Bunty, Blossom, Buttercup and Betty. Sounds very My Little Pony circa 1980’s? These are in fact the adorable rescue hens of our very own Small City columnist Gill Murray. And despite the alphabetical theme, there’s nothing B grade about them….
Gill became interested in keeping hens after hearing of friends’ positive experiences but it was after discovering the hen rehoming charity Wing and a Prayer (see their Facebook Page here) that she decided to give beleaguered rescue hens a new lease of life earlier this year.
“It wasn’t the eggs I was interested in,” says Gill, from Bridge of Earn, “I’m an animal lover and hate the thought of the way these animals have lived their lives, being caged in. I wanted to give these hens the lives they deserved. Now that they’ve settled in, they’re actually laying eggs but that’s just been a bonus. They’re just really lovely creatures to keep!”
They said they had more hens then they’d anticipated so I decided to take more than I’d planned forWhether they’ve come from a caged, barn or free-range environment, most of the hens rehomed by Wing and a Prayer have reached their commercial egg producing limit and are destined for slaughter. Some have lived in cramped conditions with such a tight space to move around for so much of their lives, their limbs are actually bruised.
Entirely run by volunteers, the charity works to find new, free-range homes for these hens, providing lots of help to prospective owners on what to expect when keeping feathered friends alongside practical advice on what kind of equipment, space and feed is needed.
On ‘Rescue Day’ these same volunteers provide vehicles, collect hens or help at assigned collection points across Scotland to check and send hens off to their new homes.
For Gill, Rescue Day at a farm in Coupar Angus didn’t go quite as planned. She came home with more than she bargained for!
“I took my mum and youngest son up with me. We’d been assigned a pre-arranged time slot and it was great seeing so many other cars there – obviously there were a lot of people wanting to rehome hens.
“The hens were in a barn and the majority of them looked ok although there were a few which looked scrawny and lacking in feathers. I had a box and asked if I could just have a selection. They said they had more hens then they’d anticipated so I decided to take more than I’d planned for.”
Although the charity can’t give elaborate individual histories on the hens being rehomed, it quickly became clear to Gill that the hen they took home and named ‘Blossom’ was the odd one out of the group.
“She wouldn’t come out of the coop for the first five or six days. I don’t think she knew what to do as she maybe hadn’t ever been outside before. When she did venture out, she was getting bullied a bit as there was a pecking order to establish. Now she’s settled in and it’s lovely seeing her more relaxed – she loves being outside though she does still prefer her own company.”
Oooh! Sounds like this might be a favourite hen? Gill couldn’t possibly say of course. Blossom did become the recipient of an array of ‘hen jumpers’ (an actual thing…) from fans as her feathers were growing in.
One thing’s for sure, the satisfaction of giving these hens a new lease of life is something Gill's whole family are on board with.
“Hens are very loving animals and we all enjoy them. As soon as they see me, they run towards me. It’s like a race – a Chicken Race! They let you pick them up and they communicate in their own way. They’re very engaging to have,” she says.
But don’t you need to live on a farm or have a giant garden to keep rescue hens?
“I did a lot of research before getting these hens. There’s a lot of great advice on the Wing and a Prayer Facebook page and there’s also a Members page where owners can share stories and tips,” says Gill.
“McCash’s Country Store in Perth were also really helpful with advice on feed and bedding. If you’re interested in keeping hens, you just need a garden with enough space for a safe coop and a run.”
Gill’s feathered friends certainly look like they’re enjoying the good life – straight A’s all round for healthy, happy hens!
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You can follow Gill and get a peek of her hens on Instagram: @gmmphotography
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