Your First Rescue Hen
I was a keeper of the chickens for 2 years before I decided to take on my first rescue chicken, mainly because the closest rescue was a 4 - 5 hour drive from where I live, (shout out to Hennies Pennies and Dreamer's Hen Rescue) but also because I knew that rescue hens come with their own special needs.. and I wanted to make sure I knew what I was doing before just diving in.
Meet Daisy Duke, my rescue hen.
She was rescued by Mt Bolton Homestead and Poultry Stud, whom lost majority of their animals in a large bushfire in 2015, and instead of restocking their Homestead last year with industry bred chicks, they decided to rescue thousands of hens from a factory farming facility (hats off to you guys). However they didn't need all the thousands of hens they rescued.. so they re-homed some of them, and that’s how Daisy Duke came to be part of the Hoskins Hens flock.
THINGS TO KNOW BEFORE YOUR FIRST RESCUE HEN
Where possible, It's best to adopt in pairs
I was lucky enough to have my sweet girl Alice to welcome Daisy with open wings, however in most cases introducing a single chicken to a flock is (in the beginning) a stressful experience for any chicken. Chickens can be brutal bullies, especially towards newbies, and being social/flock animals, a buddy in the same situation to hang with while the others get used to their presence can really eliminate a lot of the stress that comes with being shunned from the flock, and because why not rescue two if you can!
Dealing with de-beaking
De-beaking is a cruel practice, however sadly, it happens. De-beaked hens will require deeper food and water bowls than the other member of your flock, this will enable them to 'scoop' their food and water as they will inevitably be unable to peck at and pick up food as they normally would.
Watch them in the heat
Rescue hens, especially if they are fresh off the farm, are very susceptible to heat stress, even some battery farmers turn on the sprinklers at 35 degrees. Just keep an eye on your girls in anything over 30 degrees and watch for signs of heat stress (holding their wings away from their body, panting). If you do notice signs of heat stress.. check out our post titled 'Don't let your chooks cook' to find ways that you can keep them cool.
Neon green poo
Your rescues come from a stressful background, but in rescuing them, you've actually created more stress for them.. in the beginning anyway. Think about it, their life may have been horrible, but they were used to it, and now you've swept them away and thrown them into a completely new environment with all new things to stress about. If you find neon green dropping left behind by your rescue girls, this is a sign of extreme stress and you need to get them to a vet for treatment immediately. If this level of stress is evident and not dealt with, exhaustion may occur. This is when your girls body reserves are depleted, and the metabolism of normal function fails and results in death due to organ failure.
Due to the stress of their lifestyle, and their breeding, rescue hens do have a shorter lifespan than most other members of the flock. Hens are between 1 and 2 years old when they're rescued from their farms, and you can expect them to reach an average age of 4 to 7, in exceptional circumstances 8 - 9.
In saying all this! Don't let any of this scare you away from rescuing a hen. They are super friendly little ladies, and the joy I felt watching my Daisy Duke dust bathe for the first time was worth it all.