Before getting Ex-Battery Hens
Considerations for keeping rescued hens in your Garden
Rescuing Battery Hens from their life of caged existance is indeed a respectful, kind thing to do and extremely rewarding for those who wish these poor creatures a 'proper life' of seeing the sky, breathing the air and having space to flap their wings.
However, there are some things you need to take into consideration, better have an idea now rather than finding out in a few weeks time that the move was not a right one.
First getting the Hens
Most of the Charity Organizations rescue huge amounts in one go. Because of the scale of rescue, very few will give you the chance to select the hens you like the look of.
Because of this you may get some which to be honest, are quite emotionally stretching.
Below is a photograph of four hens I re-homed May 2010. The lady I get mine from allows people to choose. Obviously people going to pick their hens will often take children with them, so 'the nicest looking' will usually get chosen first. I tend to come along a bit later down the line, but I know what to expect, so it's not so bad. But be prepared for a shock sometimes.
Not all ex-battery hens will survive the change. For 60 weeks they have been caged in an artificial summer time condition, fed fortified foods off a conveyor belt and never seen the outside world, probably not a human.
It is for those reasons that some may not survive the change. All be it they are moving from something bad to something good, their bodies are accustomed to what they've been.
My own experience shows that on average you may lose one in five within the first few weeks. However, I've taken in ten and they've all got through OK. It really is speculative.
I've gone on a 'system' for want of a better word, where if I feel I can handle another five hens, I'll take seven. I'm lucky and have loads of room though.
Most ex-battery hens will lay eggs, but some may not. For a year they have been designed only to lay eggs and the system is they each lay an egg a day each.
Natural free range hens will lay the same, or slightly less than in cages, but their bodies are pacing themselves - they will lay for longer than ex-battery hens.
For the first couple of days or so, you will get eggs, but these are eggs which are in the system of their past living quarters. Most will then go off lay for a few weeks before getting into their new habits.
It has to be said that not all will lay eggs, it is pot luck, I've been lucky, some have not been. Certainly the more space they have seems to help.
Please, if you want chickens solely for egg production, it is best to choose Hybrids.
Adding ex-battery hens to existing flock
Because they have been caged up, these hens are quite territorial and there's a good chance, especially in a smaller run, there will be punch ups. This is quite natural and most times they will sort themselves out without too much bullying - but there's always the exception. For this reason, be prepared that you may need to separate them for a wee while.
Ex-Battery hens are pretty 'street cred', in fact I call them chicken hoodies!!
Their rather unsettled journey into a new world though will soon settle and after having various hybrid breeds, I can assure you that these little things are a joy to watch and without a doubt more entertaining!
If it doesn't work out
No one, on this Site anyway, is going to wrong anyone if they find that keeping ex-battery hens isn't for them. Should you find this, the main thing is to be honest and open about it.
There is a section within the Down the Lane Forum called 'Hens needing homes and homes needing hens'. Feel free to have a peep.
Financially, the outlay for these hens is all in their living quarters and equipment, most Charities will only ask for a donation of around £2.50 per hen, some more, some less, so they are quite simple to take on - or of course you can go down the more frugal route like myself and equip DIY style.
Whatever, just a few things for you to read and ponder over. I would never keep any other type of hen now.