Hi, I'm Battie, and may not look my best when we first meet, however, you will know that I’m healthy if I’m alert, eating and drinking well, preening and having a scratch around. My comb, on the top of my head, will be red plump and glossy, although until I laid my first egg it was still quite pale - which was normal then.
Of course when we first meet I will probably be scared and confused, I am used to routine and can easily become stressed. It’s therefore very important that for our first two weeks together I have time to settle in, during this time I should be confined to my coop and run. I will be learning my new routine of getting up and taking myself to bed, I have been used to an 18 hour day, so while I’m adjusting you may need to tempt me in or out of my coop, to remind me when and where I sleep !
As you know I am used to being in a very confined space, so exercise wasn’t an option, I will therefore be a little weak and wobbly on my legs, so please handle them gently, I will soon build up my muscle doing a few laps of your garden though.
When it rains it will be a new experience for me, so at first it’s likely I’ll just stand there and get wet through, not aware that I’m supposed to hate rain and dash for cover, so providing me with some cover over the run is essential. I also like to take cover from the hot midday sun, it helps me keep cool, which I also do by panting and holding my wings away from my body.
When you choose my new home, please make sure it has plenty of space for all of us girls, the manufacturer’s guidelines often assume that we have lots of access to free range in your garden, but if you’re out and about or at work and I’m limited in my daily garden access, then I will need at least double the run size - in fact the bigger the better. You can always increase our numbers later. Don’t forget to ensure my coop and run are fox-proof !
One of my favorite past times is taking a dustbath, which is really important in helping rid me of lice, so I’ll find a nice dry spot in your garden - or if I have a ready made dustbath in my run it will be great for keeping me and my buddies occupied and happy when you’re not around.
Talking of buddies, we do fight and squabble amongst ourselves, initially we can be quite aggressive towards each other, its our way of sorting out the ‘pecking order,’ deciding who will rule the roost !! Do keep an eye on us though to begin with, if there’s too much bullying or an exclusion from the feeder, you may have to intervene or provide a second source of food.
On the subject of food, I choose what I eat by its size and texture, I was always fed crumbs in my previous life, so I may not recognise pellets as food at first, but if you crush them down or buy a small bag of crumbs to mix with my pellets, I’ll soon learn. As an ex battery girl, its important I have sufficient protein, vitamins and something to help promote a healthy gut, in order for me to maintain good health. So please feed me on a good quality brand of feed to give me a balanced diet and a tonic to help me settle in. My food should be kept dry, so either place it in the covered area of my run or choose a feeder with a rain hat fitted.
To help me digest my food and produce a good strong egg shell, I will need access to grit, a supply of poultry grit should always be available for me, separate from my feed so I can take it when I want.
I am getting used to putting my beak in my water trough for a good drink, which feels great, but I do sometimes forget and instinctively search above for the overhead water drip drinker !! It is important for me to have cool clean water, so don’t forget to change it daily and keep my drinker clean, dirty water and a green film on the inside of my drinker can make me ill. I’m happy to have my feeder and drinker placed on the floor or hung up, please position hanging ones level with my back though.
A little treat in the afternoon will have me running after you, but I must have my fill of pellets first, as they contain all the essentials. I am easily trained to go back into my run with a treat, a little corn, maize, mealworms or dried insect mix does the trick, just let me know the signal and I’m there. Oh and I do prefer these treats in a treat dish or my food container, rather than scattered on the run floor - its no fun picking your favorite food from someone else’s poo !!
I have been vaccinated at an early age against most viruses, although new strains may come along, but just like other animals and birds I do get parasites, worms, lice and mites.
All of these parasites are easily picked up, from the garden, other birds and from earthworms, so a sharp eye and taking steps to prevent or limit infestations is a must. Lice can live in my feathers and are very irritating to say the least, mites can live on my legs burrowing under the scales and making them crusty and lift, whereas red mites prefer to visit me at night, they are blood suckers which hide in the crevices of my home during the day. High numbers of red mite can lead to me becoming anaemic or even die, they are most active in the warmer summer months but something to be aware of at any time of year. Providing me with a plastic hen house will really help in preventing mite infestations. Worms can live inside me, there are various types, some are worse than others but all can leave me weak, go off egg laying and make me vulnerable to other illnesses.
All these nasties can be controlled, there are dusting powders which can be applied to my feathers and sprays for my legs, cleaners for my home (don’t use any household detergent - to avoid contamination via porous egg shells) and wormers to put in my food or water.
You will need to have a supply of mite powder, to apply every 6 weeks, or more regularly in hot weather, and also a wormer. I have been wormed up to 4 times a year, but twice a year with a product such as Flubenvet should be sufficient, and there are also worm deterrents which can be added to my food or water each month.
I usually lay my egg in the morning, not necessarily every day. Collect it as soon as you can, dry rub any dirt off first, if not removed, gently rub under luke warm running water. Store up to a maximum of 3/4 weeks at a constant cool temperature, say in the fridge, then remove a short while before using.
I hope that I have given you an insight into what to expect when you take me home. There are a number of websites, BHWT, poultrykeeper.com, smallholder feeds club, etc. where you will also find helpful information about keeping ex battery hens like myself.
Finally, I would like to thank you for my new home and also Teresa who typed this out for me - I struggled with the mouse, it was too tasty.