Introduction: Ex-bat Chickens

Both me and my mother have always wanted to raise chickens however I have never been able to convince her to commit to getting some. A couple she works for owns chickens and every Tuesday when she returned from working there she would enlighten me with stories about how amazing she found them. This is where I noticed her passion for them but could still not convince her.

With both me and my sister working away, and my father working many hours, my mum always seemed to lack company while she was at home in the day. Therefore getting chickens seemed like the perfect solution - again, however I still couldn't convince her.

So my idea came, when my parents were away in holiday in Germany for a week over summer, I planned to erect a coop and run in the garden and re-home some ex battery hens.

Step 1: Plan and Resource

First point of call for building a run was to establish the area that was to be used for the coop and run. This area would then determine the amount of birds you could home. With the space I had allocated, I felt there was enough room for 4 birds.

(There is not a set requirement for the amount of space each bird requires, but remember they have lived in a small confined space all their life, so the more space the better)

My run was to be 7 m sq. With a coop external to this.

I ordered the resources to arrive the day they had left for their holiday to give me max build time. Therefore prior to this, the ground was allocated and measured up for the materials to be ordered.

Step 2: Materials

The following materials were required:

Fence Posts

2x4 Battons

Welded Mesh (stronger than chicken wire)

Screws

Staples - to attach the wire to the posts

Postcrete - one bag per post

Step 3: Building the Run

The posts were dug to be seated 25% of their total length, then concreted in using a bag of post mix. There was a gap of no more than 1.5m between each post.

These were set and a trench was dug between them to bury the wire. The deeper this trench the better.

The wire was then stapled to these posts to form the run.

Using the 2x4 battons a gate was made into the run, and the wire mesh covered this.

Step 4: Coop

The coop was donated to me by the family my mum worked for, I got them in on the idea as it was built and they were a good help throughout.

Again, the coop should be large enough to give the chickens as much space as possible. This was previously a shop bought coop and recommended up to six birds. This fits my four birds comfortably, and I would not like to have six in there.

The coop was placed outside the run to give more space with an opening for the birds to get through. This is shut up at night with the birds in it to ensure that no foxes or any other predators can get to the birds.

Step 5: The Finished Run and Coop

Here is the finished product

Step 6: Adopting the Birds

Here in the UK an ex-bat homecoming charity called the British Hen Welfare Trust has been set up to re house these birds. They request a small donation per bird adopted to cover their fees and have been successful in re-homing thousands of birds.

They organise collection dates every couple of months. More information can be found on their website. A very worthwhile charity in my eyes.

www.bhwt.org.uk/

Our birds were adopted a few weeks after the return of my parents. When we first got them, they were in a very poor state with very few feathers due to the conditions they were kept in. We brought them home in cardboard boxes and released them into their new home.

Step 7: Settling in

The birds took a week or so to start to feel comfortable in their new environment. At the start we had to put them in the nest boxes at night as they did not know what to do. However after several nights there started to settle and already were looking healthier.

The first week is the trickiest with the birds, however after that they are very fuss free pets. We started feeding them on layers pellets as was recommended to us by a lot of people. They seemed to eat these fine, however sometimes is recommended to start them on a mash ease them on to larger foods.

As the chickens got their health back, so to did they get their feathers. They arrived very bald however soon enough had feathers appearing again. These can cause bleeding and the skin looking uncomfortable. This caused no problem for our birds and after a couple of weeks they were soon back to good health.

The picture of the birds was taken on their first day home.

Step 8:

Step 9: Eggs

It is important to know that you should not re-home ex bats if you are after eggs. They have spent all their life laying an unhealthy amount of eggs and when they are retired can stop laying.

Three of our four birds are still laying consistently, and these eggs that they lay are cooked up with oats and fed straight back to the birds.

This may sound disgusting and wrong, however it is healthier for the bird to take on all the nutrients they loose through laying than us.

Step 10: Update

Around a month or so after bringing the birds home, we fenced a larger part of the garden off for the birds to have full free range.

6 months in and the birds are now living very healthy happy lives. They are full of character and a pleasure for my family to wake up to everyday. My sister even enjoys visiting them even with her phobia of birds.

The picture of the birds are from 6 months after initially adopting the birds. Some of the feathers of the birds have never returned however they are all very healthy.

Comments

author
Madasaboxoffrogs made it! (author)2016-04-03

good for you! we don't have room for chucks at home but we only buy free range eggs

author
rickharris made it! (author)2016-04-01

We have 27 ex bat hens. they take about 4 weeks to recover re-feather and start to behave like chickens!

Chickens live for 4 to 7 years, In general they will lay eggs regularly for the first 3 - 4 years and then very occasionally. they will stop laying when molting and re-feathering and also lay much less in winter 9short daylight) - raising chicks in winter isn't so easy so they lay less eggs.

They should lay an egg around every 28 hours in the summer.

They will still get feathers plucked out, especially on the tail and around the bum (that's chickens for you).

In the battery house they are maintained under 18 hours of artificial light to make them lay more eggs and discarded at 12 to 18 months when they go into their first molt.

As You say they have little fear of humans and are easily get accustomed to being picked up.

Feeding them as much greenery as you can will help them to recover. Chickens naturally feed by scratching the ground and will prefer to have food presented in this way so they can search for it. this also keeps them amused so they tend to argue less.

They are of course a target for foxes and vermin both attracted by the food prospect. To keep a fox out you must bury wire at least 1 foot (300 mm) in the ground or spread it out 600 mm from the fence on the top of the grass to deter digging under the wire.

Enjoy it is a a very rewarding animal to raise.

These are our latest recruits when they arrived 4 weeks ago. They now look like yours.

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author
buck2217 made it! (author)2016-03-30

We have about 30 chooks (mainly ex battery) but a few oyhers mixed in and I never realised how friendly they could be. They love their cuddles and if you leave a door open they are in! Plus so many fewer bugs in the garden now. Voted

author

I never realised how friendly chickens were and how much personality they have.

author
wold630 made it! (author)2016-03-30

I've always wanted chickens. This might help convince my husband!!

author

they're definitley a lovely addition to the garden, and also require very low maintenance. My dad who has never been an animal lover even tends to the birds.

author
guidess made it! (author)2016-03-30

Lucky girls! The difference in the pictures is phenomenal. not only were they skinny and half bald, but the colourlessness of their combs and beaks shows how depleted they were. Now they look gorgeous, all because they have wholesome food, a snug, safe little house and fresh air, sunshine and room to stretch, run, flap, dust bathe and scratch. Thanks for making such a thoughtful gift for your mom, for rescuing those hens from a lousy life and giving them a chicken paradise, AND for a great 'ible. And chickens just doing their chicken stuff are hilarious.

author

the change is definitely remarkable and it's such a shame to see the condition they had previously been kept in.

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