Ex-Battery Hens - What To Expect in the First Few Weeks

Photo of Kassandra Smith

Kassandra Smith

Senior Editor • Backyard Chicken Coops

Last Updated: 08 January 2019

Adopting an ex-battery hen is a really rewarding experience - you’re giving a home and good life to a bird that truly deserves it, after all the trauma it’s been through.

But when adopting an ex-battery hen, keep in mind that its behaviour (initially) will not be like a normal, free-range chicken you may purchase from a farm, or see running around in your neighbours coops.  Because of the poor experience’s it has had and the life of confinement it’s lived up until this point, they may have some personality and behavioural traits perplex or frustrate you.  But if you keep nurturing them, limit your handling and be patient, eventually they’ll be clucking around like normal chickens in no time!

Battery chickens in cage

If you've never had them before (or known anyone who has), here are some behavioural traits to expect from new ex-battery hens (as we’ve heard from our customers)

  • They will be afraid of you - the chickens will probably seem quite scared of you in the first couple of weeks they are in your care.  This is not your fault, it’s because the only contact they've had with humans so far has been the mistreatment of the farm workers.

  • They won’t sleep on their perches - until now, the only bed (or environment) the ex-battery hens had was a cage they shared with numerous other birds.  Many owners have reported their flock huddled on top of one another to sleep, rather than using their perches.  This may be the case in the initial stages, and don’t try to force them to sleep onto the perch.  They will move to them in their own time - often one brave bird will lead the way, and the rest will follow.

  • It may be a while before they dust bathe, graze or venture around very far - remember that they’ve been caged up all their life, so their new free ranging environment is daunting for them!

  • They may not lay eggs straight away - a killer for egg production is stress - so when the chickens are removed from their cages, away from the artificial light and thrust into a new environment (no matter how safe) then they may be too strung out to produce.  Some people say it can take up to three months, other ex-battery hen adoptees say they had eggs instantly.  It varies from chicken to chicken.  After 4-6 weeks you can introduce yourself more often.  If they aren't showing  any signs of adopting normal chicken behaviours, you can encourage them to perch - but give them time initially.

ISA brown chicken free ranging in backyard

Again, ex-battery hens will start behaving like normal chickens in a relatively short space of time.  It’s best to limit your handling of them because they will still be afraid of humans.  Also don’t interfere with the way they behave - it may be frustrating to watch the ex-battery hens sleep on the floor rather than using the perch, but this is all they know!  And eventually they will adopt normal chicken behaviour.

With a loving, natural environment, ex-battery hens will grow and become more confident in no time.

One great way to give your chickens a head start into a great life is to ensure they have a spacious coop to get used to and eventually be comfortable within.

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