When we were first thinking about getting some rescue hens via the Battery Hen Welfare Trust we were told that we should expect them to be in pretty bad shape. It was to be expected that they would be terrified, very weak and probably with few feathers (if any). It is not unusual for the hens to be 'oven ready' - that is with no feathers at all due to the overcrowding and having to fight for their food and drink, as well as being so stressed.
We were told that the girls would be unlikely to come out of the coop for some days and that when they did, they might not be able to walk very far or even able to stand for long periods of time. We were lucky. And I guess that by comparison to many others, so were our girls. Clearly they were not in top show condition and had pale faces, combs and what feathers they did have were in pretty tatty condition. They were indeed terrified but they came out of the coop almost immediately. And within about an hour, were already starting to scratch and peck at the grass. (The picture above shows them on their first afternoon with us).
My husband had made a tiny little run for them as we were also told that they would be terrified of wide open spaces and so a small run to start with was 'a good idea'. We soon realised that our girls were made of much stronger stuff and within a couple of days had moved them to an interim run - our old tennis court! And within two weeks, when they were pretty settled and had established their pecking order (not a pretty sight!), we started to give them more and more access to our entire garden.
We had also been told that we should not expect too much from them with regard to egg production. After all, they had had the stuffing beaten out of them every day and would be pretty much 'spent' as far as egg production was concerned. Not our girls! We usually run at 90 - 100% production which means that there is a surplus of eggs. I believe that this is because they are given free range (unless we are away from the house when they are locked in their run) access to fresh grass, lots of good food, plenty of fresh air, clean bedding and water every day, and Mother (me) gives them a cooked meal every day of vegetable peelings and rice/pasta.
Their eggs are delicious and are highly sought after by locals who buy from us. So much for being 'spent'. I wish I could explain to you the sheer joy and delight these little creatures give me - simply knowing that they have had some sunshine on their backs is reward enough. Bless them.
Here is their new home and run which we built especially for them. It is warm and secure with shade from the apple trees and the fencing is strong and dug deep into the ground as well - designed to keep Mr and Mrs Foxy out. You can see some of them here on their 'moving in day' having inspected their new 'palais de poulets' for the first time - the palais is a converted child's play ranch and is perfect for them. Standing room inside for humans and warm, airy and secure for the girls!
In case you're wondering, yes, they do have their own names and personalities to match. I was warned before getting them that they would enchant and captivate me. So I warn you too if you're thinking about it...