I received an email from Wendy at the BHWT to let me know what time to collect them and giving me directions to the farm at Sand Hutton, near York. She also included instructions about the container I need to take with me to transport my hens home; this photo is an example of the box I will need, with the appropriate ventilation holes.
She also included details of the food that these hens will need. Because they have been fed a certain texture of food and have been subject to battery farm conditions they need to be fed ex-battery crumb, rather than normal pellets as this is what they are used to. It also provides the extra nutrients they need to recover and start looking like healthy hens! Pellets can be introduced later on; they should be offered alongside the crumb until the hens get used to the change.
I'm going to pay a visit to my local pet provisions wholesaler this week to look at what feeds and bedding they have available. The chickens will be happy with wood shavings, shredded paper, straw or hay; I will have a look at what's available before deciding.
I have a little problem too... I have no idea of how to handle a chicken! I have done a bit of research on the Internet and in my book (a birthday present from my 5 month old baby girl - thanks Daddy for organising that!) "Raising Chickens for Dummies". The best way of handling chickens is not by holding them upside down by their feet! The best way is to grasp them firmly around their body, holding them under your arm. I hope I'll feel happy handling them, I've never had anything to do with birds of any kind!
The book is a little advanced for me at the moment too as a very novice chicken keeper. It goes into a lot of detail about rearing chickens from eggs, right through to the slaughter and butchery process if you wish to raise chickens for meat. It provides lots of tips though, that I hope will prove useful as I become more experienced, or maybe keep more chickens. My Other Half has been trying to find an allotment, and if he does, I am sure it will have chickens, possibly a duck or two and at least one bee hive on it! Read about his bid to find an allotment on his blog by following this link to Beekeeping & Home-brewing.
The British Hen Welfare trust is a registered charity and asks for a donation for each hen (the average is about £4 each). This donation can be gift-aided (if you are a UK taxpayer) so the charity will benefit from an extra 25p for each £1 donated from the government.
It does make me feel quite excited knowing that somewhere there are 3 hens that are in awful conditions that only have 4 days left before they get to retire, to have grass, space, daylight, care and attention as individuals.
And hopefully we'll have so many eggs I will have to learn to make mayonnaise, meringue and custard :-)