Taking on Rescue Hens – What to Expect

rescue hens, ex-batts, bhwt, chicken, poultry,

If you are taking on ex-battery rescue hens they will have lived in hot, cramped conditions. Many will have lost a lot of feathers and their combs will be pale and flaccid (in order to help lose heat) They will have had artificial light for at least 18 hours a day, will never have seen grass or outside, and will only have ever eaten layers crumb.

1 – A suitable Home – firstly, you will need to provide a home for your hens. If you hope to have just a coop, with them free ranging in the garden, you will still need a run to keep them safe for the first couple of weeks and so they can learn where ‘home’ is.

2 – Collection Day – Your rescue hens are likely to have had a very stressful 24 hours. They may have already travelled a long distance from farm to rehoming centre, before travelling from centre to their new home with you. They will have had little, if anything to drink or eat and the stress of the situation may have led them to become quite feisty and even aggresive.  If you have very young children, it may be best to keep them away until your hens have had time to settle. Being pecked on day one isn’t a great start to their relationship!

3 – Once you are home – Make sure you see them all drinking and eating. If it is late, it is especially important to make sure they eat before going to bed. Food in their crops will provide energy and help keep them warm through the night. Your hens will have only ever eaten crumb. The rescue centre will probably advice you to continue with crumb until they settle, but I have never had a problem with them going straight onto pellets – they are usually just grateful to have food they don’t have to fight over!

4 – Expect to have to lift your girls to bed for the first few nights. They won’t understand that there is a nice warm coop waiting up the ladder, and will probably just huddle down together in the corner. Once you have lifted them in they usually get the hang of going to bed by themselves within a week.

5 – Day 1 – It is wonderful to watch your girls explore your garden for the very fist time. Watching them instinctively scratch at the grass and flap and stretch their wings is hugely heart warming! You will probably find some eggs too! Keep a close eye on them for a few days as the great outdoors is completely alien to them, and the more often they see you, the quicker they will learn that you are friend not threat.

6 – Will your hens be warm enough? The BHWT advise that even hens with very few hens will be ok, unless it is unusually cold. Just ensure they eat just before going to bed and give them a thick bed. They advice against jackets and jumpers as they are inclined to get caught in them and they can cause more trouble than they solve. Feed a good protein rich diet (Super Seeds are the ideal treat for rescue hens) and within a few weeks you will see new feathers growing.

7 – If you have hens already, it is best to introduce your new girls at night. Expect some squabbles for a few days as they re-establish their pecking order and keep some poultry-safe antiseptic spray to hand in case of any injury. I have never had any issues when introducing new birds but they have plenty of room and I always have several food stations so no one has to share. Even your new girls may fight with one another as they may never have met before.


It is not just ex-battery hens who have a very short life. Commercial free-range birds are also only kept for 13 – 18 months. You may be able to buy a few from your local free-range egg producer. We have had many this way. They are usually in better condition than ex-batts but still in much need of tlc.

For further information on rescue hens, visit the British Hen Welfare Trust

Wha’t the difference between Activated and Non-Activated Charcoal?

charcoal for dogs, charcoal for horses, charcoal for chickens. non-activated charcoal

Nutritional charcoal comes in two forms – activated charcoal and non-activated charcoal. But what is the difference?

Activated charcoal is where ordinary charcoal has been treated to increase its surface area. This may be carried out by physical activation using gasses and super high temperatures or chemical activation. The result is a highly porous charcoal with a massive surface area which acts a bit like a sponge. As activated charcoal is so porous there is a danger that it will take out some of the good stuff as well as the bad. This includes medicines as well as vitamins and nutrients which could have a detrimental effect if fed long term. 

Non-activated charcoal is exactly how the carbonated wood comes out of the kiln. By it’s very nature, it is still very adsorbent, but not as porous as the activated version. This means it can be fed on a more long-term basis without the risk of flushing out important nutrients in the diet. 

What makes our Pure Devon Charcoal different?

1 – Pure Devon charcoal is not activated. It is a traditionally made, natural product without the involvement of chemicals or modern science. Therefore, it has a more gentle, natural, effect and is more suitable for long term use. It wouldn’t be the first choice for treating an acute poisoning, but as it isn’t so porous you won’t be losing vitamins from the diet when feeding everyday.

2 – Our product is made from sustainably sourced hardwood on Exmoor. Most other charcoal in the UK (whether activated or not) is made from imported wood and coconut shells. Transporting wood around the globe just for making charcoal supplements obviously has a massive environmental impact! 

3 – Our charcoal is a truly artisan product, made by hand to exacting standards. It even has FEMAS accreditiion – the gold standard European Approval for the manufacture of animal feeds. 

What is it for? 

🐎 For Horses: 

Feed Charcoal to horses with a sensitive gut – they could be twitchy, stressy and generally uncomfortable around the gut area, ex-racehorses are particularly prone to this. They could have loose droppings as a result of a change in feed or routine, or have habits such as crib biting or soil eating. These horses are often difficult to keep weight on and fussy feeders with feisty or ‘hot’ temperaments. 

🐕 For dogs:

Charcoal is great for dogs with a sensitive tummy. It helps to prevent flatulence and soothe the gut, making it a great natural choice for dogs prone to upset tummies. It can help those dogs who are difficult to keep weight on and picky eaters. Most dogs find it palatable, just mix it with a damp feed.

🐔 Chickens:

If you have ever had a bonfire in the garden, you may have seen your chickens pecking around in the ash. Charcoal sweetens the crop and  maintains a healthy digestive system. It also promotes weight gain and egg production. As charcoal helps to adsorb ammonia it improves the environment within their coop by improving air quality. 

Learn more about Pure Devon Charcoal here

Beware – The Harmful Fruits of Autumn

Britain is well known for its beautiful trees – Oak, Horse Chestnut and Sycamore being commonly found throughout our countryside in fields and woodlands. While we enjoy the shade they provide in summer, during autumn their fruits can put grazing stock and pets at risk. In this article we learn about the risks of acorns, conkers and sycamore seeds.


Oak trees and their acorns contain tannins which are toxic to horses. If horses eat acorns in large numbers they may develop diarrhea, colic, gut damage or even kidney failure. Luckily, most horses don’t eat them in any significant quantity but some can get a taste for them, putting their health in grave danger. If you have an Oak tree in your field it would be advisable to fence it off so the horses can’t access the acorns, or move the horses to another field. In general, as long as there is plenty of other forage horses won’t eat the acorns, but they should be monitored closely. If a horse becomes lethargic or develops diarrhea and you are concerned that he may have been eating acorns you should contact your vet.

Acorns are also toxic to cattle, sheep and goats but pigs can eat them safely, and in some parts of the world pigs are fed large quantities of acorns to fatten them and flavour the meat!



Apparently the horse chestnut tree was given its name because the Turks fed the seeds to their ailing horses, but generally the tree is considered toxic. Horses are very unlikely to eat conkers, and like acorns the quantity eaten affects their toxicity – the more they eat the more likely they are to become ill. Where as acorn poisoning is relatively common, poisoning caused by horses eating excess conkers is virtually unheard of.

Dogs poisoned by conkers is more common. Dog owners should be aware of conkers and never use them as a substitute for a ball or toy. Conkers contain a chemical called aesculin which can make a dog very sick. Symptoms include lethargy, diarrhea, discomfort and pain and may lead to toxic shock. Symptoms usually occur within 2 days of the dog eating conkers. You should contact your vet straight away if you believe you dog may be at risk.


Sycamore Seeds

Sycamore Poisoning in horses, known as Atypical Myopathy is a potentially fatal disease. In the autumn large numbers of the sycamore ‘helicopter’ seeds can fall to the ground, particularly after bad weather. It is not yet known what quantity of seeds must be eaten to cause symptoms, but we do know that some horses are more susceptible than others, and some seeds are more toxic than others. Sycamore seeds contain hypoglycin A, a chemical that affects muscles, including the heart muscle and muscles used for breathing. Severely affected horses will often die, but if treated early enough the prognosis is good. Signs to look out for include stiffness, lethargy, pain and red or brown urine.

Grazing near sycamores and the presence of red/brown urine are key indicators of atypical myopathy. Immediate action is necessary to prevent kidney failure. If you have sycamore trees close to where your horses are grazing, check the field daily and ensure your horses have plenty of forage and grass to reduce the chances of them eating sycamore seeds.

5 Ways T.O.P Horse is Better Than Turmeric Powder

1. Contains the 3 key essential ingredients for optimum results

It is well known that Turmeric for horses must be fed in conjunction with oil and black pepper to improve its absorption rate and bioavailability. T.O.P Horse is one of the only supplements which contains all three ingredients

2. Natural Capture Technology 

Piperine is the active ingredient of black pepper which improves the bioavailability of turmeric. However, piperine is highly volatile so it is quickly lost to the air when pepper is ground. In T.O.P Horse, black pepper corns have been freshly ground into cider vinegar so as to preserve the piperine content via natural capture techniques in the solution.

3. T.O.P Horse contains Omega 3

We use cold pressed linseed oil as the source of fat to improve the absorption of turmeric. As well as benefitting more from the turmeric, the omega 3 fatty acids in linseed oil provide their own nutritional benefits.

4. T.O.P Horse contains cider vinegar

Our local Devon sourced, unfiltered apple cider vinegar is a great all-round palatable tonic for horses, as well as an excellent way of capturing the black pepper. As it is unfiltered, our cider vinegar contains all the goodness affectionally known as ‘the mother’. This is usually missing from commercially produced cider vinegars.

5. T.O.P. Horse is mess free, dust free & ready to feed

Just shake well and add the required amount to your feed. No mixing, cooking skills or last minute grinding required!


…Did we forget to mention that T.O.P Horse is a fantastic, palatable, supplement for supporting health and vitality in horses of all ages. Turmeric for horses helps to maintain freedom of movement, supports a healthy immune system, soothes skin and is also recommended for horses prone to skin lumps and blemishes.

Purchase TOP Horse here

Hemp – One of Nature’s Superfoods

hemp oil linseed oil horses dogs chickens

Hemp is undergoing a huge revival around the world and is now a highly sort after ‘superfood’. This is mainly due to the nutritional content of hemp seeds, claimed to be one of the most nutritional foods on the planet.

Hemp Vs Cannabis

Many people get confused between Hemp & Marijuana, as both come from the plant known as Cannabis sativa. But, there are several different types of Cannabis sativa, and hemp comes from a variety that  contains very little of the psycho-active tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). In fact, hemp must contain less than 0.3% THC to be legally grown in the UK.

Hemp Seed Oil

The quality of oil within hemp seeds makes them unique.  Hemp provides an excellent source of essential Omega fatty acids, and just the right proportion of Omega 3:6. It is unusual in the plant kingdom because it contains both Gamma-linoleic acid (GLA) and stearidonic acid (SDA). Most other plant sources, (such as linseed oil) contain Linoleic Acid, which the body must convert into GLA. As hemp already contains GLA this enzymatic step is skipped, making hemp oil easier and more efficient to metabolise. GLA and SDA are more commonly found in fish oil, but many people don’t like feeding fish oil, especially if their animal is a natural vegetarian!

Omega 3 are good for the cardiovascular system, neurological system, reproductive system and to support the body’s natural anti-inflammatory mechanisms.  GLA  inhibits the production of leukotrienes, chemicals which are made by the body  to sustain inflammatory reactions. By reducing the production of leukotrienes, GLA gives an anti-inflammatory benefit.

Hemp Seed Protein

Protein foods and supplements are one of the fastest growing sectors in the human food industry, and hemp protein is one of the most sort after. This is because the seeds contain 25% protein, and provide all 9 of the essential amino acids.  Amino acids are the building blocks of protein, and 9 of these are ‘essential’ meaning that they must be supplied by the diet as our bodies cannot make them. Hemp is one of very few plant sources to contain all the amino acids, making it an excellent source of ‘complete’ protein and comparable to meat, eggs and dairy.


Hemp is also an excellent source of soluble fibre. This means that the fibre is easy to digest. In the gut, the fibre will swell and become a gel-like texture which could help absorb excess acids, and help the natural flow of food through the gut. 

Vitamins and Minerals

Hemp seeds are also packed full of vitamins and minerals, including calcium, phosphorus, zinc, magnesium and iron.  It is also rich in vitamin E, an anti-oxidant to support a healthy immune system .

CBD and Hemp

CBD oil has received a huge amount of publicity in recent months. So named because it is rich in Cannabinoids, it is believed to have several beneficial properties including pain management and a calming effect. CBD oil is an extract which comes from the whole hemp plant., Hemp  Seed Oil is extracted from the seeds only, and these do not contain any CBD.  As of September 2018 the Veterinary Medicines Directorate have  classified products containing CBD as veterinary medicines, so they can only be purchased with a prescription from a vet. It is also an offence to buy human grade CBD oil to feed an animal,  unless prescribed by a Vet.  Hemp Seed Oil does not contain any CBD.

An all round good plant

As well as all the positive nutritional benefits hemp offers, there are a number of other benefits. It grows quickly, does not require pesticides, it is GM free and free from phytoestrogens. It is environmentally friendly too – it absorbs the same amount of carbon dioxide as an equivalent area of forest, it benefits the soil and the whole plant can be used (for textiles, industry and animal bedding) so nothing goes to waste.

Our Hemp is grown in the UK, in North Devon, just a few miles from our office. This makes it pretty low on food miles too!

Taking Your Dog on Holiday in the UK

So your accommodation allows dogs? That’s great. Now start finding all the dog-friendly beaches & activities you can all enjoy. Taking a dog on holiday takes a bit of planning, but as long as you are prepared everyone will have a great time…

The Journey

Your dog doesn’t want to be squashed in among the suitcases. He needs plenty of space for air to circulate and keep him comfortable. Before you leave, plan some doggy friendly comfort breaks you can all enjoy. Ideally, you want to plan a break every couple of hours to allow your dog to stretch his legs. If it’s a really hot day, consider some extra shade on the windows. The air-con may keep you cool at the front, but its effects will be pretty poor in the boot.

Staying Cool

We all know about the dangers of dogs in hot cars., but how hot is too hot? If it’s 22 degrees outside, a closed car can reach a life threatening 47 degrees within an hour. Even if the windows are left open, temperatures will still rise too high.

For further advice visit: https://www.thekennelclub.org.uk/our-resources/kennel-club-campaigns/dont-cook-your-dog/

Drinking Water

Dogs don’t sweat, but they lose a lot of water through panting. If the weather is hot it is important to carry drinking water everywhere you go. In normal conditions your dog requires 50 – 60ml of water per kg of bodyweight, so a 20kg Labrador will drink around a litre a day.  In hot weather, and if the dog has done a lot of exercise, you should expect this to increase….don’t forget the water bowl!

His Food

It may take up valuable space in the car, but it is far better to take enough of your dog’s usual food with you, than buy a different brand when you arrive.  A sudden change in diet can cause digestive upset, which really is the last thing you need on holiday!


It goes without saying that you should have the number of the local veterinary practice to hand at all times.  It is also important to appreciate that some dogs may become anxious and react differently in strange places, and if you part company he won’t know how to find his way back to you.  Make sure your mobile number is on his ID tag, and that the microchip database holds the correct contact details for you. Watch out for unfamiliar hazards such as busy roads, cliff edges and loose farm animals.

Stick to your routine

To help your dog adjust and settle in his new surroundings, try to stick to a similar routine to the one you have at home, and bring some of his favourite things along – like his blanket and toy.