Rescue Chickens

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Rescue Chickens

Postby AlanJackson » Sat Jul 22, 2017 7:53 am

Hi there, does anyone have any experience of having rescue chickens. We are new to chicken keeping and are looking at getting our first clutch of chickens from the British Hen Welfare Trust (BHWT) but wondered if anyone has had a previous experience that they could share with us. The main things that we are considering are of course reasonable egg production but also the general health of the chickens will be an important consideration as we are currently novices.

I hope someone can help.

Thanks
Alan of New Malden
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Re: Rescue Chickens

Postby LadyA » Sat Jul 22, 2017 10:13 am

I've no experience of rescue chickens, but I have always kept the same type, the laying hybrids.

There are pros and cons to getting rescues. The are likely around 18months old, so although they still have a lot of life in them yet, and will still give you eggs, their best laying days are behind them. That's why they are being "scrapped" by the industry. Laying hybrids lay almost constantly for the first 18 months/2 years, but egg laying does taper off sharply after that. I've only ever had one that was still laying at 2 1/2, and she would only lay about two or three eggs a week. Also, when you get them, they may not be in the best shape, having come from crowded conditions etc. But that's nothing good feeding and tlc won't cure.

The pros? I believe that in intensive egg farming situations, these girls do stop laying prematurely, so you will get eggs. Large eggs! Once they get the tlc, and realise they are onto the good life, and recover their health, they will be lovely, and I have to say, I've always found the brown girls the most appealing character wise. They have individual personalities. They get to know who is most likely to have treats. They get to know what time of day you are most likely to have treats, and will ignore you if they think you aren't going to give them something! :D They will tell you off soundly if you are not taking the poopies out of their house quickly enough! :D

If you want enough eggs, and want rescue hens, maybe get an extra hen or two? :lol:
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Re: Rescue Chickens

Postby MrsBiscuit » Sat Jul 22, 2017 11:39 am

I also have no experience of ex-batts but I would say that perhaps it might be easier to learn about keeping chicken by starting with healthier ones and getting rescues as your second batch. There are all sorts of minor and more important ailments that chooks get with monotonous regularity and with experience you take it in your stride, but when you are new it is both bewildering and can be distressing. And ex-batts do need a lot of tic to bring them back, feather wise and sometimes behaviour and health wise. On the latter note, I also think you need to take into account the emotional side of it, ex-batts may only have a short life with you. On the plus side of course you are giving girls a second chance and a better life, and that is not to be underestimated. Welcome to the world of keeping poultry, whatever you decide :D
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Re: Rescue Chickens

Postby Marigold » Sat Jul 22, 2017 3:44 pm

I agree with Mrs B, about the pros and cons of taking on exbatts as first chickens. Yes they have lovely personalities, which will emerge as they become used to their wonderful new life, and since they're bred to tolerate crowded conditions, they're naturally tame, generally not flighty or aggressive. Yes, you will get some lovely eggs, maybe for a year more, or even longer if you're lucky, bearing in mind that they will come to you on the verge of middle age and will have been bred and fed to produce very heavily in their short 18-24 month lives before you get them. This will inevitably take its physical toll, otherwise the farmer wouldn't be getting rid of them, would he? Expect that egg quality will steadily decline, with wrinkled or soft shells. Also, exbatts are particularly prone to painful, distressing and fatal abdominal problems arising from intensive egg laying in early life, such as prolapse, and peritonitis, which is when a soft egg breaks inside the hen, or goes down the wrong way into her intestines and festers there. If you are prepared for this, you will need to learn to recognise the early signs of trouble and be prepared to cull the hen promptly, or take her to the vet for euthanasia, to save her from further pain and suffering.
Personally I always get point of lay hybrid pullets at 16 weeks old, who then settle in for a few weeks before starting to lay and would strongly recommend this to people starting out with chickens for the first time. I get the benefit of all their best seasons of egg laying, and have the satisfaction of knowing that they've always had the best conditions and treatment that I can give them, and as a result they all seem to live long, healthy and productive lives. My oldest hen is 6+ years and still laying regularly, because they are all free to take a break from laying for a few weeks over the winter, as is natural to them, instead of being forced to lay under relentless electric light in an intensive unit. I get a mixture of breeds which adds variety to the run and as they all lay different coloured eggs, I know who has laid and when. I feel that the extra years of quality life I give them outweighs the benefit to the exbatts I might otherwise have kept, and certainly I get more rewards for longer in the form of the quality of eggs they produce for me and the trouble-free nature of their care. The personal feel-good factor to a keeper of seeing a run full of happy hens is equal wherever they came from, in my opinion.
Just a personal choice, of course - but it's right that you should have the possible downside spelt out, I think, so you can make an informed choice. Just one more point - when it comes to the day when you collect your hens, wherever you get them from, you will probably want more than you can really accommodate. Do remember that what hens really need more than anything is enough space. A coop with a small attached run is never going to be able to accommodate the number of hens which will fit into its coop. All of the experienced keepers on here will agree with me that hens need a minimum of 2 sq metres of run space each, so they can move around and escape each other into some personal space, and this means giving them a much bigger run, preferably walk-in, and with a free standing coop, if you're not able to let them free range for most of the day on an area of grass which can be rotated once they've destroyed all the vegetation on it. Small runs stress the birds, and also get really filthy in no time - hens poo an enormous amount and you need to be able to get into the run to poo pick at least once a day, which is difficult in a small low run.
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Re: Rescue Chickens

Postby dinosaw » Sat Jul 22, 2017 4:48 pm

I have had ex-batts (nine of them) in the past and would echo what has already been said. My advice would be to give them a miss for your first foray into chicken keeping and get three POL hybrids instead, see if chicken keeping is for you and you can always add ex-batts in the future if you feel comfortable with the challenges that keeping them provides.
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Re: Rescue Chickens

Postby AlanJackson » Sat Jul 22, 2017 6:44 pm

Thanks everyone for your really thoughtful responses it is very much appreciated, and thanks for taking so much time to bring your experiences to our attention. We will discuss your advice and I think going with POL first seems like a very good way forward. We can add some Ex Batts down the line once we are a little more experienced if we feel this would work.

Many thanks for all of your support. have a lovely weekend.

Kind Regards

Alan
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Re: Rescue Chickens

Postby Marigold » Sun Jul 23, 2017 7:09 am

Great to have you on the forum, Alan. I wish everyone who starts out with chickens would do such careful research before getting their birds. Please let us know how you get on, and which birds you eventually get.
Have you noticed the link to the main Poultrykeeper website, at the bottom of each forum page? Its a mine of information that we all find constantly helpful, and has a lot about starting up.
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Re: Rescue Chickens

Postby AlanJackson » Sun Jul 23, 2017 5:04 pm

Hi there Marigold, thanks for that and I had not noticed the web address, so will have a good look at that over the coming days. Everyone has been most helpful and I'm really grateful for the free advice. Many thanks to all and for such a great forum.
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Re: Rescue Chickens

Postby Icemaiden » Sat Jul 29, 2017 12:31 pm

Hi Alan.
Normally I agree with most of my friends on the forum, but not always.
I started out with rescue hens from BHWT as my first flock. I didn't have any health issues with them; BHWT won't give the "poorlies" to new hen keepers without experience.

My first flock (Energiser, Duracell and Varta- they were ex-batts!) gave me a good supply of eggs for quite a while, albeit not for as long as if I'd had them as youngsters.

As they get older, you may need to give them a supplement to help eggshell quality, as thin shells can be an issue & lead to them developing a taste for egg eating. On the plus side though, they tend to be very affectionate. You also get to watch them turn from timid little things afraid to leave their coop into hens who learn to dust bathe, scratch around for slugs & bugs & discover grass and sky, neither of which they'll have seen before.

Do give some ex batts the chance of life. It really is rewarding.
Keep reading the forum too; there's a host of good advice, even if we disagree with each other occasionally ;)

Lastly, do make sure you have a fox proof run for them. To be rescued from a poultry farm just to be dinner for a fox would be heartbreaking.

All the best,
Ice maiden.
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