In this article, Jo provides information about where to find ex-commercial or ex-battery hens for sale, usually for very modest donations from several rehoming organisations across the UK. Most provide collection points for these rescued battery hens, so the chances are there is one near you.
So, maybe you are tempted by tales of chicken keeping and images of happy chickens clucking around the garden, and you are toying with the idea of having a few hens of your own? Maybe you’d like to find out where you can find some Ex-Battery Hens to rehome near you?
Well, you’ve come to the right place! Of course, we are all horrified by the media reports about the life of a laying hen in a battery farm; even after the 2012 ban on standard cages, there are still enriched colony cages. Better than battery cages but still quite a small space for chickens to live in.
I’m sure you have decided that by re-homing some ex-battery hens, you can give them a chance to have some quality of life after their ordeal. Apart from the welfare issues, you also have the opportunity to get some delicious free-range eggs in the process and do your bit to help these innocent victims of the intensive farming system.
The trouble is you may have limited experience with these chickens and no idea where to start looking to find ex-battery hens.
Finding ex-battery hens for sale
First things first, you can’t just pick them up at a pet shop, so how do you find some ex-battery chickens for sale? As always, the internet is as good a place as any to start. Simply typing ‘Ex Battery Hens For Sale’ into the search engine brings up millions of results to plough through, so let me help a little here.
Numerous battery hen re-homing charities work with the British farmers to intercept the chickens otherwise destined for slaughter. They also highlight the plight of the battery hen and intensive farming in general and raise funds to enable them to help more of the 16 million battery hens in the UK each year.
Only a fraction of these hens are currently re-homed, and the battery hen charities are crying out for more loving homes to provide these girls with the free-range life they deserve.
Rescued battery hens
I would strongly recommend getting your rescued battery hens through an organisation. Most are registered charities or not-for-profit organisations. You could, in theory, buy them directly from the farmer, but some unscrupulous farmers have become wise to the demand for ex-batts as pets and sell them to the public for relatively high prices.
Any money you donate to charities will be invested in the future of rescuing ex-batts, promoting their plight and campaigning for improved conditions for all hens. Plus you will be assured of a healthy hen who has been checked by a vet (or at least someone with experience), who has had her claws trimmed, and have the added reassurance of helplines and support should you need any advice.
So a no-brainer really, don’t buy direct from the farmer!
The charities will, quite rightly, ask for a donation for the chickens. This covers the vet’s bills on re-homing day, the money they pay to the farmer, transport, etc. and generally is somewhere between £2-£5 per hen. Larger charities like the BHWT take donations on re-homing day, but some smaller charities do ask for it upfront when you register, to avoid losing precious funds from ‘no shows.’
Registering your interest
Before you contact the charities and register your interest to buy ex-battery hens, there are a few things to consider first. Like all pets, chickens are a commitment, and it is your duty to ensure their health, happiness and safety.
How many chickens do you want? Charities often state you must re-home a minimum of three chickens as hens are flock creatures and need company. Three or four chickens fit comfortably into a standard coop and provide a ‘standard’ family with more than enough eggs. You don’t need a cockerel for a hen to lay eggs; you only need him if you want fertile eggs to hatch chicks.
Do you have enough space for chickens? They don’t require much room, and a small back garden will easily be enough for 3 chickens. But are you going to keep them in the run or let them free range?
There isn’t really enough room in the run of standard bought coops for the chickens to truly experience freedom, and if you aren’t happy to let them trash your garden (and they will!), a compromise may be an area of garden fenced off for their use. This must have some shade in it, preferably some greenery, somewhere for a dust bath (a large flowerpot with compost in it will suffice) and be secure. You can learn more about chickens and gardening here.
A moveable fence like this portable chicken fence is a cheap and easy way of keeping your girls off your garden. It is also vital to ensure your garden is as safe as it can be from predators. Ensure all fences are secure and hole-free to prevent foxes from getting in and inquisitive chickens from getting out.
Unless you are lucky enough to inherit a coop, you will need to buy a secure coop and run for your girls. As always, get the best you can afford as it will be built better, be more secure and last longer.
A brief internet search showed you could buy a small coop/run for as little as £150 (probably cheaper on eBay or second hand). Manufacturers are stingy when it comes to the coops’ room, so buy one suitable for more chickens than you intend to have. There is a lot of good information in Tim and Anne’s Ultimate Guide to Chicken Houses on this site about chicken house requirements, whether you are buying or building one.
You should also consider feed costs (a 20kg bag is cheaper than buying small 5Kg bags and will last 3 girls for many weeks if stored correctly in a cool, dry place) and buying feeders and drinkers, which are a few pounds each. Don’t be tempted to feed your chickens too many treats because you want them to have a balanced diet. There is lots of guidance in this article on Feeding Chickens.
Bedding is cheaper bought in bales – I use Easichick, which is around £12 for a bale and lasts weeks. After the setup costs, a very rough estimate for 3 girls would be £10 a month. All of these things are available online if you don’t have a farm supplies shop nearby, and there’s a useful article here on the site to help you decide: What is the Best Chicken Bedding Material if you need more suggestions.
Chickens don’t take up much time, much less than a dog who needs regular walking! However, they need to be let out in the morning and locking up before dusk, which can be 4 pm in the winter. If you aren’t at home at this time, do you have an automatic chicken door closer like the ChickenGuard? or will they be in a secure poultry run and safe from predators?
Their coops need cleaning out once a week. Plus, you need to keep food and water topped up daily. You could spend as little as 15 minutes a day caring for your chickens, although personally, I can happily spend hours! And then an hour once a week to thoroughly clean the coop, feeders etc.
5. What if they get ill?
Ex-Batts are not unhealthy, merely unfit. However, they can be prone to certain ex-batt specific ailments (See Common Health Problems of Ex Battery Hens), so once you have acquainted yourself with the signs of an unwell chicken, find yourself a vet who has sound knowledge of poultry.
By re-homing / finding some ex-battery hens for sale through the charities, you will save their lives and provide a wonderful retirement for some very precious ladies. They will provide you with eggs from day one, keep your garden pests at bay, provide you with wonderful manure for your garden and keep you thoroughly entertained with their antics and quirky characters!
List of battery hen rehoming charities
These charities are spread across the UK, and many have volunteers taking hens to different locations across the country, so the chances are you won’t be far from one:
- British Hen Welfare Trust.
The largest hen rescue charity in the UK, having re-homed just over 250,000 hens in the 6 years since it’s inception. A group of 25 regional co-ordinators organise the rescuing and re-homing. Donations of £3-£4 per hen are requested.
- Cambridge Little Hen Rescue.
A minimum donation of £3 per hen.
- Free at Last.
Not for profit organisation based in Bedfordshire. Donations of £1.50 per hen are requested.
- Fresh Start for Hens.
(Hen Rehomers) A nationwide organisation with regional co-ordinators. Previously known as North London Rescue. Donations asked from £2.50 per hen.
- Lincs Little Hen Rescue.
Covering Lincolnshire, West Norfolk, Cambridgeshire and the East Midlands. A minimum donation of £3 per hen.
- Little Hen Rescue.
Small hen re-homing charity based in Norfolk.
- Little Feathers Hen Rescue (Scotland).
Based in Fife in central Scotland.
Some RSPCA branches, such as RSPCA Cornwall
Anne’s book is a full colour, practical book which is ideal for beginners.
Even someone who has never kept animals before should be able to follow the clear, detailed guidance that is given.
It includes planning for your first chickens, understanding their behaviour, choosing suitable housing as well as chickens, equipment you will need, and routine care. Protecting against predators, dealing with parasites and ailments, broody hens and much more.
I hope this article has proved a valuable starting point for you to consider adopting some ex-battery chickens. There is a wealth of information available on this site, particularly in the Keeping Chickens category and Ex Battery Hens FAQ and the Tips on Re-Homing Ex Battery Hens article.
My thanks go to the British Hen Welfare Trust for providing many of the photos on this page.