Where to get chickens is a question that all first time chicken keepers have to ask and there are many options out there. One of the options is to offer ex-commercial hens a loving home, saving them from a hard life of commercial laying, and showing them some tender loving care.
If you’re interested in rehoming “ex-bats” there are a number of charities and organisations that can help you do this. Our favourite chicken charity is The British Hen Welfare Trust which has rehomed 434,442 hens to date.
As well as rehoming hens the BHWT campaigns for better welfare standards, raises funds, educates consumers, and encourages people to support the British egg industry.
If you’re interested in giving ex-commercial hens a second chance at life, rather than going from cage to slaughter, you can find out about rehoming here.
Once you’ve got your hens home you’ll probably find they need a little more care than chickens that haven’t been used commercially. Here’s our guide to caring for your ex-commercial hens:
Just like any other chickens your ex-commercial hens will need suitable housing to keep them happy, healthy, and safe from predators.
There are many designs of chicken house available and it’s up to you whether you let them free range or provide a large run or enclosure instead. One thing you may notice is that your hens are missing feathers, in some cases quite a few, and so you’ll need to provide enough protection from the elements.
Tarpaulin, beach wind breaks, potted bushes, and other garden foliage can all give your hens somewhere to hide and get out of the wind, rain, and other quirks of the Great British weather!
The British Hen Welfare Trust highly recommends the Smallholder Range Natural Free Range Layers Crumble and Natural Free Range Layers Pellets that are both available nationwide.
This feed is GM free and specially formulated to provide your ex-commercial hens with all the goodness and nutrients they need to get back to full health. Your hens will have been fed a dry mash all their lives, so the Crumble is an ideal feed.
By feeding your hens this feed you’ll also be doing something good for other ex-commercial hens as a donation is made to the BHWT every time a bag of feed is bought.
Making new friends
If you already have chickens or cockerels you’ll need to be careful introducing your new arrivals. Your ex-commercial hens will be unfit and won’t know how to interact with “normal” chickens. Your hens may also have come from different commercial facilities so they won’t know each other.
Keep the two groups separate for around two weeks, but within sight of each other if this is possible. You’ll need to expect some squabbling when you do eventually introduce them, but once a new pecking order is established they should live together in perfect harmony.
You can reduce the chances of fighting but taking the following steps:
- Provide multiple sources of food and water
- Hang up distractions such as cabbages and mirrors to entertain your hens
- If hens are being bullied, smear Vaseline on their combs so other hens can’t get a grip
Next week, we’ll be looking at what you can expect on your ex-commercial hens’ first day of freedom and how to keep them healthy long term.