Thursday, 28 June 2012

My chickens

February - their first day in their new home

I've had my chickens for nearly 18 months now and they are well and truly part of the family. My girls were rescued from a battery farm where they spent the first 2 years of their life 'living' in a small cage with no room to move or show any natural behaviour. And you could tell. When I first put them into their run they just stood still. They had pink floppy combs, were featherless in places (I was told they weren't that bad compared to some) and looked scared stiff. On their first night I had to entice them into their house by putting a torch in there - eventually they walked in and settled down.

For the first month they were confined to their house and run - but this was just fine for them; a nice roomy 4 metre long run rather than the tiny cage they'd grown up in.

April - free ranging

Eventually, however they got curious. Whenever I cleaned them out they tried to escape; it was time to free range.  I began by making a temporary pen for them outside their run so they could get used to going in and out when I was with them. Once they tried escaping that I knew it was time and let them explore the garden.  Now everyday, come wind, rain or shine the girls and I spend time together in the garden. The girls get to roam the garden whilst I potter about, sit and read or have dinner. But I don't leave them alone in the garden as there are foxes roaming the area so when I can't be with them they are safely in their run.  They seem like happy chickens.

July - happy garden chickens

What made me write this post after we've had the girls so long? I was lying in bed last night pondering their ability to think and remember. They certainly know who I am (and the family for that matter). They know that the saucepan means they're getting a treat (pasta, rice or potatoes); they know that when I get a handful of grain it's time to go into their run (I use that to entice them in); they know that the spade means I'm digging and will uncover worms and insects for them. They clearly remember a lot of day to day things... but do they remember life in the battery farm? I hope not!

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