Poorly Hen Carer
We are the British Hen Welfare Trust and since 2005 we have been saving and rehoming ex-caged laying hens throughout the United Kingdom. Working closely with leaders in the egg industry, we designed and developed the original rehoming model for ex-caged hens, and so far have found homes for over 800,000 hens to date.
We’re looking for volunteer drivers to load and transport hens from commercial farms (assisted by other BHWT volunteers), and deliver them to our rehoming sites throughout England, Wales and Scotland.
Each rehoming site conducts approximately 10 events a year which are generally held on weekends.
As a volunteer driver you will travel to commercial farms and rehoming points within your designated area. Ideally you will be used to driving some distances towing a trailer or driving a van. We will provide training and support, both remotely from Hen Central, and face to face with our local volunteer team coordinator leads.
A day in the life of Kim, one of our Volunteer Poorly Hen Carers
Every BHWT volunteer team has one or more poorly hen carers. In many of our farm collections there will be one or two hens that need an extra bit of TLC and some that need nursing or palliative care. The team collecting the hens from the commercial farm transport these “poorlies” in separate crates to ensure they don’t get injured on the journey back to the rehoming site, nor overlooked in the unloading process.
Some poorly carers prefer to take hens with minimal problems; they may be a little bruised or limping and just need time. I prefer to take the more seriously challenged ones that need more help. Poorlies cannot be put in with other hens and need a dedicated coop or utility room where they can recover in peace.
Those that cannot stand I take into my house so I can keep a better eye on them, but they can be kept in a separate coop if you don’t want them in your home. Some will need help eating but I always give them a chance to do this themselves before intervening. I soak pellets in critical care mix to see if they can eat and if they don’t then I’ll syringe feed critical care formula every two hours until they start to perk up. A lot of poorlies are dehydrated so after a few critical care feeds they start to feel better and will eat the soaked pellets.
Occasionally a hen will need a warm bath if she is very soiled. Most hens relax and quite enjoy the process, but some hate it and flap, so everyone gets wet.
Each hen is different and some just want to be cuddled. Those with Peritonitis need a soft bed so they can nestle down in comfort. I have a large plastic laundry basket for this that I put plenty of layers in and make a hole for their tummy. The basket is also useful for very poorly hens as it gives them support and they can see out. I then carry it everywhere with me and so if I go outside they can see the sun.
I will give arnica baths to help relaxation and some need a bath at the beginning as they may well have been on the cage floor and are covered in muck. For sore skin I use organic antiseptic tea tree cream which I rub in twice a day. I also use this for cuts and bruises. It doesn’t taste very nice so the hen won’t eat it and neither will the others.
If a hen has a prolapse I bathe it in tea tree oil as it is a natural antiseptic. I normally keep hens inside to keep them clean but if they’re eating for themselves they can go outside in a separate coop. It’s important to keep prolapses clean, so twice a day I bathe or clean the prolapse with a damp tissue soaked in tea tree oil, until everything goes back in on its own, which can be a few days to a couple of weeks.
My poorlie hens always sleep in the house for the first night and some stay for longer until they are strong enough to go into a separate hen house and run, however, they can be kept outside as long as they are warm enough and are checked often. For comfort my poolies sleep in a carry box that I line with numerous vet fleeces and tea towels.
Once they’re on the mend I will put them out during the day and then bring them in at night. My separate hen house is next to the healthy hens one so they can get used to seeing one another. I don’t usually allow them to mingle for the first two weeks, and even then I stand over them keeping watch. I do short intro sessions, sometimes holding them in while showing them to the other hens so they can used to each other.
I have ramps on the small low separate house so that those with bad legs and peritonitis can get in and out.
Poorly carers need to be patient and flexible as each hen likes things done a different way. Ideally you need a few separate hen houses or an outbuilding where you can set up individual pens.
Hens that have fully recovered can be rehomed in small groups; it is so rewarding seeing them go off to their new homes knowing that I’ve made a difference in a poorlie hen’s life.
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