Free to live
In many ways, hens haven’t changed much over the past 5000 years, retaining that amusing curiosity, and zest for life – just part of their special attraction. The first priority is freedom, keeping an active body, engaging the mind, encouraging and not crushing, the normal behaviour. Even in the smallest garden, a hen’s life can be interesting and varied, with dust baths, perches, places to hide or forage – lots to do.
Some hens have to be kept in a run for practical or safety reasons, but the ideal size is 10m sq per hen, which is the normal range requirement for commercial ‘Organic’ laying hens. If the run has to be smaller than this, the birds should be allowed out to range-free for a few hours each day to keep them active and interested in life. If space is in short supply – why not limit the number of hens & go for quality rather than quantity – turn the run into a brain-engaging area, with perches, covered sand baths, hanging greens, and places to forage.
Eggs to die for
The superb quality and flavour of a real free-range egg depends on the health and happiness, of hens, living a stress free life. They should be kept like athletes – fit, strong and vigorous, with plenty of space, fresh air, exercise, and interesting things to occupy the brain. There are few greater pleasures, than collecting your own free range eggs from well kept hens – you’ll never want shop eggs again.
Encourage not crush
In the wild, a hen would walk or run several miles a day, often in deep undergrowth, occasionally in open spaces. A free–range hen will always be busy – roaming, foraging, dust bathing, preening. The most successful keepers encourage this natural behaviour.
A taste for grass
Hens are prolific grazers and spend much of the day eating fresh grass, which plays an important part in the production of good eggs. Where ever possible, they should have access to grass, but if not, a fresh cabbage, or kale (hanging just above head height) , makes a perfect treat. A chore, but worth it.- Never feed cut-grass, stringy greens, or rhubarb leaves.
If you have an abhorrence for caged poultry farming listen to our song