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Thinking of getting chickens and starting with ex-batteries. What do you recommend?

25 replies

smallmole · 22/03/2012 22:54

Hello! The house we're moving to already has a hen house at the bottom of the garden and as this has been a dream of ours for a while, we're keen to fill it up. I'm nervous that we're a bit rose-tinted about the whole thing so I've read practically everything on here, but I've still got a few questions, I'm hoping you can help.

  1. We have three very young children - are chickens going to be too much work for the time being or are they something the children can get involved in?
  2. We move at the beginning of May - can we expect to buy hens and start getting eggs straight away?
  3. I love the idea of rescuing battery hens but I'm not sure how you get these in our local area - we're in Newcastle by the way!

I think that's it for now - any advice gratefully accepted!
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PinkSpottyBag · 22/03/2012 23:02

Hello smallmole, go for it! We have eleven chickens and young children and the two blend fantastically.The children pick ours up and cuddle them and sit talking to them. With regards to involvement the children can have I do all the cleaning of the coop and the feeding and water bowls etc the children feed them and collect eggs.

I have no experience of battery hens we got our from the local farmers mart, so somebody will be along shortly to advise.

smallmole · 22/03/2012 23:08

Thank you! That's just the sort of thing I wanted to hear! We both really want to do it but we feel like we need to be careful not to rush in. Also, when we first looked at the house the lady stressed that they'd be knocking the hen house down before they left because keeping chickens was such a pain that they were sure we'd not be interested. I'm really hopeful that keeping hens will be a good way for our kids to get used to having animals around - with the added advantage of free eggs!

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PinkSpottyBag · 22/03/2012 23:25

I got a couple of books from the library and then bought a cheapie from WHSmiths which gave me an overview of what to do such as their daily routine, going through the moult etc

I suppose it will vary from person to person but I find them to be less involved in terms of time than our dogs.

We feed ours all the kitchen scraps except chicken and eggs which I know some people don't like the idea of but it works for us.

Ask questions on here to there are some knowledgable chicken people here, I am a novice by comparison.

chewingmypenciltop · 24/03/2012 22:41

agree you should go for it. we have ex batts and wish we had had them when my children were small they would have loved it.

If you search for hen rescue in your area you should find somewhere even if you need to travel a bit.

there are some good chicken books about that give you routines and give you a good idea of the amount of work involved.

some things we have learned since we got ours as total novices.

they eat a lot and consequently poo a lot tooGrin
they wake up very early (and therefore so do you) noisy bleeders - try blackout curtain liner over the windows of their hen house
you will need to make sure their food is mostly layers mash or pellets as this has the necessary minerals for them to make their shells.

they are brilliant and rescuing poor old ex batts is very worthwhile - they are very sorry looking creatures at first but they soon grow beautiful feathers and work out how to be chickens and it's lovely to watch.

Have fun x

chewingmypenciltop · 24/03/2012 22:44

oh and we usually get an egg from each hen every day and have done pretty much from day one!

smallmole · 25/03/2012 14:42

Thank you! That's so encouraging - good tip about the black out blinds too! We really feel like ex-batteries are the best way to go. Thanks again!

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Iamweasel · 27/03/2012 12:12

Our ex batts arrived last Saturday. I love them already. They have bald bottoms and are a bit bedraggled but already they are perking up and scratching around and being chickeny. Poor ladies

One thing though, I don't think I'll be eating much chicken in future and am considering converting to vegetarianism after being a committed carnivore all my life

smallmole · 27/03/2012 14:15

Are they friendly enough? I know they'll be a bit shellshocked (Ha! See what I did there?!) but with three very small children I don't want any aggressive pecking going on. I'm hoping more timid and nervy than shouty and bitey?

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mrswoodentop · 27/03/2012 14:30

To be honest i would start off with a trio of hybrids from a reliable source,(where abouts are you?)they will be disease free and pretty bomb proof,you will get lots of eggs ,if you pick the breeds correctly they will be great pets and the children will enjoy them.

Batteries are great but remember you are nursing them back to health,almost everyone i know has had quite a high death rate with them (may be difficult with children) and they are often not the friendliest.You can always move on to batteries when you get more confident ,there are quite a few places that run courses on hen keeping and some which specialise in ex batts

We currently have a speckledy (lovely brown speckled eggs now 5 years old and still laying)a white star who lays large white eggs ,(my ds3 was desperate for a white hen!)a Welsummer who lays the most beautiful matt brown eggs which taste gorgeous and is beautiful herself and another hen ,can't remember the breed but she lays green eggs which the children find most amusing.Its obviously just the shell that is green but my American SIL was horrified!!(apparently they only eat white eggs in the US)

The omlet website has a useful breed guide including friendliness etc ,I don't have a omlet house but i do use their website for useful info

mrswoodentop · 27/03/2012 15:00

Sorry missed that you are in Newcastle!Again try Omlet they have a list of approved suppliers or just google

nickelhasababy · 27/03/2012 15:03

ooh, lovely, welcome to the club! Grin

I will warn you though, that ex-batts can be very difficult for a novice - our exbatts (we got 2 when we'd already been keeping chickens for some months) were very, very violent to the others for a very long time - they had to be separated, not only from the older hens, but from each other! - we had to have 3 runs!

That said, ex-batts are very rewarding, and very affectionate to humans Grin

have a look on this forum // for advice and stuff. I took most of my info from them, and they know everything!

nickelhasababy · 27/03/2012 15:04

don't worry about the early mornings!

Ever since I can remember, I get up with the sun to let them out into the run, then go back to bed until morning! Grin

Tigresswoods · 27/03/2012 15:39

Question: I'm guessing you let them out during the day to roam about the garden? Will they try to escape through homes in the fence?

smallmole · 27/03/2012 21:23

Ah, thanks for that MrsW and Nickel - I have been very nervous about ex-batteries for that reason. All the reading I've done on them gives me the impression that they need people with a lot more experience than we ahve - more advanced chicken keepers, shall we say? I've read that bantams are very sweet and gentle - would anyone recommend those? Maybe we could get a few ex-batteries next year when we're a bit more comfortable...

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mrswoodentop · 27/03/2012 22:07

I would seriously recommend pekins they are just fluffy footballsGrinvery friendly,very gentle the children can cuddle them etc.The only draw back is that you only get little eggs and they do have a tendency to go broody and stop laying .I have heard silkies are sweet too.

Try reading one or two of the magazines,there is a new one called Chickens aimed at back garden owners and Practical Poultry is also s good one ,Smiths has a good selection

.As I say the omlet site has a breed directory which is good as well and people have put comments on their experience of the breed.

nickelhasababy · 28/03/2012 11:24

they are gawjus, aren't they!

9hard to keep the fluffy feet clean though...)

nickelhasababy · 28/03/2012 11:26

if they're all ex-batts, you might be okay, just let them get on with it.

it is soooo rewarding in the end :)

if you're going to start with POLs (point of lay - about 16-20 weeks old), then go for large hybrids - like Bovans nera, white sussex, silverlinks/amberlink or calder rangers/isa browns.
friendly, lots of eggs, good with children

smallmole · 28/03/2012 14:27

Brilliant - this is just the sort of advice I was looking for - thanks! Also - the hen house looks pretty big - not measured it but I'd say it's about standard garden shed size - how many hens do you think I should get? I was thinking of 5 to start off with...?

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nickelhasababy · 28/03/2012 14:36

if you think it's too big or the hens, then you could partition it, so that they can use some of it for wet weather use.
you need min 1sqft of perch space per bird, and about the same again for a nest box (hens will share so make it 2sqft and it'll be fine!)
and perches higher than nest box

the run space is more important than the sleeping area, so keep that in mind.

5 would be a good number - good for eggs, especially after the 1st year when production drops off somewhat. and good for distraction.
so you'd need a run at least 10sq metres.
you can do that as 5 x 2, or 4 x 2.5 etc. (or bigger, bigger is always best!)
definitely have a look on the poultry forum - there's a thread at the top of the Chat page with loads of runs/set-ups so you can get an idea of what's good :)

mrswoodentop · 28/03/2012 15:31

You should know that hen keeping is very addictiveWinkonce you've had fresh eggs then bought ones never seem quite the same.Plus many happy hours can be spent looking at hen houses and chicken paraphernalia ; and pictures of chucks!

chickensaresafehere · 29/03/2012 18:34

Try the British Hen Welfare Trust,they rehome ex-batts & we have had all ours from them.They are a fantastic charity & list all the pick up points on their website.From what I can remember you just register with them & then they ring you up & go over a few things with you,to check you have the right equipment & are prepared.
Ex-batts are wonderful,such characters!!!!!!

AllotmentFreak · 29/03/2012 21:55

I've had ex batts thing to remember when you bring them home they do not know each other so you have the added problem of integrating and bonding. I had chicken keeping experience but it was damned hard work and worry. Also as you have very young children ex batts are big birds and quite strong. My birds took some weeks to settle down, nowadays they come to heel when called lol!

After all's said and done they are lovely to watch as they scratch about and they all have different personalities.

Perhaps when you have experience with bantams that would be the time to have ex batts, but remember you cannot just put chickens of 2 different flocks together they must be separated and gradually get to know each other. Hope this helps :)

smallmole · 30/03/2012 22:56

Thank you for all the help, everyone! How does this sound as my plan? We'll buy 5 bantam's/suffolks/something easy going and partition off some of the coop. Next year, when we're experienced 'Henners' we'll try to rescue a few battery hens.
What do you think? Sensible?

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AllotmentFreak · 31/03/2012 21:56

Yes that sounds a good idea :)

nickelhasababy · 02/04/2012 13:14

yes, good plan.

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