I’d like to introduce you to a couple of sweet little hens, meet Willow and Grace. They were rescued yesterday by a hen rescue organisation called Little Hen Rescue (along with 300 others) from a farm operating the new enriched cages. A couple of the hen rescuers happen to be friends of mine and live locally to me.
I arrived at my friend’s place with my pet carrier packed with soft straw and a bowl of crumb. I was met with pale but pretty little faces and tired thin bodies, instantly my eyes were drawn to Grace. My friend scooped Willow up and handed her to me, painfully thin with a floppy comb I loved her instantly. In she went, into my pet carrier along with Grace and away we went. I’m keeping them in a very large dog crate inside my warm garage for now, just until they find their feet and put a bit of weight on their bones. The last thing they need is to be chased away from the feeders by my larger and fitter hens. They’re free to roam my large empty garage during the day, there’s plenty of natural ventilation and natural daylight. I can see them at all times to ensure they’re safe from predators and tend to their every need.
The enriched cage that my hens came from superseded the now banned barren cage, ‘enriched’ meaning to allow the hens that occupy these cages for 15 – 18 months before slaughter to carry out natural instinctive behaviour. The cages are supposed to give them a little more space, a scratch pad, nesting material and a perch. I will allow you to form your own opinion from these photos, but for me, I’d say a cage is a cage. Who’s to oversee how many hens are being kept per enriched cage? If you imagine barns of say, 20,000 hens, perhaps 2-3 per farm, you’re talking a lot of foot and paper work. I doubt it happens, in fact I’d go as far to say it probably doesn’t.
After a busy day of building a nest fit for a swan (Willow was a tad over enthusiastic) and dust baths in the ex batt crumb food, they’re settling down for the night in a thick bed of straw, safe from the slaughter man.