I realised the other day that a year has passed since I went to collect my chickens. This post is a dedication to my lovely ladies; Hatty, Lottie and Stuart (or Chicken Stu as she is otherwise known).
Some of my earliest, and fondest memories are of wondering to the farm next door to my childhood home every day to help feed the pigs and gather eggs. I still remember the thrill of hunting for eggs; reaching a hand under a nesting hen to find a lovely warm globe nestled there. This was a feeling I wanted my children to experience and as soon as DW was old enough (and I pursuaded OH) I put our name down to re-home some recued battery hens from the British Hen Welfare Trust.
Re-homing day came and DW and I went off to pick up four lovely ladies. It was quite a moving experience to drive up to a farmyard filled with a few hundred chickens all in various states of baldness experiencing daylight and the freedom to move for the very first time.
We brought 4 home, but unfortunately the lovely Esme didn’t make it through the first week, about 1 in 6 rescued hens don’t. Born onto conveyor belts, they live 4-5 hens per 20 inch square cage, and never get the space to exhibit natural chicken behaviour. More info about their conditions can be found here. It can therefore be quite a shock for a hen to come out of a cage and sometimes they don’t survive. As harsh as it sounds, Esme was heading for slaughter anyway so at least she got to experience daylight and fresh air for a few days before she passed.
The first egg was produced the next morning, and I must confess I was in a bit of a ethical dilemma – was it a battery egg or not? I ate it anyway, and it didn’t really taste much different to a shop bought egg. But a year on, with happy ladies, the eggs are amazing. Bright yellow, creamy and delicious, fresh eggs are hard to beat.
There are pros and cons to keeping chickens though, here are a few I have found
- Delicious eggs
- ….and plenty of them!
- Chickens are great fun. Battery hens in particular are known for being fearless, and they boss it over the dogs, which is quite amusing to watch.
- Easy to look after.
- Very few food miles are involved (only that of the feed.)
- You are responsible for the welfare of your own animals and can give them happy lives.
- Gathering eggs is fun (especially for little hands)!
- Children get to learn about where their food comes from.
- They need space.
- They don’t smell too great.
- Poo gets everywhere!
- If you buy battery eggs they probably wont save you any money, but if you go for free range organic they might well do .
- They wont leave you much left in the veg patch.
- ….. and they’ll probably decimate your lawn too!
I would recommend keeping chickens though, and if you are thinking about it please consider getting them from the BHWT. Not only do they rescue hens, but also educate the public on battery farming, campaign for better labeling on food products, and most importantly work with farmer to improve welfare standards, so your donation to the could make a real difference.
If you are worried about getting ex-batts because you think they may produce less eggs, well, my ladies are still churning out an egg a day each one year on from the date they were destined for slaughter because they were not considered ‘commercially viable’. One of the saddest things I find about factory farming is that a little life is considered so worthless that a hen will be slaughtered in case she goes for a day or two without laying an egg.
There is another reason to celebrate the day I went to pick up the chickens. That morning I woke up feeling sick, and found the smell of the chickens overpowering……the first inkling I had that little NW was going to become part of our lives in 9 months time. 🙂