All is quiet on the chicken front…

So I haven’t posted on our chickens for some while, the last being a rainy day back in May when we had to say goodbye to lovely Lily.  In July last year we adopted our first two ex-caged hens(Essex girls saved from slaughter), Poppy and Clover, who have settled in so well.  We have had our fair share of chicken issues but these two have been a healthy pair (here is hoping I won’t jinx it).  One of them no longer lays which is not unusual as reproductive issues are common for such intensively farmed birds but she is enjoying her retirement none the less in our back garden.

A settled Poppy and Clover

A settled Poppy and Clover

With the loss of Lily and a family with an increasing appetite for eggs we decided to adopt another two in May this year, named Petal and Fleur (though they are so similar I suspect they may have interchangeable names).  As there were already two sturdy birds in residence we had to keep the weedy pair separate until they adjusted to a life outdoors and gained in confidence and strength.

Introducing themselves

Introducing themselves

After a week and a half we started to mix them for short periods in a larger area that we had constructed to increase their free ranging abilities.  The introductions were stressful with lots of squawking and pecking and chasing (and panicking for me).  The decision was made to wait a little longer and they were not fully integrated until the end of week three.  Petal and Fleur still have a long way to go, they are much skinnier than Poppy and Clover and have many feathers to regrow but they now all live happily together.  I will keep you updated on their progress…

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Essex girls saved from slaughter

The British Hen Welfare Trust were looking for homes for 1700 hens over the weekend, these girls were caged hens who had reached the end of their working lives at 17 months old and would otherwise be crated up and start their journey to the abattoir.  Lonesome Lily had grown increasingly sad and so it was decided that she needed a friend… or two. So I set off on a road trip to Essex to rescue two girls.

Arriving at a really pretty farm collection point I had no idea what to expect, after signing in I queued (a British obsession) for the girls that would be returning home with me.  People in front of me prepared their cardboard boxes with little rectangular holes in the side to receive theirs and I watched as one featherless, hen-pecked hen at a time had their extra-long claws clipped and was placed in a box ready to be carried to the car.  The lady in front of me told me how she had rescued six hens six months ago and felt obligated to rescue another six (which turned into seven, her lucky husband!) as she had the space.  Her hens she told me were bonkers but healthy, she asked me about my experience, not wanting to frighten her (she seemed quite nervous) I kept quiet saying only that my hens had got poorly and died leaving Lily in need of a friend.  She had brought her daughter with her, perhaps about three or four years old, as hens were placed in boxes she became increasingly scared of the very strange, pale, naked hens that would be coming home with her.  Mum reassured her that they would look like their other girls at home, but she needed to help her make them better.  One of their girls had no feathers at all on her head and neck, though I had an idea of what to expect, I was shocked.

Poppy-stripped wing feathers, tatty bottom feathers and missing tail, chest and head feathers

Poppy-stripped wing feathers, tatty bottom feathers and missing tail, chest and head feathers

Clover-stripped wing feathers and missing tail, chest and head feathers

Clover-stripped wing feathers and missing tail, chest and head feathers

Battery farming was banned in 2012 however colony cage hens remain, these cages have more space but are inside with no natural light.  Clearly these hens are bored and stressed leaving them no alternative pastime than to peck at each other.  How can this practice still be legal?

The sneaky thing is you might think that you haven’t contributed to these girls misery because you buy free range but they are often hidden in convenience food like ready meals, pasta and cakes or are sold in restaurants where there isn’t the option of checking the label.  The moral of this story, one we all need to learn, for the sake of girls like Poppy and Clover (my two Essex girls)… always check.