It’s not the farmer’s fault, it’s ours – if we as consumers want to pay next to nothing for eggs and meat, the farmer has to produce them for next to nothing, and that means factory farming. After a year their laying drops and they are replaced with new hens – that’s when the rescuers swoop in!
Here they are waiting to be picked up on the coordinators farm, we were late so this is just a few of them and they are in remarkably good condition. When we picked up our first hens Vera, Chuck and Dave (bonus points if you can work out why we named them that!) they were in much worse condition than this – Vera had very few feathers and Dave has no tail and a badly broken toe. We came to get just two this time - only possible because sadly Chuck died a few months ago, and we have such limited space. I’d take them all if I could!
Releasing them into their new home was crazy – you’d think they would run for the open space, but no, they huddled together in the cat-box and eventually I had to take it to bits to get them out – Vera, Chuck and Dave were the same. It’s definitely all to much for them!
The first meeting was a bit dodgy, lots of clucking and flapping, but after a couple of days in separate runs (but able to see each other) we let them in together.
Dave immediately went for them both but the run goes a long way back and they were able to escape. I got some pine tar bitter beak stuff to put on their necks (although I managed to get more of it on me, and it really does taste vile – mental note, if it says to wear gloves, wear gloves!) Dave is still chasing them but the pecking stopped pretty much straight away.
That’s Rita on the left and Lucy on the right. Compared to Vera (on the left) and Dave (on the right) in the back they look really scraggy but it won’t take long for their feathers to grow back and to start acting like proper hens.
Keeping hens is not very different to keeping rabbits or guinea pigs – they need fresh water and food every day, and a bit of cleaning out, but they are surprisingly quiet and give you eggs. The best thing is knowing you saved them from becoming dog food, the filling for cheap pies or *shudder* baby food.
If you’d like to rescue battery hens, in the UK you can contact Hen Rehomers UK or the Battery Hen Welfare Trust. They have coordinators all over the country, so find one that’s near you. I can’t fine any charities in the US which re-home hens, but if you live near a battery farm, best thing is to go and ask directly, or check out the Backyard Chickens forum, which is a great resource for all things chook.
If you can’t keep hens at home, but would like to help somehow, join Hugh Fearnley Wittingstall’s Chicken Out campaign or simply…
…buy free range!
One last note: If you are vegetarian, always check the label. Don’t assume prepared food is free range, many vege brands use battery eggs in their products, especially own-brands. In the UK Tesco is a major culprit but Quorn and Linda McCartney are fine, and everything from M+S is free range. Also, if it’s certified organic, it has to be free range.
Phew! Sorry to get a bit heavy on you :)Beccy