Now that I've finally caught up on all the laundry and am feeling generally better, I took advantage of some quiet time I had this morning to take out a pile of shirts that needed ironing. Some ironing and mending = a morning well spent!
The hen you see in the picture above, pecking and scratching, had no back or tail feathers at all when she arrived, several weeks ago. The other 3 had more feathers, but all looked miserable. Their combs were pale and flabby, and the smell of them... urgh... if you've ever had ex-battery hens, or visited a commercial battery, you know what I mean. To me, they looked as if they all might die from exhaustion the next moment.
Soon enough, however, they picked up the cue from our home-raised chickens, and now are strutting around as if they own the place. Their combs became red and upright, and overall, they are looking much more like the white Leghorns we've raised from chicks before. They have gone off egg laying, but I suppose that's the combination of shortening days, regrowing feathers, and adjusting to life with less food available (we give some layers' pellets in the morning, whatever scraps are available throughout the day, and free-range is always accessible).
This lonely roo took the new ladies under his wing. He has been keeping mostly to himself since his mate was eaten by a fox. I know chickens don't usually form monogamous pairs, but those two were something special, and ever since she was gone he never got along with the other ladies we have. Well, now he's feeling all proud and happy with a small flock of hens who follow him around and sleep next to him.
Overall, it has been very rewarding to watch our ex-bats take their first steps into freedom, spread their wings, and begin to exhibit natural chicken behaviors such as scratching and food racing (that's what I call it when one chicken grabs a bit of food and runs away with it, and all the rest run after her - always entertaining!)