A fully feathered, confident hen!

A fully feathered, confident hen!

In early September, we welcomed a group of ex-battery hens to our flock. They were leaving behind a life in cages, and needed to adjust to free-range life! Just over a month on, they have put on muscle weight, grown bright new feathers and are filled with confidence. We look forward to introducing them to the rest of our flock in due time, but are thrilled with the girls’ progress so far.

Our new ex-battery hens settling in.

Our new ex-battery hens settling into life at the farm.

Last Sunday, we welcomed six new hens to the farm. We’re proud to be rehoming these birds, who might otherwise been sent to slaughter. The newcomers are ex-battery hens who made their way to us through the British Hen Welfare Trust and Foal Farm Animal Sanctuary through their hen rehoming scheme.

Our new hens are just a 6 of the 60,000 rescued by the British Hen Welfare Trust.

Our new hens are just a 6 of the 60,000 rescued by the British Hen Welfare Trust each year.

On Sunday, we went to Foal Farm Animal Sanctuary, where the hens arrived by truck from the farms, loaded into crates. The hens were unloaded, then given their medical checks, before we were able to bring them back home to Mudchute.

As battery hens, they have lived all of their lives until now in battery cages. We think they are about 17 months old, the age at which their egg production decreases and at which they are typically sent to slaughter. After a lifetime spent indoors, starting a new life with us at Mudchute means a lot of changes. The birds need to relearn how to act like chickens and adjust to life outdoors, which is filled with new experiences. The hens are already scratching for food and showing normal, natural behaviour. You may also notice they have large and floppy combs, an adaptation to losing heat in the cramped, hot conditions within cages. These should reduce in size and brighten as they birds settle.

As they adjust to life at Mudchute, our new hens are being kept apart from the rest of our flock. Over the coming weeks they will be building up their strength and confidence. They are also being fed a special diet to help them put on muscle and regrow their feathers. We look forward to watching them settle in over the weeks and months to come. We’ll keep you updated on their progress here on the blog!

This year’s young chicks came to us as hatching eggs from Keith’s Orpingtons and were artificially incubated by local schools as part of Mudchute Education’s Hatch and Brood project. This programme gives children a chance to watch the young chicks develop within the egg and observe the hatching process firsthand, all in their own classrooms. For a glimpse at how chicks develop within the egg, you can see candled eggs here and incredible photos of developing chicken embryos here.

Our new chicks are purebred Bantam Orpingtons, which will show similar characteristics to our Buff Orpingtons, but achieve a smaller adult size. The chicks are a wide range of colours, including lavender and other unusual varieties. We look forward to watching them grow up over the next few weeks and months. You can learn more about the breed from The Orpington Club.

Are you interested in keeping chickens in your backyard? In addition to providing delicious fresh eggs, chickens are excellent at eradicating weeds and pests, can help recycle waste and enrich and fertilise your soil. Here at the farm, we are looking to run an Introduction to Keeping Chickens in the coming months. If you are interested in joining our upcoming courses and finding out more about how you can keep chickens in your own backyard, please get in touch with us at farm_office@mudchute.org.