Food insecurity, a shortage of eggs, hens being also in short supply and, the ones that you manage to get are only available at massive inflated prices. These are thing that have all happened since lockdown from Covid-19 in the UK and I admit, I am worried for the welfare of some hens.
The amount of people who have messaged me asking if I know of any hens available has been massive. Never before have my feathered friends been so popular. Hens are a long term commitment and I wonder if people will turn their backs on the creatures should normal life ever return.
Chickens are amazing animals and reward owners with fresh eggs most days. Back garden hen keeping is possible but, to have a good life, hens should really have an area to free range. This means they will no doubt dig up your garden, ruin any lawn and peck at plants like there is no tomorrow.
The chances are, if you keep chickens, your garden will be ruined but, for hen lovers, it is worth it. The other factor in hundreds of novices keeping hens is biosecurity. Did you know that it is illegal to feed your hens kitchen scraps and, indeed any food that has been in your kitchen? Scraps from the vegetable patch are ok but not if they have been inside first. A few years ago, the poultry industry (back yard keepers included) were hit by an outbreak of Avian flu which was carried by wild birds who stopped to eat chicken food or drink from their drinkers and this could happen again if people do not adhere to strict cleansing and feeding routines.
I am not sure my hens would quite relish the thought of being kept in a stable for months again.
In this period of unrest, I feel the people panic buying chickens are the same people who panic bought toilet rolls and it just makes me so sad.
I’d say five hens, in our area would usually cost £100. Yesterday, when I went to buy five more to bring numbers up, they cost me £145. The farmer went mad.
The thing is though, my hens will be here for life. Can the same be said for all of the new chickens in ordinary gardens? I am not so sure.
As well as the price of hens going up, egg boxes are in short supply. My usual supplier charged around £7.99 for 100 with free delivery. After lockdown, this went up to £9.95 per 100 and £10 delivery.
There are always some people in times of crisis who use situations for their own mean gains. As regular readers know, I am a great believer in chicken maths but I estimate that before lockdown, I had 28 hens. Now? Only 16. Now I have found the dead bodies of two which I put down to the fox (one was headless) but where are the other ten? You’ve seen photos on my social media of the children petting the hens. They adore them and, in return, our hens are very tame. So tame in fact that I totally think if anyone pulled up at the bottom of our drive that the hens would go for a nosey. Could it be that some of my hens have been stolen from the end of the drive? I have no proof. The coop is totally secure and closed every night but the hens do have free range in our large front field in the day so it is anyone’s guess.
Added to this, I have had people contact me-some of them through social media who I have never met, asking me “have you got any eggs hun”. When I have replied that yes I do but they are £1 for half a dozen, they haven’t even bothered to reply. If you add up all the cost of the above, would you give eggs away for free? If people were starving or friends and family want eggs, I am happy to give them but if others are just chancing it because I have hens then jog on. If you knew people who sold other items, I am sure you wouldn’t expect to receive them for free so why me?
As for the poor hens languishing in rabbit hutches, when lockdown is over and chickens have dug up everyone’s gardens, eaten their plants and pooped in the paddling pools I think there will be a lot of hens up for rehoming. You know where to come.
For more information of hen keeping, take a look at these posts:
Part 1-Plans and Housing
Part 2-What You Will Need
Part 3-Choosing Your hens
Part 4 Cockerels
Part 5-The Bad Bits
Part 6-Hatching Eggs