Page 23 - British Hen Welfare Trust - Chicken & Egg Issue 3

Autumn Hens
By Jean Gill, BHWT Co-ordinator
As we ease into autumn,
life's pace starts to
slacken. Theres a bit of 'time
out' for the hens while they
go off lay, shed their summer
wear and feather up,
enabling them to face the
challenge of another winter
with the disappointments of
the summer already long
forgotten and after a few
dark months the whole
glorious cycle will start
Chicken heaven.
In common with most privately kept hens, my girls have come to expect a life style that is beyond the
wildest dreams of most of their commercial counterparts.
Having survived the rigours of a freezing winter, the deal was that summer should be long, hot, dry and
especially lazy. Sadly, this particular summer has been anything but. In theory, much time was to be
spent propped up against walls and fences, faces stretching up to the sun, basking in its heat. In
practice, much time was spent peering out from under anything even remotely waterproof, waiting for a
break in the rain. Legs were muddy. Tempers were frayed. Disappointment abounded.
Still, unwilling to dwell, my girls are nothing if not positive: what a lesser being would see as a problem,
a well feathered hen would see as an opportunity. With the summer on the wane and the nights drawing
in there was no time to waste. Free range food may be less readily available but, with a little enterprise,
it can still be found. The festering pile of grass cuttings can be dissembled to expose all sorts of plump
and mercifully slow moving snacks. The new puppy's unedifying table manners leave scraps all over the
laundry room floor. The challenge there is to get the scraps before the puppy gets you. Chase the chicken:
puppy's favourite game. But for ease the preferred method is simply to sit under the bird table and wait
to be showered with seeds and
nuts by creatures whose eating
habits are even less salubrious
than the puppy's. Fast food at
its very best.