My life was lived in floodlights
Obscuring night and day.
It’s done because it prompts me,
To maximise my lay.
That food that you gave me,
Is quite odd, I found,
The food that I’m used to,
Is powdery ground.
I’m slightly more combative,
But what would you expect,
If I don’t show some aggression,
I’ll simply be henpecked,
I’d like to forage insects,
I’d like a bath of dust,
I’d like to stretch my wings a bit,
And not feel quite so trussed.
Before my stroke, Mrs Bump and I used to keep chickens. The first generation were pure-breed, because keeping them from a young age was easier, until we got the hang of them. But it felt the same as buying pedigree dogs or cats – that there are plenty of non-pedigree animals needing a home, so why sustain an industry which is fundamentally about slavery? Selling living creatures for a profit?
From that experience, we learned the joy of keeping chickens. For something the size of a bird, they really have their characters. And, we learned the deliciousness of fresh eggs. As in, fresh! A few hours old. Typically, the eggs you’ll pick up in a supermarket can be anything up to a month old.
After the first time, we felt we knew chickens well enough, so the next generation were retired commercial hens. These are the type of hens who would be responsible for those supermarket eggs.
They are “retired” when their yield drops below a certain level. In practical terms, “retired” means killed. However, in the UK there is a growing “market”, if you like, of people who will adopt these birds instead, to let them see out their days in a natural environment, to live the last part of their lives actually as chickens. Although their egg yield has dropped, it’s not noticeable in a domestic setting.
The “adoption” is, I guess, win-win-win. For one, it saves farmers the cost of slaughtering the birds, and for another, people who take on rescue hens will also be prepared to offer a donation, to keep the charity going. Lastly, those people experience the joy of keeping chickens – it’s the same as having any household pet (except if you let them in the house they’ll poo on the carpet 🤣)
So yesterday, Mrs Bump and I adopted our second generation of rescue birds. The birds came to us for free, although there was a donation to the charity. These birds look pretty well (the first generation looked like they were at death’s door. Can you imagine a bird running around with hardly any feathers?) and indeed, we had our first egg just this morning. Far sooner than we expected. Mrs Bump will enjoy that for her breakfast.
It goes without saying that they are entirely free-range here. We took just three birds, they live in a 10-bird coop which is opened in the morning, the chickens roam the garden all day, then we lock them in at night, for their protection – we have foxes and badgers around here. It’s about as natural as they can get.
If anybody is interested in finding out more, in the UK the charity is the British Hen Welfare Trust.