Many women suffering from empty nest syndrome find a way to fill the vacuum left when their rowdy teenagers go off to Uni by with a brood of chickens.
I did just this when our one and only daughter went off to Uni. The chicks also helped fill the gap after our extrovert and larger than life Golden Retriever, Sophie, died suddenly from eating a huge rotten hide bone she had dug up in a friends garden, sad but true.
So the decision was made “ We’re having chickens”. But not just any chickens these were ex battery chickens, with few feathers, had never been outside and didn’t know how to perch. The first group arrived on 28th December 2011, I know the date as this was when the last batch of chickens were released under the old battery system, it even made the national news.
We duly collected our four girls from a secret location in Herefordshire. Expecting it just to be a quite sleepy farm stead, we were amazed at the size and scale of the operation that lasted all day. The event run by volunteers from the British Hen Welfare Trust in a cold barn in the depth of winter was a scene I remember well. We were given 10-minute slot to drive in and collect our chickens. The farmyard was full up with cars and 4x4s packed with chickens in cat baskets and cardboard boxes to take back to their new homes.
Arriving back home we let our ‘gals’ into the paddock we had made just for them from a corner of our neighbours field, which is big enough to take about 30 chickens, so room for expansion.
Having paid to have chicken proof fencing costing £500, a new hen house costing £140 plus all the accessories and feed, hubby Dave did some calculations and decided that the cost of each egg was around £5 an egg based on their average life expectancy!
Well the girls stayed, and although we lost one after the first day as the experience was too traumatic for one, the other three survived until old age. We gave them names relevant for the season. So Holly, Ivy and Mistletoe lived a long and happy life in their vast paddock and loved nothing more than a daily treat into our garden to find snails, and occasionally a warm up in the kitchen on cold or really wet days!
Having said goodbye to our last ex battery Mistletoe earlier this year we decided this summer that it was the right time to take on some more chickens. So at the Monmouthshire Show in August we came home with three new girls but this time trying some new breeds, a Grey Speckled and Black Rock as well as our familiar Warren. Daughter Harriet choose the names. Dusty for the grey one and the theme was set, female singers. So Dusty Springfield was followed with Tina Turner (Black Rock) and finally Lulu was the chosen name for our smaller and daintier Warren.
So having had ex battery and POL chickens, which do I recommend. It’s really about how much time you have. Ex-battery are great characters and more used to humans, well ours were, but if you are looking for a few chickens to just settle in quickly I would go for Point of Lay (POL). The biggest decision to make is can you offer a safe home for them as areas where foxes are a problem are only going to bring you heartache and expense. So if you asked hubby Dave, just get your eggs from a good local farm shop – it will be much cheaper!