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Last Updated: Friday, 8 December 2006, 14:04 GMT
Battery hens saved for retirement
By Sally Nancarrow
BBC News, Chichester

Sarah Hall
Sarah Hall is rehoming nearly 250 battery hens this weekend
Nearly 250 battery hens are starting retirement in Surrey and Sussex this weekend after being rescued from a farm where they were due to be slaughtered.

Sarah Hall, a 26-year-old environmental consultant from Chichester, is rehoming the birds from a farm in Devon.

She runs the Sussex branch of the Battery Hen Welfare Trust, which has co-ordinators across England and Wales.

"The charity is successful because it works with farmers' permission and supports British farming," she said.

Ms Hall, who drove to Exeter early on Saturday morning to collect the hens, takes them back to her parents' smallholding in Walberton.

Alan and Shirley Hall, who recently retired from running a flower-growing business, have been "roped in" to help, their daughter said.

The hens will be housed in their greenhouses until they are collected during Saturday and Sunday by their new owners, who take between three and 50 each.

The problem is not finding homes but getting enough birds
Diana Millard

The birds, which are about 18 months old when they are rescued, have a life expectancy of three to four years.

"Every hen we rescue has a home to go to - people usually come to us through word of mouth," said Ms Hall.

"We always talk to the rehomers to make sure they have proper accommodation for the hens - most just want to give them a better life.

"A lot of the time children want to have them as pets."

Ms Hall said the charity always obtained farmers' permission before a rescue.

Beverley Lee, who runs the Surrey branch in Epsom will be taking some of this weekend's batch to new homes.

"My rehomers are very much people who take a few for their back gardens," she said.

The Duchess of Richmond at Goodwood House and Jimmy Doherty from BBC2's Jimmy's Farm in Essex are among those who have "adopted" birds.

Alan and Shirley Hall
The hens are first taken to Alan and Shirley Hall's smallholding

So far, the charity has rescued nearly 30,000 hens, which otherwise go into the human or pet food chain after slaughter.

There is no shortage of people willing to give them new homes, according to Diana Millard, who is the Kent co-ordinator.

She has rescued about 900 birds over the last two years and is hoping to get permission from a local farmer to take another batch before Christmas.

But she currently has a list of over 100 people who are waiting to rehome the hens.

"The problem is not finding homes but getting enough birds," she said.

"Until they get to know us, farmers can be rather nervous because they think we may have something to do with animal extremist groups.

"That is why we never reveal the names of farmers who work with us."

Ms Hall said the charity's ultimate aim was to diminish demand for battery eggs and promote welfare-friendly systems.

"We understand farmers are not responsible for welfare standards - they are endeavouring to survive in a market increasingly threatened by cheap battery imports.

"We want to promote the British laying hen industry while working towards better welfare standards for hens."


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