Re-homing a few ex battery hens is an incredibly rewarding experience. Battery hens have never been able to express some of their most natural behaviours; like foraging, scratching the ground or nesting to lay their eggs and seeing them able to do this for the first time is certainly very satisfying.
After a few months, these poor, scruffy looking hens that you’ve re-homed will have re-feathered and be on the look out for worms in your back yard. Apart from the satisfaction of giving these girls their freedom, they will without doubt provide you with hours of entertainment as you watch their funny antics, not forgetting a few fresh eggs along the way!
When I see how poorly feathered some of these hens are and how they are being kept in the commercial environment, it makes me think long and hard about the purchasing choices I have available to me in my local supermarket. The next time you pick up that Mayonnaise, cake or Quiche, you might want to have a look to see whether it contains free range eggs. This is an area that usually goes unnoticed by the consumer. Those products that do contain free range eggs, certainly shout out about it in their ingredients and labelling so it should soon become clear which products are helping the poor old battery hen out. Hellmann’s Mayonnaise for example is one of these products that’s doing just this.
Most of the publicity that ex-battery hens get in the media show really bald hens, but the truth is that the majority of the birds that are re-homed do in fact have some feathers and you certainly shouldn’t be put off re-homing birds by the shocking publicity that is given to them. Even during the colder winter months, most of the ex-bats that you get will be feathered well enough to live outside, providing they have a suitable house to keep them out of the wet and away from drafts.
If you re-home some hens, at first, they will need to spend some time in their house, getting used to their new surroundings. Initially they will not use a perch at night, they know no different so make sure you give them a nice thick layer of dust free wood shavings to sit on. This will provide them with some insulation, rather different to what they have been used to on the floor of a wire cage. As they get used to their new home, it is wonderful to see how they start to adapt to their new surroundings. The best part of re-homing battery hens for me, is seeing them with new feathers and wandering out onto grass for the first time. It’s not long before they are scratching around, looking for worms, performing one of the most natural behaviours a hen is genetically programmed to do. Something they have never been able to experience before of course.
There are a number of charities helping to find homes for ex-bats. The Battery Hen Welfare Trust is the biggest, re-homing many thousands of hens each year all over the UK but there are also some smaller, less known charities rescuing and re-homing battery hens too. Most of these charities don’t get a great deal of publicity and they are operating on shoestring budgets. Little Hen Rescue for example is one of these and covers the East Anglia region and Free At Last helps to re-home hens in Bedfordshire and the surrounding counties.
Before you consider re-homing some ex battery hens, I would encourage you to to visit our Ex-Battery Hen FAQ so that you are well prepared. It covers everything you need to know about re-homing from houses and runs to dietary requirements and the additional needs of the Ex-Battery hen in her first few months out of the cage. If you do decide to re-home some hens, remember, don’t expect miracles from them. Keep in mind these are commercially ‘spent’ hens but the pleasure you will get from seeing these hens free ranging is worth every minute of your time keeping them and I’m sure you will agree with me.