, they surprisingly only need a relatively small hole. Another issue is that once you let them out of their enclosure, you will find it ever harder to keep them content within it again – be warned!