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.

Broody?

A family member has recently announced that they are going to have a baby.  The question is, while I watch them feather their nest ready for the birth of their baby, does the prospect of another baby tempt me? Errrr……no.  While I love my babies more than anything in the whole world, would do anything for them and spend every waking minute thinking about them (and the thought of another set of twins is oh so tempting, though not guaranteed), the thought of another pregnancy and birth is not so appealing.

The dedicated hopeful

The dedicated hopeful

However there is one lady in our household who has been feeling very broody.  Lilly has spent the best part of 3 days confined to the nest box attempting the fruitless task of hatching our dummy eggs.  I have never had a broody chicken before so of course my initial thought was “is she ill?” but thankfully no, after some research I discovered the truth.  Apparently if a chicken stops laying and is sitting in the nest box pulling feathers out of her chest she is preparing for her new arrivals.  Chickens that continue this behaviour for long periods of time do not eat and drink properly, barley move around and become a little neglected (sounds familiar).  We have a dilemma.  The advice is to remove eggs quickly from the nest box to prevent the behaviour but we have dummy eggs in the nest box to prevent egg eating.  If we do nothing Lilly wont lay eggs and Violet can’t get into the nest box to lay but if we remove the dummy eggs our ladies can deliver according to their birth plans in a dark, warm, soft area, smelling of pine?… (I digress) but Violet might eat the resulting eggs.  In an attempt to keep our healthy bird healthy we took the risky decision to remove the dummy eggs.  Lilly has decided to put her hatching plans on hold and pursue her career in scratching around, pecking at the floor and dust bathing while Violet has laid an egg which remains unbroken, I am eggstatic (couldn’t resist).