Farewell Lily

One of my old hens, Lily, was sadly given sleep at the vets last Friday morning. Even though it’s never an easy decision to make (for any animal), this was the right decision for her. She was a rescue hen and experienced 4 years of ‘freedom’ with us, which of course is a lovely achievement but this also made it much harder to let her go. It’s odd not seeing her in the garden, she was part of the furniture and a huge character. My thundering big hen. I miss her and I believe her partner in crime, Emily, misses her too. I’ve never known a chicken to react the way that Emily has, as if she senses the loss.

Lily and Emily were very bonded, Emily kept calling for Lily and appeared quite distressed on Friday. This left me with a problem. Emily was now on her own. I have other ex battery hens here (housed separately), they’re all quite physically challenged with thing or another, definitely not a good idea introducing Emily to them. Being a big fit hen she would be too much for them to cope with and probably cause them unnecessary stress. Hens are flock animals and much happier with the company of other hens, I had to get some friends for Emily to eventually bond with even though I really wasn’t in the mood for it.

I’ve been lucky with the rescue hens that I’ve kept over the years, being regular layers I’d never really thought about keeping other chickens for this purpose (although I’ve always admired certain types of hens for their looks). For some time now eggs have been like gold dust, it’s not really surprising considering the ages of my current hens and the conditions they endured before being rescued. Those who read my blog regularly know my feelings concerning battery or intensive farming methods, I’ve given homes to ex battery hens for the last 4 years. In all, around 17 rescue hens have spent their ‘retirement’ here. I’ve nursed many a hen back to health (very satisfying if a little mentally exhausting at times), some had a few months of freedom, some had many years. That’s how it goes sometimes.

So, for the need and pleasure of collecting our own fresh eggs, plus the worry of Emily being too much for poorly ex battery hens, I decided to buy some point of lay hybrid hens. It felt alien to me, ‘picking’ different coloured hens from a free range farm rather than having pale-faced scraggy brown hens gently placed into my boxes. On a rescue re-homing day there’s not usually any choice or time for ‘cherry picking’ the hens waiting to be rehomed, I often took what was given with joy in my heart and excitement of knowing the lovely life that awaited them, once we reached home. Rescue hens are usually silent in the boxes on the way home, they have no idea how much their lives are going to change for the better, no matter how long or short.

On the way home from the free range farm with my hybrid hens at the weekend, I could hear clucking and screeching coming from the boxes. The pecking order had already begun. I didn’t feel the usual excitement of having new hens, in fact I had a banging headache, and I knew why. Guilt. My decision to buy hybrid layers (or posh hens as I call them) was a difficult one for me to make, I adore all types of chickens and this is something I need to remind myself of at the moment. I will get over this phase I’m sure, I’m still raw from losing Lily and it’s all new to me, having pretty hens in the garden.

At the moment Emily is making sure the new hens know who’s boss, thankfully they’re far too quick and nimble for her to do any real harm. She’s doing a lot of chasing, ‘donking’ them on the head, shouting and food guarding. I’ve placed extra bowls of food inside the enclosure to make it more difficult for Emily, and to ensure the new hens eat. Bed time is amusing, the hybrids want to roost outside in the enclosure or up on top of the coop roof! I’m not used to having hens so agile! Once it’s dark I go out and gently place them back inside the coop, they need to know where to go at dusk just in case I cannot get them back inside once they start free ranging. At least then I know they will return at some point. It will all sort itself, it takes time.

No firm names for my hens yet, I’ve not really had a chance to think about that. What I need to do is bond with them first, perhaps then I will stop feeling so guilty for not adopting more ex battery hens.

Advertisements

18 comments

  1. I understand your guilt in buying “pretty” hens. I rescued my first dog a couple of years ago and it gave me so much satisfaction to adopt our Callie that I will probably go the rescue route the next time. Keep enjoying your chickens!

  2. Well done on rescuing so many chickens. I wasn’t that brave as I felt with my first chickens I needed to have something slightly easier. Having also introduced one hen to a pair later on I think you’re doing the right thing by not introducing less able birds to a dominant one. Ours are all settled now but it’s wasn’t pretty to watch and those ex-bats have been through enough without that fight.

  3. It is a shame about Lily, but the books suggest 5 years is a good age for most hybrids, and I should think it’s very good for a brown feathered egg-laying machine that’s spent about a year in a cage. You must have given Lily a lot of tlc to keep her going so long.

    I’d love to see what kind(s) of hybrids you have this time. No need to feel guilty; you still have quite a few rescue hens by the sound of it and there’s no law to say you can’t have some of both, nor that buying healthy p.o.l. birds now means you can never rescue any more hens in the future. It makes sense to have a few reliable layers to put eggs on the table. I hope the new hens get on well with Emily and stay healthy.

    Btw. is that Emily or Lily straining up into that tub – she does look funny.

  4. Thanks everyone, your comments have made me feel better. I will pop some photos on soon, two of the new hens are getting braver with me, still very flighty and unsure at the moment to get a decent photo.

    Karin, that’s Lily in the plant pot, all the photos are of her. She was so funny, always up to no good.

  5. She looks a lot like our Amber, to my untrained eye. From the top picture I thought she might have looked more like Robyn, the darker of our original three.

  6. Sorry to hear about Lily. I really admire that you take care of ex battery hens, and posh ones too! I have thought about having hens, and love the idea of it, but unfortunately I don’t have the space.

  7. Sorry about Lily xx
    The 3 new girls i got a few weeks ago are smaller than the normal ex batts, but they have enormous personalities, i seem to be some kind of god to them. I had the same dilemma with these newer girls but it’s ok now. I remember getting Val and Tine (posh ‘ens) and the large brahmas and thinking i should have had some more from Mel, but i was worried as i had lost quite a few to illness.
    Good luck with the new posh ‘ens and let’s have some of your wonderful pics( when it stops raining of course) Big hugs to Emily.

  8. Thanks, Val. Shame you don’t have the space to keep some chickens.
    Thanks Frances, I love your new girls – very pretty. My first lot of ex batts were huge apart from one who I named Dolly. Emily is a very tall hen, she towers over my new girls but at least 1 of them is going to be much bigger than her eventually.

    They all took themselves off to bed last night. Yay!

  9. Thanks for a lovely blog. Hope Emily is “ruling the roost” and chirpy again after loosing her pal. Look forward to hearing how the new girls get on.

  10. “at least 1 of them is going to be much bigger than her eventually.”

    I’m guessing you may have a Bluebelle.

  11. Thank you , Carole.
    Emily is happier than she was on Friday, the calling has stopped now. Her attention is firmly on the new hens, at the moment she is being what I would describe as firm but fair. It does help that she cannot keep up with them!

  12. Look forward to seeing a picture of her and the others soon. I’m glad Emily is happier. Amber never seemed to have noticed being on her own, but we thought she would prefer company.

  13. Lily looks like a real character. You must miss her. I think it’s great that you care for ex-battery hens. And although I can understand feeling guilty about your posh hens, they will benefit from your care and kindness just as much, even if they may not seem as needy as the poor battery hens.

  14. Lovely post – don’t feel guilty about your new girls – it’s really important that we support the free range producers, after all they are raising hens in a way that we want to encourage so giving them some business too is a good thing.

  15. So sorry to hear about Lily. I understand completely how you feel about the hybrids but, after all, you have done it for Emily and it sounds as if it is working for her? She would not have been happy alone. Also, your new girls have a caring owner :)

  16. Sorry to hear about Lily and I would agree with everyone else, don’t feel guilty and the good thing is you are giving a loving, caring and safe enviroment to them.

    The pictures are brilliant btw

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s