Monday, 4 August 2008

Free the ex-batts!

The discussions have been had and a decision made - all being well we're going to rescue six ex battery hens!

Six girls like these. Bless them, they're just like scraggy bags of bones.

Nana has been the driving force behind the whole rescue idea after watching tv footage about battery hens a few months ago. I have previously dismissed the idea as I already worry about there being hen poop all over the lawn where the children play and felt we couldn't possibly add to that. Craig quite likes the hens but goes spare about the poop all over the lawn and deck.

The solution we have come up with is to free our veg and fence the hens. This way we can grow veg in the flower borders, (which will need a huge amount of work over the winter months to enlarge them, partially clear them and enrich them with well rotted manure), and keep the hens in what currently is our veg patch.

This does feel to me like a bit of a compromise as the veg patch is only 54 sq metres (we measured it yesterday), but having checked with DEFRA recommendations on 'free range' I now feel reassured that it an extremely spacious run for nine hens, well exceeding their recommended 'free range' dimensions.

I also feel a little sad that having transformed my garden from this

to this

in the space of eighteen months, I'm now about to embark on another huge project to change it all around. I'm sure they'll be worth it though!

As excited as I am there are practical issues to be sorted before I dive head long in. Firstly my veg patch is full of veg. I'm not willing to sacrifice that. I started today sewing winter crops like chard and spinach beet in containers and tomorrow I'm going to start putting down grass seed on the areas of my patch which don't have veggies on. I know a lot of people keep chooks on bare earth but I really want them to be able to cluck about on greenery - I think that's important.

Another issue is knowing where to get them from. I've looked at a lot of the rescue sites but all that I've found so far are based in the south. I'm sure there will be some here up north, I'll just need to find them. I've emailed the animal welfare group attached to our local university to see if they know and I've also joined a Yahoo Group about rescuing ex batts so hopefully I'll find out more soon.

I've advertised on Freecycle for a hen house but if push comes to shove we could always make one.

Although ex batts are considered 'spent' by the farms they do usually still lay. They are after all only about a year and a half old. Our three existing girls keep us in eggs so we would have no use for more. I'm going to see if anyone who we see on a regular basis, (friends, friends at home ed groups, Nana's friends from church, Craig's colleagues) would like to buy half a dozen ex batt eggs each week. I don't want to start an egg round touting my wares - more just a regular thing with a couple of people. It may be that we would only be able to supply one or two families as there will be no guarantees as to how well they lay. This would go towards the cost of their food and bedding.

I am so excited and so is Nana. There's a lot of work to be done in making it possible though and in any event we can't get them till towards the end of this year when the veg is cleared and at least part of that area has grass well established. I can't just turn my back on my veg and the borders will need so much attention before they can be planted out next spring. It's a good job that I live alongside the fairies. When I opened my door this afternoon to take my rubbish out I found a package containing a fresh home baked rhubarb crumble on the step. We ate it after dinner and it was delish! I now believe anything is possible *grin*.

Another big thank you to the Rhubarb Crumble Fairy if you're reading this!


Anonymous said...

rubard crumble fairy, i wish i had one of those!

We've dug up our flower beds and next spring will be ready for planting - I hope! Next spring we're getting an eglu with chooks and eventually we'll get some ex-batts too. Good luck :0)

Bridget said...

Gosh, I do admire your motivation Claire, I wish I was half as motivated as you. I haven't got a crumble fairy, so I'm off to make a coconut cake with the children and the word "fairy" really doesn't describe my lot, more like goblins!!

Claire said...

'Motivated' - Craig would probably say 'head strong' or worse still 'deranged' :-)

Linda said...

Very exciting. I'd love chickens but my garden is far too small for us as it is let alone having chickens on it too, lol.

Your garden is lovely though. Hope you enjoy all the preparation etc.