A Beginner’s Guide To Adopting Hens


A beginner's guide to adopting hens

Have you ever thought about adopting chickens? We've teamed up with the lovely hen enthusiasts at the British Hen Welfare Trust to bring you their beginner's guide to adopting hens. The BHWT has rehomed an incredible 840,000 commercial laying hens since 2005! Not only are they giving hens a new lease of life, but these clucking animals are providing joy to many families around the country.

A beginner's guide to adopting hens

Chickens are quickly rising in the pet popularity stakes as many of us start to understand the joy these little bundles of feathers can bring. Not to mention the bonus of having delicious eggs laid in our own gardens every day for the freshest of breakfasts.

Even celebrities are getting in on the act with people like Jennifer Aniston, Julia Roberts, Deborah Meaden, and, of course, Harry and Meghan, becoming owners of a backyard flock. And whilst all chickens make loveable pets, just like with cats and dogs, adopting a hen and saving its life gives you that extra feel-good factor.

A beginner's guide to adopting hens

The good news is hens aren’t difficult to look after. In fact, they’re often very self-contained little creatures once they’ve settled into family life. The chances are that if you do open your garden, and your home (they’re forever inquisitive) up to some hens, you’ll soon find yourself buying them treats and chatting to them, just like we do with our other animal companions.

But be warned, taking on these bedraggled ex-bats can leave you with such a warm, cosy glow that you might well find your flock growing sooner than you think!

Where to adopt a hen from and how to you go about it

But where to begin in the first place?

Jane Howorth MBE set up the British Hen Welfare Trust (BHWT) in 2005. It’s now the leading national hen welfare charity in the UK, saving over 60,000 hens from slaughter every year and rehoming them as family pets.

A beginner's guide to adopting hens

The BHWT holds adoption events regularly at locations throughout Great Britain and is always looking for people keen to give ex-commercial hens a loving home. So, if you’re thinking of adopting a hen, you can see if there’s an event in your area and register your interest. 

The usual wait for hens is no more than six weeks, often much less. Registration is easy and if you’re new to keeping hens, the BHWT will follow up with a personal call to make sure that you’re happy with all aspects of your soon-to-be new family pets. 

A beginner's guide to adopting hens

The essentials to have before your adopted hens come home

Just like you wouldn’t bring home a dog or cat without having food bowls and a cosy bed, there are some essentials you need to have before bringing your hens home.

Below is a list of what the BHWT considers essentials, and also desirables, all of which are available via their online shop.


  1. Hen houses
  2. Feeders and feed
  3. Drinkers
  4. Bedding
  5. Grit
  6. Disinfectant for cleaning coops or equipment

Good to have:

  1. Zolcal-D – added calcium supplement
  2. Apple Cider Vinegar – great boost for newly rehomed hens
  3. Antibacterial Blue Spray/ Nettex Poultry Wound Care Spray – for settling any pecking disputes.
  4. Diatomaceous Earth Red Mite Powder
  5. Nettex Poultry Power Drops – a great pick me up

What will my adopted ex-bat hens be like?

Your adopted ex-commercial hens will be affectionate, inquisitive, and funny! At first, they will also probably be a little overwhelmed and might look a little bit bare of feathers.

A beginner's guide to adopting hens

Hens from cages and barn systems won’t have experienced sunshine, rain, grass, or wind. In the beginning you may need to help them find shelter from the elements as well as teach them how to use the ramp to reach their coop (if you have a ramp) and show them how to head inside when night falls.

But they’re quick learners and will soon get the hang of things. They will also soon grow their feathers back and look like ‘proper chickens’ – they’ll be pecking around your feet and following you around the garden before you know it.

Watching your chickens experience things for the first time is a real joy to behold, especially sunshine. Seeing a hen fresh out of a cage slowly slump into a wing-spread slouch is a magical moment for both her and you.

A beginner's guide to adopting hens

These humble little hens have the power to be life-enriching, it’s a phrase the BHWT often hears from adopters. After you help to save a hen’s life by adopting them, they help to enhance yours, what could be better?

So, if you’re ready to open your home, and your heart to these endearing little creatures, you can find out more on the BHWT website.


  • inspirational feature! so informative. thank you.

    Wendy Johnson on

  • How nice to have fresh eggs for your breakfast.

    Bernard Gibbs on

Leave a comment

Please note, comments must be approved before they are published