On the first of March we might be excused for expecting to feel a little warmer. Not so in Hampshire today where, despite crocuses, tiny daffodils and primroses in bloom, the temperature was 2deg c . So spare a thought for those arriving here from warmer climates, hoping to have missed the worst of winter... and ex-battery hens. Recently some kind people have been adopting hens that have spent all their lives on battery farms. Newly released from their overheated accommodation where the 'daylight' is controlled to maximise egg laying and where they are so over crowded and stressed that they moult and peck each other's feathers out, they feel the cold.
While their future is considerably more rosy than their past, as they are liberated in fours and fives into people's back gardens, for a short period it is a bit chilly and their baldy state is prolonged as the habit of pecking at each others feathers can take a while to kick.
What has this got to do with knitting and knitters? Well reading tweets on twitter the other day I came upon a heart warming story. Some very practical people in Hertfordshire have come up with a great idea to provide cosy comfort for ex-batts.
It was not the first time I had heard of woolly knits for hens. Gill, one of the lovely people I work with has four 'rescue hens'.
Meet Gracie, Gladys, Matilda and Ethel-May.
The girls are looking very sleek now but when they arrived in Gill's garden they were very skinny and dehydrated and Matilda and Ethel-May (don't you just love the names?) were practically bald.
Gill told me her friend Margaret had knitted some of the little hen body warmers. When I heard this I asked if the girls would mind modeling their new knitwear for the blog. Ethel-May was kind enough to oblige
In fact she quite likes showing off
The chicken gillets not only keep the hens warm while their feathers grow back but they also provide a bit of armour against being pecked by their 'chums' (perhaps this is a bit like wearing gloves while trying to stop nail biting, except oddly it is your friends who nibble). This way the hens loose their bad habits too. G,G, M & E-M did not need to wear vests for their feathers to grow back. Good food, sunbathing (they did move in in the summer), scratching around in the garden and plenty of fresh air seemed to do the trick. But if Gill decides to take on more hens, the jumpers are ready
As Gill doesn't need any more clothing for her hens I thought I might make something for her. As she had admired my mittens I searched out a chicken chart from Ravelry
I have heard that battery hen farmers get rid of the hens when they stop laying but these four girls provide their new family with plenty of eggs now they are feeling better. Please think about these old girls when you are eating your breakfast eggs
So thank you Gill very much for taking the photographs and for telling me a story about your 'old-batts' that I just had to re-tell here.