Ex-battery chickens went through a whole lot of trauma in their lives so adopting one can give it a really rewarding experience. It will possibly be the highlight of its whole life since that chicken has never been free before.
Keep in mind that when you do adopt an ex-battery hen, she will come with a whole lot of behavioural problems. These hens spend their lives in cages and thus their behaviour will be very different from a free-range chicken. Ex-battery hens require a whole lot of patience and limited but kind handling to come out of their shells, but eventually, they’ll be clucking around just like a normal chicken.
What To Expect
If you’ve never had an ex-battery chicken (or know someone who has), here are some behavioural traits to expect:
- They will be scared of you
These chickens will seem terrified of you for the first couple of weeks or even months. Don’t blame yourself, you’re not doing anything wrong. They are scared because their only contact with humans up until now lead to mistreatment and pain.
- They won’t sleep on perches
These hens have only known cages until you came along. Many chicken keepers who’ve adopted ex-battery hens noted that the hens tend to huddle together on the floor to sleep. Some will even sit on top of other hens rather than using the perches. They will eventually learn to perch so just leave them be for now.
- The dust bath remain untouched
These birds have most likely never seen a dust bath in their lives. They’ve been confined for so long that venturing out might be quite daunting to them. They will eventually build up the courage, so be patient.
You must keep in mind that moving from a cage to a large open space is very stressful. Due to the stress, your ex-battery hens might cease to lay any eggs. This is normal and not a cause for concern when it comes to rescue hens. It may take up to 3 months or longer before you finally notice that first wonderful egg in their nesting boxes.
After around 4-6 weeks have passed, start to introduce yourself more. The hens will initially be scared, but they will get used to you eventually. Once they start showing normal chicken behaviours, you can try to show them how to perch.
Caring for ex-battery hens can be quite frustrating, but also very rewarding. You will have to have a lot of patience and be willing to accept them just the way they are. Here are some tips for caring for these traumatised ladies:
Most battery hens have never known freedom and thus will take some time to adjust to life as a free chicken. These chickens won’t be doing the things that most chickens do naturally like perching or resting in their nesting boxes. When given the opportunity to roam free, they will cluster together not leaving the safety of the coop.
Some new owners of rescue chickens may get frustrated or worried about their chicken’s behaviour and reluctance to be free chickens. It is important to remember that these chickens don’t know any better and it is all really scary to them. Most of them will eventually adjust to their newfound freedom. As long as there aren’t any major pecking order disputes, leave them to slowly adjust at their own pace.
Your home is a unique environment that can be very daunting to your rescue chickens. If you have any other pets like dogs or cats, your rescue hens may never come out of the coop. To make them feel more at ease, keep your other pets far away from the coop, at least until the rescue chickens adjust.
- Keep an eye on their health
Former battery chickens usually have below-average health compared to your free-range chickens. It is vital that you get them the necessary vaccinations, a vet check-up and some healthy food to boost their health. You might need to trim their nails and keep an eye out for any parasites since these hens have no idea how to dust bath just yet. Remember to be patient, gentle and caring with them at all times.
- Give them a place to hide
It is a great idea to get your rescue chickens a nice sturdy coop of their own. Make sure the coop is well insulated. Many ex-battery chickens have lost their feathers. They are very susceptible to extreme weather conditions because of it. Don’t worry, their feathers will grow back as soon as their diet gets better.
The living conditions of these terrified hens were very poor, so if you decide to adopt a few, make sure you’re properly prepared to accommodate them. Ideally, you need a coop they can perch in once they learn to do so. In the meantime let them sleep on the floor of the coop as they please. Get some comfortable straw or another type of chicken bedding to make the floor a nicer place to sleep on.
Some other things you should consider is the security of your coop. Your rescue chickens will be very nervous at first so it is best to make them feel as safe as possible. Keep away the dog and household cat as well as any predators that might be roaming around.
Most of all, your rescue hens will need all your love and patience as they adjust to their new lives. Some of them might have been through some real horrors, so show them the good side of life.