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:
Welded Mesh (stronger than chicken wire)
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.
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 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.