Rescue Hen Care Information – all you need to know about taking care of your new hens

One of our rescue hens on arrival at Littlehill

Ex-Commercial Hen Information and Care Guidelines – by Rosemary Hen

I have lived in a cage all my life.  I have never seen the outside world before. I’ve never seen the sunshine, the rain, had a dustbath, a tasty treat, ever before in my short existence.  I have no idea that love or kindness exists.  I have only had cage bars around me and under my feet.

It’s very warm here in my cage, dim lighting, nothing at all to do all day – the hours pass by very slowly.  I’m surrounded by my very stressed cage mates, who peck me, and prevent me from eating, in this unnatural and unsuitable environment.

And my fate now is to be carried, upside down, to the slaughterhouse truck, and that will be my one and only glimpse of the outside world, my one and only glimpse of the sunshine, the grass, the earth that I’ve never, ever had the chance to scratch around in.

I hope someone will come and save me. . .

Please offer me a home.  I’ll be very good and easy to mind, and I will become so friendly when I finally meet a kind, caring human.

I, as an ex-caged hen, have a few extra needs:  I have never before seen the outside world, so at first, I may be skittish and scared, jumping at every new, strange noise. I don’t know that I should get in out of the rain – I’ve never seen it before.  At night, I don’t know that I need to go inside to sleep, you will probably have to bring me in to my sleeping area for the first few nights. I learn very fast, though.  I know I will love the sunshine and will bask in it whenever I can. I’ve never had the chance before.

I’m also very scared of dusk, and will need to be brought in early for the first few evenings.  If I have lots of other hen companions, I will need to have upturned buckets in all corners of my shed, as we will all pile into one corner and maybe suffocate, until we get used to our new life and freedom.  A torch or dim light in the middle of our nighttime area will really help us for the first few nights.

I will be scared of all “new” things at first, people, dogs, cars, loud noises, but I will learn really fast, I promise. . .

I will have had my beak cut as a baby chick, and some of us are done really badly, so we may find it hard to pick up food from shallow bowls.  A deep bowl of Layers Pellets, mixed with rolled oats, dampened, is my favourite, and of course, lots of bowls of fresh, cool water every day. We drink a lot!

I will learn to love treats – chopped seedless grapes, melon and pumpkin (with seeds), sweetcorn (unsalted)  will soon become my favourite things in the world to eat!  I will benefit hugely from some hen vitamins (from your vet or agri store) in my water bowl, to help me replace the nutrients I’ve lost over the past year, and to help my feathers regrow quickly.

As there has been no room to move in my cage, my leg muscles will be weak, and it will take a few weeks for them to grow strong again. I will not be able to jump up to a roost, or to jump down again. In fact, I may never roost, as I’ve never seen a roost before. I may just sleep on the floor, so my shed should have a nice warm, clean, draught-proof area for me to sleep in.

Roosters should be kept away from us for several weeks, as we are just not strong enough to withstand their attentions!

I will need a dog/fox-proof coop or kennel or shed to sleep in at night, locked in case Mr. Fox comes prowling around, with a warm, straw-filled bed.  The bed needs to be changed every week and sprinkled liberally with DE (diamatreous earth) or mite powder (available from agri stores and some pet shops).  I will need to be treated for mites regularly too. You can put DE into my dust bathing area, and I’ll work it into my feathers. I will need to be in a safe dog/fox proof outdoor run for the first few weeks, until I learn how to be a hen. I will follow you around the garden forever!

I will learn to dustbathe and sunbathe, and I will greatly appreciate a small pile of sand in one corner of my run to dustbathe in. This will help me keep my feathers clean and mite-free. I will also benefit from having crushed egg shells or oyster shell to help me to make firm shells when I start to lay again.

I will need any bare areas of my body sprayed with blue hygiene spray, (Agri supplier or hardware) or even Sudocrem, to prevent my coop mates from pecking at me. A knowledgeable hen vet can be a life saver for us hens.

I will do my very best to get strong again, but sometimes we are just not able. Please forgive us – we really want to stay with you, but our first year of life was just too much for some of us. . .

Thank you for saving me.

With love and gratitude,

Rosemary Hen

(Yes, for the first time, I’ve got a name!)

Felicity as she is today – happy and content.