Rescuing Battery hens the pros and cons?
The main Pro is of course that you are taking a hen that has lived all her life inside and giving her a new home instead of letting her go for slaughter, which would be her fate at the end of her laying season. Because we expect our food to be perfect and each egg to be uniform with no shell defects, the packing stations can not take eggs from older hens. However if we are producing our own eggs this is not a problem.
- The other Pro is of course that they are a lot cheaper to buy because an ex- farm hen has a very low intrinsic value. The first hens I bought myself 30years ago came from a neighbouring commercial farm at the end of their years lay.
The Cons .
- There are several things to be taken into account when you decide to have ex- battery hens. The first is that they have just finished their years lay and are quite often going into a moult. You will therefore not get many eggs until the moult is finished and they come back into lay again. Battery type hens have poor feathering because they have been raised and kept in a controlled environment and it may take a little while for the feathers to re grow properly.
- Which brings me to the second main consideration as I mentioned these hens have lived all their lives in a controlled environment they are not used to being outside in the cold so don't think you can just take the hens and put them outside especially in the winter. They will love going outdoors once they are acclimatised but they will need good housing. They will also have been barn reared and will not have learnt to perch so you may have to train them to perch at night or be prepared to accept that they are going to sleep on the floor or in the nestboxes.
- The other thing they are not used to is a range of different foods. They are usually fed on mash so if you are introducing them to pellets or corn you will have to do it gradually. Mix the mash with the pellets for a while until they are happy with the new food. They are creatures of habit. We had problems with our hens when the feed merchants pelleter broke down and the pellets were suddenly much bigger, the hens were very suspicious at first!
4. The other problem about battery hens is that they are relatively short lived. They lay masses of eggs so that they do a lifetimes lay in about 2-3years and after that they stop . Although I know some people have had battery hens live to 7 or 8 years it is not that common and they won't be laying throughout their life.
As long as you are aware of the potential drawbacks there is nothing to stop you enjoying your battery hens . Like all hens they are great characters and you will find them fascinating. I enjoyed mine until unfortunately they got taken by a mink . I then went over to rare breeds and kept Light Sussex.
Now back to the Domestic Fowl Trust time has flown because we have been busy. The continuing storms completely demolished Princess's pen and we removed all the pieces before they blew all over the farm park. The high winds also took some of the old hen house roofs off and blew over some of our grower houses damaging some of the fences at the same time so Teigh and Paddy have spent the last 2 weeks trying to repair them. We have a number of antique hen houses but I think they are getting past renovation nowadays. ( Sorry still no pictures my camera is still at the repairers)
Clive and I went up to London last week to the DIY and Garden Trade show at Earls Court. We are looking for a wholesaler of woodcare products to stock in the shop. This means that as well as selling the hen houses we can also supply treatment for them to keep the wood looking good over the years. We also ordered some new weathervanes in copper to complement the range we already sell . The weathervanes look really good on our Garden Houses.
This house was actually featured on the TV program "Big Brother" in the second series when they were still keeping hens in the garden.
We also ordered some very smart brass rooster door knockers and some cast iron rooster garden lanterns. All these will be featured on our www.chickengifts.co.uk website when they are delivered.
After finishing at the DIY show we discovered that there was a designer gift trade show in the other hall at Earls Court so we looked around that show as well. There were lots of really nice furnishings and cards but nothing relating to hens or ducks so I managed to avoid ordering anything. Next week is the big gift fair at the NEC in Birmingham and I know there are lots of chicken related items there so the web site should be full of lots of new fancy stuff ready for Easter.
We have filled up our trailer again ready for the coming weekend when we have a trade stand at the Poultry Club of Great Britain Championship show on Saturday and Sunday at the NAC Stoneleigh. I am looking forward to seeing all the best poultry in the country. The show did not run in 2005 and 2006 so this year the competition will be fierce. Each time we go to a show we seem to take more stuff so we will have lots to sell. Unfortunately we are always busy so don't have time to show our own birds.