As this is the very first time in my life that I've ever done a "blog", I'm hoping that it lives up to my expectations.
I first started keeping chickens in February 2008. I'd toyed with the idea for a couple of years and seriously thought about getting some "pretty" ones. Then I saw the programmes on TV by Jamie Oliver and Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall in January highlighting the plight of battery chickens. "That's it!" I thought, "I'm going to rescue some ex-battery chooks and give them a life". So, armed with the Battery Hen Welfare Trust website, I set about getting more information and put my name down for 4 chickens. I bought a coop from Ebay, and with a friend, made a movable run. Then came the big day! On February 23rd off I trotted to Wales to see the rescue co-ordinator and pick up "the girls". Now I had printed out the driving instructions and they told me that it would take about 1 and a half hours to get there. I always leave myself at least 10 minutes "getting lost" time but this time I needed 90 minutes! I got really lost but I did manage to phone Leanne and get more directions.
When I eventually arrived at the rescue centre, Leanne asked me if I could only take the 4 I'd originally asked for, or would I like 6. I couldn't say no, now could I? So 6 girls came home to their nice new coop, which I named "Chuckingham Palace". They all looked so pathetic, almost featherless, frightened of seeing this new big wide world, and all huddled together just as they'd been used to doing in their battery cages. I named them Hyacinth, Ivy, Myrtle, Hazel, Rose and Poppy (I like flowers :)). It took a couple of days for them to realise that this was home now, and they soon settled into a routine, eating well, and providing me with lovely fresh eggs each day. I gradually started to let them out of the run and roam around the garden and veggie patch. This was March so nothing much was growing, and I hadn't planted any veggies out yet. They de-weeded, de-slugged, and manured the garden superbly :)
In April, I decided that although it was lovely to see the girls roaming around the garden, when summer came I'd like to have a bit of lawn and some flower beds, as well as being able to leave the conservatory door open without the chooks wandering into the house. so I sectioned off a large part of the garden with chicken wire and made a sort of archway with a gate. A bit ricketty, but what the heck! it served it's purpose.
Towards the end of May, one Sunday when 3 of my granddaughters were visiting, I had the bright idea of letting them adopt an ex-battery chicken each and I would look after them as long as they came over to help to clean out the coop, and help with the food costs. They were so excited! We contacted another rescue co-ordinator who was easier to get to, and asked if we could have 3, and went to Coventry to collect them. I'd managed to get a large rabbit hutch from Freecycle and converted it to a coop with nest boxes and sleeping area, and fixed to previous run to it so the new girls could settle in without too much hassle. These chickens were even more pathetic than my original ones, a bit smaller, and hardly any feathers at all. The children named these 3 Janet, Maggie and Sheldon. They did settle down very well, perhaps seeing other chickens at the other side of the wire was a help. They laid 2 or 3 eggs every day that I kept separate for the children.
Becci and Baz (Emily, Hope and Pheobe's mum and dad) had a "chat" and realised that they'd have room in their own garden for the chooks, and that they'd like another 3 as well. 1 converted dog kennel and 2 weeks later saw Janet, Maggie and Sheldon move again to their permanent home.
With the 3 "newbies" gone, I thought my flock was a bit small, so when Bec said that she'd asked Ian Farrar for another 3, I also contacted him and asked for 3 as well.
June 21st we went again to Coventry to collect our new additions. These chickens were in much better condition than the last ones, bigger and not so many missing feathers, just bald necks. Bec and her girls took 3, and I took 4 (don't like odd numbers!). Bec's 3 got on really well with Janet, Maggie and Sheldon almost straight away, but I had tantrums from my existing chooks when I put Violet, Daisy, Iris and Petunia into the isolation coop and run. What a racket!! I thought the neighbours would complain, but they didn't. I even had 2 eggs from them the first day :)
For the last 3 days, I've been letting the new ones out of the run close to bedtime so they can start to get to know each other close up. Yes, there's been a few scraps and complaints, but on the whole, not too much to worry about. Today I let them all out together at 6.30am and things have been fine. The original 6 seem to stay together and the new 4 stay together, though all are sharing the same feeder.
More posts and pictures later ................................. if this works that is :)