We rescued our first lot of chickens back in 2012, little did we know how they would change our lives. They after all the reason we both became vegan. Read more about that here. Fast forward to 2015 and we have rescued another 3 chickens. We are by no means experts but here is a little guide about what we know.
1. Chickens have personalities too – there are bolder chickens and more timid hens, they feel pain and they can make their feelings known when they want to be let outside. You know when people talk about a pecking order, yep that definitely comes from chickens. There is always a pecking order. When we first got chickens it was the saddest thing to watch them establish and then to watch poor little Rosie right at the bottom of that order. God she was bullied. But, I’ve come to accept this is just the way they live together, there is always a top chicken and a bottom one and the order can change. If one of them is feeling off colour they have to carry on and not show signs of weakness otherwise they’ll be right down the bottom of the order.
When we had Ivy, she believed she was a cockerel, she made a lot of noise! Beryl is starting to find her voice now and she’ll be crowing away in the morning. I’m not sure our neighbours are so pleased when it is 7.30am!
2. Keep them clean – chickens crap A LOT! You need to give them a thorough clean out once a week but we tend to clean their coop out daily, just taking out the top layer of newspaper. It’s best not to throw food around on the ground but to put it in a feeder otherwise you’ll soon be inundated by rats – not cool!
3. They’ll dig up your garden – when we first got chickens they were free roaming throughout the whole garden! We soon had to create a temporary fence so they just had free range of the top of the garden because they would have destroyed it! We then had a fence put up. They’re great for weeding but they will fail to differentiate between the weeds and the flowers! If you’re precious about your garden and don’t have anywhere to section off, chickens aren’t for you.
4. Chickens somehow disappear – there are numerous occasions when we’ve gone to check on them and there aren’t the number of feathery bottoms in the air that should be there. Sometimes it turns out one has taken themselves off to lay an egg or on more than one of occasion you’ll find one will have flown over the fence into the neighbour’s garden!
5. Chickens are awesome! – the 3 chickens we recently rescued were in a bad way when they came to us. They had few feathers, didn’t really understand about going outside of the coop, had never experienced what it was like to splay their wings out in the sunshine or what it was like find a nice pile of dirt and then enjoy a dust bath. They do now. They were destined to be dog food or cheap meat but they’ve got a second chance of what their lives should really have been from the start. They spent their first year in the worst possible environment, but Beryl, Ettie and Henny are living their dream chicken life now. Their feathers have grown back so much and they are learning how to live how they’re meant to live.
Unfortunately, our first 4 hens; Ivy, Rosie, Gwen and Ruby only survived just over a year with us. The sad fact is that having rescue hens means they won’t be around for years. Their poor bodies have been pushed to the absolute maximum in order to lay eggs. Out of the 4 chickens, 1 died suddenly and 2 of them had really horrible problems with laying eggs and were in pain, which meant we had to have one put down and the other died quietly one day. It was Rosie (bottom of the pecking order) who outlived the rest of them but she too didn’t last much longer. But, we know they enjoyed a year of pecking for worms and lying out in the sunshine. Keeping chickens really is rewarding.