Reader Claire Hodder from Cornwall conveys the joy of keeping a flock of ex-battery birds

It started with a fantasy. A dream, to have a life like the Darling buds of May. And of course one could not live in the countryside without keeping a few chickens. We made the move from rural Essex to Cornwall and my young daughters and I looked through countless pictures, websites, advertisements and social media sites looking for our special hens. I hadn’t realised quite how difficult it could be. There were so many different varieties not to mention the variety in price!

I was all ready to give up, when I came across a website for ex – battery chickens: The British Hen Welfare Trust. I read nearly every page on their website and was astonished at the price some chickens have to pay to give us our eggs. ‘Thank Goodness, for this charity’ I thought. I was a newbie when it came to chicken keeping and after seeing how many varieties of chickens available, I decided that ex – Batts, were the way to go for our family. Our chickens were going to be pets first and foremost, so helping to save the lives of our potential pets left me feeling very satisfied.

After some very helpful advice and a pep talk from a lovely lady at the BHWT, re-homing day arrived. It was an exciting day, and one that I shan’t forget easily. I am quite an emotional person by nature and tend to where my heart on my sleeve. For me, seeing those 150 birds that had been rescued that day brought me to tears. Featherless bodies, some of them with disfigured beaks and the most memorable part of it all; not one single sound came from any of them!

We handed over our donation and watched as four, scared little figures were placed gently into the cardboard box we had taken along for transportation. The fifth one, whom we named Merry-legs, decided she would play catch the chicken, and like a scene from the film Chicken Run, she hot footed it out of the box and led us a ‘merry’ dance around the barn before we could catch her. I must admit I let out a little chuckle during this scenario, and knew she would be the pluckiest little character of them all. Lucy was the quietest, but is now the most loving. They all hold a very special place in our hearts. They lay, every day, and are an endless joy to watch. Merry-legs, Lucy, Tricksy, Libby and Ginger are our girls, and we couldn’t be happier to share our garden, and our hearts with them. They take up only twenty minutes of my day to care for, but I could watch them for hours. I am totally in awe of them and cannot thank the BHWT enough for saving my girls. If you are looking to keep chickens for the first time, or adding to your flock, please consider an ex-batt. They might just surprise you!

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