In 2009 we started to re-home battery hens in our garden. These poor chickens had been kept in cages (it was still legal then) and under hot lights that gave them two days and nights in 24 hours to stimulate the maximum egg production.
A typical lifetime for a battery hen was around nine months to a year. Locked in a cage, unable to move, most of them could barely stand and walk when we got them. They had large, almost white, limp combs and – since all they had to do was fight each other – barely any feathers. Amazingly, in just a few weeks they were plump, healthy and rosy, with full feathers. Each had their own personality and we fell in love with them.
Despite their recovery, the damage is done and these early battery birds didn’t live long lives – but we were able to give them a decent retirement and they rewarded us with more eggs than we could eat. Our friends and neighbours are used to walking away from our place with a box of eggs.
The subsequent banning of caged hens in the UK has meant we now get barn hens that, although still not in the best condition, have at least been able to stay more healthy by running around. We’ve got one bird now into her fourth year.
For more info on rehoming hens, check out the British Hen Welfare Trust website.