Acquired: Rescue / shelter group
Posted Jun 14, 2015
I'd never kept chickens before, so I had no idea what to expect, but decided to rescue three ex-bats. It nearly broke my heart when I saw these pale, floppy combed, featherless things huddled in a box and scared to come out. They'd never seen earth before and had no idea what it was, their poor deformed feet had lived a life on wire mesh. Slowly they did come out, baffled by the whole thing, and little by little they became chickens again. The first scratch in the earth as their instincts returned. The first time one dug up a worm and didn't know what to do with it, but knew it was good. The fascination with the big blue thing above their heads that they'd never seen before, and the obsession with birds and aeroplanes. And rain! Rain confused them for a long time. It was weeks before they realised it didn't rain inside and getting wet wasn't good. Then there was the first time they pecked at some grass. The first time they got corn and stared at it for a good ten minutes before one was brave enough to try it, then realised it was the best thing that had ever happened in their whole lives! The first time they went into their house at night on their own rather than sitting outside in the dark. The first time I saw new feathers starting to grow. Each one of those little milestones on the road to being chickens again made me feel like a proud mum.
In time they developed personalities. Such strong, unique personalities. They were all fabulous, loving and courageous, but Button? She was truly something else. She was the one that would see me and rush towards me as fast as she could on her little twisted feet. The one that was into everything, that would untie my shoelaces, peck my clothes and climb on my back if I bent over. I had a chair in the garden, and Button would jump on my lap when I sat down, nestle into the crook of my arm and purr, actually purr, when I stroked her. My cats had always been housecats and it took them weeks to work out what that cat flap did. The very day I put it in I wondered why the cats were sitting in the doorway instead of eating their food. Button had worked out the catflap in minutes and was standing in the kitchen eating their food, thinking it was all a great game! I ended up not with outdoor cats, but an indoor chicken...
I have kept other chickens, rescues each and every one, but none are as heart-warming and rewarding as ex-battery hens. They are the most optimistic animal I have ever come across. Whatever you do, however you treat them, they will make the best of it. Treat them well, with the love and kindness they have never known before, and the joy they take in the simple things would warm the hardest of hearts.
Chickens can live for many years, but ex-bats simply don't because of the hardships of their lives. But every day you have with them is precious, to them, and to you, to see how far they've come. And every day you treat them well, right until the end, rain or shine, summer or winter, they'll lay you a thank you egg.