I wanted to somehow give a bit back to these wonderful birds who have given me many happy hours, so what better way than to adopt some ex-battery hens. I can't talk about the suffering of these hens without weeping buckets, not good when you're trying to type, but please take time to read about them at Battery Hen Welfare Trust. It's important that we are educated about the unseen suffering of animals behind the food we eat. I'm sure a lot of us really do care about it, but might not realise how much we are perpetuating the cruelty in our shopping habits.
After registering with BHWT & being vetted to check that we were suitable rehomers it was off to Farrington Gurney, south of Bristol, to collect our 6 girls. I had seen pictures of the ex-batts on the website & knew they can be in quite a sorry state but nothing quite prepared me for my first sight of the rescued hens all gathered in a barn. Some were in better condition than others, but others were in such a sorry state that the wretchedness of their lives was all too obvious. It broke my heart to think that after such a wretched life these girls would normally be going off to slaughter - the only respite from their suffering. I'm sure death is a relief to some of them!
On with our story, before I get carried away on my soap box. The collection was a very well organised affair & before we know it we had 6 of the more feathered hens safely in boxes & were on our way home with them. Hubby had to keep reminding me that all the hens we'd seen were the lucky ones & how ours were going to have a lovely new life to try & stop my tears falling. As we got nearer to home I pulled myself together & started imagining what our girls were going to make of their new home. As these hens have been in small cages all their lives they are very unfit & unable to roost, so I had emptied our garden shed out & converted in into a 'hen hospital' where the girls could recover themselves & start to learn to behave like all hens should. They had wood shavings on the floor, water & a feeder full of layers mash (this is all they have used to during their lives so has to be fed to them to begin with) all ready & waiting so when we arrived it was a case of gently lifting them out of their boxes & letting them shakily find their feet. We left their boxes, turned on their sides & filled with straw as make shift next boxes. Here are our lovely girls:
Our bewildered girls arrive at the 'hospital wing'
Middle son had decided before we collected them that they should be collectively known as the Duracell Girls until we got to know them! So here they were. Completely bewildered. Absolutely amazed at all the new sights & sounds they were experiencing. Nervous. Weak. But do you know what, within a couple of hours or so those girls were starting to scratch & 'dust bath' in the sawdust. Their natural instincts were all still there it seemed, they just had been unable to follow them. One of the girls was a lot quieter than the rest & had a very pale floppy comb. I talked to her gently & she sat at my feet looking up at me. I gently stroked her feathers & she seemed to take comfort in the kindness that was being shown to her. Kindness that she'd never known before. Well that was it - the tears started flowing again! I sat in the sawdust amongst my new girls & made a solemn promise to them that I would do everything to make their lives as happy & comfortable as it was in my power to do so!
So far so good with the Duracell Girls to date. I'm happy to say they are eating well, are more inquisitive & animated & I dare say a whole lot happier already. They are such friendly girls & despite everything they have been through have such a lot of living left to do. They have even been laying eggs for me - bless them!
Looking a lot perkier already!
This morning when I did my rounds I noticed that the Duracell Girls were just starting to bicker a little bit. This is quite normal as they have to establish a pecking order between themselves. So I decided that perhaps it was time to let them have their first visit out into the back garden to give them a bit more room to move about in.
Having a peek at the outside world
Were they going to be brave enough to venture out?
That's a 'no' then!
I guess they are just not quite ready yet! So I'll try each evening & let them take their time. They aren't hurting each other during their squabbles so if they are happiest being in the shed that is where they will remain until they are ready to take the next step to becoming proper free-ranging hens. Watch this space!