Happy New Year to the UK's ex-battery hen population ......
A chicken described as Britain's "last battery hen" has been given a new home, marking the end of an era for commercial laying hens, a charity said.
The hen, which has been named Liberty, will enjoy retirement at a farm in Chulmleigh, Devon, where it will join about 60 other ex-battery hens.
An EU directive abolishing the barren (battery) cage system comes into effect on 1 January, when egg producers will have to provide hens with larger cages enabling them to spread their wings and move around.
In the past two years we Archers at The Larches have re-homed almost 20 battery hens. They came to us looking ratty, pale and sickly. After getting them home, placing them in their new coop for three days, (with good food and water of course,) there is nothing better than opening the coop door one morning to watch them taste their first freedom.
Obviously they start out nervous, they hover near their new home and sometimes it's a bloody nightmare trying to get them back into the coop as night falls, but it's a great feeling to give a creature a lovely home.
I still value the eggs the girls give us and always say 'Thank you.' Just good manners really.
Such good news that conditions for UK hens are set to improve. Though hens from laying chicken farms will still only have a two year life before being slaughtered so if you live near one of these (reputable) farms, why not give them a call they'll often happily sell you their older hens for £1 each. These hens will reward you with eggs for a considerable time, happy in their retirement.
Our favourite hen is called Happy. She was rescued and came to us looking dreadful. As we gently took our new hens out of the cardboard box we'd transported them in from the egg farm, I'd noticed her; she was disabled. One of her feet was curled and useless for scratching and her hip and leg were so badly deformed she could hardly walk.
Uncharitably I felt slightly irritated that we'd taken suck a poorly hen, how the hell would she manage to roam over our acres? .... Then I checked myself and remembered that this was a rescue mission and this hen needed rescuing more than most.
Happy is now our most loved hen. She wobbles about, scratching about in the dirt in her precarious fashion and her temperament is that of Margaret Thatcher... tough and yet vulnerable.
Recently she went through a serious molt and we thought her time was up but we were wrong. Her new feathers are fluffy and a shade lighter than before and she looks beautiful. Even Rooster seems to favour her over the others.
So life is improving for UK hens... why not get a few of your own, or at the very least ensure you are buying eggs from UK producers to ensure you are getting eggs from reputable sources?