Our front garden has now been home to four ex-batt hens for nearly two months. They settled in remarkably quickly, going from scared-of-their-own-shadow to we’ve-always-been-here in just a few weeks, and taking bully-chicken Willow and chicken-herder Holly in their stride.
Having previously kept chickens raised in a non-intensive environment, there are some obvious differences with my new flock. They are still quite jumpy, for instance if Holly charges through the garden or I throw food on the floor, but are otherwise fearless. They refuse to obey Willow’s pecking order, much to her frustration. She is top hen, but the others show her no deference whatever. And they eat absolutely anything, including shredded paper and aromatic plants. I dare not introduce foxglove to the garden, as I’m certain they will eat it. They also love layers pellets, while my previous birds would avoid their ‘proper food’ if there was even a whiff of something tastier.
The strangest reaction has been from Willow. She was so outraged that the new birds had invaded her territory that I was worried at first if I’d done the right thing. But now Willow fights to get her share of layers pellets. Willow eats plants she never before touched. And Willow eats the paper bedding. Anything they have, she is going to bloody well have, and before they get at it.
My ex-batts are also far more adventurous than I expected. One of them has been spotted on top of the garden hedge, which at six feet is an impressive height. Then this morning I found two of them – wait for it – in my office. The furthest room in the house: up a flight of stairs, along a corridor and then down a few more stairs. And yes, there was poo on the carpet. Holly was there too. I really wish she would learn to herd the chickens out of the house.