Just over one month ago I was given three young chickens as a birthday present from my fiancée. I had often spoken of keeping chickens but had never actually owned any before. I was really surprised to say the least, but instantly fell in love with them. They were only seven weeks old at that stage. I decided on their names, (Daisy, Eileen and Betty after my two grandmothers and a great grandmother) and set about cleaning and decorating an old chicken hut for them to live in. Sadly the smallest of the three, Eileen – a sweet little cuckoo Maran – died in her sleep after four weeks. I was, and still am, heartbroken. Daisy and Betty, however, are doing fine and living a great life roaming free in a largish garden.
Now, having got the bug of keeping and caring for chickens, me and my partner decided to explore the world of battery hens. We had seen some publicity about adopting ex battery farm hens via a local Norfolk organisation called Little Hen Rescue. The group had arranged with a local farmer to take 10,000 hens and re-home them. We jumped at the chance to get involved and registered online to adopt three hens. We built a chicken run and were given another by a local school who had three girl pupils build one as an exercise.
After a little confusion we managed to pick up our new hens. It was a very emotional experience as the little birds had hardly any feathers and were shaking with nerves. They had lived the first year of their unhappy and stressful lives crammed into tiny cages piled one on top of each other with no access to sunlight or grass. It makes you very angry when you first see them and it’s hard not to cry.
They each came with little fleece jackets on to keep them warm, which makes them look even more adorable. Underneath, of course, they looked more like the kind of chicken that a meat eater might find in the frozen section of their local supermarket.
It’s been just over a week now since we picked up Marmite, Sparkle and Hiccup and the change in them is amazing! /the first thing we had to do was teach them how to drink. They had been used to being drip fed and had no idea how to drink from a bowl. For the first couple of days they stayed nervously inside their hut but on the third day they finally ventured out into their new enclosure. Hiccup doesn’t like sharing food and pecks the other two but we keep our eyes on things and slowly she’s calming down. Hopefully soon we can integrate them with Daisy and Betty.
To see the change from shy and frightened hens to inquisitive little chickens in just one week is so rewarding. They all have their own little characteristics and mannerisms and we can’t wait to get some more. Oh, and of course we now have plenty of boiled eggs for breakfast 🙂