Before you adopt some ex-factory farmed hens you should check you have everything you need to ensure you have happy hens
Chicken Coop to provide shelter from the weather, protection from predators and somewhere to roost at night. Chicken coops always advertise that they can take more hens than they really should. If the coop says it is suitable for 5 hens, it is likely that 3 will be more comfortable in it. A chicken coop is just for night time and the hens should have a safe free range area or a large enclosure for the daytime. We recommend Somerzby, who sell a good selection of coops.
Bedding to help keep your hens warm at night. Ensure they have plenty of straw or dust reduced shavings. Do not use hay or normal shavings as these are dusty and can cause respiratory disease. If you are having problems with lice dust reduced shavings are the best option, as lice will not live in these.
Pet Carrier: we do not transport the hens in boxes as even if the box has holes in it is not usually well ventilated enough and in Summer can get way too hot. Hens can die from heat stress so we need to be very careful. A pet carrier is ideal. A cat carrier can fit 2 hens and a medium dog carrier can fit 4 hens. You can buy them from Petbarn or you can sometimes borrow them from the vets. It is a good idea to have one on hand in case of vet appoinments or even emergency bushfire evacuation. Add some straw or dust reduced shavings and the carrier will be nice and comfy for your girl’s trip. For longer trips you should buy a clip on food and water bowl. If you must use a box you will need to have the top entirely open and create a makeshift pet carrier by fixing wire across the top. You can also use 2 laundry baskets tied together for shorter trips.
Layers’ Mash is the food the hens get fed at the factory farm, so it is important to use this food to start with. Introduce other food slowly. At first your chickens will not recognise corn and pellets as food. You should be careful introducing treats as this can upset the girls’ tummies. As most of the hens have been debeaked they find layers mash much easier to eat than pellets or scratch mix. You may also wish to invest in a sturdy bin to keep the food safe from rodents (available from Bunnings) and a chicken feed scoop.
Grit: should be provided in a separate bowl to the hens’ food.The grit helps them grind up their food and provides valuable calcium. You can use crushed up egg shells in addition to grit, but these do not provide enough calcium on their own. Many laying hens are calcium deficient due to the way they have been bred to lay so many eggs so you may wish to provide a calcium supplement in addition to grit.
Free Range Area: along with the coop you will need an area of the garden where the hens can free range. It is good to give your hens as much space as possible. You may want to fence off an area of the garden for them to roam in during the day. It is great to give the hens as much space as possible, but you should also ensure they are safe from predators. Daytime predator attacks can happen, so if you live near bush or on acreage you will probably want to have a fully enclosed free range area. The minimum recommended space (not including coop) for 2 hens in 10 metres square with an extra 3 metres square per additional hen. If you have a secure garden it is probably best to let them free range. The free range area should include items of interest such a sticks to perch on, things to hide behind, plants to provide shade and areas to dust bathe in. This will help keep the girls entertained. The more space they can enjoy the better as they can be quite claustrophobic after their time in the cage. They are okay in a cosy coop at night, but need plenty of space in the day.
Feeder and Drinker to put their food and water in. These should be heavy, so that the hens cannot tip them over. You can get them in the produce store or if you want to save some money you can pick up an old, heavy casserole dish from an op shop for food. You can also use an unused cat little tray for water. Most fighting starts over food and one way you can help the hens settle in is to give them multiple food bowls spread out so that everyone can get some food. That way if one hens decides to guard a food bowl it won’t matter and everyone can still get something to eat. After the hens have settled in you can reduce the number of food bowls and may only need one.
Wormer: we will worm the hens before they come to you and you will need to worm them again after 3 months. Then once every 3 months to keep your hens happy and healthy. Wormer comes in different forms. You can buy liquid wormer that you add to the hens water or you can buy tablets. We usually worm the hens with tablets before they are rehomed, so will let you know when you next need to worm the hens. For ex-battery hens it is best to use either the tablets or syrup.
Lice Treatment: we will worm the hens before they come to you and you will need to worm them again after 3 months. Then once every 3 months to keep your hens happy and healthy. Wormer comes in different forms. You can buy liquid wormer that you add to the hens water or you can buy tablets. We usually worm the hens with tablets before they are rehomed, so will let you know when you next need to worm the hens. For ex-battery hens it is best to use either the tablets or syrup.
Vitamin Treatment: is something to consider to help your hens grow back their feathers and stay healthy. There are various brands available at produce stores.Another way to give the hens a much needed boost is to feed them back their eggs. Simply crack an egg on top of their food and they will love it. As they have been bred to lay too many eggs giving them back is like giving the hens a day off from losing all those nutrients.