Tales of a rehomer
YESTERDAY I carried my six new British Hen Welfare Trust (BHWT) hens (individually) from the large former cow shed where they had been living a life of luxury in very roomy conditions, but with no view of the sky, to their new home, writes Your Chickens
editor Julie Harding. Their abode from now on is in our orchard (with adjoining former calf shed doubling as the dorm).
Once upon a time our chickens would 100% free range. And boy did they push the boundaries of the word ‘free’. Not content with the one acre of orchard that kept even our late Tamworth pig Lucinda in seventh heaven for the six years we had her until ill health claimed her, the ladies would venture into the next door rick yard (so called because the farmers of yesteryear would build their hay ricks there) and — worse — the Dutch barn. They also occasionally appeared in the kitchen. Anyone who lets hens truly free range will understand that a stack of hay bales is tempting to a chicken who wishes to lay away from the melee of the hen house. The record stash was 25, but I was always too nervous to consume the eggs that were unearthed by my adventurous children, Ollie, Will, Chloe and Daisy, not knowing quite how long they had languished there.
Over the years we have suffered the sadness of a few fox attacks, although fewer than many of our neighbours, but nevertheless these days we are very wary of letting our hens have total freedom.
A few months ago, after I lost one of my beloved ducks to the chap with the bushy tail (I think), I decided that enough was enough and I dispatched my husband to our nearest agricultural supplier with instructions to purchase an electric poultry fence. He duly returned with oceans of green wire mesh and that is now in situ. I therefore rest easier now that they are all corralled, but only up to a point for I realise how canny Mr Fox actually is when he is looking for his next chicken or duck dinner. But the ladies are as safe as we can make them without constructing Colditz.
“I don’t know why you don’t transport the chickens in a crate,” said my young helper Daisy yesterday. As it was only a 2min walk from the former cow shed to the orchard, I decided on individual transportation. It would enable us to get up close and personal to the girls we had collected in July. And what a treat. They — the feathered one and the ones still lacking full overcoats (inset, above right) — were so interested in their surroundings that it was a fascinating exercise, made all the more so by knowing that they were, for the first time, seeing the sky, feeling drizzle on their backs and pecking at grass and mud.
A little later, once they had settled in in the corral, we opened the hen house door and out poured the others — also mainly rescues. While I might be lambasted here for not segregating them in the same place, that isn’t something I have tended to do except in the early years when we first kept ex-bats. It doesn’t seem to cut down on the fights and, besides, these hens had had more than four weeks to build up their strength in their own personal dwelling. There were a few scraps, but today peace reigns and they look as happy as Larry.
Daisy enjoyed ‘transporting’ the hens to their new home