Goodbye My Honey

ex battery hen

Yesterday I lost one of my beautiful ex-caged hens. Honey was rescued and spared slaughter last August by a wonderful hen rescue organisation called Little Hen Rescue. She came to our garden smallholding with 2 other rescued hens and spent the rest of her time as free as a bird. She was quite a character, quickly securing position as top hen within the little flock, even trying her best to intimidate my Coral hen housed next to them, through the wire.

ex battery hen

A couple of weeks ago I noticed Honey had problems with her crop emptying properly, I kept an eye on the situation and helped her by massaging the crop contents and administering an oil to lubricate (suitable for poultry), to move the blockage along. This is important to prevent the crop contents from souring, or, becoming completely impacted. Usually this is enough to remedy the problem and for a few days it seemed to be working.

ex battery hen

Honey started to withdraw from the flock again and the crop felt doughy on inspection, I checked her over and discovered a hard lump or mass underneath her which felt a bit like an egg (although she wasn’t displaying any signs of being egg-bound). I took her to see an avian vet to be examined, the hard mass that I felt was her gizzard which was now completely blocked. We agreed to see if we could try to shift the crop and gizzard contents along by giving her Metoclopramide injections, along with a probiotic and medication to prevent sour crop. I was told that it was most likely a tumour rather than infection or any other factor causing the blockage but I wanted to try a bit longer to see if we could turn the situation around. I brought her inside permanently to keep her warm, looked after her and prayed for a miracle.

ex battery hen

Despite my best efforts of nursing Honey, she deteriorated very quickly within a few days. Her crop and gizzard contents had not responded to treatment and she was frightfully thin and very weak. Another appointment to see the vet was made, after seeing and examining her again the mutual decision was made to give her sleep to end any suffering, allowing her to pass away peacefully and humanely.

ex battery hen

I’m comforted by the fact that she escaped the egg industry and a grisly ending, that she free-ranged and felt the sun on her back and grass between her toes. Anyone who gives a home to these girls knows they have unique personalities, you want them to live an unusually long and happy life.

Honey when she first arrived from the egg farm
Honey when she first arrived from the egg farm
chicken orchard
Honey looking much healthier just a few weeks later

Goodbye Honey, thank you for the laughs and cuddles. You were one funny, feisty little hen. Fly free x

To find out more about Little Hen Rescue, forthcoming rescue dates or how to donate to help fund rescue running costs, please visit their website:


Feathering Up for Winter

ex battery hen

The new rescue hens are growing their new feathers, just in time for the cold winter months. I guess this is a good excuse to reveal how they’re looking now.

ex battery hen

Pumpkin has completed a dramatic make over, growing all her feathers quickly not long after rescue. She’s a tall hen with mid-brown feathers and a white tail, her neck feathers have a white pattern. She was a very nervous hen a few months ago, now she’s confident and relaxed. She’s bottom hen of the trio, I only know that from watching the pecking order being sorted, otherwise you’d never really know. They’re a peaceful little group, unlike my other flock of ‘posh’ hybrids who still insist on inflicting the occasional peck.

ex battery hen

Bramble is taking her time to change into her new clothes, she still looks a bit scruffy. Her new feathers suggest she’ll be a darker brown hen overall and her face and comb have a nice pink colour too (although I’m failing miserably at capturing her face colour in photographs, so you’ll just have to take my word for it).

ex battery hen

I’ve kept many rescue hens over the years and they’re always pale and sickly looking from being kept in the caged farms, ‘colouring up’ after a little TLC. Bramble has been the palest hen I’ve ever seen, her face and comb almost white when she first arrived.

ex battery hen

ex battery hens

Honey’s feathers are a lovely honey-blonde with white patterning over her neck and back. Her new tail feathers haven’t come through yet, so she looks a bit stumpy. She’s a confident hen and very friendly. Every morning she jumps up on top of the hen-house as I lean over to clean it of overnight droppings, placing herself alongside me and straining her neck to see what I’m doing. This little routine always ends up with her jumping down inside the hen-house, straight into the plastic bag stuffed with yucky stuff! Every morning is the same, every morning I giggle at her silly antics.

This looks like a good place to lay an egg
This looks like a good place to lay an egg, much nicer than the cage I used to live in

I recommend keeping some rescue hens for comedy value if nothing else!


Blurry August

ex battery hen

Hello blog, it’s been a while.

Last month is still a blur to me, due to family loss. Consequently I haven’t had my blogging hat on, but I did promise to update readers with progress of my new rescue hens and that’s what I’m going to do with this post.

walk in chicken runs

The addition of a new walk-in chicken run thanks to my other half and his DIY skills helped the very traumatised hen overcome her fear of other chickens. With plenty of space (it’s a large enclosure for just 3 chickens) for her to dart out of way should she feel the need to, the choice is hers to approach other chickens in her own way and in her own time, boosting her confidence. She struts around with the other rescue girls now, a very different hen to the one that ran away screaming for her life, cowering down in a corner just a few week ago. She just needed space and time to adapt to her new-found freedom – no longer the punch bag for other caged hens to take their frustration out on.

ex battery hen
‘Pumpkin’ was very traumatised from her time in cages, her rehabilitation had to be handled very carefully for her to gain my trust. Her day-to-day time spent in a cage was mentally damaging to her. Already, given freedom and choices, she’s a different hen and very affectionate towards me.

The pecking order for this little flock has already been sorted out, with ‘top hen’ giving a reminder of her status every so often should the other girls ‘forget’ her authority over them. This is usually done by pulling at the other girls combs, treading them with one stamp of her foot on their back or the ‘stare’ across a food bowl, resulting in the lower ranking hens breaking eye contact immediately and moving elsewhere (sometimes this is enough to warrant respect without any further action needed).

ex battery hen
Top hen ‘Honey’, she’s firm but fair!

ex battery hen

Bedtime always brings drama (even with my flock of ‘posh’ hens housed nearby), the lowest ranking hen (in this case ‘Pumpkin’) is usually last to take her position within the safety of the hen-house at dusk. You could say I study my hens intently, I find chickens and their language absolutely fascinating.

ex battery hen

As you can hopefully see from the photos they’re starting to look healthier.

ex battery hen

If you’d like to offer a home to some hard-working girls please get in touch with your local hen rescue by using this useful website If you would like more information on how to care for rescue hens before committing to rehoming, come along and join the ex battery hens forum community We’re a friendly bunch and happy to answer any questions or concerns you may have from anything to integration, feeding and housing.


My Old Brown Rescue Hen

Old Emily hen
Old Emily hen
This is Emily. Her life as a laying hen started in a barren cage roughly the same size as an A4 piece of paper, caged with many other hens to lay cheap eggs for the consumer and food industry. I rehomed her (along with 5 other hens) via Bedfordshire based hen rescue Free At Last on 20th April 2008. That was 5 years ago.
Emily rotavating soil in the veg garden
Emily rotavating soil in the veg garden
At 15-18 months old, Emily and many hens like her are considered ‘spent’ (meaning she was in her second year of laying and egg production tends to dip slightly), mass production units such as battery farming simply replace spent hens with younger ones. Emily would’ve been sent to slaughter if it wasn’t for the great work of hen rescues up and down the country. Barren cages have since been replaced with enrichment cages (a perch, nesting material and slightly more room) but it’s still a cage at the end of the day.
Emily quickly became part of the family
Emily quickly became part of the family
Emily with her favourite friend
Emily with her favourite friend
Emily blowing a kiss
Emily blowing a kiss
Emily enjoying a dustbath
Emily enjoying a dust bath
Homes are always needed for hens like Emily, if you’re interested in rehoming some ex-caged hens please take a look at Ex Battery Hens – The Hen Rehoming Hub to find your nearest hen rescue. Emily is the last of my original ex battery hens, outliving the many others that I rehomed over the years and that makes her extra special to me. Sadly, she isn’t in the best of health at the moment and I know deep down I have to do the right thing by her and let her go with the help of my superb avian vet. It’s breaking my heart into million pieces, I’m not good with these situations and it never gets any easier. I know she’s had a long life for a hen that was never bred to be a happy garden hen, but I always want more for rescue hens, for me, it’s never long enough.
ex battery hen
Thank you for reading her story and for your interest in rehoming hens just like her.

Little Hen Rescue – Homes for Hens

Rescue hens make great pets and are very friendly once they settle in to their new environment.
Rescue hens make great pets and are very friendly

Would you like to re-home some rescue hens? Little Hen Rescue regularly need pet home for rescue hens to live out the rest of their lives. They currently have hens looking for homes that were recently rescued from enrichment cages, most are well feathered and still capable of laying but this can never be guaranteed.

ex battery hens

From my own experiences of keeping rescue hens what I can guarantee is this; any new hen rehomer will quickly adore their new feathery friends and form a close bond, you’ll suddenly wonder where missing hours in your day went until you realise they were spent watching these lovely natured hens finding their feet, visibly enjoying being a real chicken for once in their lives. I cannot stress enough how rewarding it is to witness the changes as they blossom into beautiful garden hens with just a little TLC. It’s certainly one of the best things I’ve ever done.

Gardening together. Rescue hens thrive on a little TLC and fresh air
Gardening together

Collection points from Norfolk, Cambridge and Essex with the main bulk of hens being kept at Little Hen Rescue’s base in Norfolk. If you can offer a home to some deserving hens then please get in touch with Little Hen Rescue by applying via LHR website:


Other resources:

Ex Battery Hens Forum (you can find me there), a friendly community to chat with other people who keep rescue hens

Hen Rehoming Hub: Find a hen rescue near you!



Beautiful Poppy

I wish this post was about beautiful red poppies, just like the ones currently growing in the wildflower area of my veg garden. Sadly, this post is about the loss of my beautiful hen, Poppy. She had a heart attack yesterday, it was all very quick and a huge shock.

Rescued in 2009 from a battery farm, she came here as a tiny bald hen. Her feathers started to grow back, the colour returned to her once pale face and she grew in confidence. I watched, as she blossomed into one of the most beautiful hens I’ve ever cared for. Recently she bonded well with my bluebell hen, Myrtle. Typical of her calm nature.

Poppy helping herself to the brassica in the veg garden

I shall miss her terribly and I’m sure Myrtle will too.


Chickens in the Garden

It’s been a while since I posted some photos of the hybrid hens, these were taken last month. Emily and Poppy, the old ex-battery hens make an appearance too.

Our Speckledy hen lays dark brown eggs. She’s lovely and very placid unlike the white Coral hen, she’s a lunatic!

Myrtle the Bluebell hen loves hanging out in the herb patch, it’s her favourite place to have a dust bath.

Emily, our old ex-battery hen has taken quite a shine to our Coral hen, Fleur. As you can see, Emily is a big old bird!

Hermione and her fabulous ‘hair’!

Myrtle hanging out in the herb patch again, we gave her the correct name!

Each hen lays a different coloured egg which makes it really easy to tell who laid each morning, this can be useful sometimes. I was hoping our Skyline hen would lay blue or green eggs, turns out she lays pastel colours instead but they’re still pretty!


Goodbye Old Girls

It has been a tough old ride with my chickens lately. Yesterday morning I opened one of the coops and discovered Dot, one of my old ex battery hens had died suddenly in the night. Another of my old girls, Ethel was diagnosed with cancer a while ago. She was doing really well on supportive care but recently time had caught up with her and today she was finding her condition hard to cope with. It’s heartbreaking to see a hen literally use every muscle she has to take a breath. I believe the death of Dot worsened matters, they were literally joined at the hip. Today I took Ethel to my very supportive avian vet and allowed her to go, ending her suffering.

Goodbye old girls x


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.


Free At Last Hens, Four Years On

We collected six scruffy ex battery hens (our very first hens) from a Bedfordshire based hen rescue called Free At Last, four years ago today.

I’m really chuffed to announce that two hens from the original six that we collected are still here, still laying when the occasion takes their fancy and most definitely still scratching up the flower beds and chasing flies.

Emily blowing a kiss!

To find out more about Free At Last hen rescue, visit their website:



Sorry for the silly post title, couldn’t resist.

A few days ago I collected an enormous egg from one of my chicken coops, I literally blinked in amazement upon first seeing it. I could tell simply from looking at the massive egg that Lily hen had laid it – you recognise colour, shape and patterns of each of your hens eggs. Well I do anyway! The first thing I did was check her vent and general well being, everything looked OK so I picked the egg up for a closer look. The shell was firm and the egg was unsurprisingly heavy, but heavier than I had originally expected. I began to suspect a double yolk egg, so I cracked it open. This is what I found….

As you can see from the photo, there’s a normal yolk and what looked to be either a yolk covered in shell or a smaller round egg. I decided to open up the other strange-looking ‘egg’ to see what was inside…..

You can clearly see that there isn’t a fully formed normal yolk, I believe this to be a wind egg? Correct me if I’m wrong. Even though I was amazed at the contents, I know of all sorts of strange stories with eggs (not just from ex batts) from running my ex battery hens forum . Lily is fine and back to laying normal size eggs, her diet and general health is good so it isn’t anything related to that. She is, however, pretty old for an ex battery hen. Egg laying can present problems in older hens, so my wild guess would be that it’s something to do with her age.

I hope she doesn’t lay another one like this in a hurry.


Henniversary for Becki Hen

This is Becki, she’s an ex battery hen and I’ve had the pleasure to know her for 2 whole years. Her story is a funny one in the sense that she was never meant to end up staying here in the garden smallholding, alongside another hen called Hope. I was a rescue co-ordinator along with a friend of mine called Becki for Little Hen Rescue during one of their biggest rescues to date – 10,000 hens rescued over a number of weeks from a farm closing down.

Becki and I rehomed some of these hens from my garden. A few of the hens were just too poorly to rehome straight away so we kept them back to be collected by a person who fosters hens and looks after them until they’re healthy enough to be rehomed. One of the hens caught my attention immediately, she was dying. We saved her life there and then. I eventually named her Hope and she bought a ticket to stay. I couldn’t just take one (not ideal for introductions to my flock) so Becki hen got a ticket to stay too. At the time Becki hen was a poorly girl with a very sore leg, my friend Becki noticed her amongst the hundreds of hens roaming around so she gently scooped her up and put her somewhere quiet to be given some one-to-one care. So that’s how Becki hen got her name.

Becki hen looks so different now, her leg completely healed although she will always have a slight limp. Sadly Hope passed away last year but I will never forget her. Happy 2 year ‘henniversary’ Becki hen!


We’re Having a Bit of a Celebration

I’m chuffed to bits to announce that today marks the 3rd anniversary of freedom for a couple of my original ex battery hens, Lily ‘Savage’ and Emily have been out of a battery cage for 3 whole years, whoopee! Believe it or not both hens are still laying quality shelled eggs every single day, usually taking a small break during the winter months for moulting purposes. I was trying to work out their ages last night and I reckon they’re either 4 or 5 years old which is pretty good going considering battery hens are not bred to last. 


They really are the most amazing girls, funny characters and completely friendly despite Lily’s nickname Savage. You see, she is quite partial to the odd mouse if she can catch one – nothing to do with hurting people. This time last year I still had all 6 of my original motley crew – Dolly, Lizzie, Rose and Mrs N completed the line up, what a bunch of HUGE characters they were. As I watch Emily & Lily tucking into their favourite treat of sliced grapes a tinge of sadness washes over me for the other 4 girls we sadly lost, but I look back over the two years of freedom they did have with fond memories.

It’s more than most ex battery hens could ever dream of.


New Chicken Photos

It’s been a while since I put new photos of my other hens on the blog. You may remember how Dot, Ethel and Poppy looked when they first arrived in 2009, a very sorry sight. Just look at them now!

Hover over the photos to see who is who!

Becki crept into this photo (front right inspecting the grass for something wriggly) she has bonded well with this group after losing her pal Hope. These 4 girls were all challenged in their own way, some still are and because of this they do better in their own group rather than being mixed with the bigger and stronger Lily and Emily. It just works out better this way and everyone’s happy.

Chicken Health · Chickens

Chicken Health – Droppings

Keeping chickens in the garden is rewarding and can be educational too if you have young children helping with their day-to-day needs. But, as with all animals, from time to time chickens can become ill. Apart from the classic signs that a chicken is unwell – fluffed up feathers, hunched posture, eyes closed etc you may be surprised to hear that chicken droppings can reveal quite a bit about their current health. So, the next time you check on your flock take time to inspect their droppings.

I realise this may sound unpleasant but believe me you could identify a potential health problem just by recognising what an abnormal chicken dropping looks like. You should also get to know what healthy droppings look like too, they come in an array of colours and textures. Try inspecting droppings as part of your daily routine, this way you will get to know your flock (and their poo) a little better!

Examples of healthy droppings:

Examples of problem droppings:

 I will add photos of interest to this post as they occur. All the above photos were taken by me and produced by my chickens. Just as a pointer, droppings to be concerned about are as follows:

Vivid yellow, frothy, green, runny, mainly white or clear runny, bright red blood (not to be confused with normal shedding of gut lining) and regular droppings containing visible undigested grain/food.

If I find a dodgy dropping I keep a good eye on the hens for signs of ill-health, if I do suspect there may be a problem or if I just want to put my mind at ease I contact Retfords Poultry Ltd. They provide a faecal testing service to check for presence of parasites and bacteria. Using this service literally saved one of my hens from certain death. It’s so easy to use, just pop the suspect dropping into a suitable container (screw top lid may be advisable!) and post it off with a covering note. Most good avian vets can also provide this service.

Chickens tend to show the same symptoms/characteristics for many different illnesses, even normal ‘egg issues’ such as soft-shelled eggs can make them appear unwell and give you cause for concern. Being able to identify an abnormal chicken dropping is handy knowledge to have.

Happy poopy peeking :)


A New Year

Hello blog!

It’s been a while since I last updated my poor neglected blog – I know, I’m crap! I’m sorry to report a few more losses within the flock, sadly Rose and Dolly have passed away so this now leaves 6 hens here at the garden smallholding. At the moment they are all getting along just fine and just starting to come into lay again. Bringing more hens in at this point would probably cause unnecessary stress and problems for them, to be honest I could do without the hassle. Six laying hens are plenty for our needs.

The vegetable garden was a hit and miss during the harsh weather, the good old leeks, garlic and parsnips survived their blanket of snow and ice, but the young peas and winter onions are all but a distance memory. Never mind, I can always get going again with the peas, the onions can wait. Besides, I still have some left in store from summer so all is good.

So how have YOU all been doing with your winter growing (if you did any) and your chickens?


Little Hen Rescue Appeal for Homes

Little Hen Rescue is a Norfolk based poultry rescue, rescuing and re-homing battery hens, barn hens and other types of poultry including turkeys, geese and ducks. Little Hen Rescue currently have a large number of ex battery hens waiting for good homes, the space is needed to be able to carry out further planned rescues. Could you offer a pet home for some deserving ex battery hens? If you think you can, or you are in need of more information please contact Little Hen Rescue through their website:

Homes are what Little Hen Rescue really need at the moment, there are other ways of helping by spreading the word elsewhere – advertising in your local vets for example would be very helpful. Perhaps you feel you would like to offer a small donation? Donations are always gratefully received by Little Hen Rescue to help cover food, medical and transport costs.  Little Hen Rescue is a non-profit organisation, they exist simply to improve the lives of current UK laying hens. They will from time to time take in other poultry where space allows. 

On behalf of Little Hen Rescue, thank you for reading this appeal.


Another Loss

This morning Auntie Marge passed away, she developed a mass on her side and went downhill very suddenly. She was a sorry-looking soul when she first arrived here from the battery farm but she soon feathered up, becoming quite the greedy character. She adored her food and often took herself to bed with a crop fit to burst! So many BIG characters have gone these past few months, I miss them all very much.

Goodbye my sweet Auntie Marge xx


It’s Never Long Enough

Since my last post (which was quite some time ago) I have sadly lost 2 further hens, my beloved Hope and then Chrissie. Hope developed egg yolk peritonitis and went down hill very suddenly while Chrissie (who had battled so long with a mass in her abdomen) lost her long fight – and what a fight she fought. To say I have so much respect for my hens is an understatement. I never regret having given them that chance.

So, I guess you can forgive me for not keeping the blog updated?! I have been too sad to post about recent goings on and couldn’t summon the will to do it. On another sad note I have another hen that is giving me nightmares, so we shall see how things go with her. All of my hens have had a good bash at life, but as anyone who keeps these fantastic little blighter’s will tell you, it’s never long enough.

Oh, by the way,  thank you all for the fantastic comments that have greeted me on my first return to the blog since losing Mrs N. It means so much! Keep reading, I am around and will be back to ‘veggie and henny business’ soon xx


Another Sad Loss – Rest In Peace Mrs N

Yesterday I had to say goodbye to Mrs N, she was slowing down and becoming weak and our vet agreed she possibly had kidney failure. She had just over 2 years of freedom and I know I should be satisfied with that but having a chicken for that long leaves a huge gap in the hen-house, especially so soon after losing Lizzie.

I shall miss her.

Rest in peace you beautiful girl x


Little Hen Rescue Needs Your Help

Little Hen Rescue are in desperate need of donations. On Saturday one of the 4×4 vehicles and it’s trailer transporting newly rescued ex battery hens was involved in a freak accident resulting in part of the A14 being closed. Many hens sadly died at the scene but there are injured hens that are currently being cared for.

Donations to help with feed costs is what LHR need most, £5 would buy a sack of feed. Please, even if it’s £1 go to their website and donate all you can. LHR wouldn’t normally ask but this is an emergency.

Thank you.