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OPINION: Chicken Run: the joy of rehoming rescue hens

Photo by Hana Oliver on Unsplash

In the summer of 2021, my parents heard actress Pauline McLynn speaking about her work with a Kildare-based Non-profit organisation LittleHill Animal Rescue & Sanctuary, that rescues, rehabilitates and re-homes abandoned, abused and neglected animals. 

In the interview with Clare FM she shared that commercial egg-laying chickens are routinely slaughtered at about 18 months of age, when their productivity drops slightly. She was promoting the LittleHill hen rescue programme which takes hens destined for the slaughterhouse and tries to find new homes for them all over the county and give them a new life.

Photo by James O’Hagan for The Circular
Photo by James O’Hagan for The Circular
Photo by James O’Hagan for The Circular

After hearing the tragic story of these poor animals who spent their entire short lives shut indoors being mechanically fed and watered only to be killed when they stopped laying eggs at a level productive enough to be considered commercially viable my folks booked themselves in for the next available LittleHill hen run and set about building a safe and secure hen house for our soon to be new arrivals.

In October of 2021, we welcomed our first ten girls home. They arrived in terrible condition, and watching them transform from the frail, weak and timid group huddled together to the friendly, entertaining, inquisitive and intelligent creatures we know today out roaming free has been a wonderful sight.

Contrary to what some might think, caring for our rescue chickens has been surprisingly easy. So long as you adhere to a few simple steps they require minimal maintenance and quickly adapt to their new environment. Creating a safe and comfortable predator-proof home, complete with roosting and nesting areas and a bedding of softwood shavings or chopped straw will make them feel right at home. A chicken drinker supplies clean fresh water and prevents hens from getting into the water and making it dirty.

Since our hens arrived they have become part of the family, we have taken in two more batches of hens from LittleHill and fallen in love with every one of the charismatic critters. The benefits of adopting a flock of rescue hens go far beyond just the joy and gratitude of watching your new feathered friends thrive. The daily delivery of fresh free-range eggs is a delicious bonus, and we have even had enough left over to be able to donate some to our local Meals on Wheels.

Chickens have the potential to live up to 10 years, and under ideal circumstances, they can lay eggs for most of that time. They deserve a lengthy and contented retirement, where they can freely roam, scratch, and dust-bathe as they please.

If you have some space, and think you would like to give a forever coop to some hens the team behind LittleHill Animal Rescue & Sanctuary is dedicated to rescuing entire flocks of chickens and regularly shares details of rehoming runs around the country on their Facebook. There is also plenty of information online to help you understand what to expect when you decide to rehome ex-battery hens and to help you get ready for their arrival.

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