Intensively farmed hens have been fed layer mash their whole life, so it is very important that you feed this to your new girls, at least for the first week. Layers mash is a very fine food. The best thing to do is to start mixing in some of your preferred feed with the layers mash until they get used to it. Remember that they have never had any treats before, so it is important to introduce them slowly. You may find that your hens don’t recognise the treats as food to start with. As much as you want to pamper your hens, if you let them eat vegetable peel or fruit straight away they will get ill, so keep it slow and steady and chop it up finely at first.
Frequently asked Questions
Caring for your feathered friends
The hens will need a constant supply of water in the day. Although after the first couple of days they will not need it at night whilst they roost. Whilst in the cages or on the barn floor they will have got water from a nipple feeder, which only gives them a drop at a time. This means that they have never drunk with their heads down before.
Over the first few days it is important to keep an eye on your hens to check that they all understand where to get the water from and that they are all drinking enough. They may need some help working it out.
For the first few days splash your fingers in the water bowl every time you go to see the hens. You will see their heads perk up as they listen curiously to the splashing noise. This will encourage them to investigate with their beaks and realise where the water is. Once they realise they will love taking big gulps of water. To them it is a real treat compared to the little drips they are used to. At first try shallow dishes and if any don't seem to be drinking gently push their beaks into the water; once is usually enough.
The hens will have to re-establish a pecking order. This means that they may peck at each other and some fighting may occur. This is natural and will settle down usually within a few days, but you should keep an eye on the hens and make sure no one is getting seriously picked on or hurt.
A common reason for bullying is that the hens do not have enough space to get away from one another. If you can provide them with more space you will find the fights settle down.
Fights often start over food, so try putting more than one bowl of food in different areas of the coop. The dominant hen will not be able to guard them all at once.
You can also add distractions in the coop to give the hens something else to do rather than pick on one another.
If things are really bad you may need to separate the bully from the others for a while. This will give the girls time to establish a new pecking order and things shouldn’t be as bad when she goes back in. You can also separate them into 2 areas of the garden with chicken wire and they can see each other through the fence. When they begin to ignore each other you should be able to reintroduce them with no problems.
Question: Can I introduce them straight away to my existing flock?
Answer: It is possible to introduce previously farmed hens to an already established flock, although it must be done with care. You should not ordinarily introduce only 1 hen to a flock (unless you are introducing them to only 1 other hen) as bullying may occur. It is also a good idea to stick to hens of a similar size.
For at least the first month hens should not be kept with roosters. The roosters may intimidate them and can also hurt them
Question: What is the best way to contact you?
ANswer: Please call on 0415258915 as we are a family run charity, working very hard constantly every day to care for thousands of chickens. messages on facebook and emails will be replied to in the spare time we have. THank you :)
HEALTH, VACCINATIONS & WORMING:
When farmed hens are chicks they are loaded with vaccinations. This means that you will not have to worry about vaccinating them. They will also have been wormed, but bear in mind the worming is only meant to last until they are slaughtered, so it is important to worm your hens within the first month to prevent illness and then every 3 months after that.
Farmed hens may also suffer from more lice than other birds. You can examine their feathers and use a dust or spray available from produce stores to treat them. You may notice the hens dust bathing a lot. This brings them a great deal of pleasure, but it can also be a sign of lice. Dust bathing is how they naturally try to get rid of lice.
YOUR CHICKEN COOP:
Ensure your chicken coop provides shelter for the girls and is safe from predators. Remember it is possible for predators to dig underneath, so ideally the night time coop should be on concrete, off the ground or have wire buried into the ground.
Please also bear in mind that many predator attacks happen in the day. If you live in a rural area or you live near bush you should ensure the hens have a secure, spacious day time enclosure to roam in where they are safe from predators.
These girls will also prefer straw over perches as they are used to the warm temperatures of the barns and some may have feather loss leaving them vulnerable to the cold.
Question: Will their feathers grow back?
ANswer: Yes! Their feathers will start growing back within a few months of proper nutrition and care. Feather loss can be caused by stress, lice and most commonly lack of nutrition and food, Chickens lacking proper food and nutrition will resort to eating each others feathers.
Question: Do you deliver?
Answer: No, unfortunately packing the ladies into vans for hours is stressful, hot and uncomfortable for them and does not warrant leaving the thousands at our site unattended. Follow our Facebook for details of open days closer to you, or to register your interest.
Question:Are the hens laying? Why do yo smash the eggs?
Answer: The ladies are looking for retirement homes to spend the rest of their life exploitation free, whilst they were forced to lay constantly, it is extremely stressful for them. The girls will slowly stop laying but all eggs should be given back to the girls to eat, to replace the nutrients, protein and vitamins they lose from laying.
Question: What breed are the hens?
Answer: Isa Browns