Happy Chickens

A couple of weeks ago, we liberated some battery hens.  Just down the road, my friends the Barnsleys, have 90 thousand chickens in battery cages laying eggs.  After a year, they are considered “too old” to lay profitably and are despatched. Usually, the Zulus in the neighbourhood buy them for the pot. This is perfectly acceptable, I guess, except they carry them home dangling by their legs and with their wings twisted back and together to stop them from flapping.  This is so horrendous to observe, that I simply have to stop and untangle wings and ask them to please carry the terrified birds in their arms. As you can imagine, sometimes it takes me a long time to get home, and the Zulus think I’m loopy.

Anyway, We have been plotting a while to free some.  Here are some pictures of our happy girls:

They arrived in crates.   Their combs all pale and floppy. They started pecking tentatively at the green grass immediately.

We couldn’t believe how bedraggled they were. The feathers on their necks rubbed off by the edge of the cages (to the feeding trough) and bare patches on their backs too. Apparently they peck each other a lot in the cages. Boredom? Frustration? Fury?

Carl had lovely chicken runs all ready for them, water, food, straw and space.  They stretched their wings and flapped like mad – imagine how stiff they must get 5 or 6 in a crate with hardly room to move?

That night they laid a few eggs – this was the very first one.

Soon their combs perked up and turned pinker and they ventured out into the open. Can you see underneath the claw how dark and calloused it is? I’m not sure if this is normal, but it doesn’t look too good. Could it be caused by standing on wire mesh for a year?

They must be thrilled at all the greens to eat. They just love wandering jew (the bane of my life) so I give them sackfuls often.

They go through masses of green stuff and lots of layer mash. They are not too sure about eating corn yet, but are learning slowly. They started scratching for insects in the soil almost immediately, so they obviously remember how to be chickens despite a zillion generations in captivity.

My friend Gill also rescued 10 who live in a fabulous cabin in her farmyard. They didn’t venture down the stairs for about a week, but now are very brave.  Her two cockerels are delighted to have so many girls around – the girls seem pleased too!

I have one of their eggs for breakfast everyday.

I love going in to collect eggs as they are all so friendly and come to say hello.  Sometimes they peck at my toes.  Quite delightful. I could sit with them for hours – they really are good company and make such pretty sounds.

Last week I visited Dargle Duck farm where they raise ducks for eating.  I know I am anti-animal eating, but this was such a joyful experience and the ducks were all so happy, that I almost forgave the farmer for carting them off to the Chinese restaurant!  Read about my duck morning (and see adorable pictures) at:


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