Keeping chickens in the back garden or on a small holding is great fun. Each and every one of these lovely creatures has its own personality and character. They can bring a smile to your face even when you're having a really bad day! Giving battery hens the chance to lead a normal life chasing around a yard instead of being cooped up in cages, is a very rewarding experience that has a real 'feel good factor' about it.
Adopting battery hens is great and once the birds have settled in their new homes - which can take a while, they soon start laying eggs again. Only this time, the eggs they lay are not forced in any way. Many battery hens just don't know how to scratch in the dirt, you have to show them how to do it – there are people all over the country teaching their newly acquired hens how to have fun in the dirt - an amusing sight at the best of times!
Some adopted battery hens need a bit of time to get used to wide open spaces too – which is understandable because they spent most of their lives in tight cages without seeing the light of day! You need to give your rescued birds all the time they need to get used to the total change in their lifestyles. Sometimes it can be great fun watching the hens as they explore new things, but some times it can really bring it home just how much these birds have had to suffer so unnecessarily.
There are loads of books and websites out there full of useful information on how to keep chickens, but nothing really prepares you for the first time you adopt or rescue ex-battery hens – it's a wonderful learning curve that often leaves you with a smile on your face and occasionally a tear in your eye. Below are 10 fun facts that you might not know about chickens and which will help you understand these adorable birds that little bit better.
1. When a chicken is feeling unwell, they droop their tails and their wings hang low too
2. When chickens are happy, they purr making a similar noise to cats!
3. When the sun goes down chickens can't see very well – in fact if you ever need to catch a chicken or move the bird, the best time is at night. Because chickens can't see in the dark, they stay perfectly still
4. Chickens are real scavengers and will eat nearly everything they come across when they're scratching around in the dirt. However, if you throw out any bread for your hens, make sure you've soaked it first so it doesn't get lodged in the bird's throat
5. Battery hens go crazy when they find a nice dusty area – remember the chances are they have never been able to have a dust bath before – watching them do so for the first time can be extremely funny. It is great for the birds to take dust baths because they rid themselves of many parasites if they have any! Chickens go into a kind of trance when they take a dust bath which again can be really amusing to watch
6. Chickens love to sprawl out in the sunshine. Ex-battery hens adore just throwing themselves on their sides and lying totally still even when they find the tiniest ray of sunlight!
7. Ex-battery hens make wonderful, loving pets. If you have children, chickens can get very attached to them and will even sit on their laps or shoulders if you allow them too and they purr!
8. Chickens love to roost up as high as they can – battery hens have never been able to do do this which means when you first get them you have make low perches for them to roost on. As they get stronger and more adventurous, you'll find your birds will start to look for higher perches to roost on. Very often you can hear chickens arguing over the 'best spot' on a perch – but this all settles down as the sun sets and all the birds in the coop go to sleep
9. Chickens have their own special language – they make a lot of noise when they've laid an egg announcing to the world that they have! When they find something tasty to eat, a chicken will make another noise to tell the world about their find – you soon see other birds running over to see what the fuss is all about! Then there is an alarm call when there's danger about. Another call chickens make is when it's time for breakfast or tea, they soon let you know if you're running late!
10. Chickens don't mind it when the weather is very cold or very hot. They seem to be able to cope with extreme weather conditions really well. Obviously, when the weather is very hot, you have to make sure your chickens have access to plenty of fresh water and lots of shade if they want to get out of the sun. When it is really cold, then you have to make sure their water butts are not frozen over and that they have access to plenty of food and nice clean bedding
Ex-battery hens are lovely, gentle creatures who deserve being well taken care of after the ordeal they have had to go through. There is something incredibly rewarding about watching a featherless bird with a damaged beak, slowly start their journey on the long road to recovery as they learn how to be a chicken for the first time in their lives. You might have to teach your girls now to scratch in the dirt and you may even have to teach them that open spaces are safe for them to be in. It takes a bit of patience and a lot of loving attention to get these lovely hens back to how they should be – sadly some birds don't make it, but at least you tried. Are you willing to give it a go – you won't regret it!