Continuing our regular feature looking at the work of Little Irchester-based charity Animals in Need, this month Sammy Jones discovers more about the charity’s work to save hens used in commercial egg production…
Animals in Need (AIN) is there for all animals and birds; from unwanted pets to injured wildlife, and absolutely everything in between – they recently took in a clucking great number of hens; 250 of them!
Chickens are one of the most exploited and least well cared for creatures forced to provide for the food industry. Having been worked hard, the hens were considered past their prime, and every one of them would have faced certain death were it not for the efforts of AIN: “We love getting involved in hen rescues,” says Annie Marriott, who runs the charity with her husband Roy and a passionate small army of valued volunteers, “To go to a commercial farm; be it a battery or barn, and this time they were barn birds, to round up a few hundred hens and save them from slaughter is such a great feeling.”
But it is still a difficult business for those doing the rescuing.
“I can’t lie, it breaks me, I am a nervous wreck driving towards the farm, and when I get there I cry for the all hens, but I have to pull myself together in order to start catching and loading them, and it’s great because I know that we are bringing them out to safety – it marks the start of their recovery and the beginning of a happy, new life. They all deserve that,” Annie said, “I have never been involved in a rescue where we would have to leave some behind, because my mental health just couldn’t deal with that.”
The birds have only usually known life in a cage or barn, being ‘programmed’ to lay daily for our consumerism – supplying eggs to be sold in supermarkets or put into processed foods.
It’s tough; they’ve often had little exposure to light and space and can arrive in a very poor condition, with significant feather loss, and some have injuries caused by living in cramped conditions.
But like all of us, they can be returned to health with unlimited portions of love and kindness and good nutrition, and when they have been nourished and given time to adapt to a new freedom, re-homers end up with truly wonderful additions to the family.
“The majority of these ladies will carry on laying though,” says Annie, “because their poor worn out bodies are engineered to lay an egg a day.”
The birds currently staying at AIN arrived last month during ‘flockdown’ and needed to be kept safe from migratory birds spreading bird flu around on their travels.
Thankfully, these hens are now all happy and healthy.
“We have treated them for parasites and now they all need wonderful new homes with a secure hen house and a nice garden to scratch around in, explore and dust bath for the first time in their lives,” says Annie.
How about it? If you have room in your lives and gardens to adopt some deserving girls, email the AIN team at firstname.lastname@example.org
Allie Short had thought long and hard about keeping chickens – and in a home with lots of cats and a dog, it could have upset the pecking order. But actually, the feathered and the furry sorts all live in perfect harmony.
“For several years I’d had a yearning to keep chickens but kept putting it off, not certain of what care they needed or how well I would be able to give them that care, but then something gave me the final push I needed so I reached out to AIN for help.
The adoption process was straightforward, I sent photos showing the newly built chicken coop in my back garden, so they could see I was prepared, and arranged a date to bring my girls home.
On the day of adoption I picked the four hens I could see were in worse condition, they had come out of a battery farm just a week previously so hadn’t had a good start in life and I wanted to change things for them. They were weak and run down, but it didn’t take long for their healing to start, with new feathers quickly starting to push through and cover their previously naked bodies – my girls soon grew into healthy and lively characters, all with their own distinct personalities.
It’s now almost two years since I adopted my first four hens and I had no idea how much they would impact and change my life. I’ve since adopted more, including two that were dumped in a dustbin outside the gate of AIN last August. They’re addictive and they’ve taken over my life but I wouldn’t want to be without them now.”
Time to spare? Animals in Need can help!
Animals in Need was unable to rehome any of its animals during lockdown, but that didn’t stop a flurry of new arrivals though; neglect, cruelty and wildlife mishaps don’t stop because a pandemic presents itself.
The charity struggled under the weight of its new admissions, while simultaneously having to make the difficult decision to let several members of staff go, to reduce outgoings to the bare minimum. The past 12 months have been a wrench, and of course fundraising activities were cancelled too.
Thankfully, the charity was able to start rehoming animals again earlier this month, and it is now incredibly busy working hard to match animals with their best furever homes – and it is still working with the pandemic as a very visible backdrop; reduced hours, social distancing and all the associated safety precautions are having to be stringently adhered to.
AIN is always looking to swell its volunteer numbers. If you would like to give your time to help the charity, it is holding a Volunteer Recruitment Day next month.
If you are aged 16 or above, can spare at least four hours every week, have a love of animals, a patient nature and are reliable, you could be a brilliant addition to the team.
If you want to know more, pop along to Pine Tree Farm (Sat Nav: NN8 2EH) for a chat on Sunday, May 8 between 11am and 3pm or call 01933 278080.
Are you too busy to volunteer, but still want to help?
With 100s of animals to care for, bedding, food and vets bills cost an incredible amount every week.
Showing your support by setting up a direct debit is one of the easiest ways to make a difference.
Here’s the information you need to set up a regular monetary donation to Animals in Need:
Animals In Need (Northamptonshire)
R/C Sort code: 08-90-73
Account No: 50304604