Category Archives: Layers – Egg Chickens

Baby chicks come into my life, and are an entirely new experience…….

Last week my sister arrived at my home with 2 tiny baby chicks she had rescued that were destined for animal food. They were aprox 3 days old, and were cold, hungry and thirsty. They had had too much exposure to elements and not enough TLC. This is the plight of most baby roosters hatched in a hatchery. They are usually luckier if death is by maceration (a huge grinder) a few days after hatching, rather than being thrown into a box, and transported to their next end.

Both Thomas and Muffin died within 48 hours of me getting them. In retropsect, I stood little chance of pulling them through, but tried anyway. My heart broke last Saturday, as I held baby Thomas and watched the life ebb out of him over a period of 2 hours.  He peeped pitifully talking to me constantly, until the last half hour, when he was too weak to peep anymore.  I was so sad for all the pain and suffering out there in the world, and so angry at an industry that treats animals as products and not as sentient beings.

Baby ThomasDesperately trying to keep baby Tom warm, and connected.
Heart broken, and feeling as though I had had this bundle of joy brought into my life, and as quickly taken away, I decided to look at the options for getting some more chicks. My experinece with chicks is limited, as we mostly rescue mature hens and roosters.  I decided that getting chicks that were destined for battery, was the way to go. I found a company that specifically hatches laying hens for battery houses, and asked them how I go about buying 2. They laughed, and said usually we sell hundreds at a time, but that I could buy 2 if I wanted – R 5.47 each!
Tuesday morning saw our 3 respective staff members, my one daughter and myself prepare a basket with a hot water bottle, and some feathers, and set off to get out new babies.
Basket in hand, our 5 person welcoming commitee set off to fetch our new babies

Security was tight at the facility, and we were not allowed anywhere near the hatchery. We handed over our basket and asked the guy there to choose 2 chicks for us. Our hot water bottled basket caused much hilarity – apparently chicks are usually packed in cardboard boxes or crates.

Arriving at gate with our basketoff they go to choose our chicks with our basket in handwaiting, waiting, waiting......Here they come......
wow, 4 of them, not 2 as expected…..guy told us mortality rate high, so he added 2 more…bonus ….more work, but 2 more hens who don’t get to see the inside of a battery facility
Welcome to Buhle (meaning beautiful), Amy, Thembi (meaning trust) and Karen. Food and water immedietly – not taking any chances here

We are now going into our 4th day with our new girls. I am starting to relax a little – they seem strong, and it seems we are doing all the right things. Keeping them in a consistantly warm environment is key. We are operating an infra red light during the day, plus a space where they can go to be on hot water bottles with feathers on top. During night, we turn off the infra red, as they do not seem to settle with it on, and keep them on hotties. I am feeding them a ground mix of chick food, almonds, sunflower seeds, bird seed, and some grit from the garden to help them digest food. It was suggested we microwave the grit first to eliminate any bacteria from our dogs or other chickens, until they get stronger and older.

Our vet said that with any animal that is young or sick, but obviously refferring to baby chicks, the most important things are
so…….adherring to those principles stringently, and it seems to be working.
I have learned so much this week, just comparing the 2 little men last week to the 4 stronger, healthier girls this week.
Their behavious is so different – the girls are live wires, playing, hopping, jumping, eating, drinking, foraging – one of them even starting an afternoon sandbath on the towel they are on. The boys last week, were so sick and weak, they did very little of that. The boys had very smelly poos, and they were coated in mucus. These girls poo tiny little mousse like knots, that hardly smell at all.
I don’t think I could have done much more for those 2 little boys, but of course with every rescue, I have the opportunity of learning something more that assists in creating the best possible outcome for future rescues.
aaaah, choccie box pic….
cat nap – or chick nap – warm and cosy…..
this is such a grown up hen position – I love it!
the 4 girls contemplate life

What a joy to have them here with us!

G and T go to their new home

G & T temporary set up for Sunday in the garden at their new home
Yesterday Celeste came to fetch G & T, rescued last weekend from Zandspruit. Celeste and I have been chatting for a few weeks prior to rescue and over this last week – so, it was great to meet her in person. Again, I felt so safe handing over these two chickens. Celeste was just warm and gentle with the chicks, and so excited to show them their new life.

I feel so privileged to be able to do this work, and meet these other amazingly compassionate people.

Celeste kept me updated yesterday on their progress throughout the day, and last night I was treated to some fabulous pics on Facebook of their day – I have taken two of the pics off Facebook.

Tonic finds mud - this is pure chicken bliss
I also got this message from Celeste.

“Gin and Tonic are home, happy and eating up a storm, thanks so much Candy. May you be richly blessed ;-)”

Thanks Celeste, and you too. You are a wonderful ‘chicken mum’.

Chick-Chick and Goldie – first photo in new home

Chick - Chick and Goldie in new home


Hi Candy,

 The hens have now discovered the most dismal, concrete part of our garden. The washing line area. Despite various tempting propositions they keep going back to the concrete spot instead of the grass. How strange? The good news is that they are walking right up to us now. I keep expecting a peck on someone’s big toe, but none so far.

 Chat soon,



He he. Guess the poop comes with the territory …. And boy, do they poop A LOT!

I’m working at the office today so I have no major updates. They have made it through the night – with Goldie’s bottom firmly placed in the food bowl instead of the comfy hay. Clearly these girls are the low maintenance, no fuss type J. I’ll let you know how things are going when I’m home in the afternoon.

Candy response:

Bum in the food bowl? Again, I both apologise, and recluse myself from any responsibility for these chickens behaviour. I can offer no guarantee on good manners.

Later in day:

Indeed – I seem to have missed the fine print on the lack of good manners. I’ve suffered my first few pecks from the feisty Goldie…. Have myself convinced that they were just warnings and not intended to draw blood.

Today they have had their first dust bath – and boy did they enjoy it like a spent mother at the Saxon dol. They dug little beds for themselves in the sand and fluffed their feathers up. I’m no chicken guru but I believe they were looking quite pleased with life. Their house arrived today. They did not seem that impressed gunning instead for our back door. But that is where they are sleeping tonight.



Update from Jaqui on Chick chick and Goldie

One of the fabulous rescue chicks

E mail 1

Hi Candy,

Well, Goldie and Chick-Chick (dodgy cone) are doing just fine this morning. They woke up and launched into their mash with great gusto. Goldie seems to have taken the role of head honcho – making Chick-Chick wait for her turn to feed and enforcing her leadership role with the occasional peck. They are quite chatty and respond to our talking with soft clucks.

I let them out into the front garden this morning. They wasted no time in exploring their new surrounds and pecking away at the grass and mud. With Goldie distracted by the garden, Chick-Chick grabbed the opportunity to head for the food and water. Then Goldie suddenly disappeared. At first we thought she’d slipped into the house unnoticed, then we thought she might’ve sneaked into the tall bushes. Eventually, she popped her head around the side of the house and gave us a little cluck. She’d found the route to the back garden. I left her to do her own exploring and later found her at the very bottom of the back garden merrily meandering through the plants and paths. Pretty soon, Chick-Chick found her way around the back too. Looks like they’ve cast their vote on where they’d like to roam.

 I didn’t take note of the state of Goldie’s cone when we brought her home, but it is standing almost bolt upright today …. Well, bar the one little piece at the back that is still drooping. Chick-chick’s cone is still very droopy though. They’re quite approachable – they have even walked curiously closer to me when I am standing close by.

 I’ll get some pictures to you as soon as I have a chance.

 Chat soon,


E mail 2

Hi Candy,

 The hens have now discovered the most dismal, concrete part of our garden. The washing line area. Despite various tempting propositions they keep going back to the concrete spot instead of the grass. How strange? The good news is that they are walking right up to us now. I keep expecting a peck on someone’s big toe, but none so far.

Chat soon,


Chicken rescue 24 April Day 3 and Day 4

Day 3

Went to open the chicken hoek this morning and check the new girls. All made it through the night. This is on my mind each morning for the first few days after a chicken rescue. Each night that they make it through, sees them stand a better chance of survival. They left the safety of their ‘cave’ and entered the outside world with less trepidation this morning than yesterday morning. They are already growing in confidence. I am satisfied that they are all now eating and drinking on their own.

One chicken has what looks remarkably like a burn on her comb. A portion of her comb is black, hard and crusty, almost charred. Despite looking painful, and not what it should be, she seems to be energetic, and it is not infected. Will keep an eye on it. I wonder what happened?

Burnt or damaged comb?

The day is relatively uneventful. 2 eggs from new chicks. Late in the avie, when I go to put them to bed, one of the girls surprises me by running to meet me at the gate, and allows me to stroke her, and pick her up. The other three stay clear of me, but I am really touched by this display of affection and trust, after all she has been through at the hands of humans.

Still cold and wet.

Temporary coup for new hens - cold, misty day in Magaliesburg

Day 4

All 4 chickens rushed out to greet the day with confidence this morning. The weather is not great for chickens. They are all cold and wet and miserable. Today I take them back to Parkhurst to be fetched by their respective new families. I shall miss them. The girls did well today. Jaqui and her gorgeous family fetched two of the chicks late afternoon. Celeste will fetch over the weekend.

4 new girls view the big wide misty, wet world

Chicken Rescue 24 April 2010 Day 1 and Day 2

Day 1

Stopped at Zandspruit. Usual chicken seller was there. Very happy to see that chickens had water this time, and he was proud to show me. We have had numerous arguments about him not supplying water to chicks. It seems  something has changed through our conversations. Got our 4 chickens who were dirty, smelly and very frightened –they reminded me of a phrase coined by Patricia Glyn, ‘diarrhoea smudged bodies’. I stayed in my car at Zandspruit and observed people coming to buy their weekends meat.  I focused on the 4 chickens I did have in my care now, and tried to detach from the 4 I saw bound and carried away, held roughly by their wings, desperately squawking. Their backyard slaughter waiting for them. Capturing these images through the lens of my camera helps me detach.

Binding Chickens legs for ease of carrying away for backyard slaughter. Chickens get carried by their wings.
Chicken bound, and being carried squawking away by wings. After a year of living in squalid conditions in a battery house, giving her eggs for re sale. This is the payment she gets. The whole cycle is so disrespectful. Make a difference and buy free range eggs (if you have to at all). Complain to your local supermarket chain, and tell them to STOP stocking non free range eggs

When I get the girls to Magaliesburg, we release them into our temporary chicken hoek, were they will spend the next few days, getting used to the world around them. De stressing, eating, sleeping, drinking and recovering. On opening the box, we discover one of these terrified hens has managed to lay an egg. I feel as though she has scored one against the world already – what an injustice if she had laid it an hour before, this great gift her body has to offer, and had been slaughtered later that night.

2 of the 4 girls rescued at Zandspruit this last weekend. They will all be re homed

The girls eat little and do not recognise the water I am giving them.  Before bed time, my husband Nick, and I make a call to bring them into the kitchen and crop feed them (an invasive process of passing a tube down the throat into the crop – a storage facility for food – and putting food down the tube via syringe). I feed them a watery solution of pronutro and warm water. Their crops are hardly bulging, but I feel they have had some food and hydration to give them a chance of good sleep. The thought of going to bed on an empty tummy, does not fly with me! We put them to bed. Although they have a dog kennel filled with straw, I cover the straw with a large fluffy blanket. These girls are weak, and it is a particularly cold and wet night. They are worn down by this stage and make little attempt to fight with us.

Weather cold and wet.

Day 2

Yay, all 4 girls alive. They have made it through their first night.  Two, start eating during the morning on their own. The other 2 get it by lunchtime. I am aware that they are not drinking. Often the battery  hens do not recognise water in the new and different bowl and setting you are offering it to them in. If one takes the bold step of trying, I know the rest will follow.  


My friend Kathy and I observe the hens. They are still not drinking. I identify the bravest hen. She allows me to come within half a metre of her. I wiggle my finger in the bowl, and make little splashes. She watches with interest, I move away from the bowl, and she slowly moves towards it. Bingo, she drinks! We quietly clap with excitement.  The other two hens are drinking within half an hour. By evening the last hen is also drinking.

During the day I sms Jaqui (mom to two of the new rescues). I tell her we have her hens, and that although frightened, weak, and scraggly – very gorgeous. I get this great sms back from her

‘Such excitement at home for the new arrivals. Kids thinking of names. Hopefully we have more appropriate names soon. The hens have been thru enough in this life already. They certainly won’t want to spend the rest of it named ‘smelly socks’. Thanks again for what you have done for both us and especially the hens.  Lots of love waiting here for them. J’

Again, feel so safe that these hens will have an amazing life.

Obligatory nail clip in the afternoon. Their nails are long from not being able to walk around and scratch in the dirt. They are walking easier post pedicure.

Weather cold and wet.

See comments posted for this post by Celeste, mom to other two rescues from weekend.  Another amazing chicken lover!