Settling in

Our previous girls came from a variety of situations … some from the cages of a battery farm, some as POL birds kept in a shed surrounded by mud, the Welsummers arrived as 9 week old chicks, while others came from the new ‘enhanced’ cages. They have all reacted very differently once they arrived at the Vicarage.

The Famous Five came from a lovely farm where they had access to grass and open spaces. Bought in as day old chicks, they were reared indoors under heat, then in barns, until they were old enough to be outdoors. Our five were taken from two separate flocks of some 50 or 60 birds (?) so when they arrived there was no pecking order in place, and their surroundings were completely new to them all. Rather than grass, they are on woodchip in an uncovered run 4m x 4m.

And the difference in their behaviour has been remarkable.

The pecking order was settled with little fuss (though we’ve yet to decide how to integrate them … or who with), and they took only one night to find their way to the coop at dusk. They are curious and, if not all friendly, at least approachable. And as they’re not wasting energy being scared, they are quickly learning that we often carry treats and will come to us to see what we have or are doing. Connie and Carey will eat from our hand … the others would love to, but are intimidated by the two top hens – which is as it should be in chicken society (but I will find a way of handing the others sometime soon).

In other words, their background has made all the difference.

When we started keeping hens we had, for many years, been buying free-range eggs. Keeping our own girls was one way of expanding our relatively minor protest against the system of commercial egg production. We started with ex-batts on principle, though we added various breeds over the next few months to maintain our egg supplies as we soon discovered others who appreciated the difference in the quality of a home-grown egg who were happy to buy any excess.

We haven’t always had much choice over the hens we’ve cared for – else we’d never have chosen to include bantams in our plans. And that’s fine … on principle, we’re happy to give a home to any that need it (hens and cats alike) as long as we have the space (and we’re now full … both indoors and out!). But the difference in the Famous Five confirms just how important it is that we also consider their origin and support the suppliers that take good care of their animals. Hopefully it will be some time before we want to add to our numbers (though hens come and hens go … ) but we’d certainly be happy to go back to the same farm for more.

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  • The Hen House Archive

    Our original hen keeping adventure came to an end in January 2013, when a fox took our entire brood of hens. But don’t let that put you off … you can find the story at The Hen House Archive where there are still lots of stories, photos, and information about keeping hens I hope you'll find useful.

    July 2018 … Four new girls arrive, two LS bantams and two Mille Fleur Pekins.

    June 2018 … We had an extended heatwave, with daily temperatures in the 30s.

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