Why everyone needs a chicken in their life
I love chickens!
At Cookie Doodle Doo I like to use locally sourced ingredients where possible especially free range eggs.
There has been lots of campaigning in recent years about the plight of caged hens headed up by top chefs such as Jamie Oliver and this got me to thinking how nice it would be to rescue a few hens and have them in my vegetable patch.
The thought of rescuing hens gave me a great sense of excitement. I contacted the British Hen Welfare Trust (at the time they were known as the Battery Hen Welfare Trust) to find out where the local collection venues were. I found one at Wragby in March 2009 and I signed up for 4 hens.
The preparation for the arrival of the hens took a few weeks getting a safe area ready for them so that they would not be in danger from wildlife such as foxes and badgers. I purchased a second hand chicken ark and cleaned it all up and repainted it ready for their imminent arrival. Sourcing chicken food ( layers pellets) locally and the necessary cleaning products and treatment for the little pests that cause chickens to be irritated was a must.
Collecting the Girls
And then the big day came to collect my new girls.
I had a timed arrival to collect my new chickens and we set off in good time and found the farm who had volunteered to host a hen collection. They were lots of signs pointing the way to the farm that made it easier to find.
We registered and took two cat boxes to put the new girls in. There was a specific requirement for the box or carrier that you collect in so the hens feel safe on their onward journey to their new home.
They had already been transported for hundreds of miles from the egg farm that were going to end the lives of these lovely creatures because they were no longer producing eggs every single day. I was so upset to hear that they have had such a terrible life caged in tiny spaces with nothing to occupy their minds that I felt I just had to do something.
So with the rescue underway, I stepped forward to pass my boxes over to the farmer and as he went to catch my four girls I saw the terrible state of the chickens for myself...
No feathers, clipped beaks, completely stressed with the situation and with no personalities because of their previous lives. I thought it was nice that you didn't have a choice of hens and that it is down to fate because the girls were meant to come home with me.
So with my precious cargo, we set off back home to safely unload them into their new home.
Teaching them about life, food, their new home and where to lay their eggs
None of the girls knew about open spaces and when I unloaded them from their boxes they simply sat there not knowing what to do next.
I spent the afternoon with them, just sitting watching, talking to them, tapping the food bowl and deciding on their names.
Lucy, was definitely top chick! Closely followed by Myrtle, Brenda and Clara.
I saw them develop personalities of their own. Lucy loved it if I moved stuff in the veg patch.
She would wait for a brick to be moved, for instance, and dive in ready to devour the woodlouse or spider that was hiding under the brick. She was my favourite; she would follow me around the garden waiting for me to dig the garden, waiting for worms and other morsels. Competing with my lovely resident robin for the juiciest worm!
Eventually, Lucy learned to knock on my back door knowing I would come with some titbit or treat for her.
They were so entertaining and I got so much pleasure from them and it was a perfect reason to get some fresh air and spend time outside.
Eggs on the first morning!
These lovely girls had endured travel and upset the previous day and I was amazed to find eggs the next morning. In very random places! These girls were used to their eggs rolling away into a collection tube so they just laid them wherever. Eventually they realised it was nicer to lay in a nest box and once one hen laid there the others soon followed.
I use my girls lovely rich yellow yolked eggs for my own personal baking or just with some soldiers and buy local fresh eggs from a free-range farm for my business. Free-range is definitely best.
A final plea - Please Rescue Hens!These lovely girls and thousands like them deserve a forever home. If you have a small area where you can put a shed, an ark, an eco hut, anything safe to house a couple of hens please consider a rescue. It is so rewarding.
If you don't have room for some lovely girls then please always buy free-range eggs locally
The picture shows Me (Mel Drewery, with beautiful Dotty my loveable new rescue hen from Fresh Start for Hens