Free Range Friday – Baked Dippy Eggs

If you’re thinking ahead to Christmas day breakfast and you want something more exciting than toast, why not try Baked Dippy Eggs?

This recipe has been especially designed with children in mind, so if you can tear them away from their presents for 20 minutes they can help create a delicious breakfast.

You can get the full recipe here.

 

Photo credit: BBC Good Food magazine

Photo credit: BBC Good Food magazine

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How to look after your ex-commercial hens – Part Two

free_range_chicken_flockGiving ex-commercial hens a second chance at a happy life is a very fulfilling and rewarding way to own chickens. With a bit of tender loving care your “ex-bats” will be just as happy and productive as hens you’ve purchased from any other source.

Ex-commercial hens aren’t usually unhealthy, after all they’ll have had every vaccination available as chicks, and they should be laying well. However, they may be shy, not understand natural chicken behaviour, and they could be bruised as a result of handling and travelling for adoption.

One of the biggest charities that campaigns for chicken welfare and helps to rehome thousands of birds every year is The British Hen Welfare Trust who have rehomed 434,442 hens to date.

You can find out how to rehome hens rescued by the BHWT here.

But how do you make sure your hens are happy and healthy in their new home?

Last week we looked at the basics of ex-commercial hen keeping: housing, feeding, and making new friends. This week we’re going to look at what you can expect on their first day of freedom and how to keep them healthy for years to come.

First days of freedom

Allowing your hens to free range on their first day of freedom isn’t usually advised as they won’t know where “home” is and it won’t be an easy task putting them to bed.

The best course of action is to put your hens in their new house and leave the door open so they can venture into their run or enclosure. Keeping your hens in a more restricted area will help them learn where home is.

Bedtime

You may have to gently place your hens in their house at bedtime because they’ll have been used to artificial light 18 hours per day so the concept of going to bed at dusk will be new to them.

You might notice that your hens prefer to sleep on the floor rather than their perches. This because perches won’t have been available to them previously and their legs may not be strong enough to perch for a few weeks.

Don’t be tempted to put them on the perches as this could cause bruising and other injuries if they fall off. Don’t worry, they’ll soon get the hang of it themselves!

Long term care

As long as your hens have food, fresh water, and a safe, secure house they should be happy for many years to come. However, there are a few other things you should do to keep them in tip top condition:

Worming: worming your hens a few times per year, with a veterinary approved product such as Flubenvet, should keep internal parasites at bay.

External parasites: as well as worming you should also treat your hens for external parasites, particularly red mite, on a regular basis. Spring and summer are good times to treat your hens and you should also use the parasite product on your hen’s house and run.

What if something does go wrong?

If you’re at all worried about your hens health or they become injured you should seek veterinary advice. The British Hen Welfare Trust has a list of experienced poultry vets that practice in the UK on their website.

How to look after your ex-commercial hens

knittedchickenWhere 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:

Housing

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!

Feeding

Smallholder Natural Free Range feedThe 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.

Free Range Friday

Although the British Hen Welfare Trust is a charity designed to improve the lives of chickens we’re sure they support all poultry.

So, this week we’re giving you a recipe using duck eggs, in case you’ve got an abundance of delicious duck eggs and you’ve run out of ideas!

If you read yesterday’s What to do with duck eggs post you’ve already seen this recipe but we thought it was so good we’d share it again!

You can get the full recipe for the Poached Duck Egg with Asparagus, Cured Ham, and Wholegrain Mustard Dressing here.

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Free Range Friday

Last week we gave you a recipe for gorgeous savoury Scotch eggs with chorizo and paprika potatoes. This week we’ve got a delicious sweet recipe that makes the perfect summer pudding.

This week our Free Range Friday recipe is a gorgeous looking Creme Caramel.

You can get the full recipe here.

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