Giving rescued hens a new lease of life
John Bevir
Europe;United Kingdom

On a farm in a remote part of South West England, are some very lucky chickens.

Saved from slaughter, this group of about 50 are seeing the outside world for the first time.

At just over 16 months old, they've spent their lives cooped up inside as commercial egg layers. But now, they're in a makeshift henhouse, waiting to be picked up by new owners.

The number of people wanting to keep chickens exploded during the first Coronavirus lockdown in the UK in 2020... and despite restrictions being lifted, the interest has remained.


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Jane Howorth leads the team at the British Hen Welfare Trust. They've now saved more than 800 thousand chickens over 16 years, in an operation that spans the entire UK.

She told CGTN:
“It's taken over my life in a great way, it's so rewarding. One of things I've learnt so much, it's not just us helping the hens, the hens really help us. And the feedback we get from people is how life enriching they are. How good they are for wellbeing and mental health. So these are all areas that as a charity we are beginning to explore and develop.”

Lockdown saw a huge rise in interest, with demand for chickens far outstripping supply.

The charity makes sure that potential new owners have a suitable safe space for their hens, and is very honest about the time and commitment needed, but there are plenty of benefits.

At 72 weeks old, hens used in commercial egg laying are normally taken away for slaughter, because at around that age, they experience a slight drop in production. But if they're rescued, and looked after, they should go on to lay eggs for many years to come.

One man who knows all about that is Evolutionary Biologist, Professor Ben Garrod.

He decided to re-home some chickens in 2020. Their new residence, at the bottom of the communal gardens shared with his neighbours in Bristol, has been dubbed Cluckingham Palace.

With a rota system to ensure they're properly looked after, Professor Garrod says they've helped bring his street together:

“Yes they're chickens and yes it's a lovely project to work with them and have them in their lives. But more than that it was a way of bringing the community together. So we've got kids, 4 or 5 year olds who are helping dad and mum put them to bed, and we've got people in their mid to late 80s who are coming down and doing the same thing. So it's a really lovely way of bringing people together as well.”

Within a few weeks, the once bedraggled and very sorry looking commercial hens have put on weight and regrown their missing feathers.

Saved from slaughter, for a relaxed retirement.




Top 5 Tips by Jane Howarth - British Hen Welfare Trust
1) Commitment. These are sentient creatures, like any other pet they need daily care and attention.
2) Get a really sturdy henhouse and security.
3) Learn about quality food. These birds will thrive and continue to lay eggs well, providing they're given the right nutrients.
4) Biosecurity. In these days when Avian Flu is around and about so much, during the migration seasons, it's really important that we, as backyard pet hen keepers, make sure that we are doing our bit to minimise the threat of disease spreading.
5) Do it. Because there is absolutely nothing nicer or more life enriching, than taking on some of these little birds.

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