Getting ready to care for ex-battery hens

Caring for Rescue Hens 1After you have made the decision to re-home some ex-battery hens, you will then need to get ready for their arrival.  This article tells you how to get ready.

A Chicken Coop

The first consideration is where to house rescue hens.  There are different options here from a converted shed to a purpose built chicken coop.

A well-designed chicken coop needs to have a roosting are for sleeping and a nest box area for laying eggs. An enclosed run should also be provided so that the hens can have access to outdoors.  It is really important the entire coop is predator proof.  There are many features such as a sliding tray to make the coop easy to clean and closing doors that will help to keep your hens safe at night that should be considered to make keeping ex-battery hens as easy as possible.  Ventilation is also really important.

Food for rescue hens

In order to minimise the stress of the change, we recommend that ex-battery hens are fed on the same food they’re used too, at least for the first few weeks.  This feed is called layers pellets or layers mash.  It is a balanced diet and we have more information in a separate article on feeding ex-battery hens.

It is very important to not feed unfamiliar foods.  While this might be done in kindness, it could lead to digestive problems causing illness or even worse.

Chicken Feeder and Drinker

A suitable chicken feeder and drinker are really worth the investment.  They will cut down on waste and quickly pay for itself.

  • A properly designed chicken feeder will both keep the food clean and tidy, but also keep the chickens from scratching it out and all over the coop floor which can lead to waste and attract vermin.  Remember that the hens won’t attract vermin, but food will.
  • A suitable chicken drinker provides a supply of clean fresh water to hens.  Just like other hens, ex-battery hens will drink about 1/2 litre of water of a normal day.  Again, it will prevent rescue hens getting into the water and making it dirty.

Grit for Chickens

A suitable grit is important for rescue hens such as oyster shell grit possibly mixed with flint grit.  Grit is something that free range hens will have had access to as they can pick this up as they wander, but because battery hens have not had the freedom to roam they will not have been able to pick this up.  This can lead to rescue hens having weak or brittle bones.  Oyster shell grit is soluble and contains calcium which will promote strong bones and strong egg shells and is especially beneficial for rescue hens.

Bedding

Clean bedding should cover the floor and the egg laying area of the chicken coop.  This really is very important for rescue hens as it is possible they will sleep on the floor of the hen house, as opposed to on roosts or perches that other hens will sleep on.  The reason for this is simple, they may not be used to roosting bars as they may not have been present in the commercial hen house.  This will change over time, but initially they might sleep on the floor.

Clean soft wood shavings or chopped straw are what we recommend.  Our starter pack contains one or other of these.

Health Products

Just like other animals, hens require health products to keep them in good shape.  Rescue hens are no different to other hens when it comes to this.  Here are some products worth considering.

  • Mite & Lice Powder – Hens can be prone to mites and lice.  If the environment that the rescue hens came from had mites or lice, this will mean that the hen can carry these.  Apart from being irritating from the hen, they will spread to other hens, and if they get bad will cause illness to the hens.
  • Chicken Wormer – Again, just like other pets, chickens should be wormed.  This may not have been done recently if at all for your hen.  We suggest you do this straight away.
  • Vitamins / A.C.V. – A multivitamin or good quality apple cider vinegar is great for chickens as it is full of vitamins and minerals, helping them adjust to living in a very new environment.
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