Battery or free-range thinking?

ex-batts have bald necks from reaching over bars to their food troughs

Eggatha tries her wings out for the first time
Eggatha tries her wings out for the first time
Trinity, bonding with the chickens

Trinity, bonding with the chickens

There’s great excitement in the Bradford household at the moment, as we’ve recently taken on four new members of the family by the names of Cluck, Eggatha, Bobob and Staggerpole (some rather adventurous names there – that’s what you get when there’s a six-year-old input!) and they’re ex-battery chickens.


In the normal run of things, battery chickens are kept in small cages where they each have a space around the size of a piece of A4 paper. They don’t see daylight and are unable to carry out natural behaviours such as dustbathing, nesting or roosting.  It’s a pretty miserable existence and it ends after a year, when they are unceremoniously slaughtered as they are not considered such effective egg-laying machines. That is, unless they are lucky enough to have been rescued by the Battery Hen Welfare Trust (, who agree with some battery farmers to liberate some from each cull having found suitable ‘adopters’ for them.  And so it was that one damp Saturday morning we were waiting, along with many others, with great anticipation to be called round to the greenhouse to collect our liberated chucks. Well the sight of 250 bewildered battery chickens who had seen the light of day and been able to move around for the first time that morning was incredible.  Four were selected for us and loaded into our car and we drove home like first-time parents bringing the baby home from the hospital.  Emika and Trinity were fascinated by the beaks that kept appearing through the hole in the box and the little confused noises the chickens were making.  They were even more confused when we introduced them to their coop, where they have more space than they’d ever seen before in their short lives!  They huddled together for the first 24 hours, hardly moving at all.  We had to pick them up and put them in the henhouse at night because they’d never used their legs and wings before and they were too weak to get up the ladder.  They were featherbare, particularly around their wings, tails and necks, and generally looked in a very sorry state. Two weeks on and the change is enormous.  They have all started growing their feathers back and they’ve learned to dustbathe, sunbathe (on the rare occasions there’s been any to bathe in!), explore the garden, dig for and eat worms and other insects, flap their wings and ‘fly’ up to the henhouse (and away from us when we’re trying to round them back up!).  Two of them have learned to use the nest box to lay in and they’ve laid an average of three eggs a day between them.  They have distinctly different personalities – Cluck and Bobob rule the roost and are the brains of the outfit, while Eggatha storms the door and tries to escape into the garden whenever we go into the coop.  Staggerpole tends to keep herself to herself and is less adventurous, although rather affectionate with us. That’s the change in two weeks.  In a month or so, we’re reliably informed, they will have grown back all their feathers and will look and behave like ‘proper’ chickens, doing the instinctive things that they should have been able to do all of their lives.  They already have a thirst for more freedom – getting visibly frustrated at us when we don’t let them out into the garden – when two weeks ago they didn’t know what to do with all the space.  It’s led me to wonder about the potential for change in all of us.  When put into a new situation, our capacity for adaptation is phenomenal.  You just have to watch programmes such as ‘I’m a Celebrity, Get Me Out of Here!’ to see how the initial discomfort at being in a new circumstance quickly disappears and that contestants talk later about how liberating the change was.  Having completed that abseil I thought I’d never do (see previous post), there’s a change in my thinking – a subtle shift in my perception of what I ‘can’ and ‘can’t’ do, which also has been liberating. Liberty then, and liberation.  Not only from the physical confines of battery cages (or ‘gilded cages’ made from the trappings of luxury and fame), but the limiting beliefs, fears and messages of those around us and those we’ve created in our own minds.  Our chickens lives have changed enormously in just two weeks since their liberation from the battery cage to the (relative!) freedom of our back garden.  How much can our lives change when we liberate ourselves from battery thinking?  What beliefs or fears have you made your cage out of?  What needs to change for you to go free-range thinking? Want help liberating yourself from battery thinking?  Email me ( and we’ll arrange an exploratory chat. Want help liberating a chicken? Go to Good luck!


Battery or free-range thinking? — 3 Comments

  1. Great article Claire, and an interesting counterbalance to the research done with rats and pigs on learned helplessness.

  2. I loved our chickens a lot (I’m Claire Bradford’s daughter), and I miss them very much. My chicken was Stagapole. When I named it, I was thinking about the north pole and how chickens stagger, so my chicken was named, THE GREAT AND ALMIGHTY STAGAPOLE THE 1ST!!!

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