Today we picked up 10 ex-battery hens from a cold and rainy yard near the village of Caharrack in Cornwall. Destined for slaughter these dishevelled looking birds are being given a second chance by the charity the British Hen Welfare Trust.
The Trust put out an appeal in the West Briton newspaper asking for people to come forward and offer homes to around 600 chickens who have never known a life outside of a cage. Having taken in some birds in similar circumstances a few years ago and remembering the state that they were in when they arrived made me want to record the process this time.
We arrived at the collection point at about 2pm this afternoon to collect our birds and found sheds full of half bald hens, some barely alive.
Volunteers were wrapping the frailest in straw or tucking them under their jumpers trying to keep them warm. I saw boxes with dead chickens, those that didn’t make the journey, in one corner.
We paid our money (the charity asks for a donation of £3 – £5 per bird) and popped our new charges in the boxes we had brought. Then back in the car, heaters on full blast, we took them home. I chatted with them some of the way, told them that life was about to get a whole lot better!
Our Ten Hens are now in a barn, in their own separate run to keep them warm and protected. We have put down lashings of straw, water, food and heat lamps. It is now a case of waiting to see who makes it through the night.
Established by Jane Howorth in 2005 the BHWT was the first charity in the UK re-homing battery hens. Although I don’t want to bombard you with facts (more of that in another post) lets just say the lot of a chicken on a battery farm is not a happy one. These birds have never seen the sun or walked on grass. On average a battery hen lives roughly 18 months before they are made into pet food or cheap supermarket drum-sticks. All so we can have cheap eggs.
If nothing else I hope this post makes you think about buying free range, if you don’t already. I intend to follow the hens progress on here. So expect an update in a few days!