Nature on our Doorstep - New, The Down the Lane Wildlife Diary
Your new ex-Battery Chickens
What to expect from the new hen additions to your home
So, you've made your decision, you have your Chicken Coop with all the bits and now the big day arrives. Enter ex-battery hens.
If you already have hens or have had experience with hybrids, you will have a pretty good idea of some of the experiences to come. If you haven't, you could be in for a bit of a shock, but trust me, human instinct, love and care come to play and you'll be fine.
There are some important things to remember when you first get them home, they have been shut in a cage inside a building for all of their 60 weeks or so of life and suddenly being thrown into a brave new world isn't always easy.
If you have children, try and keep them fairly settled when the hens first get home, although the kids will no doubt adore them, the shock of a couple of two legged creatures suddenly dancing around you and trying to pick you up may be too much of a shock for them.
The same applies with Dogs, no doubt they will see their new Garden Partners as either new 'game', new playthings, creatures to be jealous of or even fair play for their hunting instincts.
Your new ex-battery hens will be quite at home in a smaller area for a few days. Whatever area they have will be much bigger than their last one and they'll be breathing proper air, seeing proper light and able to jump around and spread their wings a bit.
One thing that never ceases to amaze me is how quickly they find their natural born instincts. If they have earth and it's a dry day, they will start dust bathing. If they have access to grass, they will instantly scrape away and dig for whatever they can find underneath.
You will find they will be very hungry and even on the second day, when they see you coming up the garden, they will be pressing against the wire and jumping around waiting for their meal. They've been having access to food 24/7, but this will soon sort itself out and having all the extra bits as well, they'll be in a routine before you know it.
Personally, I try not to molly coddle too much. I will start them on Layers Pellets with Mixed Corn. Should they find that difficult I will mash up the pellets myself, although you can purchase 'Layers Mash' already in powder form.
You may get a few eggs on the first couple of days, but these will be eggs which have been 'in the system'. If you have hens already, you'll notice the colour both outside and in. The photo shows a 'one day out' ex-battery hen egg surrounded by two eggs laid by ex-battery hens three years old.
As the days go on both you and the Chickens will gain in confidence. It really is a lot easier than you think. It's a case of feeding for them, watching over them and protecting them.
After that, it's all plain sailing, but please remember as I've said before, sometimes these poor things can not take the change of their ruined lifes and some will not last more than a few weeks. Should this happen, 99% of the time it will not be your fault, so avoid guilt.
Just do all you can to change peoples views on buying eggs from caged hens. That's the best form of thanks you can give them for becoming your Pets!
Finally, there are many questions on the Down the Lane Forum Chicken Keeping Section which start with the words 'Silly Question', may I say very clearly that no question about keeping chickens is a silly question. We've all been through the same as you at some stage and rest assured, your question will be answered.
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