Wednesday, 25 April 2012

Eggs and Chickens

We get one 'big' egg a day at the moment, it's off Lofty, our Light Sussex, she's the white one in the video below.  Our other girls, our five remaining Hylines are now in retirement, they've laid their last eggs and are now enjoying their days in the sun, well they would if it would come back, at the moment they seem to spend most of their time in the Eglu 'bus shelter' (we've taken the house off the end and left them with the covered run area) or under one of the houses sheltering from this persistent rain.

Our Hylines are rescued free-rangers, hens that lived their lives with an average of 3,000 other birds in an artificially lit shed with access to the outside.  The shyer girls tend not to get outside much and live out their days pecking around the shed, with food that tumbles down conveyors regularly and other conveyors that take away their eggs as soon as they are laid.  It's a sad little life but not as sad at the battery system or the enriched cage system or even the barn system, they at least get the chance of fresh air everyday and access to the great outdoors if they want it.

The only trouble is after around 16 months, when they go into a big moult and when their little bodies can no longer guarantee an egg every single day they are taken away and slaughtered for pet food usually.  Some lucky little hens like mine are re-homed and get to live their lives as real free rangers, giving their lucky new owners the occasional egg, usually for another year or so, and the pleasure of their company.

Well I've had my girls for over a year now which makes them over 3 years old, if they were pure bred birds, not hybrids  they would probably have longer lives, but these birds are bred to be in good health for only that first 16 months, their little bodies are designed for minimum food intake and maximum egg output.

  If they had been free rangers all their lives with normal lighting levels to allow their little bodies to rest more over Winter, they would most likely still be laying a couple of eggs a week and would not be in retirement until at least next year.  I'm glad I helped these little birds have a taste of real free ranging, but this now means that I am experiencing on a regular basis the downside to this.  Yesterday I lost another.  A simple sad death, she quietened and wound herself down, like a little clockwork chicken over the course of a couple of days and died comfortably in her nest box with the little laying Pekins by her side.

A sad day for me, a little No-Namer gone forever.  But I knew her, she knew me, I cuddled her, she knew freedom and sunshine and the close companionship of our little flock.

This little film was taken the other day, on her last day out playing in the sun, she's the one that starts off in front of the log and moves over to the plastic bowl.  The little Pekin making all the noise is Little Lucy, she is now Head Girl of the chickens, and calls constantly to the others and especially her daughters Poppy and Daisy, our other Pekin is called Alice.

The happy days in Chicken World far outweigh the sad ones.

Sue xx


  1. It is so sad when they wind down :-(

    but she had a wonderful life with you Sue and you gave that extra time to her to become a "proper" hen

  2. Awwwwwww thats so sad that you lost one but as you say what a better life she has had since coming to you. I always buy free range eggs but didnt realise the conditions were like you said, I naively presumed they were literally free range but then I guess the logistics of that would be impossible on such a large scale. I think I need to go and research some new eggs to buy!

  3. thats sad news, like you said though you gave them the best life they could have, i am sure she went happy.

  4. that made me cry, but at least she managed to tell her little story knowing you would listen.

    I took your advice and now have 4 more girls, Pauline Melanie Mrs Brown and Tina. They were due to have their necks wrung as they'd stopped laying and were in a sorry state where they'd been "played with" by the lady's dogs (her words not mine)
    The day after we brought them home, installed them in the safety of "Chickenham Palace" (or as Mark says wistfully Chicken AND Ham Palace!)and popped some rescue Remedy in their drinking water some of them started laying and we have a regular 2 eggs each
    day...plenty enough for our needs.

    Oh dear hens, how you get under our skins!

  5. Compostwoman - I think we get as much from them as they get from us, it's nice to share with a chicken!

    Vicky - there's not many true free range farms that have birds outdoors en-masse. But at least buying any free range eggs is better than buying ANY of the others. You are doing your best and as a chicken lover that's good enough for me!!

    Stacy - she seemed happy right til the end and was loved by the other girls.

    Bunny - sorry to make you cry! Lovely that you have new birds to care for. I bet they loved 'playing' with the dogs, poor things!!

    Enjoy your eggs, it's them saying THANK YOU.

    Sue xx
    Our New Life in the Country

  6. I love that you were able to make them truly free range. It sounds really rewarding. Sorry for your loss.

    Arwedd xx

  7. What a lovely video. As well as the happy contented noise of the chickens, it was just lovely to hear the birds singing in the background. We've never had chickens but like to buy free range, hoping they at least have some free movement.

  8. Sorry to hear you have lost a hen. We've last 2 of our 5 in the last month, it has been completly unexpected.


  9. That is so sad and yet lovely as well that these hens are getting the kind of life they should have had all along xxx

  10. Arwedd - what a lovely comment, thank you.

    datacreata - I hadn't even noticed the wild birdsong, I had to play the little video again. Gosh that's dreadful I'm just that used to it, I should take more time to listen!!

    Martin and Amy - it's always dreadful to lose them isn't it, I hope your remaining birds are well. Give them some tonic just to see them over this dreary time weather.

    Sue xx
    Our New Life in the Country

  11. Really sorry to hear about your little hen but you had given her a chance of a happy life. Your dog barking in the background reminded me of my beardie, Josh who has to be kept away from our two little chickens.
    Ann x

  12. It's so sad when you lose one.

    But she had a lovely life.

    SFT x

  13. I have a lifelong phobia of chickens much to thhe amusement of my husband however I never like to hear of them suffering and I'm always gladdened to hear of you kind souls who adopt them and give them a new life. Thank you for the info about them as well, I never knew that's how they are bred :-( x

  14. Ah, thanks for the 'chicken fix', sorry to hear of the loss of one of your 'girls' but we know the time spent with you and DH was the best of her little life.
    I wonder, if you can have a house, bunny, you could (Me!) have a house hen, or two?!

    Sandie xx

  15. The way animals are raised makes me glad your little sweetheart had some happy chicken moments in her short life. Thank you,Sue.
    Jane xx

  16. There is so much talk about chickens and eggs at just about every blog I visit! Not that I mind, though, since SJ & I are planning to get some chickens this year - our first! :)
    I'm sorry do hear that one of your chickens "wound down", but at least she had a wonderful life since coming your home.

  17. I'm sorry that you've lost another of your girls. I lost one of mine on Good Friday - a game little bantam silkie with loads of character who was shouting at me for not bringing her a titbit when I pegged the washing out - as she always did. A couple of hours later I found her keeled over in her run. She must have been 10 years old. This last weekend, I had a poorly hen with a growth who needed to be helped out and that was very sad although she too had a good life.

  18. I was watching "The Dales" on catchup and one lady was homing 50 ex battery hens in Yorkshire. I thought of you as I was watching it. You can see it until Sunday as it was shown on Monday evening. It was lovely to see the hens going out into the field for the first time.


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