There are lots of ex-battery birds looking for new homes, but make sure you can provide the environment, care, time and commitment needed.
If you do fancy having fresh eggs and friendly hens wandering round your garden, the RSPCA recommends having at least three birds so they’re company for each other. You don’t have to have a huge garden, but hens do like space to roam, so ensure there is a secure area of the garden where they have plenty of space to exercise and carry out all of their important hen behaviours.
Hens scratch around in the grass and soil to find insects and grubs to eat, so make sure they have plenty of scratching space! Beware though, these lovely birds will ruin a small, beautifully manicured lawn in no time at all!
Hens love to sunbathe but they don’t like wind or rain so make sure they have overhead shelter. Hens’ ancestors lived in the jungle, and used trees and bushes for protection from bad weather and predators.
Objects such as logs, wooden structures and vegetables tied with string and hung at hen head height provide additional interest and give hens something else to peck at or perch on and keep them entertained.
Hens also love to dust-bathe! This is where they wriggle on the ground and flick sand or soil all over their feathers using their wings, before shaking it all out again. Hens need lots of clean dry litter to dust-bathe. Then they use their beaks to preen themselves to keep their feathers clean.
Happy hen house
They also need a hen house, with ‘pop holes’ to come and go as they please during the day (don’t forget, they must be securely enclosed at night time, away from foxes) and a comfy, quiet, enclosed space inside, with nesting material such as straw, to lay their eggs. Although that’s not to say you won’t find eggs elsewhere around the garden!
They should also be provided with perches inside their hen house on which to sleep and preen themselves, keeping their feathers clean.
Hens will need special hen food, but they will also enjoy the odd treat of a cabbage, corn-cob or even a cucumber! And don’t forget they must have access to plenty of fresh water at all times.