The British Hen Welfare Trust has issued an urgent plea to the public to re-home some hens for Christmas.
From January 2012, the barren 'battery' cage will be abolished in the UK in line with the EU directive. As a result, hens will have to be removed from their barren cages by 31st December. Most British egg farmers have already made the switch to enriched cages, but a further 2-4 million hens currently in barren cages will still be heading for slaughter this Christmas.
The British Hen Welfare Trust, which has so far re-homed nearly 300,000 commercial laying hens, aims to educate the public about how they can make a difference to hen welfare, and encourages support for the British egg industry. It has already secured access to thousands of hens from farms in the run up to Christmas and is appealing to the public to provide homes for them.
With a network of volunteer co-ordinators across the UK, the charity will be holding a series of re-homing days over November and December in locations spanning from Cornwall to Northumberland in England, across into Wales.
Founder of the British Hen Welfare Trust Jane Howorth said: "Whilst it is great news that the era of barren cages is coming to an end, the sad news is that many of the hens who have lived all their life in barren cages will be sent to slaughter by Christmas, unless we can find homes for them."
More and more households are taking up hen-keeping as a hobby that all the family can enjoy. Giving a happy home to ex-battery hens can be particularly rewarding - from the pleasure of seeing the hens experience their first taste of sunshine and grass, to the joy of collecting freshly laid eggs! Keeping hens requires time, but it isn't difficult. The hens come fully vaccinated and the vast majority are healthy and laying reasonably well. The hens sometimes look a bit threadbare, but most people are surprised that the majority of birds don't look too bad and they usually start to re-feather within a few weeks. The hens are bred for docility and you will find they are gentle, endearing, inquisitive and very friendly. And they are hardy birds, so as long as a few simple steps are taken to ensure they have good weather protection, they are fine to be kept in the winter months.
All you need is an outbuilding or chicken house or coop that is predator-proof, and a regular supply of food and water.
Jane Howorth concluded: "If you are interested in re-homing some hens, we would love to hear from you. All our re-homing locations and dates can be found on our website. Christmas is traditionally a busy time for family festivities, and keeping hens isn't at the forefront of people's minds at this time of year. But consider it as a fun new hobby for Christmas for all the family. By adopting some hens, you will be giving them – and your family – the best Christmas present they have ever had!"