In recent years the UK has become more and more aware of the plight of the battery hen in farms across the country and worldwide. With programs such as those made by Jamie Oliver and Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall making people more aware of their shopping habits, it has become a natural part of our shopping experience to avoid farmed eggs and to buy free range chicken wherever possible. But what about saving the hens themselves?
Many associations across the country now offer a save a battery hen service and will allow people the opportunity to adopt a hen before it inevitably meets an untimely death. It may seem like a scary prospect, but with a medium sized garden and just a couple of hundred pounds, it is possible to have fresh eggs for breakfast every morning and to feel incredibly proud of yourself.
The Battery Hen's Former Life...
Up to 100,000 birds may be kept in sheds allowing less than the size of an A4 sheet of paper to stand on for each bird. Most are kept in cages with 3 or 4 other birds and the cages are stacked up to 6 high. If they are not among the 2 million which die each year, they will live for just 72 weeks before they are slaughtered for pet food. Each hen will produce around 330 eggs per year due to fortified feed and artificial sunrises and sunsets.
A Possible New Life!
Associations such as the Battery Hen Welfare Trust (www.bhwt.org.uk) can help you to find and re home a battery hen or three. Their website offers information on when they will have hens available and how to get them. They also give information on how to look after them and it is easier than you might imagine.
- Make sure you have enough space to accommodate the hens you want to keep and build or buy a sturdy house for them. Make sure the hens will be protected from foxes or even cats. Many online companies sell hen houses starting from around £150. Even a garden shed will be a good alternative to a hutch.
- Place straw in the bottom of the house and provide some soft bedding material for the nesting boxes.
- The birds will need some space to run about – although they will be very unused to this. They may need ramps to their nesting boxes until they have developed their fitness. Although chances are they will not use the boxes and will lay their eggs all over!
- Many of the hens will have bruising to their legs but this will disappear within a couple of weeks. Any other obvious signs of ill health should be checked by a vet. They will have had all their vaccinations during their time as battery hens and should therefore not be prone to disease.
- Expect around one egg every other day from your hen, but this does vary.
As a proud new owner of an ex-battery hen you have done something really worthwhile. It has been reported lately that battery farming may be outlawed by 2012 and all hens will have the basic right to roam in relatively free conditions.
Having a few hens can be a wonderful addition to your household. Not only will they provide food, but they are great for chil