New Hens Photo Update

Just a few photos to show how well our 3 new ex battery hens are doing, seeing as the weather is being horrid at the moment (so fed up of this wind, rain and hail) it has been quite difficult to get them outside on grass at times.

Dot and Ethel are disabled girls, Ethel appears to be using her bad leg more but Dot has the odd day when she won’t use her bad leg at all but she is getting stronger all the time. Poppy was our little oven ready chicken but not anymore!

Anyway, here they are:

Im really pleased with their progress, they are so hand tame and a real joy to look after.

New Hens

For the past couple of weeks I have been tending to the needs of 3 new ex battery hens. These hens were being ‘fostered’ by friends of mine,  lovely ladies who dedicate their spare time to caring for smashed up ex battery hens that cannot be re-homed straight away. They foster ‘off their legs’ girls from the  hospital wing of Little Hen Rescue and give them one to one care at their homes. These 3 hens were ready for the next stage of their new lives, we had some room so I agreed to take them on.

We have named them Poppy, Dot and Ethel. Poppy was very bald, known as a ‘oven ready’. She was weak when rescued and painfully thin but she is doing brilliantly now and almost fully feathered. Dot and Ethel are leg issue girls, only two good legs between them but they get about in their own’ elderly’ fashion and seem to grab life by the scruff of the neck. Yeah they are slow and don’t particularly look ‘pretty’ (Ethel is de-beaked, probably as a chick GRRRR) but I think they are amazing, seeing as they could not walk at all about a month ago. One of our other ex battery hens ( Becki ) was a hop-along, she does great now and her slight limp is hardly noticable.

They are all doing well so far and a pleasure to look after, Ethel is extremely hand tame and a funny little character. She has the most adorable face although I realise not everyone will see what I do. Eventually her beak will naturally wear down. Dot and Ethel may never walk properly again, only time will tell with these two wonky girls. If they stay disabled then it may be best that they live together in accommodation suited to them,rather than being mixed in with the other hens. We shall just have to see how things go.

Sprouts, Caterpillars and Butterflies

Sprouts

Some of the sprouts are ready for picking now, the rest will be ready in a few weeks time and later sowings should be ready just in time for Christmas dinner. The sprouts are looking very healthy indeed, the same cannot be said for the tops. Cabbage White butterflies were very busy in the summer with our sprouts and cauli leaves, I don’t mind, I’m all for butterfly conservation and probably one of the few vegetable gardeners that welcome their presence. I might grow a few cabbages for them next season, I don’t eat them anyway.

Caterpillar damaged sprout tops

The beautiful summer that we had brought many butterflies to the garden. Which species of butterflies did you spot this year?

Insight into a Battery Farm

Just one row of a battery farm

I know this post is going to shock and appall, but if it makes just one person stop and think twice about buying eggs or produce with eggs from caged hens, then I have achieved what I set out to do. I have permission to use the photos that you see, they were taken by a friend during a real rescue. The farm in question is now closed down for good, but there are many like this one and they are very real. The photo above shows just one row of the farm that held 15,000 battery hens.

A battery hen starts her miserable ‘life’ as a hatchery chick. Thousands of chicks are artificially hatched, no mother hen to nurture and protect. The fluffy cute yellow chicks are sexed, the males go along a moving conveyor, drop off the end and down to their death. They are minced alive. Females take another route on the conveyor. At some point they are de-beaked with a hot blade, slicing the tip of their beaks off. This is a painful and common practise to prevent them causing injuries to each other due to frustration and boredom pecking when in the cages together. Often the de-beaking goes wrong and the chick is left with a deformed beak.

The chicks are reared and then transported to their prison. Hens are crammed into tiny cages at 16 weeks old, normally 5 to 6 hens share a cage but at times as many as 8 or 1o hens have been found squashed together. There is not enough space to turn around, preen or flap their wings.They have no perch, no nesting material, no means to dustbathe or carry out natural instincts. They never see or feel the sun, wind, rain or feel grass between their toes. The cages have wire bottoms that are on a slant so that the eggs roll away onto a conveyor belt, their claws are overgrown and their feet are bruised and painful from standing on wire for over a year. No straw nests for these hens, they never even see the eggs that they lay.

 A battery cage which have been known to hold up to 8 hens

Demonstrating how small the battery cages are

The conveyor belt

When the motor starts up the chains start rattling, the hens go into a frenzy. Yes, its feeding time. Dusty mash is provided as long as the hens can get their necks through the bars of their cage, the weaker hens often get trampled on in the rush to get prime position. Many hens get their beaks caught and maimed in the chain that pulls their food along. Water is provided through a nipple drinker, if a hen is weak or hurt she will go without. These hens survive, they certainly do not have a life. Dead mummified hens have been found in the cages alongside live hens. Some farms use a feed with a hormone additive, this forces the hens to lay twice a day resulting in large swollen bottoms and increasing the risks of hens internal laying from being burnt out. Most battery farms use a  feed with chemicals / colourants added to produce bright orange egg yolks, fooling the consumer into believing the egg is as good visually as a fresh free range egg.

The feed cruel feed chain

Nipple drinkers

After their confinement of approximately 18 months (some longer, depends on the time of year) they are caught by the legs, shackled and killed by having their throats cut or dipped alive into boiling water. You may have eaten a few in your cheap value chicken pie or chicken soup. Some farms deprive hens due for rescue of food, they are not cost-effective to feed if they no longer serve a purpose. The ‘lucky’ hens are rescued and rehomed but a certain number of them cannot be rehomed straight away due to disability, disease or injuries such as broken wings and legs caused by calcium deficiency. Remember, the eggs are important to the farmer, not the hens health. The injured or ‘off their legs’ hens are looked after behind the scenes by the rescues and a handful of dedicated people who foster them till they are healthy enough to be rehomed. Most are crawling with lice and need to be wormed. Although rehoming days are a happy affair, sadly not all of the hens make it but at least they made it out of the cages to die in a dignified way. 

I have a couple of these hens that I describe living here with us, once disabled but now living a happy and normal life, just as a chicken should. Im not trying to offend, im trying to get the message out there that this does go on. We are no longer living on rations in a war-torn country, it does not have to be this way if people refuse to allow it to happen. More and more people are turning to free range, organic free range or better still keeping their own hens in the back garden if this is an option. Buy locally if you can, support the British free range farms, put pressure on Tesco’s to stop selling these barbaric eggs on their shelves. Check food labels for ‘hidden’ battery eggs that are in many foods such as ice cream, cakes, Quiche and even baby food. Ask when eating out if the eggs they use are free range. Food labels should read free range egg, products with ingredients that contain egg yolk powder /egg white powder are normally battery eggs.

Please, be their voice.

If you are able to keep a few laying hens in your garden, please contact one of the following rescues and adopt some ex battery hens:

http://littlehenrescue.co.uk

http://www.bhwt.org.uk

http://www.henrehomers.net

http://free-at-last.org.uk

The best sight of all, an empty farm.

Empty battery farm

An Appeal for Little Hen Rescue

Little Hen Rescue have 500 ex battery hens looking for homes. If you have the space and time, please consider giving a few ex battery hens a home this Christmas, it will be one of the most rewarding things you have ever done.

Please go to their web site for more details.
http://littlehenrescue.co.uk/contactus.aspx

Little Hen Rescue are holding another re-homing day this Saturday, contact them for more details.

Mud, Mud, Glorious Mud

Compost

Well, soil  from our compost bins to be precise. It has been quietly rotting away for nearly a year now, rich in chicken poop and whatever else we could chuck at it, it looks and smells divine. We threw in some pretty manky matter into our compost bins and although we should of course expect to have crumbly, dark and gorgeous soil eventually, it still came as a pleasant surprise to see what had become of our scraps.

 Compost Heap

We emptied the bins and shovelled the soil into a wheelbarrow, then tipped it straight into some empty raised veg beds. My dad will be bringing some well rotted horse manure over in a few days time, this will be added to the soil and left to rest over winter, then we will be all set for the following spring time sowing.

The emptied bins are fast filling up again, the hens are contributing of course! We really must get around to making some extras from pallet wood.

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