We get asked many questions! The only silly question, is the one you don't ask! Here are some of the questions we get asked frequently -
Q) What do I need to buy before I get my hens?
A) These are the items we recommend you have for your new hens -
A secure Hen house and run - Foxes are the number one predator to protect the hens against. caged hens are use to sleeping on the floor in some cases, so you may want to remove perches in their house for the first few weeks.
Layers mash - This is what caged hens are fed. In time, you can slowly change their diet to layers pellets if you wish but wait until they have settled in for a couple of weeks first.
Poultry Grit - Hens don't have teeth of course but, they do have a gizzard that grinds their food down using insoluble grit. Most free range hens will pick up enough grit from grazing but it is always wise to provide grit just in case. Soluble grit (oyster shell) can be provided. This provides calcium for the hens to produce strong egg shells. Commercial caged hens often have brittle bones since the calcium from their bones is taken to produce eggshells. Most commercial feeds these days provide sufficient calcium but again, it is a good idea to provide oyster shell grit.
Food and water containers - There are so many different ones on the market, Lucky Hens Have designed and made their own to sell to create more funds for the rescue! Don't forget the hens are not used to having to go far for their food or water so make sure they are within easy reach of your new hens to start with.
A.C.V.(Apple Cider Vinegar) - This is remarkably good for hens in many ways but the best thing is scientific tests have shown it actually helps them to cope with stress and changes to their environment.
Q) What should I feed my hens?
A) Caged hens are used to being fed dry layers mash. Changes are stressful for hens and ex-caged hens have had enough to deal with coming out of their cages to a completely new environment, so it is important that you are able to continue feeding them layers mash for a few weeks, until they've settled in. After which, you can gradually change their feed over to pellets if you prefer.
Q) Will the hens lay lots of eggs?
A) Caged hens are the result of many years of breeding and selection. They have been bred to lay the largest possible number of eggs in their first couple of years of their life. If you want ex-caged hens solely for eggs, then they aren't really for you. Ex-Caged hens should still have a large number of eggs to lay for you but keep in mind that commercially they are 'spent' hens and like any hen will lay less and less every year, sometimes with a thinner eggshell as they get to 3 or 4 years old. A very small number of hens that are rescued do not lay although most will usually start laying very quickly. Like all hens, expect them to lay most of their eggs during the spring and summer months and expect them to stop laying when they go into moult in the late autumn and when the daylight hours are reduced over the winter.
Q) Is it difficult to look after hens?
A) Ex-Caged hens do require a little bit of T.L.C and attention during the initial couple of months that you get them until they have adapted to their new life and routine. Once they have settled in, they really are no trouble at all and are easier to look after than many pure breeds of Hens. You will need to make sure you have the time to give them fresh water and food every day and make sure you can lock them up at night safe from foxes.
Q) Do they go to bed themselves?
A) At first, they may not put themselves to bed (This is often the case with new hens) They will soon get the hang of what you expect from them.
Q) How do I teach the hens to lay in the nest boxes?
A) They may not lay their eggs in the next boxes, but with a little extra attention during the first couple of months, they will soon learn the routine.
Q) What condition will the hens be in when I get them?
A) Some ex caged hens can be poorly when they come out from the farms,(we keep those here at the rescue until they are well enough to be re-homed) a few can be very sparsely feathered and can look almost "oven ready" but most hens will have just a few bare patches. Hens will usually feather up within a few months and look far more like 'normal' hens. Hens will be pretty exhausted when you get them - see our care sheet for more info.
Q) How many hens should I re-home?
A) Lucky Hens Highly recommend that you keep a minimum of 3 hens, The main reason for this is that hens are social creatures that live in flocks. Ex-caged hens can be frail and if you lose one then you will still have 2, the minimum number of hens to keep so that they have company of their own kind. With ex-caged hens, they have had a truly hard life and settle better in flock numbers. It's for this reason that we would really recommend you try to rescue a minimum of 4 hens although 3 is of course the bare minimum.
Q) What size coop & run do I need?
A) When you buy a hen house, the manufacturer will usually state how many hens they can house. Some manufacturers will always go for a higher number than is comfortable so it's always a good idea to stock your house with less hens than is recommended. The main requirement is sufficient perch space for the hens because normally they will be outside during the day. Hen runs come in many sizes but the more space you give the hens the better. If you have a very small run, they will get bored quickly and will soon pick up bad vices like feather pulling.
Q) Do I need to register with DEFRA?
A) In the UK, you don't need to register with DEFRA unless you are keeping 50 or more poultry. When you count your birds, you MUST include ducks, geese, guinea fowl etc
Keeping hens, like any animal does give you an extra tie if you want to go away. You will need to make suitable arrangements to make sure that your hens are properly looked after when you are on holiday, but neighbours and friends are usually willing, especially if they get to take home some eggs!