We re-homed over 150 of Margaret's hens, chicks and roosters before she changed her mind about keeping only roosters on her property. She left us with no choice but to withdraw from the project.
Sadly, with both hens and roosters freely roaming, the huge population explosion - with all of the attendant illnesses, fighting and suffering - will recur with the next breeding season.
This was not the happy ending we had envisaged for the entire flock, but for 153 birds, it was a wonderful outcome.
ORIGINAL ADVERT: NERVOUS BANTAM HENS NEED HOMES
An elderly lady has asked for our help because her once well-managed hen and rooster population has exploded out of control. Five years ago a huge tree fell across the enclosure fencing allowing her 75 birds to roam freely around her property. Being unable to remove the tree or repair the fencing, Margaret watched helplessly as clutch after beautiful clutch hatched around her home. Matters have been made worse by unscrupulous hobby breeders illegally dumping their ‘imperfect’ roosters across her fence – creating some gorgeous cross breeds.
At one time Margaret put an advert in the local paper offering the Bantam and Bantam crosses “free to good homes.” The poor lady was horrified, because among the genuine applicants were people who she knew were taking her precious chickens straight to their cooking pots. She felt powerless to stop them and suspects some of them continue to poach birds from her property in the cover of darkness. This would explain some of the chickens’ panic around strangers.
The hens, roosters and chicks now number about five hundred. An inspector told her she should get the local slaughter-man in to kill the roosters so that the hens could slowly be re-homed over time. This suggestion grieved her and she was delighted when I gave her my recommendation.
To stop the breeding, we have removed 522 eggs so far and intend to re-home 100% of Margaret’s hens. Chicks will be fostered with their mothers until they are old enough for their genders to be determined. As safe havens become available for single or groups of roosters, we will re-home them too. Meanwhile Margaret has agreed to care for an all-boy colony for the length of their natural life-span (up to 13 years). We will provide a roster of volunteer feeders each day through the winter months when it is too slippery for her.
With the exception of being fed twice daily, for generations these birds have been living wild. They have not known many humans and they are excellent flyers who can easily clear 10 foot fences and flit from tree to tree. They are fast, agile and nervous – so applicants must not expect pet chickens from the outset. Initially, the hens will need fully enclosed coops and enclosures (including ceilings) and to be contained for a minimum of 30 days so that retained rooster semen doesn’t allow them to hatch out unexpected clutches. Eggs will need to be vigilantly collected.
The 92 chickens we have re-homed so far have taken more than a fortnight to begin settling, so successful applicants will need to be patient and gentle when dealing with their new family members. Margaret, and only Margaret, is able to stroke some of the birds who choose to live close to her front door.
This is a major rescue project with high overheads. Please donate whatever you can afford to help us with construction work, renovations, trapping materials, petrol costs, phone calls, feed, medicines, etc.
If you are able to offer a safe haven for any of these hens or roosters, or to foster hens with clutches or birds of unknown gender, please apply to be part of the solution. Strict adoption criteria applies and photographs of your coop/run set-up will be required. We will also ask how you will keep the chickens safe from roaming dogs and hawks. Many thanks in anticipation of your help and applications.
Many thanks to Shawn at the Matakana Animal Sanctuary for assisting us with this work. And much appreciation to volunteers Katie, Adie, Kath, Bill, Susan, Ngaire, Bunty and Fiona. And to Sylvia at North Shore BIrdwing for fostering and rehabilitating any sick, weak and orphaned chicks for us.