Tag Archives: Rescued Hens

Woolly Hen

Strategies to Counteract Hen-Pecking

Perky chicken bare of feather
Looks out at the murky weather
Not for her the field next door
Nor sunny nooks on forest floor

Perky looking out towards where the other hens are scratching.
Perky looking out towards where the other hens are scratching.

Attempt 1: The Knitted Jumper

The idea of knitting a little outfit for Perky didn’t work out as we’d planned. And I suspect that Perky wasn’t impressed with the whole process, either.

Ben found a jumper pattern online, as well as comments indicating that dressing Perky in such an item would be a workable idea, and would help protect her and keep her warm until the feathers around her neck, chest and crop grow back.  I duly knitted away and produced the outfit below: –

The completed hen tunic.
The completed hen tunic.

That night, we crept up to the hen house under the cover of darkness, grabbed Perky (who was sound asleep) and while Ben held her snugly, I put the tunic over her head, fastened the two buttons, freed her wings and adjusted it as best I could.  Perky wasn’t that impressed but didn’t wriggle much.

Ben went out later on to see if she was still okay, and she was sleeping peacefully with the woolly jumper on. So far so good.

A disgruntled Perky, wearing her new 'jumper'.
A disgruntled Perky, wearing her new ‘jumper’.

The next day I went out first thing to check and was dismayed to discover that Perky had become entangled in the little outfit. She’d somehow managed to lift one of her legs through the ‘armholes’, where usually only her wings would go. So part of the garment was now under her body and the bottom edge of the garment was wet and muddy and dragging on the ground – of course to make matters worse, it was raining.

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Dismayed, I managed to corner Perky and pick her up.  I stroked her for a bit to soothe her, and then re-adjusted the tunic, ensuring it was sitting correctly and that her wings and legs (and head, of course!) were free. I pulled it up so that it sat nicely below her neckline and set her back on the ground.

Even after adjusting the tunic, I could see that it was too loose.
Even after adjusting the tunic, I could see that it was too loose.

Thirty minutes later when I went back to check, I could see that the tunic was actually too large for her – she’s such a tiny scrap of feathers.  The hem was down to her ‘knees’ (not sure if hens have knees) and it was clearly annoying her – she kept trying to lift her legs to scratch it away with one or other of her feet.

Sadly I had to catch her again – Poor Perky, I hate chasing her to catch her when she’s not really tame enough.  I gave her some cuddles and removed the offending item.

Attempt 2: Stockholm Tar

The other three saved hens were still pecking at her bare skin, so on Saturday we applied some Stockholm Tar to the exposed flesh, thinking this would be a good solution.

Wrong again. The other hens just pecked it off – we could see who the main culprit was (Crinkle) by the tar on her beak.

Attempt 3: Isolation

It doesn't seem fair that Perky has to be the one kept away from the outside world.
It doesn’t seem fair that Perky has to be the one kept away from the outside world.

Perky is now all by herself in the rescued hen section of our fenced off area.  The other three saved hens have been integrated into our main flock and are doing fine.

One amusing thing though… while chasing Perky on Saturday to apply the Stockholm Tar, Ben found a pile of more than 30 eggs, all nicely piled up under some long grass.

The secret nest area.  We've left a fake egg there so that Perky has something to lay her own egg beside.
The secret nest area. We’ve left a fake egg there so that Perky has something to lay her own egg beside.

We checked them all using the ‘will they float in water?’ test, and ended up only discarding about 10. We had visitors over the weekend so have eaten the remainder already.  It would appear that all the rescued hens have been laying since we’ve had them.  I think that’s ironic considering that the battery farms cull them for going off the lay.

The short poem to Perky at the top of the page is a quatrain.

Coming Home to Roost

 Rescued Hens

Some of the rescued hens awaiting the arrival of their adopted parents.
Some of the rescued hens waiting for collection.

We are now the proud ‘parents’ of four former battery farm hens.  We adopted these from The Animal Sanctuary and drove across to Dairy Flats last Wednesday to collect them.

They were part of a group of several hundred hens saved from being killed after reaching the end of their very first egg-laying cycle. This is usual practice for battery farms – they don’t wish to feed the hens when they go off the lay (the latter state being a natural part of a hen’s yearly cycle).  Hens can’t keep laying eggs non-stop without a rest and usually go ‘off the lay’ for a few weeks when the days start to get a little shorter.

We're waiting to get to know them a little better before we name them.
We’re waiting to get to know them a little better before we name them.

Our four new girls are in their own separate area, in their own house and sheltered amongst native vegetation.

For the very first time in their lives they can walk about freely, feeling the dirt under their feet and waking and sleeping by the natural day.

One of the hens enjoying a soothing dirt bath.
One of the hens enjoying a soothing dirt bath.

They don’t yet know how to perch, but have already figured out how to take a dust bath.  We think this is pretty cool.

We’ll keep them apart from our other hens until their feathers have grown back some, and they are more confident in their surroundings.  Then we’ll gradually introduce them to the flock and … in time, allow them to roam freely with their sisters.