eklectikfish by kateepie

Saturday, 6 March 2010

how to prepare your raised beds... with a little help from the chickens!

With spring coming on stream I thought that the preparation of the raised beds was an ideal job to tackle today.  One of the beds already has some garlic and a few onions in, but the other has been empty over the winter and needed to have last year's leafmould digging in and a bit of weeding.  As the beds tend to be havens for millions of slugs (who happily munch through anything that isn't a weed, grrr) I gave the job to our three rescue hens who had a fabulous time scratching around and looking for tasty grubs.

Don't they look like they are having fun?


To introduce the hens, affectionally known as 'The 3 Js', they are Jinny, Jalfrezi and Jemima, three ex battery hens we got from the Battery Hen Welfare Trust in September 2008 - and they couldn't have looked much different!  

1. Jinny and Jalfrezi, day 1, 2. Jemima, day 1, 3. Jinny, day 1, 4. Jalfrezi, day 1, 5. Jalfrezi, day 1: with overgrown beak

I think we are probably more shocked at how awful their condition was now than we were at the time, perhaps because we were plunged headlong into chicken-keeping!  Jemima, though having the most feathers, was actually very ill when we got her.  She weighed virtually nothing and wouldn't eat anything for days so she had to be taken to the vet - and had a week convalescing in our front room!

The amazing thing about them is their instinct - they were 24 hours out of a life in a battery farm (should be enough to convert anyone to free range...), had never seen the sky, or grass, or tasted a worm, and within seconds of coming out of the basket they were scratching about as if they had been doing it all their lives.  Jalfrezi and Jinny both had problems with overgrown beaks caused by not having anything to wear them down on.  Fortunately they wore down naturally after a couple of weeks and soon looked pretty normal.

Some before and after pics to show their transformations:

Jemima (a.k.a Jimjams)

 Jinny (a.k.a. Jinny Hen)


Jalfrezi (a.k.a Jaffles)

Though it might seem daunting, the rewards for seeing our little scrawny, scraggy hens blossom into the beauties they are today make it well worth it - and I would heartily recommend that if anyone is thinking about keeping hens that they consider going for ex-batts.  They are so quirky and funny and very entertaining and we feel very privileged to have them :o)

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