From hedgehogs to horses, squirrels to slugs, wildlife issues go here. To start with though we want to chat about Chooks!

It's a Chicken thing  by Sarah Crane.

Keeping ex battery hens and nurturing them back to health is a dream of mine, Sarah Crane did just this and talks us through her experience of keeping chickens or chooks as we like to call them.

Sarah adopted three battery hens and explains that it is quite hard to introduce new hens to an established brood but it is better to have several hens for if one dies, so that the other hens don't get lonely.

Re-homing battery hens:

If you get ex-battery hens that have just been released then it comes as a bit of a shock when they don't move! It took a good couple of days for my hens to adapt to their new surroundings and for the first day they didn't even move their heads which was really strange. They will also have a lot of feathers missing and be generally quite scrawny. They will quickly put on weight but it may take a few months for them to grow back all their feathers. Lovely feeling though when they start to wander around your garden which brings me to the next point:

Hens and nice gardens don't mix - at all - never - repeat NEVER!

Fact one - hens like to scratch about in whatever they can find to scratch about in with no regards to anything.

Fact two - hens poo a lot.

Fact three - plants don't like to be dug up by obsessed bug finding hens.

Fact four - your family will get fed up of stepping in chicken poo.

Therefore you have three choices

1) Put the hens in a run although if you have a guilt complex, like me you will feel bad about cooping hens up that have spent their entire lives in horrendous conditions. Be prepared for the lawn in the run to just become a mud bath.

2) Put chicken wire around your prized plants - garden then looks like a war zone

3) Say sod it and let the hens wander around everywhere and admit defeat to your once beloved plants and lawn and be prepared for squashed pats of poo all over everywhere.

I have tried all three of the above!

Eggs:

One of the best bonus but I didn't realise but most hens will stop laying in the winter but they will start up again once the days start getting longer. If your hens lay any eggs with no shell then you need to put a bit of grit in their food. Although if you give them layers mash (a necessity for new ex-battery hens) or layers pellets this has grit in it and it probably means your hens have been foraging in the garden a bit too much. You can give your hens most food scraps - I think the basic rule of thumb is if you can eat it then the hens can eat (but don't give them meat).

Illnesses:

Unfortunately hens do get ill and eventually die. Do not have rose-tinted glasses like I did and expect to open the hen house one morning to find one has peacefully passed away in the night. If you think something is wrong with your hen then the forums on www.thepoultrysite.com are brilliant. One of my hens had a prolapse over the New Year and they were brilliant for helping and supporting me. If your hen has a prolapse (sort of a red blob hanging out of its bum / vent) then you MUST separate it from the other hens. For some reason hens will peck at a prolapse until the affected hen dies of shock or haemorrhage. The vet will be able to put a little purse string suture in but still be prepared for your hen to die. Very sad when it happens but remember that you have given them a great end to their life.