Yesterday we collected eight hens from the British Hen Welfare Trust depot at Locrenton Stables St Keyne, near Liskeard. The British Hen Welfare Trust (formerly the Battery Hen Welfare Trust) is the United Kingdom’s first registered charity solely for laying hens. It was founded in April 2005 by Jane Howorth MBE, and was established in order to raise awareness of the 20 million hens kept in cages in the UK at that time.
They find homes for thousands of commercial laying hens destined for slaughter each year and have collection points all over the country. There is no charge for the hens but the charity asks for a donation (approx £5 per hen) to cover vets’ fees, transport, farmers, fuel, feed and so on.
The average useful life of a battery hen is 18 months and when their egg production starts to decline, they are sent for slaughter, despite an predicted lifespan of approximately 12 years. The trust encourages adopters to treat their hens more like pets and to give the lucky ones a chance to experience the joy of being unfettered in a roomy garden pen or free range, like ours at Bosinver.
They look pretty sorry for themselves when they arrive, after living in cramped conditions under artificial light they often have few feathers and the weaker ones are pecked by the more dominant hens (the origin of ‘last in the pecking order’). We have rehomed quite a few over the years and it is astonishing how quickly they perk up and become indistinguishable from the rest of the flock. They don’t wander far in the first few days as they are so used to being confined in a small space that freedom seems frightening to them. Another interesting thing is their innate scratching and soil turning ability for insect hunting that manifests itself even though they have never been taught by a mother hen or had contact with the earth in their cages. Mother Nature at work!
Support the British Hen Welfare Trust
The BHWT is run by caring volunteers and they are always looking for more. If you feel that you could help or offer to rehome some hens, you can find lots of information on their website: https://www.bhwt.org.uk/