Tales of a re­homer

Your Chickens - - British Hen Welfare Trust -

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

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