“We have 3 pet chickens at home.”
As soon as I realise I’ve said this, I often get a flood of random questions. From, why? To, do you have a farm?
Most assume that we have lots of other pets and we are animal lovers. We in fact, have never had pets in our household!
We decided to adopt 3 egg laying battery hens last year through the charity BHWT (British Hens Welfare Trust –
www.bhwt.org.uk/ ). Why? We we’re inspired by Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall and Jamie Oliver. They made my parents and I realise that keeping any animal in battery’s is incredibly cruel. Instead of preaching about it, we all did a bit of research into it and then I contacted the charity and began the process.
A strong and secure coop was ordered and when it arrived I assembled it. Ensuring chicken wire was laid down underneath the runners soil (to protect them from foxes and dogs). After this, we waited for the big day – 14th November 2010. We went to Northampton to pick them up and take them to their new home.
There’s various details and events that have happened since then. For example when the chickens began to get a bit clever and fly out of the enclosed area, we had to put in a higher one or when we went on holiday and my friend offered to look after them.
This began as a bit of a project to give care to hens that have been kept in awful conditions, and if we did not adopt them, they would actually be slaughtered – not for consumption, but because they were too costly to keep. As the farmers work off profits per egg, when chickens reach about 2yrs old, they do not produce an egg a day.
We ended up really enjoying their company, even though it does take quite a bit of work ensuring they have enough feed, water and every few weeks we have to do some maintainance. This may be surprising, but we have to spray them once a month with any mite powder, clip their wings (so they don’t fly out) and clip their toe nails.
Aside from the friendly pet aspect, they also lay us amazing organic and free range eggs! In the first 9 months, we would get usually 2 a day in total from the chickens. This has declined to 1 or none a day.
Unfortunately chickens do not live long. About 3-5yrs approximately.
A few months after the chickens settled down in their new home (which must seem like a mansion to them), we noticed one was still a bit scrawny. We named her ‘Floppy’ because she used to lay soft-shelled eggs due to vitamin deficiency. She would get tired and go sleep earlier than the other two and had noticeably less feathers.
We thought this would be normal until she began displays more signs off illness so a vet checked her out and prescribed herbal pellets and fluid for her to drink. She showed signs of recovery until last week where things began to get worse. She would not come out of the coop, and when I lifted her out – she would just sit there with her eyes closed. She looked to be in some pain.
We contacted a local farmer who told us she probably had a stroke. Quick research online agreed with this, and realised things would either get better or fatally worse.
I found out today that when they were let out of their coop at 6:30am, Floppy, the sick chicken was found dead.
I had never understood how owners could feel so saddened about the loss of a pet. I do now 😦
Please feel free to comment on your pet loss and other stories. Have had a few tweets and texts about them. Would be great if everybody could see those thoughts.