Wednesday, January 26, 2011

The Leghorn and ISA Brown

I have not gotten any birds yet; currently none of the layer barns in my area are getting rid of their hens. Layer barns get their pullets (a young female chicken, a cockerel is a young male) at about 18 weeks and keep them for one year, then get rid of them in either the spring or fall. There are two breeds that are typically used as battery hens, White Leghorns and ISA Browns. They are the most efficient layers of large sized white and brown eggs.

Of these two breeds White Leghorns are the most common. They lay an average of 300 eggs per year and are one of the best layers in the world. Many people think that after the first year of laying a hen doesn't lay anymore, but this is not true, a hen can still lay for a few more years. They might not lay as much as in their first year, but have the ability to lay many more eggs. In the fall of 2009 when I adopted my first layers I wasn't sure what to expect in terms of egg production, and they surprised me. Out of seven hens I got about four to five eggs a day, everyday.

One of my rescued White Leghorn hens about a month after arriving
 ISA Browns are one of the best layers of large, brown eggs. They lay an average of 280 eggs per year, almost as much as the White Leghorn. ISA Browns are a hybrid, created by crossing a variety of breeds together. ISA stands for Institute de Selection Animale, the company which developed the breed in 1978 for egg production as a battery hen. I have two ISA Brown chickens at my farm, they are a very friendly and curious bird. I get two eggs a day, everyday, one from each hen.

My ISA browns as day old chicks

Monday, January 3, 2011


My name is Amy, I am a teenager who has been raising poultry for the past three years.  I started with a few Cornish crosses to try it out and see how it liked it.  I currently have over forty-five chickens which are separated into ten breeds including Silver Pheonix, Isa Browns, Easter Eggers,  Buff Orpingtons, Golden and Silver Spangled Hamburgs, Black, Blue, White and Partridge Silkies and a few mixed breeds. I also have four Muscovy and two mixed ducks, and four tiny Button Quail.

In the fall of 2009 I took in ten retired battery hens from a local hutterite colony. They were skinny, bald, unable to walk and very frightened of people. After several weeks of caring for them they started to improve, slowly growing back their feathers and learning to trust humans. It was amazing to see how they could come from such a harsh environment and recover like they did. I realized I wanted to use my knowledge of poultry to help more of these poor animals and give them a second chance at a good life.

Battery hens live in small cages starting at the age of about eighteen weeks, some from several days after they hatch. A typical cage is about 45 by 50 cms (18 by 20 inches) and houses five hens. Since the cages are made of wire the birds are unable to do things a chicken would normally do like dust bathing, scratching for bugs in the dirt or even walking properly. The hens live in these cages for about a year before they are sent to slaughter, aging only about 18 months. At this time the hens peak production has passed but she still has the ability to lay many more eggs. By rescuing one of these hens you are not only giving them a chance at the life the deserve, but producing healthy, home-raised eggs for your family.

My goal is to rescue about twenty retired battery hens at a time.  Care for them for several months, letting them regrow their feathers, gain some weight and learn how to be a chicken! Once they are healthy and fit I will adopt them out to new families who would like to continue caring for these birds and receiving farm-fresh eggs! My first batch of hens will be arriving in the next few weeks, I am getting a coop cleaned and ready for them. Check back in a few days for an update.