To give battery hens a new home is a lovely idea. But obviously you have to ensure that it’s suitable for you. You don’t want to do this if you have dogs or cats that may attack your hens (they could also get injured if trying to attack hens). You need land (most chicken houses are too small, a proper hen house should be akin to a small shed in size), somewhere for hens to run in a covered area that is fox-proof.
Chickens are one of our oldest creatures, and are descended from the oldest creatures ever. Paleontologists say that if you make the silhouette of a chicken larger, an expert would think it was a dinosaur. Far from stupid, chickens can remember names and faces of 25 people and run 9 miles an hour, showing that in the wild, they need a lot of space.
They can see our colours (plus ultraviolet), use the sun to tell the time and can taste salt (but not sweet foods). They love to play, and even talk to their eggs, to hatch healthier chickens.
And chicken care takes a lot of knowledge, as there are many items they can’t eat, and most hens from battery farms arrive in not good health. Many don’t reach their natural age, but at least you give them a good life, for the rest of it.
Gwen the Rescue Hen is the story of a chicken who has spent her life laying eggs in a factory, when a tornado lands her in a strange place. She finds safety & friendship with a boy named Mateo, but neither of them have any idea on what a chicken does! Includes chicken facts (extraordinary eyesight, 24 sounds & they’re descended from dinosaurs).
This post has good info on what to feed (and not to feed) chickens. Many foods are toxic (hens are curious and will eat almost anything you feed them). Foods to avoid include acorns, avocado, chocolate, citrus fruits, coffee, dates, aubergine, garlic, green potato skin & tomatoes, onions, peanuts, beans, rhubarb, tuna or mouldy foods. Raising Happy Chickens has a great post on things that hens must never eat.
British Hen Welfare Trust offers ex-battery hens for adoption. You can adopt up to 20 hens but they are very strict on spacing (an ideal hen house is as large as a shed with plenty of space & runs: they sell their own chicken houses). Read their FAQS, as there is lots to know. Other charities that do the same are:
- Fresh Start for Hens
- Give a Hen a Home (Lancashire)
- Raystede (Sussex)
- PACT (Norfolk/Suffolk).
- The Macs Farm
- Lucky Hens Rescue
Similar charities abroad:
A good hen-friendly reading list is:
- How to Speak Chicken! is an ideal book to get your know your hens, who will be often experiencing the first outdoor life since birth. Learn how chickens use their senses to establish pecking order and roles, and communicate with new hen friends. Includes interviews with chicken enthusiasts, and answers questions like whether chickens have names for each other, how they learn and how their eyes work.
- Free-Range Chicken Gardens is the gold standard book for people who have adopted chickens. Award-winning garden designer Jessi Bloom offers steps to create a beautiful space, while maintaining a happy flock. See make your own garden safe for pets, to know toxic plants and mulches to avoid (along with safer alternatives to slug pellets and Creosote)