We lost Maggie in May. She was the oldest of the brood. Her departure to the great paddock in the sky affected the rest of the hens significantly. They almost stopped laying. We hardly had eggs for the whole month of May.
Maggie loved the backyard and so it was becoming to have her buried in the potato patch where she will continue to nourish us, even in death. Three is an odd number for a brood of hens so we decided to get three more.
And we got them from the Edgar’s Mission Farm Santuary, an animal rescue/sanctuary just an hour north of Melbourne in Killmore. The new girls are about 18 months old and they are ex battery/caged chickens. They were rescued from the slaughter house by the good people at Edgar’s who then mounted a Herculean effort to rehouse between 700 to 800 (sometime as many as 1,500) of these chickens. And they all get rehoused to good homes each time.
We would have liked to take in more but we are limited to six by our local council.
Chickens are like mini divas. They sing when they are happy. They sing to get your attention and they will sing you their discontentment. So the latest addition to the brood are appropriately named after the legendary divas of jazz: Ella, Billie and Nina. The older girls were named after the ABC Classic radio presenters and I wrote in to let them know that I have named my chicken after their presenters. I am still waiting to hear back from the ABC. That was two years ago. Perhaps they didn’t find it very flattering to have chickens named after them.
When Ella, Billie and Nina first arrived they didn’t know how to be a chicken having spent all their lives in a cage. They walked with a funny Egyptian style gait. They would gingerly place one foot on the solid ground and raised the other foot all the way up before placing it cautiously forward as if fearing it might go through the wire opening of a cage floor. It took them a good week to figure out that they are walking on solid ground and there is no likely hood of falling in between any wire opening.
Physically, they all looked a bit rough with big patches of missing feathers especially around the neck and chest from over crowding and constant pecking. It has been almost three weeks now and the feathers are slowing growing back and all three are looking a lot heavier and healthier.
The also had to learn how to drink from a bucket (instead of a drip system) and eat from a big open stationary container. They quickly discover the art of scratching and pecking for worms and other bugs in the ground. For the first time they are able to fully stretch their wings and they can propel themselves faster by flapping them. They learned how to go up and down a ramp, hop down from a height, sit in the sun and enjoy the rain.
On the first day we let them out in the backyard, they had to peck every flower, leaf and blade of grass, just to taste. They are more discerning now with petals and greens. But they instinctively know what strawberries are from day one.
They are a great addition to the backyard and are slowly integrating with the old brood. There was a bit of rivalry initially while the pecking order was being reestablished but they all seem to be getting along just fine.
And we are getting eggs once again, and plenty too.