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advice needed: will this adoption work? 4 ex-bats and 2 pet layers

post #1 of 9
Thread Starter 

Im down to adopt my first hens, 5 ex-bats in mid March.

On another forum, there's a request for someone in my area of UK to resue 2 hens, laying, sadly needing a new home. They are 3 yrs old, a bluebell and a black Sussex. Like the ex-bats they are vaccinated.

I've offered to help if nobody else can. My coop will ideally take 6 (could cram 9, would rather not) and my run 8-9. So I could ask to only take 4 ex-bats and take these 2 as well, total of six.

Concerns of mine - if I was watching someone else make this suggestion and wanted to advice them - are: I'm not that experienced (haven't cared for hens in 20 years) tho I've read extensively and handled hens at the city farm recently. No quarantine area, so they'd ideally come to mine at the same time, after all the ex-bats don't know each other either? Although the owner of the two needs to rehome a fortnight earlier than I''ll get get my ex-bats, ideally. And finally, I've heard Ex-bats are feisty and kind of the "hoodies" of hens, so how would the other two fit in? Might the ex-bats bully them? Or would it be likely to all work out in the end just the same, once the pecking order is sorted?

As far as I'm aware, black Sussex and bluebell are largish hybrids, as would be the ex-bats. I have plenty of distractions etc going into the run and they can free range a bit too when I'm able to supervise. So I'm hoping they'd be fairly equal and not bored enough to squabble.

Then again after all my queries and concerns, being selfish, I would love some different breed hens but I believe in rescuing animals not creating new ones. This could be a way to get variety. Heart over head, I'd like to do it.

Please would you let me know any thoughts, good or bad, on this scenario. I'm happy to answer all questions and defer to the huge wealth of knowledge here.

Edited by techiebabe - 2/4/16 at 8:52pm
post #2 of 9



If its possible, it may be an idea to cordon off a bit of your run and keep your first two birds there whilst your other 4 arrive - that way there's no territory issues, since they would all be new to the coop. I'd imagine either way that aggression would not be too horrific since the ones that had been there longer are only 2 in number, and the newcomers 4. Having said that, I've read that ex-bats can be shockingly timid and nervous being outside their cages, so it may be a bit of a  strain on them for sure. 



In fact, the more i think about it, the better it would be to let someone with experience of ex-bats advise you 'cos I'm making assumptions without a solid basis and i know that its "real" and not "hypothetical" advice that you need!


All the best


Nairobi, Kenya
Nairobi, Kenya
post #3 of 9
Thread Starter 
Thanks, yep I've read that ex-bats can find it stressful for a few days learning to adjust - but that conversely they aren't scared of anything as they never learnt to be, and they already were tough to survive so they aren't afraid when it comes to the pecking order. I've read that ex-bats should be in the majority if introduced to other hens, and they would be.

I could cordon off part of the run but I only have one coop; I was planning to put a small disused kennel at the far end under various bits of wood to climb on, so could confine them to an area with that in, or a large cat box, temporarily when the ex-bats arrive. So theres that as an option, it's not ideal tho, but it is a possibility. I was already planning to put the kennel there for hens to play in / on as part of their environment.

Thanks so much for replying. I think advice from someone with ex-bats would be really helpful too!

Its great to get advice on how to make the proposal work; while I really would like to make it work, I'm also open to being told it won't work, IF it would be bad for the hens (or a lot of hard work for me). If I'm going to reduce my ex-bat adoption from 5 to 4, it would be courteous for me to let them know soon - as they only rescue the number of hens promised homes.

More opinions welcome, please folks!
post #4 of 9

I have no experience with ex-bats either, but I do have experience with integrating small groups of chickens. I second the idea of sectioning off a separate area for the Sussex and Bluebell. You want to have different groups able to see but not attack each other, for at least a week. After that, I would recommend trying to free range them together briefly, while you are there to supervise. This gives them plenty of things to do other than peck at each other. After that, take down the partition in your coop and run... There will be squabbling and it will be stressful for everyone involved including you, but after a few weeks you should have a fairly peaceful coop.

post #5 of 9
Thread Starter 
Thanks for replying smile.png

Were you integrating groups that were already formed? The ex-bats won't know each other - they'll be from different cages etc - so they will have to work out their own pecking order. So I was wondering about taking them all home at the same time, so the bluebell and sussex don't already have a territory. Might that make a difference to how they are introduced?
post #6 of 9

There have been several times now that I have added chickens to my flock. Sometimes it was only one chicken (I don't recommend that - it's ugly) and sometimes it was 2-5 that grew up together.


If you can put all the chickens out there at the same time, it will help a lot! That way nobody considers the coop their home turf just yet.


It's also a good idea if you have an extra-large dog crate in your garage or something along those lines. If one chicken ends up being a bully, it will help greatly if you can separate her from the flock for about a week, and then put her back out with them. If you do that, usually when you put her back in with the flock, she will be more concerned with her own place in the pecking order, and less concerned with making lower-ranking hens' lives miserable.


If you do decide to buy a dog crate or other temporary pen, it is likely to come in handy more than once during your chicken keeping adventure. If a hen ever is injured or sick, for example, you'll need a place to keep her away from the flock.


Personally, I have used this:


What I like about it is, it's not very expensive and you can set it up into any shape you like. If it's not enough space, you can get a second one and easily attach it to make a bigger enclosure. I just put a tarp underneath for easy clean-up, and put some mesh on top so nobody can jump out. Once chicks get big enough to not slip through the bars, I brood chicks in these. When I want to integrate them with the flock, I can set it up out in the main chicken run. The adults and babies get to know each other for about a week, and then integration goes much more smoothly. I can also use it when a hen gets injured. Right now I have one hen that I'm treating for a stubborn case of bumblefoot. I gave her an antibiotic injection for it the other day, so I can't eat her eggs for a while. Having a separate pen means that I just have to throw out her eggs, not everybody's eggs during this time.

post #7 of 9

A couple of points not in favor of this idea.

  • This will be a mixture of birds - each bringing in their own exposure to disease, those diseases can get established in your coop/run set up.
  • Chickens as a rule are not long lived animals, many times they die naturally around 3 years of age. There are posts on here about long lived chickens, but they are the exception, and more than likely not exposed to such a stressful life, I think that these birds may die within months.
  • They are going to need feed, and probably not make much for eggs, which of course, may not bother you.


I love having chickens as a hobby. I enjoy being around them and getting the eggs. It is a hobby I plan to enjoy for many more years to come. I would not recommend starting with battery and worn out chickens. I am thinking your death loss will be high and start relatively quickly, which will often times make one feel very sad, but is just a fact of life. And there is a possibility that you can infect your environment which would effect any other chickens that come into your set up.


If you have not had experience with chickens for years, start with a younger healthy flock. You may feel more noble starting with the battery flock, and maybe it will go well, but I don't think it will.


Mrs K

Western South Dakota Rancher
Western South Dakota Rancher
post #8 of 9
Thread Starter 
Hi there, sorry it's taken me a few days to reply but I do very much appreciate your insights.

Amina, I know where you're coming from with the dog crate idea. But I must admit I laughed when you suggested putting it in the garage. Um. I'm in east London (UK) and live in an end terrace house from 1895. Being London, the back garden is only 50m2 in its entirety (yes, the hens are getting a good chunk of that!) I wish I had a garage but no - my car is on the street outside. I guess most BYC people have more space? But in my area I do know several people with hens, it's quite common, just that we all have to make do with the limited space we have.

BUT I'm having a ponder. My plan for any isolation when needed is to fence off the far end of my run, which will have a small kennel in there. It's the best I can do, cos the chicken run is bigger than my whole kitchen...! Thank you, I'll ponder future isolation arrangements in more detail.

Mrs K, thanks for the advice. I agree, the idea is making it harder than necessary for a first chicken setup. Re being "noble" with ex bats tho, I've spoken to many others who've had them, it always seems to have turned out well and gone surprisingly easy. So, I was a bit surprised by your comment but I respect your advice.

I was also surprised hens don't last that long - other than acts of Fox etc all the hens I've know have happily exceeded that, provided they didn't die of shock in the change from battery cage to free ranging in the early days. I know they're bred to lay for 2 years or so then they are "spent", but I'm not fussed about that (I love eggs but I won't be able to eat that many! smile.png ) so, I guess I'll just have to wait and see. At least if they have a happy life in retirement, I've done that for them - however long it ends up being.

Thanks again both of you for the time to comment and share your knowledge. However, read on for the next post....
post #9 of 9
Thread Starter 
After reading comments here and especially Mrs K's which made me rather warier than I had been, I rang BHWT -who rescue and supply the ex bats. I had intended to do this anyway but it was the weekend hence asking here in the first instance.

Anyway - their view was yes, it would be fine. They suggested all hens together in the coop at night, but then to separate out the two non bats and put them in a separate part of the run by day, so they could all see and get used to each other etc. But the reason was actually because it will take ex bats a few days to learn what's what ("what's the big glowing thing in the sky? Actually, what is sky?! And what's this under my feet, where's the nasty mesh gone... Am I safe here? ") and so they need a bit of space to acclimatise without the other two bothering them. That said, I was told only to keep up the separation for 1 or max 2 days - just so the ex bats could adjust to their new life, but so they were all introduced asap thereafter and to just get on with it before anyone established territory etc.

So I was encouraged by that and thought "hooray, this is workable after all!" plus BHWT are always happy to take calls and give advice.

But... It becomes a moot point hmm.png

The lass with the two hens is moving house, actually moving country! And she couldn't get the timings to mesh with mine. My builder has been busy so the run won't be built til weekend of 20/21 Feb - and the hens' owner will be moving earlier. So, she has given the hens to an animal rescue centre - and hopefully someone will adopt them and give them a good life.

Meantime, I've gone back to my original plan to adopt 5 ex bats - and I'm still super excited and looking forward to it very much. I'm sure you'll see me posting in mid-march once I bring them home - hopefully happy news and photos, but I won't rule out the odd crisis... Never count your chickens til they are hatched, right? smile.png

Now I just need to work on some names...

Best wishes all!
Edited by techiebabe - 2/10/16 at 10:09pm
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