To The Rescue!
Yesterday, we added three more members to our family. Whilst I went and collected the children from their week with grandparents, Stonelaughter popped off to collect the three chickens I had reserved.
We had chickens once upon a time, before Bean was born. We started with three, but were soon up to a dozen, running wild over our back garden and nesting in the shed we converted for them. It was fab, except that we very soon did not have a garden, and they got themselves into trouble – I once found several of them near death in one of our greenhouses. Having broken in, they had eaten all my herbs and garlic and then got stuck. Thankfully, they all made a good recovery. However, whilst I was pregnant with Bean, I developed a bit of a phobia of the hens. This might have been OK, except that Stonelaughter was living and working in Sweden at that point and I couldn’t look after them, so we found them all a new home.
Eleven years down the line, and I’ve been over that for a long time. We’ve been thinking about having chickens again for a little while, and I’d been working out how we would do it, and looking at housing for a while when, at the beginning of the month, I saw a post about Fresh Start for Hens needing homes for the next batch of chickens they were rescuing. When they reach around 18 months old, chickens stop laying often enough to be profitable for commercial outfits and are sold for dog food or baby food. Instead, all 5500 of them have new homes where they will live out the rest of their lives in well deserved comfort.
And so, we are once again a family with chooks. Just three this time, and that’s how it will stay. They have housing which is big enough for 4-5 chickens, and a run that’s almost 2.5 metres long. Not free range exactly, but so much better than how they lived up to now.
We knew that hens who come from commercial egg settings are often in poor condition, and stop laying. Many go on to be great layers again once they recover from their previous lives, but there’s no guarantee of that. They often come with many feathers missing, poor nutrition, weak legs, mites and sores from being pecked at by their barn-mates.
Our three girls are in relatively good condition compared to some of the others. The most poorly one has no feathers on her head, her comb is very pale pink and completely flopped over. The other two are in better shape, though one is missing feathers from her back.
They’ve been with us for about 24 hours now and are already showing signs of improvement. They have happily eaten and are drinking well. They have spent lots of time outside in their run, making the most of the fabulous sunshine we’ve had today. And, surprise! we had two eggs this morning. We assume that these were laid by Ethel and Mabel, the two who are in better condition.
We’ve just been out to check on them again and they are clucking happily. Doris, the most poorly, is showing some small improvement – already the top of her comb is starting to pick up colour. I opened the nest box to check it was nice and cosy for later this evening and found two more eggs! This means that at least one of them has laid twice! One of the eggs had been eaten, backing up the theory that they are in need of protein (hens are known to do this when their nutrition is lacking). The other egg had a partially soft shell. This sometimes happens when young hens first start laying, or when a hen is low on calcium. It seems reasonable to assume that Doris laid this one, as the others had perfectly formed shells.
I’m so impressed with how all three of them are making themselves at home and already picking up. I can’t wait until they’re settled in enough for us to go and say hello and have a cuddle!