Adopting only two hens from the BHWT
What do you do when you have one hen on her own? In an ideal world, hens live in flocks; they are very sociable creatures and like to interact with each other. Introducing one or more new hens to an existing hen is not usually a problem as the hens that are being introduced haven’t yet formed a bond with each other and are essentially individuals.
It has always been BHWT policy to rehome a minimum of three hens and this is still our preferred option but recently we have noticed that more people are purchasing housing that is designed for a maximum of two hens and are then being disappointed that they are not able to adopt. We always ask to see pictures and unfortunately are finding that some housing has almost no run space once ramps, feeders and drinkers are placed inside, often only a tiny low area under the house itself. We always recommend that hens are given as much outside space as possible and suggest that fixed runs are extended, but it is not always possible to increase the roosting space.
Part of the reason for our original three-hen policy was to cover the possibility that a caged hen may not cope with the rehoming process and could die leaving one hen on her own. However, increasingly we are seeing more free-range hens rehomed and these tend to arrive with better feather cover and general body condition meaning it is less likely that rehomers will experience an early death. For this reason, we are now allowing two hen adoptions.
We also want to point out that in the event of you losing a large majority of your hens, you may be left with a lonely hen. As mentioned previously, hens are very sociable creatures and although we can give them love and affection, giving them cuddles and allowing them into our homes, hens still need to be in a flock. Therefore, it’s important to note that if you have a lonely hen and need to adopt two rather than three, it is possible to speak with our hen helpline to arrange a smaller adoption.
So, in an eggshell, if a rehomer only has room for two hens, we no longer insist on three being adopted but we are keen to ensure that hens have space to lead a happy life. See below for absolute minimum requirements.
Minimum internal house space – one square foot per hen for house space.
Minimum external run space – one square metre each for caged hens and two square metres each for barn and free-range hens. NB this should be “free space” (so not under the house etc)
It is also worth remembering that should we have another Avian Influenza lockdown, your hens will need to spend all their time in the enclosed hen run with no option for additional free-ranging, so it is always best to go bigger if you have the space.